How to Drive Energy-Efficiency in an Automated Warehouse

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British industry is under pressure to automate repetitive processes in order to minimise costs. But automation also means depending on more electricity, and electricity is an expensive commodity.

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There are good reasons for thinking electricity costs will continue to rise. Among these are government policies to close coal- and oil-fired power stations while subsidising construction of nuclear ones, and the rising cost of wind turbines and other “green” technologies due to shortages of minerals like tellurium, indium, lithium and copper on which they depend.

Investing in new tech, cutting costs and going green are often contradictory imperatives. The only way for us to square that circle is by finding new ways to minimise power consumption.

Economic Efficiency

An automated warehouse necessarily costs more to create than a simple storage space. However, at current energy prices they are still cheaper to operate than manpower-intensive alternatives.

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Automated warehouses also save capital because a higher percentage of building volume can be devoted to storage. Wide lanes for forklifts, jacks, pickers, stackers, reachers and tow trucks become unnecessary. This is particularly true when you implement a vacuum conveying system, as there are no height constraints and few ancillary pieces of equipment.

Areas traditionally required for human administration, lavatories or canteens can also be released for the building’s primary function – storage.

Energy Efficiency

Switching off lighting no longer required by human workers is one saving, but minimising the energy used by the system itself depends on two things: a carefully planned logistics design, and installing the latest highly energy-efficient equipment.

Vacuum conveying solutions naturally lend themselves to both kinds of efficiencies: an experienced installer like can route them flexibly for you and upgrade them as improved technology becomes available.

Efficient system design involves optimising the route goods travel through the building but also eliminates wastage caused by malfunctions, interventions, flushing and cleaning operations and system redundancies.

Efficient equipment design involves decreasing its weight, counter-weighting simultaneous operations (such as lifting and lowering), component level efficiency improvements and heat reclamation. For example, during descent and deceleration manoeuvres, loads provoke back-currents that older motors suppress. Energy regenerators return this power to use, improving efficiency by up to 20%.

To this can be added smarter sensors and regulators and central control modules upgraded to recognise power consumption as a primary operating parameter.

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