Fire protection guidelines issued for automated warehouses
Fire protection guidance for warehouses staffed by robots has been published by property insurer FM Global. IFSEC Global Editor Adam Bannister reports.
Protection for Automatic Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS) includes advice on sprinkler arrangement, independence of in-rack and ceiling sprinkler systems, container design and racking structure.
The guidance arrives in the wake of a fire that gutted an Ocado warehouse in Andover, Hampshire earlier this month. Despite the efforts of around 200 firefighters, the fire raged for 48 hours before being extinguished.
Spanning 18 acres the site was manned by 1,100 cuboid swarm robots, which collected groceries from crates and delivered them to a packing station.
“The Ocado warehouse fire is a stark reminder of the instantaneous impact that fire can have on a major business, its operations, and share price,” said Dr James L D Glockling, technical director at the Fire Protection Association. “Automated warehousing facilities present significant fire protection challenges as a result of very high storage densities, limited access, electronic conveyancing systems, high racking, and cold storage requirements.”
A growing number of companies are automating warehouses to boost productivity and lower operating costs.
But if robotics increases efficiency then they also introduce new fire risks – not least the potential for robots themselves to overheat. Automated systems might also over-pack facilities, stack products too high and use flammable plastic containers that can trap water emitted by sprinklers.
“Careful design and configuration can help companies quickly suppress fires and stay in business,” said Brion Callori, senior vice president and manager, engineering and research, at FM Global. “The goal is to let robots, which in science fiction always seem to run amok, deliver the quiet efficiency they promise in the real world.”
This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.
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