Thorlabs to enhance distribution capabilities with AutoStore empowered by Kardex

15 January 2024, Company News

The robotic cube storage system, AutoStore, will enable Thorlabs to accommodate future growth by maximizing storage space within their new distribution center.

Montgomery, OH Thorlabs, a vertically integrated designer and manufacturer of photonics equipment for research, industrial, and life science applications, has been serving the photonics community for over 30 years. Throughout its history, the organization’s portfolio has steadily grown to include over 20,000 items that are stocked for same-day shipment to end users around the globe. With the groundbreaking of a new distribution center, AutoStore empowered by Kardex has been found to be the ideal solution to re-envision their storage space.
The AutoStore system chosen is designed to provide 1,000 bin presentations per hour, which will facilitate processing of Thorlabs’ inbound and outbound order volume for the next 10 years. The new distribution center, which is scheduled to be completed Summer of 2024, consists of a receiving area, primary storage (AutoStore), static shelving, order consolidation, packing, and shipping staging area. 
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Figure 1: Rendering of Thorlabs’ new distribution center

"We appreciate the Kardex Team’s collaborative approach. They were able to analyze all aspects of our operation and provide a complete design that met our business needs, with project development and installation timelines that align perfectly with Thorlabs’ timeline for building completion. Kardex addressed our specific requirements and pain points with a straightforward automation solution " says Danielle Strong, VP of Global Supply Chain.

Autostore PressreleaseFigure 2: AutoStore robots at work

Scalable, Flexible Automation Maximizes Space Utilization

The robotic cube storage system offers sufficient product storage density to meet Thorlabs’ 10 year growth plan within the most efficient amount of space. With a global average uptime of 99.7%, AutoStore robots are operational 24 hours a day, reliably preparing orders, even outside normal working hours. 

AutoStore is a fully automated and intelligent goods-to-person storage and retrieval system offering leading product storage density. Bins are stacked vertically in a grid and retrieved by intelligent, battery-powered robots that travel on top of the grid system, sorting, carrying and delivering bins to the respective workstations (ports), where a variety of warehouse operations can be performed (picking, packing, replenishment, inventory control, etc.). The flexible, tailor-made system fits even the most unusually shaped facilities, allowing the grid to be placed around columns, on mezzanines and on multiple levels. The bins are stacked neatly on top of each other in a condensed grid-style system, increasing storage capacity up to four times and performance up to 10 times that of traditional storage methods. AutoStore can easily adapt to changing order fulfillment requirements through a flexible configuration of the robots, ports and quantity of bin locations.

Collaborative Customer Focus

Thorlabs chose Kardex as their AutoStore partner due to their ability to analyze all aspects of their operation to provide a complete and customized solution based on their goals and organizational needs. The dedicated, experienced project team at Kardex will support all aspects of Thorlabs’ rollout and continued use of AutoStore, including project management, hardware, and software.
Kardex’s collaborative approach helped them design a system that will:
•    Accommodate growth and expansion
•    Enable a higher density of inventory in less space
•    Provide a faster and streamlined way to fulfill customer orders
•    Improve the quality of the work experience for distribution personnel
•    Provide a higher level of control of order type processing
•    Increase operational flexibility
Autostore Pressrelease

Figure 3: Visualization of the AutoStore system planned for Thorlabs

Kardex FulfillX

Kardex FulfillX is a pioneering warehouse execution system; a focused “pick to pack” solution built to deliver streamlined results exclusively for AutoStore empowered by Kardex. Kardex FulfillX takes the unexpected surprises out of go-live and allows new AutoStore systems to ramp-up faster and meet or exceed the business case sooner. The Kardex FulfillX WES software is a standard and flexible product that will integrate easily with Thorlabs’s Host WMS and allow for current state processes to remain unchanged. FulfillX is designed to be intuitive, and operator training time is minimal.

About Thorlabs

Thorlabs, a vertically integrated photonics products manufacturer, was founded in 1989 to serve the laser and electro-optics research market. As that market has spawned a multitude of technical innovations, Thorlabs has extended its core competencies in an effort to play an ever-increasing role to serve the Photonics Industry at the research end, as well as the industrial, life science, medical, and defense segments. The organization’s highly integrated and diverse manufacturing assets include semiconductor fabrication of Fabry-Perot, DFB, and VCSEL lasers; fiber towers for drawing both silica and fluoride glass optical fibers; MBE/MOCVD epitaxial wafer growth reactors; extensive glass and metal fabrication facilities; advanced thin film deposition capabilities; and optomechanical and optoelectronic shops.

About Kardex

Kardex is a leading intralogistics solution provider of automated storage, retrieval and material handling systems. With two entrepreneurially managed divisions, Kardex Remstar and Kardex Mlog, the Kardex mission is to provide solutions and services to increase the efficiency in storing and handling of goods and materials on a global scale.
The two divisions serve as partners over the entire life cycle of a customer's product or solution. From project analysis to realization and service, Kardex helps improve a customer’s performance every step of the way. With three own production plants in Germany and one in North America Kardex ensures high quality solutions. To maintain and strengthen its competitive position within technological innovation and outstanding customer loyalty, Kardex is investing in research and development, its supply chain, the expansion of its service organization as well as in new technology via acquisitions. Kardex actively partners with global leaders who share the same values and complement the Kardex solutions including AutoStore.
Kardex employs 2,000 team members across 30 countries and has installed over 140,000 industry-specific solutions worldwide.


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