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Solutions in Action: Power Automation Systems

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A truly lean manufacturing environment doesn't stop at the end of the production process. It extends to the logistics operation as well. Inventory is costly and in most facilities, space is at a premium.

As a result, today's logistics professionals are under increasing pressure to optimize their supply chains – beginning with a critical link, their warehouses. Power Automation Systems (PAS) provides automated warehouse solutions designed to address the inadequacies of traditional warehouse systems– and dramatically improve the efficiency of existing and new facilities.

A global company headquartered in Lathrop, California, PAS delivers innovative high-density, high-throughput systems to a wide range of food, beverage, pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods companies.

The key operations in any warehouse facility revolve around pallet storage and retrieval. To achieve that functionality, typical warehouses use either a manual racking or a crane-based automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS).

Warehouses with manual systems are characterized by wide forklift aisles and limited racking heights.

Automated crane-based systems can generally be installed only in new facilities designed for their use – and offer only limited capacity gains over manual systems. On the other hand, the patented PowerStor® cart-based AS/RS from Power Automation Systems can double the density of a typical warehouse – while achieving throughput topping 500 pallets an hour.

Unique in the industry, the scalable solution can accommodate virtually any floor layout and ceiling condition – and is custom designed to meet existing warehouse parameters or new facility specifications.

The energy-efficient PowerStor system uses independent, automated pallet handling vehicles to transport pallets into and out of the storage system. A vertical lift then moves the loads up and down the racking modules.

“PowerStor can operate independently – or can be combined with our PowerStage® pallet delivery system,” said Mike Terrill, vice president of automation, Power Automation Systems. PowerStage takes pallets directly from the production area and delivers them to the right PowerStor module for storage. As the name implies, PowerStage also stages and delivers outgoing shipments to loading docks.

Each PAS solution includes PAS OS, the company's warehouse control system software. PAS OS provides an intuitive user interface to enable real-time inventory control and detailed information about individual components. “PAS OS has a web interface that allows integration with a customer's ERP system,” explained Terrill. “We can program PAS OS to exchange messages with the ERP system on a regular basis. As a result, the warehouse inventory is always ‘live'.” The PAS solution is built on a Rockwell Automation integrated control and information platform, based on Allen-Bradley® GuardLogix® and CompactLogix™ programmable automation controllers.

The CompactLogix controllers are used for all pallet handling vehicles, while the GuardLogix safety controllers manage supervisory and module control – as well as communication with all field devices. The system also features Allen-Bradley ArmorStart® distributed motor controllers. Ideal for material handling applications, the ArmorStart controllers provide a cost-effective way to integrate combination starters, I/O and network capabilities throughout the system. This On-Machine™ solution also includes ArmorBlock® Guard I/O™. The solution is integrated on an EtherNet/IP™ network.

To enable wireless communication, the system incorporates RadioLinx modules from ProSoft Technology, a Rockwell Automation Encompass™ Product Partner. “Our system is highly distributed,” Terrill said. “The ArmorStart controllers provide us with all the I/O we need – mounted locally to the equipment in each module zone. This significantly minimizes wiring and installation costs. Wiring everything back to a panel would be cost-prohibitive.”

Working with Rockwell Automation consultants, PAS leveraged the capabilities of the GuardLogix safety controller, ArmorBlock Guard I/O and guarding equipment to configure a solution that meets functional safety standards – and helps maximize uptime. “With the safety controllers and other safeguards, we can lock-out specific zones within the system when maintenance is required,” said Terrill. “As a result, maintenance personnel are isolated from power while they complete their work – but the rest of the system remains operational.”

Power Automation Systems looks forward to continually improving their solutions to maximize the density and throughput of unique warehouse and distribution facilities for years to come. “Our solutions are designed for flexibility,” Terrill said. “We rely on Rockwell Automation products and expertise to support that flexibility – and help us stay on the cutting edge of machine control.”


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