In this part of our Ask the Expert Series, Toyota Material Handling Solutions’ Vice President of Warehousing and Automation Jeff Marsden answers frequently asked questions about robotic order picking.   

Jeff helps companies find the ideal mix of automation, software, and labor to optimize productivity and deliver fast, accurate fulfillment to match the speed of modern commerce. His expertise has helped hundreds of companies in Los Angeles County maximize cube utilization, increase throughput, and increase their bottom line.  

What is a robotic order picker?  

A robotic order picking system is an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS). It harnesses the power of warehouse robots for 24/7 order fulfillment within a cubic layout.  

What are the benefits of order picking robots?  

  • Increased on-time delivery  
  • Reduced stock losses and errors  
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved space utilization
  • Lower building/rental and labor costs  

Which order picking system do you recommend? 

AutoStore is our system of choice.  

What is AutoStore?  

AutoStore is an innovative storage solution that allows complete customization and flexibility. In the AutoStore system, bins are stacked vertically in a grid and retrieved by robots that travel on the top layer of the system.  

Does AutoStore work if you have a complicated warehouse layout? 

Yes. Because AutoStore robots travel on the top layer of the system, the grid can exist around columns, on the mezzanine, and even on multiple levels. 

How does AutoStore work?  

An AutoStore system contains four components: a structural grid, delivery robots, storage bins, and an operator port. Products live in bins within the dense aluminum grid. As a product is needed to fulfill an order, the system software and controls alert a robot to find the item’s bin.  

How does the robot get to the bins on the bottom of the stack?  

If the bin is beneath other bins, a robot stages the extra bins on top of the grid until it retrieves the desired container. It then takes that bin to the edge of the grid and delivers it to the operator fulfilling the order.  

What happens to the bins on top of the grid after an order is retrieved? 

As one robot delivers the bin, another AutoStore robot cleans up the staged bins on top of the grid by returning them to their original position.  

Does the system get smarter with time?  

Yes. As the order-picking process continues, the AutoStore system self-profiles. The bins with faster-moving products begin moving toward the top of the system, and bins with slower-moving products transition to the bottom.  

How much space can you save with an AutoStore system?  

In some cases, a company can increase storage capacity four-fold within the same footprint and unlock the true potential of storage floor space.  

Is AutoStore a custom solution?  

Yes, an AutoStore system is designed specifically for you. Each AutoStore is designed based on your operational needs, and we validate it through simulation backed by its control system.  

Can I add AutoStore to my existing space?  

Yes, AutoStore is easy to integrate into existing warehouses.  

Can I use AutoStore if I have low ceilings?  

Yes, AutoStore is fully customizable to fit any ceiling height.  

What is the maximum lifting speed of an AutoStore robotic order picker?  

An AutoStore robot has a maximum lifting speed of 5.2 feet per second.  

What industries use AutoStore systems?  

You can find AutoStore systems in grocery, retail, healthcare, e-commerce warehouses, third-party logistics centers, parts management facilities, and many other specialty industries. 

Do you have any case studies to share? 

Yes. We partner with Bastian Solutions, a Toyota Logistics company and a global AutoStore integrator. Click here to learn how they modernized Best Buy’s supply chain with advanced automation. You can also watch how they helped Puma increase capacity tenfold and boost productivity by twenty percent at their facility in Indianapolis.

Is 2022 the year you add robots and automation to your order picking process? Don’t tackle it alone. Let our experts with decades of experience help take your warehouse or distribution center to the next level. Contact us to get started today! 

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