Vertical Considerations For Automated Programs

Mezzanines and VRCs provide the foundation for automation growth

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Distribution Center Mezzanine

With e-commerce operations moving at an ever-increasing pace, you must take every advantage to meet consumer expectations. You not only want to save the customer time on their order, but also gain manufacturing and processing time by doing so. With careful consideration and a robust process, each aspect at play in a distribution center or warehouse could be an opportunity to save seconds.

To maximize every advantage, more facilities are turning towards automation to meet those strong demands. By utilizing automation, a distribution center can provide a more flexible and efficient environment in addition to more accurate orders delivered on time. The ability to scale and grow with automation is also an attractive one. But to jump headfirst into the automation process is a daunting task, and can cause an operations manager cause for concern. Two overlooked areas that can become a “tipping point” for this process are mezzanines and VRCs.

Two building blocks for automation growth

While not necessarily thought of as automation building blocks, a mezzanine or VRC has distinct advantages to jumpstart the process. Think of both options as a starting point for automation growth. By incorporating one or both, you can build a foundation that will be ready to add much more advanced automation technologies.

Mezzanines elevate your footprint

The versatile mezzanine offers many advantages for any warehouse. Not only can you use one to expand usable workspace or storage, but they also lend themselves quite handily towards automation goals as well. With their heavy-duty construction, mezzanines provide a platform upon which you can base an automation system. Heavy items such as conveyors, chutes or pick modules rest easily on a mezzanine, forming the basis for automated operations.

There are space savings implications as well.

By adding a mezzanine, you leave the space below readily available for other functions such as shipping, receiving and packing. This “second-story” advantage also extends to security, providing a barrier that only authorized personnel access. Combine the advantages of below with gaining above as well. Adding a mezzanine allows you to take back some of the lost vertical space in your facility, more efficiently using all available space in your location.

See: Smarter space in the e-commerce landscape

VRCs expand transport options

vertical reciprocating conveyorA vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) lifting device added to a newly placed mezzanine offers an even larger facility expansion and is a great addition to your new automation operations. The primary benefit of the VRC is efficiency and safety for vertical material travel. VRCs occupy a small footprint (compared to most other vertical movement alternatives), and their range of sizes means flexibility within any automation solution. By adding a VRC in close proximity to a key transfer point, you also eliminate the time a product is handled. This frees up workers to focus on more important activities within the warehouse.

With a vast array of design types, the VRC gives you the freedom to choose which version will work best in your automated system. You’ll want to take a variety of factors into account, including load size, weight and time of movement. All are important and will allow you to merge your VRC with your mezzanine to take full advantage.

See: A jargon-free guide to VRC specification

By starting your automation journey with either or both of these highly adaptable solutions, you are setting your operations up for future growth. Additional conveyors, scanners, chutes and other equipment can be combined with mezzanines and VRCs to form a full lineup of automated resources your facility can use.

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