The New Warehouse Under the Sea
Sixty years ago, people scoffed at the notion that a computer-controlled device would pick orders from warehouse racks, or retrieve and replace stored files. It was expensive; it was impractical; it required advanced training. In short, it was not business as usual. Yet today, AS/RS is recognized as a key productivity component for wholesalers, retailers, libraries, museums – any organization that needs to use storage space and employee time with maximum efficiency. With that historical perspective in mind, it’s not so easy dismiss the extremely innovative storage strategy quietly announced by Amazon: underwater storage.
Amazon is taking large-scale storage to new depths with its new patent. As an acknowledged AS/RS leader, Amazon has developed numerous productivity tools for e-tail fulfillment. Its Kiva robots are a well-known example, and its experiments with drone deliveries seem to be nearing deployment.
The underwater storage scheme solves one of the primary terrestrial-storage problems – the storage footprint. The ocean is deep and wide, and if Amazon can solve the problems of containment and easy retrieval, its warehousing footprint becomes almost, well, unfathomable.
Storage experts have learned not to bet against Amazon’s innovations, but if this new storage technology comes to fruition, it will be many years before it becomes practical for smaller-scale organizations. In the meantime, there are already well-developed AS/RS solutions that are proving their worth on a daily basis. In particular, vertical lifts and carousels can be scaled to fit just about any size of business, and their relatively small footprint can recover an average of 75% of floor space. Racks and shelves can be customized for almost any size or shape of product, adding to the system’s efficient space utilization.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon’s underwater storage plan develops. True, AS/RS was once as far-fetched as underwater storage. But for those of us dealing with today’s needs for storage solutions, we can confidently invest in today’s AS/RS technology, knowing that it will be the optimal productivity solution for years to come.
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