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Automation and Robotics in Warehousing

Automation and Robotics in Warehousing


Warehouses have been facing a transformation in recent years. The demand for online shopping combined with a labour shortage has seen a growth in the adoption of new technologies within the warehouse. Automation can provide numerous benefits for businesses - the process is quicker and safer, it improves productivity, it is less prone to mistakes and can also create far more storage opportunities.

The choice available can include anything from a fully automated dark warehouse with no employees with all processes performed by robots all the way through to simper systems such as intelligent stock management systems and ASRS that work alongside human counterparts.


Designing a warehouse for automation

When designing storage equipment for any warehouse it must address the same key requirements of any racking. This includes utilising the footprint of the building as efficiently as possible, optimising throughput of stock and improving handling and management of stock. The design must also consider loading and unloading zones and how these relate to the storage and picking areas so that employees are kept safe.

As the functionality of the warehouse moves forward so do considerations for the integration of robots. A number of the considerations remain the same but there are still factors which require specialist attention.

If you were looking to create a fully automated dark warehouse it is possible to create a run of double deep racking that can be taller in height and, because robots can often turn tighter corners, with fewer aisles at a reduced width. The design will have to factor in the structural stability of the racking to support both its height and the additional loading weight. You may also need to build in robot maintenance areas, adjust clearances and understand how the integration of fire equipment differs.


Racking for an Automated Warehouse

Supporting companies as the development of automation and robotics changes requires specialist knowledge of the market. With over 70 years within the industry, Whittan’s experience has continually developed to meet the changing needs across a wide range of sectors. This includes designing storage solutions that will merge seamlessly with automation and robotics.

This is exactly what we were asked to do when creating a tailor-made racking solution for a leading logistics company where size really did matter.

Working at their new 670,000 sq. ft fully automated dark warehouse required a solution that includes an impressive 6,424 full bays of high bay crane fed, double deep pallet racking that span 13 levels, 22 aisles and 73 full bays and has the capacity to hold 165,320 nett locations. In a first for UK warehousing the racking reaches a staggering 33m in height!!

The immense size of the system provided several challenges. The warehouse uses double deep cranes with forks extending through two pallet places to pick from the underneath. To accommodate the extra clearances we re-designed a top hat area, the steel frame that holds the pallets off the beams, and submitted the area for an accelerated lifetime testing process.

Each aisle also incorporates designated maintenance areas at the top and bottom of the crane. Located at the end of each bay, the 22 platforms slide out and lock into place to span the width of the aisle. However, they could only be installed once the 33m tall racking had been erected and we worked with a specialist company to ensure safe working at height.

The racking needed almost seven and a half thousand tonnes of steel in what is an incredibly volatile steel market. Our buying power enabled us to work with a global steel supplier at the start of the project to guarantee a fixed price and supply of material. Due to rapidly rising prices throughout the build, we estimate this has saved almost £3.5 million in material costs alone!

The build took almost 10 months to build with up to 68 installers working on the site at the peak of construction.


Get in Touch

Whittan offers a full turnkey solution that will guide you through the design, supply and installation of your storage solution that meets the needs of your business. Plus, as British manufacturers you are less likely to be affected by supply chain issues!

Get in touch to arrange a free consultation to discuss your requirements.

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