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What is the Advantage and Disadvantage of as rs

Implementing Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), or expanding your AS/RS capacity, offers great benefits to productivity—but with a meaningful upfront cost. Here we'll be looking at three common AS/RS modules: horizontal carousels, vertical carousels, and vertical lift modules (VLMs).

Each has particular advantages and disadvantages. You'll need to carefully examine your warehouse environment and business needs to determine what type works best for you. Some benefits apply to all three types of equipment though. "Since all of the modules bring the goods to the person, areas of the warehouse that were previously unused for material storage are now available," says Mike Banashak of AS/RS specialist Alternative Handling Technologies LLC. "This increased utilization of the cubic capacity of a building enables companies to increase their storage capacity without the need for building expansions. The work area is condensed and worker safety and ergonomics are improved."

Horizontal Carousel

Horizontal carousels bring the goods to the worker. While each individual carousel may move slower than walking pace, they work best when two to four units are combined. As the number of lines in an order and orders in a batch increases, the distance to travel between each new item is reduced, and waiting time can be reduced to seconds for each item.

As the drive machinery is located inside the shelving, and adjustable shelf heights maximize the use of space, the footprint reduction can be significant. Racks are often left open but can be fenced off for security. The horizontal setup lends itself to low ceilings and large warehouse footprints; however, horizontal carousels can be stacked on top of each other to make use of vertical space.


  • High throughput
  • Very high pick rates
  • Great storage density
  • Faster than vertical
  • Most economical


  • Fixed pick heights

    less ergonomic
  • Doesn't leverage vertical space, if available

Best for:

  • High depth of inventory
  • Small to medium heavy items
  • Large batch sizes and order numbers
  • Large areas
  • Low ceilings

Vertical Carousel

Vertical and horizontal carousels operate using similar machinery. The vertical carousel's main benefit is taking advantage of unused vertical space, resulting in an extremely small footprint—ideal when floor space is at a premium. As with horizontal carousels, positioning more than one unit together reduces picker wait times.

The "box" setup is both extremely secure and lends itself to control of the environment, maintaining a certain temperature or humidity level inside the unit. Vertical carousels have lower storage density than equivalent sized horizontal carousels, but smaller footprints.


  • High throughput
  • Can be temperature or humidity controlled
  • Automatic security
  • Very small footprint
  • Ergonomic pick height


  • Slower than horizontal
  • Items must be distributed to avoid unbalanced loads

Best for:

  • Heights up to 15-18 feet
  • Secure/controlled items
  • Items requiring climate control
  • Uniform bin sizes and shelf weights

Vertical Lift Module (VLM)

The most expensive of the bunch, VLMs are unparalleled for making the most of high ceilings and really packing the most storage into tiny footprints. As their drive machinery is smaller than an equivalent height vertical carousel, they can be built much higher. As with vertical carousels, the box setup offers high security and the capacity to control the climate within the unit.

The linear rather than rotating movement means no unbalanced loading problems and that heavy items can be stored and retreived safely. Units can have flexible tray heights, meaning many different sizes of items can be stored without compromising on overall storage density.


  • High storage density

    tiny footprint
  • Ergonomic pick height
  • Automatic security
  • Can be climate controlled


  • Lower throughput
  • Lower pick rate
  • Most expensive

Best for:

  • Heights of up to 100 feet
  • Secure/controlled items
  • Items requiring climate control
  • Heavy items
  • Non-uniform sized items

An automated storage and retrieval system, commonly known as AS/RS, is a computer-controlled system which effectively stores and replenishes loads from specific locations.

AS/RS technology is widely used in warehouses, manufacturing units, and distribution centers for materials transport and inventory management purposes. These systems are commonly used in cold storage, automotive, pharmaceutical manufacturing, food and beverage, and e-commerce applications. In this article, we’ll talk about the advantages and disadvantages of an automated storage and retrieval system.

Advantages of automated storage and retrieval systems

Automated storage and retrieval systems have several advantages for warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities.

1. Reduction of variable costs

Automated storage and retrieval systems reduce the variable cost of operations by reducing the need for manual labor for tasks such as picking, storing, assembly and inventory replenishment. These costs are variable, with expenses such as overtime, benefits and payroll taxes adding to the total cost of manual labor.

2. Automating manual, repetitive storage and retrieval costs

As mentioned, AS/RS solutions reduce the need for manual labor by automating manual, repetitive storage and retrieval tasks. Automating these tasks increases accuracy and efficiency while also freeing up human workers to focus on higher-value activities.

3. Better safety

Human workers who handle manual, repetitive tasks for several hours can experience fatigue and muscle strain, increasing the risk of errors and injury. Likewise, errors made when operating heavy equipment in a manufacturing or warehouse environment can be dangerous, resulting in injury or death.

By automating these tasks, AS/RS solutions eliminate mistakes that can hinder efficiency and safety while eliminating the fatigue and physical strain on human workers. AS/RS equipment can also move materials and loads that are too heavy for humans to carry, reducing workplace injuries resulting from lifting.

4. Better space utilization

Shelving and proper grouping of items are vital in warehouses and distribution centers. Raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods inventories need to be replenished regularly to keep processes moving without interruption. Warehouses and distribution centers alike depend on effective space utilization to maintain a healthy bottom line.

Most AS/RS solutions require narrower aisles compared to facilities that require enough aisle space for human workers and equipment such as forklifts to pass through, often with bi-directional traffic. Narrower aisles free up more storage space for goods and materials, allowing warehouses and DCs to store more items without expanding the facility. Facilities can also make better use of vertical space, as automated storage and retrieval systems can more easily reach higher storage locations than human workers.

Disadvantages of automated storage and retrieval systems

Despite their advantages, AS/RS solutions have a few important disadvantages companies should consider before making an investment decision.

1. Large initial investment

Installation and implementation of automated storage and retrieval systems is costly. The initial capital investment can be significant and installation requires substantial infrastructure changes. If a company is looking for a long-term solution, then the cost-benefit-analysis can show a positive ROI over the long term, but for companies in need of a faster return on their investment, AS/RS solutions may not be practical. For smaller companies, the large initial capital investment is often cost-prohibitive.

2. Repair and maintenance

While the one-time upfront investment can be viewed as an advantage, despite being substantial, there are some ongoing costs associated with AS/RS solutions. These systems require ongoing maintenance and periodic repairs. What’s more, repairing AS/RS equipment may require special expertise, meaning repairs may be more costly compared to the cost of making repairs on traditional warehouse equipment, such as forklifts or conveyor systems. So, while AS/RS solutions eliminate some costs associated with manual labor, the cost of maintenance and repairs shouldn’t be ignored.

Maintenance activities may require a partial or complete shutdown of operations, so companies implementing AS/RS solutions should consider the cost of downtime and production interruptions for equipment breakdowns. Companies that don’t have an on-staff maintenance technician experience longer downtimes while waiting for outside technicians to respond.

3. Not ideal for varied tasks

AS/RS equipment moves in pre-established routes and is best suited for regular, predictable and repetitive tasks. They’re not ideal for applications in which varying products are handled at different times, such as a warehouse that handles different products by season, due to the downtime required to re-program and re-train the AS/RS solution to move new products following each transition.

4. Lengthy onboarding

While they’re automated, performing storage and retrieval tasks with minimal human intervention, AS/RS solutions must be programmed to follow the necessary routes and retrieve and store the correct items in the right locations. Employees require training to operate the system effectively.

Collaborative mobile robots are a flexible, cost-effective alternative

Automated storage and retrieval systems aren’t the right choice for every business. Collaborative mobile robots are a flexible, more cost-effective alternative. They require no infrastructure changes, meaning a lower upfront cost. A human-centered alternative to AS/RS, collaborative robots leverage machine learning and AI to optimize routes in real-time and guide associates through each task, reducing unnecessary walking while boosting productivity and accuracy. And, collaborative mobile robots are intuitive to operate, and they work alongside the tools and systems you’re already using, such as your warehouse management system, for faster onboarding and rapid ROI.

Download our white paper, 7 Reasons Why Warehouse Robots Beat Traditional Automation, to learn more about why collaborative mobile robots are a better choice compared to traditional warehouse automation systems like AS/RS.

What is the Advantage and Disadvantage of as rs

Advantages of automated storage and retrieval systems


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