Pros & Cons of Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

The demand for automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) has increased in recent years, with an annual average growth rate of 8%. Technological advancements and the adoption of ASRS in industries such as food and beverage, retail, and automotive are fueling this trend.

In the future, the development of eCommerce and the automation of its platforms are expected to contribute significantly to the growth of the ASRS market.

ASRS can be a valuable investment for manufacturing or warehousing facilities. They can improve efficiency by increasing throughput, accuracy, and safety while reducing product damage and human error. However, it is vital for companies to carefully consider the initial costs of implementing an ASRS, especially in a highly customized operation. It is crucial to conduct a financial analysis before making this investment.

With the help of warehouse organization experts from Modula, we’ve done just that. This article will present some of the pros and cons of automated storage and retrieval systems.

ASRS Pros 

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) have numerous advantages that make them an attractive investment for manufacturing and warehousing facilities. Let’s delve more deeply into a few of the most relevant ones.

Efficiency and Accuracy 

Getting an ASRS to handle a company’s products can significantly reduce the potential damages caused by human error. This means that, in addition to reducing labor costs, ASRSs can also reduce product waste, which is often overlooked as a cost-saving factor.

Another benefit of ASRSs is their ability to track product data accurately. Many ASRSs are controlled by warehouse control systems (WCS) or warehouse management systems (WMS) that can automatically transfer this data, reducing the risk of errors occurring when an operator manually scans or inputs data into the system.

Safer Operation 

Operating a forklift in an industrial setting can be very dangerous, with approximately 100 fatalities and 20,000 severe injuries resulting from forklift-related accidents each year in the United States alone.

The weight of most forklifts, which can reach several thousand pounds, makes them capable of causing severe harm to people, even at low speeds. An automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) can eliminate many risks associated with pedestrians and forklifts working in the same area.

Most tasks related to ASRS operation can be performed using a graphical user interface (GUI) or human-machine interface (HMI).

However, there may be some instances in which it is necessary to enter the area of moving equipment, such as for maintenance or in the event of a major failure. In these cases, it is crucial that the ASRS is equipped with safety interlocks and that proper lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) procedures are followed.

Optimized Storage 

Many manufacturing and warehousing facilities lack space, as they are designed and built to meet immediate needs and rarely allow for much growth. However, as companies increase production and expand, their storage needs may eventually exceed the capacity of their existing facilities.

Adding square footage to the building through construction can be costly or even impossible, making it necessary to find other ways to increase storage capacity.

One effective solution is to use automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRSs), which can increase capacity vertically, allowing for higher volumetric efficiency or the ratio of storage capacity to square footage. ASRSs are also often dubbed high-density warehouses due to their ability to maximize the use of available space.

Vertical lift modules (VLMs) are automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) that are especially useful for picking operations and can be used to store small parts, semi-finished products, or spare parts and tools in a maintenance area. They are highly modular and generally do not require special construction considerations, making them an excellent example of the space savings that can be achieved with ASRSs.

ASRS Cons 

While automated storage and retrieval systems are generally helpful, they have some disadvantages. We’ll discuss a couple of them below.


While ASRSs are modular and scalable, they are typically designed to perform a single type of task, and the automation systems within them are rigid. For example, stacker cranes can only move in a predetermined way along each axis.

Additionally, the dimensions of storage locations in an ASRS cannot be adjusted once the system has been built, so it is essential to consider future production volume and product lines carefully when deciding whether to install an ASRS.

Upfront Cost 

Constructing an automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) is a complex and costly project that may require special materials and reinforcements. Companies considering the installation of an ASRS need to carefully analyze the financial viability of the investment before moving forward.

On a more positive note, hardware for ASRSs is becoming more compact, and there are now designs available that are better suited for smaller spaces and less industrial environments. As a result, supermarket chains, pharmacies, and distribution centers are starting to explore the use of ASRSs for eCommerce and online order fulfillment (micro-fulfillment).

Final Thoughts 

Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRSs) have both advantages and disadvantages.

Some benefits of ASRSs include increased storage density, safer operations, and improved accuracy and efficiency. However, there are also drawbacks, such as high initial investments and inflexible tasks.

From a business perspective, the high cost of implementing an ASRS may be a significant disadvantage, but the safety benefits and operational improvements may outweigh this cost. Ultimately, whether the advantages of an ASRS outweigh the disadvantages will depend on the specific needs and goals of a particular business.

Business News