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Small parts storage shelving systems

Automated small parts warehouse Shelving systems

In the automatic small parts warehouse shelving systems (AKL) speed and precision with optimal energy efficiency decide on the performance. The small parts warehouse, shelving systems, the software, the connected conveyor technology and the storage and retrieval device as the heart of the system offer a perfect interaction.

The heart of the automated small parts warehouse is shelving systems

The world’s most powerful storage and retrieval system for small parts storage, shelving systems for small parts, impresses with top values for goods throughput, space utilization and energy efficiency. When storage and retrieval devices, racking systems, conveyor technology and software interact so perfectly, efficiency is set in motion.

Sophisticated solutions for small parts storage Shelving systems with high throughput and optimal use of space

Efficient small parts storage is only as good as the associated processes and the resulting key performance indicators. Are short access times, high throughput and optimal use of space as well as direct access to each article required? Automatic small parts storage shelving systems (AKL) are designed for extremely space-saving storage of small parts in containers, boxes or trays. Your goods are stored in this system either on angled supports or shelves – making full use of the room height of up to 25 meters. The load capacity is up to 300 kilograms.

Automatic small parts storage shelving systems – for a wide range of applications

Storage of small parts in the small parts warehouse Shelving systems, especially in single and multi-deep designs, can be suitable for you, for example for spare parts, order picking and buffer storage or as distribution warehouses or centers. Small parts storage Shelving systems can be designed for operation below normal temperature or temperature-controlled and as deep-freeze storage down to -30°.
The best solution for your requirements:
Automated small parts storage shelving systems are as individual as your requirements. Depending on numerous factors, we use it to solve a wide variety of tasks. In order to find the optimal solution for your requirements, we analyze your goods and transport structures as well as process flows together with you and develop the right storage concept for your needs.



Storage and retrieval machines of the latest generation for

Our smart stacker cranes ensure maximum speed and precision as well as outstanding performance values in the automated small parts warehouse. Thanks to its consistent lightweight construction and innovative construction with particularly small approach dimensions, the available volume can be optimally used. Any braking energy is stored in the device in so-called SuperCaps and returned to the drive system for subsequent acceleration processes. The modular design concept also enables flexible adaptation of the small parts storage racking system to your individual needs.

Automated small parts storage shelving systems – function, advantages & strategies

Automatic small parts storage Shelving systems offer the possibility of storing articles in a space-saving and efficient manner in small parts containers such as plastic boxes or trays. Here you can find out how small parts storage shelving systems are structured, how much they cost and what access strategies are used!

Automatic small parts storage Shelving systems offer the possibility of storing articles in a space-saving manner.

The starting point for the first automatic small parts storage rack systems in the 1960s were initially pallet storage. These were later followed by specific stores for coils, rods, containers and small parts containers. Today, automated small parts storage racking systems are used in almost all branches of trade and industry.

How are automatic small parts storage shelving systems structured?

In principle, automated small parts storage rack systems are similar in structure to automated high-bay pallet racks. High racks are economical and efficient, but differ in terms of load weight (usually 50 kg per individual load) and therefore in terms of component dimensioning.

We show a 4-aisle shelving system for the Schaeffler Group. 44,800 storage spaces with up to 4 deep storage enable efficient material flow.

Automatic small-parts storage racking systems usually consist of a racking system, which includes one or more aisles, a small-parts storage device, a picking area in which goods are put together according to a separate picking method, and a large number of small-parts containers. If a shelf contains more than one container, we are talking about double-deep storage. If the stored goods are comparatively small parts or there is only a small turnover, there is the option of storing different items together in a small parts container. The prerequisite for this is a suitable warehouse management system.

What types of shelves are there in the small parts warehouse?

Automated small parts storage Shelving systems can be designed as single or multi-position storage with single-deep or double-deep storage. Single-deep automatic small parts storage Shelving systems allow direct access to all stored goods, while the double-deep version stores several items one after the other. Since economic access to the goods lying behind is hardly possible, such automatic small parts storage rack systems are used above all with high inventories per article. Within the storage channels, the storage is then sorted.

Advantages of double-deep storage in the small parts warehouse Racking systems:

  • higher volume utilization
  • enables optimal utilization of existing storage areas
  • Costs for warehouses, shelves and storage technology are reduced

Storage space is extremely expensive. Automated small parts storage Shelving systems are attractive for many companies because they enable optimal use of storage space

Although the necessary rearrangements when accessing storage units far from the aisle increase the time required, the travel time is reduced by the automatic small parts warehouse due to the shorter travel distances with the same number of storage spaces.

Automatic small parts storage shelving systems are either free-standing or building-supporting. In the latter variant, also referred to as a storage silo, the steel structure of the store carries the side walls and the roof.

How is an automated small parts storage system operated?

Storage and retrieval in automatic small parts storage rack systems can take place with different degrees of automation:

  • by manually operated narrow aisle trucks,
  • by semi-automatic storage and retrieval machines (RBG) with operating cabins for pickers traveling with them and
  • through fully automatic stacker cranes.

Since the load on the storage and retrieval device increases with the increasing height of the automatic small parts warehouse, two-mast devices are often used for high shelves. The different variants of the RBG can be combined with the different types of storage in connection with the appropriate load handling equipment.

Which technology is used in automatic small parts storage rack systems?

Option 1: Small parts storage devices and shuttle systems

The small parts storage devices used in the automatic small parts storage rack systems have been specially developed for use in tight spaces. They consist of one storage and retrieval device per aisle, a travel rail and the load handling device (LAM). The storage devices work at heights of up to 30 m and handle loads of up to 300 kg. On average, they reach horizontal travel speeds of six meters per second. The acceleration is between three and four meters per second. These speeds play a role above all in movement strategies in storage and retrieval processes. It’s all about maximum acceleration and maximum deceleration within a very short space of time – enormous amounts of energy are lost in the process. Sustainable systems for automatic small parts storage Shelving systems are therefore particularly in demand.

The storage and retrieval machines have different designs to accommodate the small parts containers:

  • Undercarriage technology: telescopic table
  • Drawing technique: cassette slide
  • Gripping technique: lateral revenue gripper

Automatic small parts storage shelving systems mainly work with the pull technology and the underride or telescopic technology in different variants. Suction pads are also used, particularly with cardboard boxes. Multiple load handling devices that can transport several loading units at the same time are often used in the warehouse. The units are arranged either side by side or one behind the other.

Increasingly, innovative shuttle systems are also being used in automatic small parts warehouses for storing small parts. These are storage devices that can be guided along a shelf front and set down on rails integrated in the shelf. The storage, relocation and retrieval is done on the side of the shuttle’s lane.

On the one hand, the flexibility of the shuttle system means that the performance can be scaled, which means that costs can be saved. On the other hand, there are only minor restrictions on warehouse operations in the event of a breakdown in a single vehicle. In addition, the shuttle system enables items to be transported directly from the warehouse to their destination.

However, such a system also has disadvantages. Special rails and safeguards are required. Basically, the rack construction is therefore significantly more complex than that for automatic small parts storage rack systems with storage and retrieval machines.

What is storage technology? Definition and application examples

Option 2: warehouse management systems

The core of every high-performance automated small parts warehouse is the warehouse management system. This receives a list of the required small parts from a merchandise management or ERP system. Based on this information, it transmits to the control software which small parts containers have to be transported to the picking station. Based on the specifications, the control software now ensures that the respective storage containers get to where they are needed. A picker then removes the relevant parts and places them in the target container.

Option 3: small parts bin

Standardized containers are usually used for the transport and storage of goods in the automated small parts warehouse. These form logistical units, which are the basic requirement for automation and mechanization in the material flow.

Small parts containers are ideal for storing C-parts (e.g. screws, nuts and so on).

The small parts warehouse shelving systems containers are mostly made of stable and durable plastic. However, there are also variants made of metal (steel, stainless steel or aluminum) or cardboard, which usually have a smaller filling volume. Many small parts containers have compartments or dividers that ensure that even the smallest, sometimes even different, parts can be safely stored and removed in the automatic small parts warehouse. Depending on the goods to be stored, various formats of small parts storage shelving systems containers are available.

Option 4: shelves

Trays are stable conveyor trays on which the storage units are stored together in the automated small parts warehouse. Edges bent upwards ensure that nothing can slip. Each tray has its own identification number in the logistics system, which the stacker crane can use to access it.

Trays in the automated small parts warehouse Shelving systems increase flexibility and performance and are well suited for the internal flow of materials, since the trays are stable, always have the same size and can be transported automatically without any problems. The standardized dimensions are ideal for automatic storage and allow optimal use of the storage space.

How does picking work in the small parts warehouse?

Automated small parts storage Shelving systems are subject to different requirements as a component of picking systems. Depending on the intended use, there are two system variants that differ in particular in terms of the degree of their automation and the respective picking method: the “goods to man” principle and the “man to goods” principle.

The “goods to man” principle is used when the storage containers in the automated small parts warehouse move to the picker. The required parts are then removed from local picking stations in the individual aisles. Since it is unlikely in storage systems with several aisles that all items of an order will be put together from a single storage aisle, in larger picking systems all the aisles of the automatic small parts warehouse are connected by conveyor technology. Depending on the required picking performance, picking stations are set up along the resulting conveyor line.

With the “man to the goods” principle, the items are in a fixed place in the automated small parts warehouse, which the picker moves to. If the automated small parts storage rack system contains a very large assortment of parts, aisle-bound picking devices are used, which can move vertically and are automatically – but sometimes also by a picker traveling with them – controlled to the respective removal locations.

Logistics and distribution centers are often equipped with combined picking systems. In these, goods with high turnover rates are provided statically, while items with low turnover rates are picked from dynamically provided storage containers.

Which operating strategies are used in the small parts warehouse?

Automated small parts storage Shelving systems only work economically if the storage organization and the associated operating strategies are tailored to the stored goods. The following strategies are particularly relevant:

Access strategy

The access strategy determines the order in which the RGB accesses the stored units of the same product. The two best-known ways to do this are:

  • First in – First out (FiFo) und
  • Last in – First out (LiFo)

With the FiFo principle, the loading unit with the longest dwell time is always retrieved first, while with the LiFo principle the unit with the shortest dwell time has priority. The FiFo strategy ensures that the items stored in the automated small parts warehouse are handled evenly and is used primarily in food logistics.

The FiFo principle is used, for example, in the food industry. This ensures that goods in the warehouse do not spoil and remain edible.

(Image: ©Ingo Bartussek –

Allocation strategy: The allocation strategy specifies which articles are stored in which storage zones or in which storage locations in order to keep the distances for storage and retrieval as short as possible. Examples of occupancy are:

  • Chaotic storage space arrangement: Regardless of the item in question, it is stored in the next free storage space.
  • Fixed storage space allocation: Storage spaces in the automatic small parts warehouse are reserved for each article for the maximum expected stock. These are blocked for other goods.
  • Concentration of fast-moving items: Items with a high turnover rate are stored near the storage and retrieval point in order to keep the average routes in the warehouse short and to enable quick access. This occupancy strategy requires precise knowledge of the turnover rate of the various items.
  • Movement strategy The movement strategies used in the automatic small parts warehouse determine the order in which storage and retrieval is carried out by the stacker crane and the associated load handling equipment. The following strategies are used, among others:
  • Single game strategy: The storage and retrieval machine picks up a storage unit from the automatic small parts warehouse, brings it to the designated storage location and then drives back to fetch the next unit. It is either stored in or outsourced. The advantage of this strategy is a higher performance during storage and retrieval. The associated longer empty runs of the storage and retrieval machines are disadvantageous.
  • Double game strategy: The double game combines storage and retrieval with each other. The storage of an article in the automatic small parts warehouse on the outward journey is followed by the retrieval of an article stored nearby on the return journey. The advantage of this variant is the route optimization. This avoids empty runs and processes in the warehouse run more efficiently. The individual movement sequences take longer. In addition, sophisticated warehouse management software is required for automatic small parts warehouses with this movement strategy.
  • Route strategy: Storage and retrieval machines that are able to accommodate several storage units travel to various storage and retrieval compartments one after the other using the shortest possible route. The aim is to minimize the distances traveled as much as possible.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of automated small parts warehouses?

One of the biggest advantages of automated small parts warehouses is the time saved compared to manual picking. In addition, it offers the following advantages:

  • maximum automation possible
  • Can be implemented as a closed system (protection against unauthorized access)
  • Optimum use of the existing storage volume
  • well suited for picking tasks
  • continuous work rhythm
  • high handling rates possible

On the other hand, there are these disadvantages of automatic small parts warehouses:

  • Container dimensions limited, therefore restrictions on the stored goods
  • technical availability limited
  • high investment costs

When are automated small parts warehouses useful?

Whether an AKL is worthwhile for a company depends on the following factors:

  • the usable area
  • the item structures and quantities
  • the ergonomic requirements
  • the expected personnel costs
  • of data and goods security as well as
  • the required speed of goods access

The greater the requirements in these points, the more likely it is that the automated small parts warehouse is recommended. In principle, economic use is conceivable if a storage aisle with around 3000 to 5000 parking spaces can be fully utilised. If integration into existing rooms is possible, solutions with less than 1000 seats can make sense. If, on the other hand, a new building is required, automatic small parts storage usually only pays off from a larger number of containers.

In order to be able to keep up with the progress of intralogistics 4.0 in the future, we recommend our dossier “It’s all about the details: the digital path to intralogistics 4.0”.