Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring Improves Efficiency In Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems Reduce Cost and Time Associated with System Downtime and Maintenance by Using Sapient Automation’s Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring Anticipatory Maintenance in Order Picking and Order Fulfillment
Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring (IMHM)
Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring (IMHM)
Dec. 12, 2011 - PRLog -- Today’s Automated Storage And Retrieval Systems (AS/RS), Horizontal Carousels, Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs) and Vertical Carousels, are well engineered and very robust and offer service reliability that surpasses most production equipment. These storage systems are mechanical, however, and as such are subject to wear. If not recognized and repaired, wear can lead to unexpected equipment downtime, and that can create serious disruptions in business operations.

A way to avoid those downtime issues is through intelligent machine solutions and active management of the maintenance function, with the focus on a technique of preventative maintenance called anticipatory maintenance.

A Reliability/Availability Primer
In order to understand anticipatory maintenance, it’s necessary to understand terms associated with productivity analysis and automated storage and retrieval performance. The reliability of a system is a measure of its ability to do what it is designed to do for a specified period of time. System reliability measurement assumes that the equipment is operating within the conditions and environment for which its was designed. Availability is a measure of time that a system is operational and accessible when it is required to be such.

Two factors influence reliability and availability, Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR). MTBF is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a system during operation. It is a number, usually stated in hours, calculated by a manufacturer’s design engineers and is available in equipment specifications. MTTR is the average time it takes to fix a failed system, not including lead time for parts.
MTBF influences both reliability and availability. MTTR affects availability. If MTBF can be extended and MTTR reduced, (keyword) organizations can lessen the impact of costs associated with equipment downtime.

There are two elements of the costs associated with equipment downtime. The first is the direct cost. That cost includes the cost of labor factored by the number of hours employees are idle waiting for the equipment to be repaired. This labor cost also includes the extra cost of scheduling an additional shift, if necessary, to make up for lost time. There is also the cost of parts and labor required to fix the system. Emergency repairs can often be double or triple the cost of routine service and parts replacement. The second cost element is consequential costs. Consequential costs are more difficult to calculate, but are, nonetheless, a major factor in equipment downtime. What are the cost consequences of not meeting customers’ delivery expectations? In a Just-in-Time operation, what is the cost of being the bottleneck in an otherwise efficient delivery operation? If you provide parts to your own organization, such as a MRO application, what is the consequence of not being able to provide repair and maintenance parts in a timely manner?

Being Proactive
The way to reduce costs associated with system downtime is to anticipate stoppage caused by machine wear and service the system to extend its effective lifetime.
One approach to doing this is through a new program developed by Sapient Automation called Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring (IMHM) The IMHM program is designed to remotely monitor horizontal and vertical carousel and VLM systems in real time, allowing the customer service group to respond prior to failure.

The IMHM system remotely monitors critical maintenance thresholds, actual carousel usage, picks, run time, and energy consumption levels in order to detect variances and anomalies that could lead to failure or performance issues. The moment the IMHM system detects anything out of the ordinary, a message is sent to the local service technician and to the central service monitoring group for immediate response. Depending on the issue, the facility service coordinator is contacted and a plan on how to correct the issue is discussed and executed.

The IMHM program is free and takes less than three minutes of IT support for installation. It can be implemented on an existing horizontal or vertical carousel or VLM. Program protocol is formatted so that there are no firewall or security issues.
Application of this program allows preventative maintenance to be scheduled at optimal times in the work cycle, such as during slow periods or before anticipated peak operating times. The result is planned approach to maintenance that anticipates stoppages and virtually eliminates unscheduled system downtime, extending equipment longevity and improving ROI.

Beyond Maintenance
In addition to eliminating machine downtime, anticipatory maintenance using the IMHM program offers additional insights into system operation.
By analyzing system operating parameters, managers can better spot anomalies that can indicate potentially costly problems such as unsafe operation or poor use of the system indicating inexperienced or under trained operators.

Anticipatory maintenance also helps organizations meet lean initiatives and sustainability, or green, objectives. The elimination of time wasted in unscheduled maintenance helps meet lean objectives and the added reliability of the system means that inventory can be managed more closely, eliminating the need for hedge inventory. More efficient, reliable operation reduces overall energy requirements and labor requirements for picking operations, lowering an organization’s overall carbon footprint.

By proactively managing maintenance functions through remote monitoring, organizations can significantly improve the efficiency of their picking operations, and the productivity of the workforce, while boosting bottom line returns.

Anticipatory maintenance on carousel storage and retrieval solutions such as the Hornet Horizontal Carousel, Viper Vertical Lift Module (VLM) and Avenger Vertical Carousel with Sapient Automation's world class COP (Customer One Protection) Service Group helps provide customers the assurance that their systems will perform from day one with Sapient Automation's Remote Intelligent Machine Health Monitoring System. Key information is monitored in real time by the COP Service Group in order to detect variances and anomalies which could lead to failure or performance issues. Local technicians and central COP Service Group monitors and responds accordingly to any issues that may arise. The facility service coordinator is contacted and notified and a plan on how to correct the issue is discussed and implemented. The net result is a system that is up and running for years to come.

For information about the Intelligent Machine Health Maintenance (IMHM) Remote Monitoring System call 888-451-9711 or visit the Sapient Automation web site at

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Sapient Automation, a subsidiary of MDCI, is a leading provider of automated storage and retrieval systems that reduce leading organizations requirements for labor, floor space and inventory while dramatically increasing productivity and operational efficiencies with often a nine to 18 month Return on Investments (ROI). Industries served include: manufacturing, distribution, warehouses, healthcare, institutions, retail and wholesale organizations. The Sapient Automation technologies include the Viper Vertical Lift Module (VLM), Avenger Vertical Carousel, Hornet Horizontal Carousel, Shark Inventory Management Software, PickaMed Carousels and Spit Fire Pick Carts and pick to light systems.


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