Earlier this year, Murata Machinery USA Inc (aka Muratec), introduced a new mini-load crane unit which can be used to make storing and retrieving small, lightweight goods quicker and more efficient. The Ledger A3 AS/RS is a mini-load with high-speed carriage loading and unloading of four totes, designed to provide high-density storage and retrieval in high-throughput distribution applications.
“This product is sort of a hybrid for us,” says Rickey Woodley, Murata Machinery’s National Sales Manager for North America. “There’s a number of mini-loads in the market, but they’re either extremely high speed or have capacity – it’s normally one or the other. You need the storage capacity, or you need the throughput. But this bridges the gap between a considerable amount of storage capacity, with extremely fast throughput being able to handle four totes at one time.”
The Ledger A3 would be ideally used in warehouses or other situations where small, lightweight goods are handled. The name ‘ledger’ references paper size, which each tote having an area roughly the size of ledger sized paper – 11 x 17 inches – and carrying up to 15 lbs. for a total maximum of 60 lbs. between all four. The unit travels at 984 feet per minute.
While one might think that small equipment like nuts or bolts would be the ideal application, the weight of items like that adds up too quickly to be appropriate for the system. While other smaller construction items could be utilized if they are light enough, the mini-load is primarily focused on small consumer goods including pharmaceuticals (syringes or pill bottles), cosmetics (tubes, bottles or jars) and some food and beverage industries (candies, gum or other confectionary products). Muratec representatives also said that they expect their customers to find other applications that they haven’t yet thought of.
“It’s primarily focused on things where you have large volumes, but lightweight,” says Woodley.
Woodley says that the Ledger A3 is a full turn-key system – no existing infrastructure will be required, the mini-load will come with everything needed to set it up.
“It’s going to come with the full software package, integrating with whatever ERP [enterprise resource planning – a software system which organizes automation and processes] the customer may be using,” says Woodley. “All of the software to actually drive and run the system on the hardware is full turn-key.”
Typically, the ideal set up for the mini-load would be a warehouse type situation between nine and 44-45 metres tall. However, if a company’s logistics run larger than that, multiple systems could be installed next to each other or stacked on top of each other. If a company has logistics that fall outside of those parameters, Woodley says he wants to hear from them.
“The cornerstone of our business is specializing and being special,” says Woodley. “Nothing is out of the realm of possibility, as long as you have the finances to support that kind of R&D, then we could work with most anyone on any application.”
The Ledger A3 combines with Muratec’s rail-guided, bi-directional shuttle sortation loop – called Shuttliner – to operate as a goods-to-person system, minimizing handling errors and boosting throughput. Promotional materials claim that the two systems working in concert saves warehouse floor space and builds long-term expansion flexibility.
“When Muratec develops a solution, we will typically take a look at all of our other equipment, like the Shuttliners,” says Woodley. “We try to be a total solution provider from door to door. Most things we’re the OEM and manufacturer, though for some things we do partner with very specific people to add the missing parts and pieces so we can truly be a turnkey solution from door to door.”
Murata Machinery USA General Manager Scott Matlock was quoted in promotional materials as saying that the Ledger A3 is perfect for applications requiring more in/out capacity and would help reduce manual labour costs.
“In today’s rapidly changing marketplace, consumers are demanding their products immediately, if not sooner, leaving businesses to react to tighter speed of delivery expectations across manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution markets,” said Matlock. “Automation is no longer an optional luxury but a competitive necessity.”
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