Winner – AutoStore: Shaping the Future of Warehousing
In order to meet market needs of increased order accuracy, speed and operational efficiency, warehouse digitization has become a must in the manufacturing ecosystem. AutoStore is a world-leading robot technology company that has revolutionized e-commerce fulfillment with its cube-based AS/RS.
“We are storing far more air, than products. Why store things like dominos, when we could store them like a Rubik’s cube?”
– Ingvar Hognaland, Inventor of AutoStore.
In order to meet market needs of increased order accuracy, speed and operational efficiency, warehouse digitization has become a must in the manufacturing ecosystem. Founded in 1996, AutoStore is a world-leading robot technology company that has revolutionized e-commerce fulfillment with its cube-based AS/RS (automated storage and retrieval systems).
A High-Density Robotic Solution
An AutoStore system is composed of a structural grid, delivery robots, storage bins, and an operator port. Products are stored on stacked bins within the structural grid and are retrieved by robots that operate autonomously on top of the grid. The system’s control system sends pick-up, delivery and re-fill orders to the robots. If a robot receives an order to retrieve a bin that is located under other bins, the robot will place the other bins on top of the grid. It will then deliver the target bin to the operator via the port, while other robots move the extra bins back into the grid. While this might seem inefficient, as robots keep receiving orders, bins with high demand goods will quickly move closer to the top of the grid, while slower SKUs will move to the bottom.
The stacked or “cubed” structure removes walking lanes and empty shelves, increasing customers’ storage capacity up to four times compared to traditional automated warehouse systems. With no standard installations, AutoStore can be installed relatively quickly in any space, maximizing the full potential of any warehouse.
The Perfect Fit for Puma North America
In 2016, Puma was struggling to keep pace with its retail success and growing online presence. After evaluating automation alternatives, AutoStore was chosen as the best solution for Puma’s distribution center in Torrance, California.
“This project marked a major push into next level e-commerce fulfillment for PUMA” – Helmut Leibbrandt, Sr. Vice President Supply Chain Management and Logistics, PUMA North America.
The AutoStore system has allowed the Torrance distribution center to increase its productivity by two to three times the prior rate before AutoStore was installed. This translated to an order fulfilment rate of 175 e-commerce units per operator hour.
“Having updated our fulfillment system, we are now able to provide our customers with a better service, from a wider range of online products to faster order delivery. AutoStore has not only allowed us to achieve this but has also provided us with the opportunity to easily expand our e-commerce line as needed” Helmut Leibbrandt, Sr. Vice President Supply Chain Management and Logistics, PUMA North America.
Moving to Micro-Fulfilment at the Store Level
With same-day delivery and rapid in-store pick-up becoming the new normal, retailers are having to rely on regional distribution centers to fill their orders. AutoStore believes that this practice lengthens the time it takes products to reach consumers. In December 2019, the robotics company announced that they had design an automated micro-fulfilment system that would accommodate and manage an increasingly higher number of SKUs.
AutoStore’s new retail storage system can store up to 15,000 SKUs within 600 square-meters and can be configured to fit different spaces (heights, obstacles) including back-of-house areas for grocery retailers and in-store retail spaces for consumer companies.
“AutoStore’s technology and extensive use-case experience is now being leveraged for micro-fulfillment in e-commerce, where once again it is on the forefront providing automated solutions for retailers across a variety of sectors” Karl Johan Lier, CEO and President of AutoStore.
Grocery store utilizes automated storage and retrieval for customers to quickly pick up ordered items. (AutoStore Website)
AutoStore is continuing to shape the future of warehousing by marrying software and hardware capabilities. The company’s systems have been installed in 28 countries over a variety of industries. While the company continues to innovate its warehouse solutions, AutoStore recently entered the retail space through its micro-fulfilment solutions, taking the company a step closer to end-customers. The combination of its first mover advantage within the retail space and its storage solutions being the highest density systems available in the market, it is clear that AutoStore will continue to be a “winner” in the AS/RS ecosystem.
“Swisslog reaches new record as the world’s leading AutoStore integrator,” Swisslog (October 31, 2018).
“AutoStore Aims at Retailers with Cube Storage Automation Offering,” Robotics Business Review (December 2, 2019)
“AutoStore: Meet AutoStore Red Line and Black Line Empowered by Bastian Solutions,” Bastian Solutions
“A Quick Introduction to AutoStore”, AutoStore (AutoStore Brochure 2017)
“Puma North America installation for eCommerce and Retail storage”, AutoStore (Puma Case Study 2017)
Student comments on Winner – AutoStore: Shaping the Future of Warehousing
Very interesting post, thanks for sharing. I wanted to read this because I am fascinated by digital innovation for warehouse inventory solutions. Although this particular business is very interesting, I also know this space is getting very crowded. Amazon is of course front and center when it comes to distribution center efficiency, and robotics are the next big thing in this space. I wonder if AutoStore really has first mover advantage or just a different spin on a common solution, and if the latter, how long can this edge last? I also wonder about the scaling ability given how asset heavy this product is. This would make for a great case discussion.
This looks like a great solution especially where space is constrained in high density cities of the world. Also in Emerging Markets, where volumes are large and population density high, this could be a great micro-fulfillment solution. I would have loved to get more insight into the competitive space and what are the e-commerce giants across the world doing? For example: Amazon’s Kiva. How is Autostore planning to compete with these giants?