Three Ways Automated Tote Storage Systems Solve Throughput Challenges

viastore mini-load AS/RS tote storageIdeal for handling high volumes, automated tote storage systems—such as a high-density mini-load automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS)—maximize the amount of broken case (or eaches) storage in a given facility footprint. This type of material handling automation holds individual stock keeping units (SKUs) in dimensionally consistent plastic totes or trays; alternately, with the right load handling device, a mini-load system can handle cardboard cases of products.

Space savings are achieved by utilizing the vertical overhead space within a building, with the tote storage system reaching heights up to 65 feet. The totes, trays or cases are stored in single-, double- or multiple-deep configurations and accessed by either a load handling device transported by mini-load crane traveling by rail, or by a shuttle.

Depending on the type and configuration of a given automated tote storage system, products can be handled at rates up to 150 totes per hour. Beyond fast handling speeds, the systems offer operations with high throughput demands three distinct advantages over conventional, manual warehouses: reliability, availability and ergonomics.

  1. Reliability: An automated warehouse with an integrated tote handling system will consistently select and present the right item to a picker for order fulfillment to support a high degree of accuracy—often as high as 99.99%. Conversely, in a manual application, mistake-prone humans might not always pick the right item. And a mis-picked order is an expensive order, with costs associated with the return, restocking and reshipping, as well as the potential damage to customer satisfaction. Further, automated tote storage systems and the inventory they store are managed, monitored and controlled by a facility’s warehouse management system (WMS) and warehouse control system (WCS). This ensures that tote (and item) placement within the system is tracked with a high degree of accuracy, significantly reducing error rates while optimizing tote delivery to pickers for a substantial increase in throughput.
  2. Availability: Engineered to maximize uptime, automated tote storage equipment can run around the clock with just minimal, quarterly preventive maintenance required to ensure their components continue to operate at peak performance. Unlike warehouses whose manual labor attendance might be spotty, or for whom it may be difficult to fill job openings, automated tote storage systems routinely deliver 99.98% operating efficiency. This ensures less downtime and higher overall throughput.
  3. Ergonomics: In manual warehouse operations, it’s generally understood that only about 40% of each order picker’s time is spent actually picking products to fill orders. The other 60% is taken up with walking to, between and from picks. And making the picks might require bending, stretching, reaching, stooping, pulling, pushing and climbing—each of which might result in a musculoskeletal injury. Conversely, automated tote systems are designed to deliver the required SKUs to an ergonomic workstation where an operator is dedicated solely to picking items that fill multiple orders simultaneously. Travel is minimized to just a couple of steps, and both stock and order totes are presented to the picker at an optimal working height, eliminating physical strain necessity. The resulting reduction in fatigue, as well as travel time, results not only in increased picker efficiency, but also in greater throughput.

Want to learn more about how automated tote storage systems can address your throughput challenges? Read about the viastore mini-load system deployed by machine manufacturer Grob to supply parts to its assembly workstations at rates up to 580 totes per hour. Or, call us at 616.977.3950 to discuss your automated tote storage or AS/RS needs with one of our warehouse planning specialists.

About Garrett Smith

Garrett is a regional sales manager at the North American headquarters of viastore systems in Grand Rapids, MI.

He is a dynamic and innovative sales/engineer professional with over 15 years extensive experience in automated logistics systems sales.


  1. Nice info Garrett.
    Automated tote picking can significantly lower operational costs and improve store-friendly delivery. Totes are not stored in traditional racking, but in automated storage and retrieval systems. Totes are transported automatically to a palliating system and arranged in order to fulfill store requirements.

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