The development of the modern vertical storage lift has been of major significance in increasing efficiency within industrial companies across the entire world.
A conscious effort to save space and reduce times in picking processes has quickly driven development forward. Advances have also gone hand in hand with improved ergonomics and healthier work environments for personnel working with storage systems.
There has been a rapid change from isolated picking stations to an integrated system where both storage and the supply of production materials are controlled by the company's business system. The predecessor of the vertical storage lift, however, has a considerably longer history.
Paternoster storage systems, with shelves or gondolas that rotate in an endless vertical track, have been used for a long time in many applications. The Swedish Navy minelayer, Claes Fleming, which was launched in 1912, was armed with 200 mines and a wholly automatic minelaying system that laid mines using a paternoster storage system.
This ingenious invention had many advantages and characteristics that mean that it is still used when conditions are suitable for paternoster storage systems.
Technical developments in modern times have, however, led to new ways to exploit the opportunities of storing goods vertically. This has made today's vertical storage lifts an extremely flexible and high performance alternative.
In principle, a vertical storage lift can be built up to 30m high, whereas a paternoster storage system can reach barely half that height. The vertical storage lift can be dimensioned for a total load of up to 150 tons, compared to 15 tons for a paternoster storage system. Another limitation of paternoster storage systems is that the load must be distributed evenly. The stable vertical storage lift is not so sensitive and handles variations in the distribution of goods.
The idea of the first vertical storage lift grew from a collaboration between Ford Motors and one of the company's suppliers. The car industry had major problems with small parts that were stored in kilometre-long aisles. The vertical storage lift compressed the storage surface required enormously. When operators no longer needed to transport themselves long distances to pick parts, handling times could be reduced dramatically. The first vertical storage lift was installed at Ford Motors in 1982.
Ten years later, the vertical storage lift reached the European market. After its introduction at the Paris Technical Fair in 1992, the first facility was supplied to Norsk Scania in Oslo in November of the same year.
Nordverk Norge, which supplied the first American vertical storage lifts in Norway, also took the initiative when manufacture began in Scandinavia. In 1999 in Smålandsstenar, the company Compact Logistic System AB was started, with a newly constructed vertical storage lift in which operational security was the highest priority, including through the use of the extremely reliable rack drive.
Today the company is wholly owned by the Weland Group under the name Weland Lagersystem AB. Nordverk Norge, which has the longest and best experience of vertical storage lifts and effective applications, is now the reseller for Weland Lagersystem in Norway.
And the development of the vertical storage lift is rapidly going even further. Based on the starting point of customers' varying requirements and use areas, there is today a clear difference between automated storage and automated picking systems.
An automated storage system is used principally to store small items in a cheap, effective and ergonomic manner. Price per unit storage area is often discussed when evaluating investment in such systems. Often these machines are not connected to any master system, but function as stand-alone machines.
Automated picking systems are completely different. Nearly all of these facilities are connected to a master system that controls the automated system's functions. During the evaluation and comparisons of these systems, it is often the amount of picking done per hour that is examined most closely.
The market trend is for more and more companies to use their vertical storage lifts as automated picking systems, integrated in the company's overall logistics function.