Friday, August 15, 2014

High-tech system gives RoboVault a big lift

How can you afford to build a state-of-the-art storage facility to accommodate expensive wine collections, priceless artwork and classic cars in a locale where land prices are astronomical?

You build upward, not outward, of course.

High-tech help

What’s more, to spare your high-end clientele the inconvenience of stairs and elevators, you install an automated crane system from Westfalia Technologies. The gigantic lift system ferries movable storage-unit-size modules between the robot-controlled upper storage floors and secure, climate-controlled drive-in bays suitable for the most discriminating of clients.

Westfalia Technologies’ automated storage and retrieval system (AS/AR) forms the backbone of RoboVault, a storage facility in Fort Lauderdale, FL, that serves upscale clients. The AS/AR system delivers five sizes of storage modules (from 5×5 to 10×20) from RoboVault’s five upper storage floors to its seven drive-in bays within minutes.

Westfalia’s Savanna.NET software not only manages and tracks all movements of the 539 storage modules throughout the 155,000-square-foot facility, but communicates with RoboVault’s video, motion-sensing and heat-sensing security system, as well as its front-office operation.

A weighty matter

Dave Williams, director of software and solutions delivery for Westfalia, said RoboVault’s AS/AR system was devised through the company’s primary business—providing automated storage and retrieval of products on pallets awaiting shipment from manufacturers to distributors.


RoboVault spans 155,000 square feet in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

While the crane mechanics and automation software are similar to the industrial application, the sheer weight difference in storing Ferraris and fine wine collections proved to be the main challenge for Westfalia’s self-storage setup.

“When you’re dealing with a storage unit that can weigh 15,000 pounds, that’s different than trying to move 2,000- to 3,000-pound units in a distribution facility,” he said. “You need a much heavier crane, the equipment has to be much bigger, so therefore the costs go up.”

Multimillion-dollar machines

The cost of Westfalia’s AS/AR crane system typically runs between $3.5 million and $4 million. That doesn’t include the building itself or the movable storage modules.

Williams said other self-storage operators could benefit from the Westfalia technology by converting and retrofitting buildings such as inner-city warehouses and parking garages.

“Then you can start showing the convenience to the customer by bringing their storage unit to them rather than having them lug everything up an elevator and down a hallway,” he said. “If you can provide those types of amenities, guess what? You have an edge, no matter whether you’re L.L. Bean or self-storage.”

A vault for vino

Certified sommelier Steve Bachenheimer, who owns Sommelier Wine Services LLC and helps restaurants with wine selection, service and storage, was so impressed with Westfalia’s technology that he entrusted RoboVault with his personal wine collection.


wine storage at RoboVault

Wine storage is one of RoboVault’s specialties.

“I was very much attracted by the features, which included temperature and humidity control, backup generator capabilities, a structure clearly capable of withstanding even a Category 5 hurricane and a staff available to accept deliveries without my presence,” he recalled.

Catering to an obsession

Bachenheimer’s single RoboVault storage module soon overflowed into two modules.

“It’s grown from a passion to an obsession,” he said. “We’re now storing in the vicinity of 4,000 bottles there and I have an additional 1,000 bottles at home, which I store in temperature-controlled units throughout the house in spaces that my wife is always telling me ‘normal people’ would rather use for other purposes. I don’t worry for five minutes about my wine at RoboVault.”

Susan McGregor, RoboVault’s president and general manager, acknowledges that wine aficionados like Bachenheimer, are relieved to have discovered a perfect place in hot, humid South Florida to store their Cabernets and Bordeauxs.

Susan McGregor

Susan McGregor is president and general manager of RoboVault.

“In one facility, we have those components that are most important to wine: temperature and humidity control, lack of vibration and protection from weather,” she said. “For people who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their wine, it’s a lot cheaper to use RoboVault than to try to build all of that in your backyard. And if a hurricane approaches, maybe the worst thing they face is to sit in RoboVault with their wine and their cars.”

Storage on steroids

In addition to its Category 5 hurricane rating, seven drive-in bays, biometric security features (think “Mission: Impossible” or “The Thomas Crown Affair”) and wine-tasting lounge, RoboVault is as much in demand for its off-site services as for its on-site services.

“We’re like a moving and storage company on steroids,” McGregor said “We have our exceptional Fine Art & Antique Services moving company and a unique storage facility, all in one; it’s not one or the other. On the national level, there’s nothing else like it.”

The post High-tech system gives RoboVault a big lift appeared first on Self Storage Blog: The Storage Facilitator.


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