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Upgrading warehouses with automation

DAMBACH developed COMPACT, a new storage and retrieval system for floor-level pick-up and delivery

There are many good reasons to invest in automating an existing warehouse. However, such projects often fail for lack of the right technology. DAMBACH Lagersysteme developed the COMPACT storage and retrieval machine precisely for this situation. It offers flexible options for existing rack systems.


Many logistics specialists are familiar with the dilemma: warehouse processes really need to be automated to save costs or compensate for a lack of personnel. But this is generally difficult to achieve in their existing warehouses, and even then the results are often unsatisfactory. One solution would be to build a new warehouse as a greenfield project. But it is increasingly difficult to find the necessary space. “These days, building a new warehouse is not so easy. Real estate scarcity and high property prices are major obstacles. It is also becoming harder to obtain a construction permit for a 30-meter-high warehouse – for reasons such as proximity to a residential area,” says Adrian Klöpfer, Head of Intralogistics Solutions at DAMBACH Lagersysteme.


The solution: automate existing warehouses

The warehouse specialists in Baden-Württemberg have developed a new product to meet exactly this challenge. The DAMBACH engineers developed a storage and retrieval machine that is both lightweight and compact, and can be easily integrated into existing rack systems. “We took a close look at the market and quickly noticed this gap. Until now, there were no automation solutions for the brownfield sector that worked efficiently. This is surprising given how high we judge the demand to be,” Adrian Klöpfer says, explaining why the new product was developed.



The new swivel traverse fork

Naturally, the warehouse specialists had to consider the particular conditions found in existing warehouses. For example, these buildings often have low ceilings, generally between eight and twelve meters, or very tightly spaced rows. Heiko Mertz, Project Planning Team Leader says, “It was essential for our storage and retrieval machine to have a very compact, space-saving design. Optimal use must always be made of the available space.” This condition also resulted in the new method enabling floor-level loading and unloading. This solution – patented by DAMBACH – is unique among rail-operated storage and retrieval machines and features a lower approach dimension of zero millimeters, meaning that even the bottom rack level of a conventional stacker rack can be used with no limitations. A modified swivel traverse fork is used to accomplish this. Its tilting function even makes it possible to handle pallets with closed bottoms and to reduce the required width of the aisles. In combination with the DAMBACH transfer bridge, the COMPACT storage and retrieval machine can even serve multiple rack aisles.


Lightweight construction prevents load-bearing issues

The floor slabs in brownfield warehouses are often thin, which meant another challenge to be solved by the DAMBACH developers. “In existing warehouses, we often find an average slab thickness of less than twenty centimeters,” Heiko Mertz says. This meant that the COMPACT storage and retrieval machine had to feature a lightweight design. With the help of the finite element method, excess millimeters were shaved off the material used in the design and the reinforcing elements optimized. The result is an especially lightweight two-mast storage and retrieval machine that puts only minimal kinematic strain on the warehouse floor. And during operation, too, the load on the foundation slab is kept as low as possible.


Suitable performance data

A glance at the performance data shows that the DAMBACH developers have found a good compromise between compactness and speed. The COMPACT storage and retrieval machine achieves a speed of about 160 m/min. The lifting speed is about 48 m/min, with an acceleration of around 0.6 m/s². “At first, that sounds just average for a storage and retrieval machine. But when we consider that this system is replacing one or more narrow-aisle stackers with lifting heights of about 11 m, it puts this performance in another light and indicates a very economical alternative to forklifts,” says Team Leader Heiko Mertz.



Klöpfer also notes that the new storage and retrieval machine offers an impressive return on investment (ROI): “We expect an amortization period of between three and five years for this system. Naturally, it depends on how many personnel it took to run the warehouse before introducing the system. Plus, our storage and retrieval machines operate with very durable technology for service lives as much as three times longer than most forklifts.” The compact storage and retrieval machine also proves its cost-effectiveness during installation. With its thoroughly modular design and decentralized drive concept, the entire system can be commissioned at the DAMBACH factory. Heiko Mertz: “This reduces implementation times and commissioning workload to an absolute minimum. The system can be installed quickly even during ongoing operations.”