Choosing Between Stacker Cranes and Shuttles for Pallet and Bin Handling: Insights from Movu Robotics CEO.
When it comes to efficiently moving palletized goods within a warehouse, the traditional stacker crane has long been a staple choice for many businesses. In fact, warehouses have often been designed and constructed around the use of these cranes. However, according to Stefan Pieters, CEO of Movu Robotics, this approach is increasingly falling short regarding operational efficiency and sustainability.
What Is a Pallet Shuttle?
Pallet shuttles are compact, low-profile vehicles with a footprint similar to the pallets they transport. They move along rails within the storage lanes of the racking system, efficiently transferring pallets to and from loading/unloading end aisles, as well as between storage lanes. Shuttles operate in two dimensions within each layer of the racking system and can be transferred vertically between lanes automatically without the need for forklift assistance. For instance, Movu’s Atlas shuttles can carry pallets of varying sizes, weighing up to 1,500 kg.
What Is a Stacker Crane
A stacker crane is a specialized industrial machine designed for the efficient handling of palletized materials within a warehouse or storage facility. It is typically used to transport pallets of goods vertically and horizontally within tall storage racks. Stacker cranes are equipped with lifting mechanisms that enable them to access different storage levels and retrieve or deposit pallets with precision. These machines play a crucial role in maximizing storage space and facilitating the organized movement of palletized goods, making them a fundamental component in many warehousing and distribution operations.
Comparing Stacker Cranes and Pallet Shuttles
Stacker cranes are undeniably robust machines, but they come with their downsides. Traditional stacker cranes are resource-intensive to build and operate, requiring significant upfront capital investment that can be prohibitive for smaller enterprises with limited budgets. Moreover, these cranes occupy a substantial amount of valuable floor space, reducing overall storage density in the warehouse and proving inefficient for deep storage solutions. Stacker crane systems necessitate a single-level site, often leading to construction on flood plains and demanding enhanced structural and service requirements, which can be challenging to meet in older facilities. Additionally, they struggle to effectively use irregularly shaped areas on sites, wasting significant storage potential.
The maintenance of stacker crane systems demands meticulous planning and execution, leading to downtime during servicing. Any malfunction can disrupt warehouse operations, representing a single point of failure. Furthermore, these systems lack flexibility and scalability, making it challenging to increase throughput without extensive and costly redesigns.
Despite their enduring relevance for handling heavy goods and maximizing vertical space, stacker cranes face competition from shuttle systems, particularly for palletized warehouse operations. Movu Robotics, in collaboration with their partners, stow Racking, offers shuttle systems as an attractive alternative.
Shuttle systems offer several advantages over stacker cranes. They drastically reduce the need for wasted aisle space, offer virtually limitless vertical height potential, and adapt easily to irregular site layouts. Their modular design allows for straightforward and cost-effective reconfiguration when necessary.
Being battery-powered and mobile, shuttles can be moved for battery charging, routine maintenance, or in case of breakdowns without disrupting warehouse operations. During peak activity, the number of shuttles in use can be increased to meet demand, making shuttle systems highly scalable and flexible.
Regarding sustainability, shuttle systems are more resource-efficient in construction and building modifications compared to stacker cranes. They also consume significantly less energy, thanks to their smaller size and weight.
Shuttle systems can also be applied to transporting bins in goods-to-person picking operations, offering further flexibility. Integrating with Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), picking arm robots, or other forms of automation enhances efficiency and sustainability, making it possible to run sections of the warehouse with reduced human labor or even entirely autonomously.
In conclusion, shuttle systems, as Movu Robotics exemplifies, provide a flexible, scalable, and modular approach to warehouse automation. They are quick to install, even in existing buildings and challenging sites, easy to integrate, and can expand with minimal disruption to ongoing operations. In an era of evolving consumer demands and resource constraints, making a sustainable and economically sound choice for warehouse automation is paramount, and shuttle systems offer a compelling alternative to traditional stacker cranes.
About Movu Robotics
Movu Robotics, a member of stow Group, is a new warehouse automation brand that brings easier logistics automation solutions to the world’s warehouses. Employing more than 300 employees by the end of 2023 across Europe and the US, Movu Robotics operates globally and expects an order intake of more than €300 million in 2023. Movu Robotics offers a complete portfolio of automated technologies for efficient warehouses. This includes the pallet shuttle “Movu atlas” for multiple deep storage, the AMR solution “Movu ifollow” for collaborative picking or transport of pallets, the robotized 3D storage and fulfillment system “Movu escala” and the integrated picking robot arm “Movu eligo”. All Movu systems are controlled and managed via their own warehouse execution software.
Movu Robotics’ headquarters in Lokeren, Belgium, combines a 5,000 square meter large office area with a 10,000 square meter surface for logistics and manufacturing operations under a single roof, next to a state-of-the-art experience center – one of the biggest in Europe – where the latest technologies are showcased live to customers and partners. For more information: www.movu-robotics.com