Warehouse Automation Development in China

There are around 4,000 sets automated warehouses in China till to the end of 2017. Most of them landed in tobacco, pharmacy, health care, food, telecom, furniture manufacturing, machinery manufacturing and other traditional superior industry.

The Automated Storage and Retrieval System (AS/RS) in China most get up early the source in military logistics field. Before, by the influence of old-fashioned military thinking, the troop’s war-preparedness warehouse normally adopt selective pallet racking system. With the rapid development of information technology in recent years, the troop began to pay attention to  improve the speed and accuracy of military security by using of the latest logistics technology. Today, the new built or reconstructed facility for military material storage basically are automated warehouses. Warehouse automation technology application scope expand gradually, and obtains the favor of those traditional superior industry.

With the feature of large amount storage, high storage efficiency, high space utilization, high degree of automation and information, AS/RS increasingly be acknowledged by people. Generally this system is composed of stacker crane, high-rise racks, inbound and outbound conveyor system, sorting system, PLC and warehouse management system (WMS). Divided by different unit way, there are pallet and unit load two type.

Since the Stacker Crane’s working channel is very narrow, the operation height generally at 9~24 meters, the maximum can reach 40~50 meters, therefore it has the maximum space utilization. In addition, it is easiest to achieve stand-alone automation, system automation, material flow and information flow synchronization. But the planning and design must be careful as the investment with much capital.

Warehouse Automation Technology Development Process in China:

a). The 1st generation of self-developed automatic warehouse was born in the early 70 ‘s, until the end of the 80. The core equipment stacker is operated by manual, the control system adopts relay mode. Inbound and outbound system are accounting by labor. This generation of stacker has a large noise, low efficiency, high failure rate, high energy consumption and other shortcomings, to be exact, it’s a replacement of high position forklift at most, no commercial value any more. According to incomplete statistics, there are more than 30 seats that have been deactivated or demolished.

b). The 2nd generation of AS/RS was born in the late 80, to the middle of 90. Suzhou lifting machinery factory, as the main representative of this generation of technology, introduced the single upright stacker crane Technology from Dematic in German, triggered a round of automated warehouse investment. The main technical features are: The control unit began to adopt PLC, the speed regulation system part uses the AC frequency conversion technology, the communication way takes the trolley line primarily, the management and monitoring system uses the computer on-line control. While during this period, due to the United States-led Western countries impletmented product and technology blockade, entry prohibiting policy, resulted in a large number of automated warehouse hardware equipment (such as high-performance sensor units, etc.) can not be imported. These parts are replaced by domestic (or domestic joint ventures) manufactured, the stablility of system was bad performance.

In addition, due to the introduction was only stand-alone manufacturing technology, there are serious deficiencies in programmer planning and process design capacity. Meantime, limited to the domestic steel industry accuracy technology, the rigidity and accuracy of stand-alone equipment is poor, thus affecting the quality of the equipment. Limited to that age of computer technology, the whole management system was oftenly paralyzed fault, to the middle of the 90, some new warehouses simply using stand-alone automatic mode. The Logistics information management function of automatic warehouse is separated by human. Therefore, this generation of automated warehouse using is extremely poor, the mechanical wear barely to be repaired due age-old. They had lost the value of transformation. This generation of products, will be scrapped, demolition-oriented.

c). The 3rd generation of AS/RS was born in 1990 to the end of 2002. The generation of this technology mainly represent by Liaoning Tieling which import double uprights stacker crane fro SMC in Korea. They pioneered in 30m high rack-support automated warehouse in China, also for solving how to on-line the system get experience. During this period, a lot of application-oriented engineers are educated. Most of them become the technican leaders in each own industry later. The main features: the walking speed breakthrough 80 m/min, maximum reach to 120m/min; the communication is by IR-laser and the control technology is mainly by field-bus; all the hardware device import from overseas, computer system are widely used. Until today, AS/RS from this generation still running well, up-to-the-date. While limited by computer technology level, the system took long time to respond. The reformation will be mainly on upgrade controlling system and WMS.

d). The 4th generation of AS/RS was born in 2003 till nowadays. With China joined in WTO, the cooperation with other countries became more closely, AS/RS achieve disruptive technology progress. First of all, the mechanical structure design gradually change from imitation to innovation. Secondly The computer and control system technology completely synchronized with the world. Lastly, solution planning, flow designing have generally improved. The main technical features during this period is the walking speed of stacker crane reach to 160m/min, maximum to 240m/min. Laser ranging, infrared communication are widely used. Network mode and programming language became diversify. Human-machine operating by RFID. Response time greatly shortening while stability increased remarkably.


It have to be admitted that there is still difference between China and advanced integrator in oversea, for example: the accuracy need to be increased, software programming for big project lack of experience. But the second largest economy in the world, we facing more market demand and get more practical experience in implementing super-huge type project. The developing in warehouse automation in last 20 years probably take 50 years in other countries.

With the development of science and technology, even if the stacker crane made by 4th generation will inevitably have technology upgrades, system maintenance, hardware maintenance problems, so how to select a reliable and professional integrator is essential.

Automation Warehouse is a technology-intensive, talent-intensive industry. Enterprises who have the most advanced technology, then who will dominate the market; the more stable engineers , the more they can get the favor from clients.

Contact us today to discuss implementing an AS/RS into your warehouse.

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