The Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) Industry Group of Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) has released it's Fall 2010 Quarterly Report titled AS/RS: A Key Link in the Cold Chain. The report asserts that quality control can be maintained closer to the point of consumption than ever before with today's AS/RS solutions.
An AS/RS, whether a vertical or horizontal carousel system or a fixed-aisle crane-based system, plays a key role in ensuring the quality and safety of consumer products. It does that by controlling the storage environment and maintaining a reliable data trail to document quality and ensure safety.
Although these systems are applied in many industries, two in particular call for critical strengths when it comes to environmental control in the cold chain: Pharmaceutical/medical supplies and food/grocery. Recent news stories about supply chain contamination and product recalls explain why.
“We need strict monitoring devices that both create a hard copy log and also communicate electronically to various facilities if something happens,” says Hanel Storage Systems’ Brian Cohen, chair of the Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) Automated Storage/Retrieval Systems (AS/RS) Industry Group. “This can document that for whatever lot number or case number, temperature was maintained throughout a product’s entire stay in the system.”
State or Federal regulations often require such validation. But there are also times when supply chain stakeholders require documentation of who had access to these products and when. With bar coded personnel ID tags used as access keys, such accountability is established. In addition to temperature and access control, these systems can control humidity and ensure protection from contamination in clean room environments.
An AS/RS can serve as one of the cold chain’s strongest links by making up for variability in the weakest link. These points are when product spends time outside a temperature controlled space. The AS/RS owner’s goal is to minimize the effects of those times by getting products into the system as quickly as possible. That requires the ability to ensure system capacity at a moment’s notice while slotting those products by date, and sequencing them by customer.
With interfaces to supply chain execution and enterprise resource planning systems, an AS/RS can be a window to product flow and environmental data from the manufacturing line to the store shelf. As the needs for environmental control and accountability grow in many industries, AS/RS users in the pharma and food chains will show how it’s done.
View the complete report — AS/RS: A Key Link in the Cold Chain.