An automatic shuttle warehouse without a lift or any costly customizations had seemed impossible until now. But the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics has developed an innovative solution: the Rack Racer.
The new climbing shuttle moves autonomously up and down – in effect diagonally – across the rack without the need for a lift or additional rails.
It is equipped with two swivel-mounted crawler elements that support themselves at individual points on the rack. This enables the shuttles to store or retrieve items at any position in the rack entirely autonomously. As a result, the shuttle can now take the direct route to every storage location. This makes the Rack Racer revolutionary in intralogistics, offering a low-cost alternative to existing storage and retrieval machines and shuttle lift systems.
The Rack Racer is a completely novel design with a range of applications in automated warehouses. Not only does it take the most direct route across the rack to its destination, by consolidating several capabilities in a single device, and equipped with a rechargeable battery as a stand-alone internal power supply, it offers several advantages over conventional storage and retrieval systems. Because it is operated and monitored by radio remote control, several individual Rack Racers can move unhindered around a single rack. The shuttles enter and leave via the lowest rack, and are even able to cross multi-aisle warehouses through tunnels, leading to even more efficient order picking routes. Overall, the Rack Racer is ideally suited to scalable and adaptable medium-capacity warehouses.
The adaptability of warehouse technology plays a major role for logistics providers and manufacturing companies who are continually seeking to improve the efficiency of their processes. They depend on innovative technology that can be adapted quickly to ever changing needs that offers high performance at short notice and low cost. The trend is therefore away from heavy, inflexible warehouse equipment to smaller, multifunctional vehicles. These offer far greater flexibility for the diverse transportation and order picking tasks in the modern warehouse.
Small load carriers and carton goods are playing an increasingly larger role in logistics. There are several reasons for this: due to the growth of e-commerce, as well as returns handling procedures, lean concepts in assembly and initiatives to reduce stock and order levels, goods flows are becoming thinner.
The technological response has been a trend towards new automation solutions for order picking, packing and loading, also with a view to reducing the risk of physical strain for staff. Significant progress towards the fully automated storage and transport of small load carriers has been made, with the Rack Racer offering a new and cost-effective alternative – even for those areas where manual systems are currently more profitable.