Container battle in the AutoStore: practical comparison of plastic dividers vs. cardboard boxes.

AutoStore is on everyone's lips and is undoubtedly one of the smartest automated small parts warehouses for warehouse management. AutoStore enables companies to manage their stocks in a space-saving manner, react flexibly to new requirements and streamline their storage and retrieval processes. AutoStore - the goods-to-person warehouse - is based on an expandable grid system for maximum space utilization. The goods are stored in bins and stacked on top of each other. Intelligent robots move the bins fully automatically from the storage location to the ports (work stations) and back again.

The durable and standardized bins are specially designed to store goods safely. The bins are available in three sizes and in different materials. That's great, but what if the goods are very small and the bins remain almost empty as a result? There are two ways to divide the bins. The way in which the bins are divided can have a significant impact on the efficiency and profitability of a warehouse. We look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two ways of dividing bins: permanently divided bins and bins without division.

‍Theclassic case: divided bins with plastic dividers.
Most of our customers rely on the classic method of dividing bins in the AutoStore. This involves dividing the bins into fixed sections. The movable plastic dividers are pushed into the notches in the bin. This creates half, quarter or eighth containers.

However, this practice has the disadvantage that it offers little flexibility. If the requirements or the goods change, the containers have to be removed and converted. So that, for example, half containers become complete containers again. This creates additional work, incurs costs and requires precise container management. But you don't have to worry about that - with our SuPCIS-L8 warehouse management software , this can be controlled using various mechanisms.

8-compartment, firmly divided container.

4-fold firmly divided containers.

The alternative method: undivided containers.
One of our customers relies on this alternative - which is rather rare - but is the best solution for their warehouse and product range. The containers have no partitions, it is always a whole container. Instead, they use different types of cartons, including small cartons in the sizes of a half, quarter or eighth container.

The advantage of this approach is its flexibility. As there are no fixed subdivisions, the division can be adapted immediately as required. An empty container remains an empty container and the type of goods that are placed in it can vary. You place the cartons in the containers and divide them in this way. This eliminates the need for retooling.

Another advantage is the decoupling of the incoming goods area from the AutoStore port. The incoming goods department works independently of the AutoStore and the cartons serve as loading aids. This means that storage is prepared at the central goods receiving area, where all goods arrive. The delivered goods are checked for quality and quantity and then repacked onto suitable loading aids. These can be Euro pallets or, in the case of the AutoStore, suitable cardboard boxes, which are then later placed in another container. Normally, it is necessary to calculate what fits into a half, quarter or eighth container. This process also eliminates this, as the various empty loading aids (cartons) for the AutoStore Bin are available in the incoming goods department and also serve as volume measurements in addition to transportation. This saves the customer having to enter precise master data in the incoming goods department. This way of working means that the port can be used more efficiently and work can be carried out more quickly. This is because it is much quicker if only the cartons are placed in the bins without checking or counting the goods.

Containers without fixed partitions - separation with cardboard boxes.

Container partitioning with cartons in the AutoStore.

Now we come back to the split containers. Of course, these also have their advantages, as there is no need for cartons with the associated empties handling. Once the carton is empty after picking, it has to be removed again. This means that a separate logistics process is required for the cartons. However, this is also somewhat offset by the fact that the plastic dividers also have to be stored, even if they take up less space than the cartons.

Conclusion: Deciding on the right container categorization system in an AutoStore depends on various factors. It is important to carefully analyze your company's processes, your product range and your storage environment in order to make a suitable choice. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

By organizing your bins correctly in AutoStore, you can increase the efficiency and productivity of your logistics and at the same time ensure that your warehouse management adapts to changing requirements.

Regardless of your choice, it is important to continuously monitor and adjust warehouse management and organization to ensure optimal operation.

Contact us and talk to one of our experts on the subject.

Ferdinand Gantert