How to Make Better Use of Space with Shuttle Systems

Apr. 24, 2022

Finding ways to make better use of available facility space is a constant challenge for distribution centers and manufacturing plants, among others. Ultra-high density storage often means low-tech racking, such as drive-in racking with low throughput and high forklift damage rates, or pallet flow racking with limited lane depth. The other side of the coin is fully automated AS/RS (Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems) with high capital costs and the necessary high ceilings.

The Shuttle System is a very deep lane, medium to high speed storage and retrieval solution that combines the labor and damage cost savings benefits of semi-automation with the highest storage density achievable.

How to Make Better Use of Space with Shuttle Systems

How this works

Shuttle systems consist of two parts; the storage structure and the shuttles, typically with several shuttles per system. The storage structure is a self-supporting frame designed to support loads of up to 3,940 lbs/pallet on a pair of parallel horizontal rails, similar to drive-in rack rails. This structure serves a dual function as both a track for the shuttle to travel on and a support for pallet placement.

The second part of the system is the workpiece. The forklift picks up the shuttle like a pallet and places it in the lane where storage or picking begins. Safety features include anti-slip mats and guide lights to help the operator pick up the shuttle properly. When placing pallets, the shuttle will wait patiently until it senses that the driver has placed the pallets in the rack. Once detected, the shuttle automatically lifts the pallet and carries it deeper into the rack, placing the load within one inch of any pallet, then returning to the front of the aisle for the next load.

Pulling out the pallets is simply the reverse process; the shuttle will continue into the rack and remove the load at a rate that the forklift operator can take it away. The system can even improve counting accuracy by counting the correct number of pallets for the operator.

How to Make Better Use of Space with Shuttle Systems

Multi Level Shuttle Car

Key opportunities

High pallet to SKU ratio.

No more pallet space on the floor.

Use of 3PL (3rd party logistics) facilities to store overflow pallets.

High product and rack damage costs for existing drive-in/through racks.

More dock turns required per day.

Wanted to reduce forklift maintenance and labor costs.

Inefficient material movement in the existing drive-in/through system due to "honeycombing".

Disruptions due to pallets getting stuck in the existing pallet flow system.

Requirements for improved FIFO control

Expensive climate-controlled storage environments that require better cubic storage utilization

How to Make Better Use of Space with Shuttle Systems

4 Way Pallet Shuttle System

Maximize storage density

Shuttle systems offer the highest achievable storage density because it fills the available storage space with solid pallet blocks. No vertical aisles are required. The goal is to maximize the use of available space, thereby minimizing investment in new storage facilities.

Reduced labor and equipment costs

Shuttles automatically move pallets through the system while forklift operators move product in and out of the system. Consider how much less time it takes to drive a forklift in and out of a racking system when there is a shuttle system making these moves.

How to Make Better Use of Space with Shuttle Systems

Ultimately, very deep, fast and dense shuttle systems are an excellent choice for appropriate applications seeking to maximize space. Please contact MAXRAC for specific details and a quote.

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