Vertical lift modules and vertical carousels are ideal for optimizing the space in a warehouse. These automated vertical storage systems maximize storage, increase efficiency, improve inventory management, and offer tons of benefits.

While upgrading and optimizing storage space with the help of automated storage and retrieval systems, the primary question is which storage system you choose.

It depends on your needs, storage items, space, and various other factors. In this article, we’ll explain the difference between a vertical lift module and a vertical carousel. We’ll compare them on different aspects, and it will help you select the right storage option for your needs.

Vertical Lift Module vs Vertical Carousel

1) Working

The working of vertical lift modules and vertical carousels is the primary difference between them.

A vertical lift module is just like an elevator in a building. It has two columns of trays where the items are stored. Plus, there is an inserter/extractor between the columns, which goes up and down like an elevator. It pulls up the tray you need and brings it to the opening. Once done, the tray is sent back to its initial position.

In contrast, a vertical carousel is like a Ferris wheel. The storage compartments are connected together and are moved in a loop (reverse or forward) with the help of a chain drive powered by a motor.

2) Space Needed (Footprint)

In terms of width, both the vertical lift module and the vertical carousel are similar. The width of a VLM is approximately 5-13ft, while the width of a vertical carousel is 6-12ft.

The real differentiator in the footprint is the depth. Vertical carousels can be no more than 4-7ft deep because of their working mechanism. On the other hand, vertical lift modules can be up to 10ft deep, which gives them more storage space.

The vertical lift carousel is a winner in terms of footprint. It optimizes the storage space more efficiently.

3) Height

The minimum height of VLMs and VCs is around 7-8ft, but there is a massive difference in the maximum height.

Vertical lift modules can go up to 40ft, which is an ideal option if there is massive roof clearance. It utilizes the air space and offers more storage within the same footprint.

Vertical carousels can go up to 26ft, which means if the roof clearance is more, you won’t be able to utilize all the space.

However, it is not necessary to cover the whole space between the ceiling and the floor. It depends on the storage you need. If you need storage smaller than 26ft, you can go with any of them while considering the other factors.

It is important to note that the height of vertical lift systems can be changed, which is quite beneficial when you are scaling or moving to a new location.

4) Storage/Load Capacity

Each carrier of a vertical carousel can bear up to 1,100lbs, while each tray of a vertical lift module can handle up to 2,200lbs.

The difference in load capacity is clear, and you can decide based on the items’ weight you want to store. But that’s not it.

While storing items in a vertical carousel, the weight should be balanced in all carriers. In the case of unbalancing, the motor can be affected, which leads to a shutdown of the system. But a VLM does not need that; you can store as much as you need in a tray and even leave some trays empty.

5) Speed

Both storage systems are automated, and that’s the reason there isn’t a big difference in the throughput speeds.

The speed greatly depends on the height of the storage, order, etc. However, VLMs can offer 350 items per hour, and VCs can offer 400 items per hour.

The main reason behind this is the use of technologies and techniques to maximize throughput speeds, such as pick-to-light and slotting.

Pick-to-light helps workers find the item to reduce the search time. While slotting allows them to reach the frequently used or seasonal items faster.

6) Types of Items Stored

The height of the item matters the most.

Vertical lift modules give you more freedom to adjust the tray heights according to the storage items. The height of one tray can be more than others, depending on the needs. It eliminates empty spaces and accommodates more items. The height of items can be 3in to 60in.

In vertical carousels, we have limitations of item height up to 20in. Plus, there is no way to adjust the height of each carrier according to the needs; they must be equal.

Secondly, the carriers in VCs move in a loop. So, even if you need an item from one carrier, all carriers rotate and change their positions. That’s why these are not suitable for fragile items.

VLMs are suitable for fragile and varied items.

7) Dual Access

Dual access allows a shared vertical storage system for different floors or rooms.

Vertical carousels can offer two access points, but it is only possible at different height levels. If you need to give access to two floors, vertical carousels can do that. However, front and rear access is not possible in VCs as carriers rotate in a loop and are joined together.

Vertical lift modules are popular for dual access. They can provide openings at the front and the back, which is an excellent option for sharing vertical storage. They can also offer openings at different height levels or floors.

8) Installation

Vertical lift modules are easier to install. They require 2-3 days to set up. The best part is that they can be adjusted whenever needed.

Vertical carousels take more time, around 4-5 days for installation. They have a complicated loop system with chain drives and motors.

Which One Should You Pick?

The decision should be based on your needs, area limitations, and the items you want to store.

Vertical Lift Module (VLM) is best for:

  • Massive ceiling heights up to 40ft
  • Varied items of different size and weight
  • Heavy items that require lift assistance
  • Utilizing maximum space in storage and using the space between the ceiling and floor
  • Frequently changed inventory as the height of trays can be adjusted

Vertical Carousel (VC) is best for:

  • Ceiling heights lower than 32ft
  • Evenly sized and small items below 10in
  • Light items that can be easily lifted/picked