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ASRS Terms from A to…W

Here’s a handy guide to terms associated with a technology that is being adapted by more and more industries involved in the supply chain – especially those heavily impacted by the rapid increase in e-commerce.

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Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) are computer-controlled systems that store and retrieve items, as needed. They generally consist of the storage and retrieval equipment, a storage rack, an input/out system and a computer system to manage the operations. ASRS are especially useful where storage density is a priority and where the loads being moved into and out of storage are high volume. The picking done by ASRS can be shelf-, bin- or robot-based.


Bins: A heavy-duty plastic storage solution for warehouses and distribution centers. Types include stackable, vented and double-sided.


Carts: Used to deliver items to locations within a facility, carts are available in many different types, such as a mother-daughter cart systems, quad steers, static, rotation, transfer and kitting.

Case Picking: When products are picked in full cases or cartons from prom pallet locations and other storage media.

Cube: This is the amount of space taken up by an item in an ASRS, measured in cubic feet. Cube utilization refers to the percentage of total available space in the distribution center or warehouse that is actually being used. One hundred precent cube utilization means that every bit of space in the facility is filled with product.


Ergonomics: In ASRS, ergonomics refers to establishing certain operations at a work height that prevents employees from having to bend, stoop, stretch or twist to reach items. The ergonomic “golden zone” for avoiding musculoskeletal injuries (MSDs) is considered to be the area between the shoulders and waist.


Fixed Aisle: In fixed-aisle ASRS, a stacker crane moves vertically and horizontally through narrow aisles to retrieve products on pallet racks. Stacker cranes may be suspended from the ceiling or supported on a track and guided by rails or channels.

Floor Robots: These autonomous mobile robots retrieve inventory from portable storage shelving and transport it to an operator.


Goods to Person: This method of order fulfillment involves transporting items via ASRS directly to an operator, instead of having the operator walk to retrieve the goods. It saves time that would have been spent walking and searching for goods.


Horizontal Carousels: Each of these consists of a set of wire bins with adjustable shelves that rotate around an oval track to deliver products to an operator. The carousel rotates bins using the shortest path, based on information inputted by the operator. The use of horizontal carousels can result in faster pick rates, improved throughput and a better use of floor space.


Intralogistics: The management of information and material goods within a distribution center or manufacturing facility through automation, integration and optimization.

Inventory Management Software: This works with the ASRS to functions, such as inventory tracking and the management of orders, sales and deliveries.


Mini Load ASRS: This type of system is typically used for the storage and management for picking and order fulfillment of small parts. Benefits include less use of floor space.

Mobile Shelving: As its name suggests, mobile shelving can be easily moved because it is mounted on wheeled traction systems. When not in use, mobile shelves save space because they can be packed closely together until they’re needed.

Modular Drawer Cabinet: This is a space-saving storage solution that is ideal that is generally better suited to small parts and products than traditional shelving and pallets of bins. Cabinets come in various heights and widths and drawers can be partitioned in order to optimize space utilization. Benefits include an accelerated workflow.


Pick to Light: Operators are guided to product locations by lighting technology, using a bar code or some other identifier. Pick to light reduces the operator’s walk time and avoids the need to read paper pick lists.

Paternoster: Another term for vertical carousel.


Robotic Shuttles: Boxy, upright robots retrieve stored items at high speeds while moving from level to level. Independent shuttle robots can move up to 700 lines per hour of totes, cases or trays weighing from 35 to 65 pounds.


Slotting: Inventory data is slotted into an ASRS, analyzed and used to reorganize a facility or make adjustments (like moving high-volume SKU products closer to lifts in an ASRS aisle) that maximize efficiency and space utilization and reduce inventory handling.

Stacker Cranes: These cranes store and retrieve loads with the help of guide rails or channels that send them to the correct location, as directed by a Warehouse Management System (WMS).


 Pallets being moved in a warehouse. © navintar –

Vertical Carousel: This consists of carriers attached to a chain drive that are sent in a vertical loop around a track, similar to the motion of a Ferris Wheel. A vertical carousel is designed to carry items that are similar in size and weight and can deliver them to an ergonomically positioned work counter.

Vertical Lift Module (VLM): This is an enclosed dynamic storage system that uses a centrally located extractor to automatically locate and retrieve trays from its two columns and deliver them to the operator at an ergonomically optimized height. VLMs have an impressive pick accuracy and require less labor.

Vertical Buffer Module: This tote handling system features an enclosed shelving system with a center aisle mast that picks up totes and delivers them to a picking station or some other location via a connected conveyor.


Warehouse Management System (WMS): Software that supports a range of warehouse and distribution center operations, including staffing, inventory acceptance, storage, picking, packing and shipping. WMHS

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