Automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) vs. shuttle system

31.May.2022, Reading time: 5 min 17 second

Due to the digital transformation, the logistics industry in particular must respond to the increasing dynamics on the market – because: Companies must adapt flexibly to fluctuations in demand in order to remain able to deliver and remain competitive. How can warehouse processes be designed to be efficient, save space and minimize costs at the same time? The demands on order picking are increasing and efficient systems with promising solutions are in demand. The global trend in the logistics industry is moving more and more in the direction of innovative automation, which can also result in many advantages for companies. New technologies have emerged that can increase efficiency and productivity in promising ways. This article focuses on the automated small parts warehouse (AS/RS) and the shuttle.

Criteria for selection

Several criteria play a role in selecting the right system. It is not possible to say directly which solution is optimal. This is because the different circumstances must be considered and analyzed individually. In the following, we would like to present you with a compact overview of the essential criteria that should be taken into account when choosing a system.

An AS/RS consists of a rack system, which can be individually adapted in height and length to the on-site conditions. However, since the performance of the storage and retrieval machine (SRM) depends to a large extent on its dimensioning, an optimal interaction should be achieved if possible.
Containers, cartons or trays, for example, are used to store the items. Due to the efficient and space-saving picking of small parts, miniload systems are used in almost all areas of distribution logistics. In addition, it is considered a very stable and reliable system. AS/RS are suitable for high storage capacities and containers with low to medium throughput. One disadvantage is the high reduction in performance if an AS/RS fails, as it is no longer possible to access the items in the respective aisle in the event of a failure. Also the extension of a unit brings AKL to its limits, since here an additional aisle and/or an additional RBG would be necessary.

An alternative possibility are shuttles. A shuttle is an automated warehouse vehicle for the operation of rack storage systems. The system provides high to very high throughput and low to medium storage capacity. Shuttles offer high flexibility and are scalable in the number of vehicles. Another advantage is the low loss of performance should one or more units fail. In addition, the number of shuttles in the existing warehouse can be expanded without any problems and no additional space is required for this. A disadvantage, however, is the high level of complexity in the design, for example of the control system or sensor technology, because the high level of complexity makes shuttles more susceptible to possible malfunctions and thus also more maintenance-intensive than classic miniloads.
*** Translated with (free version) ***


Technical structure

Automatic small parts warehouse

In an automated small parts warehouse, storage/retrieval is performed by rail-guided, aisle-bound storage and retrieval machines (SRM). The stacker crane consists of a mast on which a load handling device is mounted, which mainly uses the pull or telescopic technique for storage and retrieval.

Pulling technique: fold-out pins in front of or behind the container push or pull the container out of the compartment or down from the load handling device.
Telescopic technology: a telescopic fork is extended under the container, lifts it from below and retracts it.

RBG’s are more robust and require less maintenance compared to a shuttle, which means they have fewer malfunctions. Maintenance and servicing can therefore be carried out more easily and at longer intervals. Communication to the system can be realized by means of data light barrier/ Industrial WLAN.


With the shuttle system, the rack technology is more complex because the rails are attached to the rack. However, the modular design of the shuttle offers a high degree of flexibility – approx. every 2.5 m in height there is a new section with a separate maintenance platform and access, each with its own safety section. Similar to miniloads, cartons and totes on shelves are used to store items. A shuttle vehicle represents the load handling device in the miniload, the loading and unloading is realized with the help of a pulling technique. Compared to a miniload, the shuttle system is much more delicate, but it also has more technical components that require more effort in terms of control technology, sensors and monitoring.

Container range


  • Boxes(mostly plastic), trays, cartons
  • size: 800×600 mm
  • common sizes: 600×400 and 400×300 and 300×200 mm
  • possibility to pick up several containers at the same time



  • boxes (mostly plastic), trays, cartons
  • size: 600×400 mm
  • common sizes: 600×400 and 400×300 and 300×200 mm
  • Possibility to hold several containers at the same time


Which solution is optimal for your company’s potentials? In order to find the optimal system solution tailored to your company, a comprehensive ACTUAL analysis is necessary. Whether an AS/RS or shuttle system is advantageous for your requirements must therefore be decided individually. We are happy to help you and support you from the analysis to the decision of the optimal solution for your company.

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