3 Different Categories of Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS)

Automated Material Handling Equipment

Without a doubt, there is numerous material handling equipment that manufacturers design, manufacture and engineer a broad range of self-contained, goods-to-person (GTP), automated guided vehicles, conveyor systems, sortation systems, automated storage, and retrieval systems (AS/RS).

Automated material handling equipment is crucial for warehouses and distribution centers to keep up their competitive edge. Such revolutionary technologies help enhance the warehouse’s profitability, sustainability, proficiency, accuracy, and efficiency. In addition, such revolutionary technologies can handle different volumes, types, and velocities of non-palletized inventory at variable velocities to cater to varying throughput demands.

But, experts categorize automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) into the following three major categories, and seven different technologies based on how they deliver goods: 

  • Shelf-based picking: A picking system convey an entire tray full of products  to an operator
  • Bin-based picking: An individual bin or tote is brought to an operator. 
  • Robotic picking: Robots operate within an enclosed shelving system to deliver items to an operator. 

So, keep in mind throughput goals and the storage density of your facility while considering options. So, let’s have a glance at each one of the categories So, that you can better identify which one is better for you.  

Shelf and Tray Picking AS/RS Technologies 

Vertical Carousels 

Such types of automated material handling system have been around for decades. Because, vertical carousels consist of a series of carriers. Manufacturers attach those carriers to a chain drive; a motor powers the carriers’ bi-directional travel around the track in a vertical loop So, just like the Ferris wheel. As a result, vertical carousels swiftly and safely deliver slow-to-medium velocity products to a world counter positioned ergonomically at the operator’s command. Moreover, manufacturers add new whistles and bells with each revision, but the heart of technology never changes. 

Horizontal Carousels

But, these carousels consist of highly dense storage bins that warehouse workers mount over an oval track. So, that track rotates horizontally to deliver slow-to-medium moving good storage locations to an operator. Because, Horizontal carousels handle products and cases that weigh approximately 200 pounds.

Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) 

Vertical lift modules (VLMs) are the most flexible technology in this category. VLMs adjust automatically when your inventory changes. These are enclose dynamic storage solutions consisting of two columns of trays. Each tray is capable of handling approximately 2,200 pounds. Each tray has an inserter and extractor in the center. The extractor or inserter retrieves and locates stored trays of slow-to-medium velocity products from each column and delivers them to the operator at rates from 125 to 475 items per hour at a waist-high pick window.  

Bin and Tote Delivery AS/RS Technologies 

Crane-Based Mini-Load AS/RS

These automated handling systems handle lightweight loads effortlessly. Mini loads possess a single crane-mounted load handling device that is dedicated to each extremely dense storage aisle. Crane-based mini-load AS/RS takes loads in totes, cases, and trays weighing between 220  and 750 pounds. The cranes travel either on wheels or rails to deliver products to the operator with high acceleration speed. Mini-loads can deliver one load per minute for throughput rates of 60 to 100 lines per hour. It is an excellent high-density storage solution if you have got 5,000 plus totes to store. 

Vertical Buffer Modules (VBMs)

This type of AS/RS is a bin handling system. Manufacturers design for smaller applications that can not cost-justify for an expensive and large solution. The vertical buffer module (VBM) possesses an enclosed shelving system with a movable mast that runs down a center aisle to pick and store totes. Manufacturers design VBMs to work ahead of an operator. They are also used to queue up the next pick system’s maximum throughput. 

Robotic Delivery AS/RS Technologies 

Robotic Shuttles 

Such automated material handling equipment uses robotic shuttles to travel on its own from level to level, riding on linear rails at each storage level. Robotic shuttles retrieve stored products at relatively high velocity, with a throughput that ranges from 200 to 700 lines per hour. This GTP automated storage system can handle totes, cases, and trays weighing 35 to 65 pounds. This ASRS offers increasingly high throughput that is based on several robotic shuttles inducted into the system. The best thing about automated shuttles is that they are scalable, modular, and flexible. It means that warehouse workers can expand them with minimal structural modification according to the requirements of the business and warehouse.   

Floor Robots 

Floor robots store inventory on portable storage shelving. theses robots transport and retrieve from storage to an operator access area by several mobiles, autonomous robots. The robot returns to the repository after the operator selects an item(s) from the shelf. Such a solution is ideal for slow-to-medium velocity inventory. The throughput of floor robots ranges from 100 to 300 lines per hour.


At the heart of it all, an ideal solution often includes two or more different goods-to-person (GTP) automation technologies. Such technologies match the system to the other handling characteristics and inventory profiles.  Hence, organizations should have some basic knowledge about every type of automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) so that they can make an appropriate choice for them. 

Out of all the existing material handling automation companies, McCombs-Wall Inc. Engineering provides automated material handling solutions and systems across the USA. AS/RS by MWI Solutions provide high-density storage of goods. These are proven technologies that can effectively manage raw material, work-in-process inventories, and all sorts of finished items. Their technologies are not limited to automated storage and retrieval technologies, but they also provide conveyor systems, sortation systems, end of line automation, and warehouse control systems.  

Here are the partner companies they resell and install:  Lightning Pack, Knapp, Kindred, SI Systems A-Frames, Hannibal, Hansel, MoD sort(Regal Beloit), ID technologies, Intrados, TGW, Antiroll, Intelligrated Honeywell, Effimat, OPEX, Gray Orange, and Hydro. Not only this, here are the technology companies they often integrate with but don’t resell:  SICK, Beck Hoff, FANUC, Cognex, Best Pack, and Rockwell Automation.

They offer a free walkthrough of your facility so that our professional staff can provide feedback on your existing operations. So let MWI decide what’s best for you today!

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