Automated Parking Systems Demystified

Answering the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How Questions about this Innovative Technology
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Sponsored by Westfalia Technologies, Inc.
By Kathy Price-Robinson

How Does an Architect or Developer Find the Right APS Vendor?

Automated parking is still a very young market in the Unites States, but it is a rapidly expanding one, and numerous companies have recently entered into this field. Finding a quality vendor with a proven track record is extremely important. Developer Tom Scannapieco, who has been quite satisfied with the parking system in his luxury Philadelphia project, explains why:

“The (APS) team was great to work with because I felt like I was working with programmers and engineers rather than salespeople,” Scannapieco says. “I felt like I was working with people who really understood the system. They had the expertise to have a really in-depth discussion.”

The level of professionalism Scannapieco notes in the APS company was important for him. “Through my interviews and discussions with them, I came to the conclusion that this was a company that was very service oriented,” he says. “They have experience in the automated delivery of products for fortune 500 companies, and I know those production lines cannot stop. So I know that culturally they are prepared to keep a system running.”

To find a capable APS vendor, it would be advisable to look for companies with decades of experience in the field of logistics automation. Storing and retrieving a vehicle poses little challenge to providers who have a wealth of experience in reliably handling boxes, pallets, paper rolls, and other goods weighing several tons. These companies have enhanced their product portfolio by adapting their tried-and-tested technologies in handling goods and applying them to automated parking.

For best results, look for a company with the following characteristics.

Technical Expertise

A company does not just buy a piece of equipment when purchasing an APS. Rather, it is an engagement with a whole logistics solution. An APS design requires a closer look at various parameters and customer-specific requirements, such as the required number of parking spaces, user type and corresponding throughput times, vehicle types, and building layout/restrictions. Ideally a developer or architect should be dealing with an experienced technical expert rather than a salesperson.

Proximity

A parking solution forms an integral part of a building design. A provider’s APS expert will accompany the client throughout the entire planning and construction process, facilitating discussion and cooperation to ensure a project’s success. Proximity to the provider will make that process more streamlined with fewer barriers. Proximity also brings advantages for after-sales and service support, whether it is for the supply of spare parts, system maintenance, or a quick technician deployment should the need arise.

Frankness

The truth is, not all projects are well suited for an APS. A trustworthy vendor does not shy away from talking a potential client out of automation when it comes at an unreasonable price or when the preconditions are not suited for an automated solution. The goal should be to find the best solution for a specific project and situation, automated or not. A vendor should strive to build a partnership with an architect or developer, not just sell a product.

Automation Experience

Look for a vendor that has a track record in automated storage. The stakes are too high to consider a startup company, even those offering discounts to build their businesses. The more time critical the stored product is, the more reliable the automation must be. It is better to trust a vendor with years of experience in logistics automation than a specialized car park automation provider with limited experience and new projects that have not been running for long and have no proven reliability record.

Quality

When it comes to technical equipment, it is essential to focus on quality. An APS vendor should be able to discuss not only the standard wear and tear of the equipment but also the manufacturing and extensive quality testing of parts prior to delivery. The seemingly higher upfront costs will pay off over the life cycle of the system.

System Reliability

Industrial standards call for a certain availability level, typically more than 98 percent. When selecting a vendor, ask for a track record of the systems’ reliability and reference visits with existing customers.

Customization

The needs of a specific project might not work within a standardized solution. A vendor should offer the best consultancy and data analysis, outlining the optimum solution accompanied by a budgetary quote for an individual project.

Holistic Solutions

Automation is a complex technological field. The engineering of the hardware and software parts should work seamlessly together. Quality vendors offer maintenance programs for their systems. Not only is it better to work with a team that knows the system thoroughly, but it also helps to lower the service costs.

Low Maintenance

A quality vendor will explain how the maintenance of the system will be done. In many cases, system interruptions can be dealt with remotely. The vendor should provide an overview of remote versus on-site labor. Condition-based maintenance also helps to lower life-cycle costs.

Cost Transparency

A reputable vendor will provide a transparent overview of costs regarding all elements of the automated system, including costs for spare parts and the services included in the support services agreement.

Discussing Capacity Planning with an APS Supplier

When is the right time to start the discussion about an APS? The short answer is: Now! If a building structure is designed or built before discussions with an APS supplier, it becomes much more difficult to go back and implement automated parking. Depending on the layout, the planning and actual implementation of an APS can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. For a structure to be properly designed, discussions with an APS supplier should occur as soon in the conceptual process as possible. In many cases, the layout of the automated parking will inform the layout and design of the building.

The Planning and Implementation Period

After determining the preferred parking system design, implementation is the next step, which typically takes between 12 to 18 months. Close integration between the developer/architect and the APS provider team assures smooth project handling throughout manufacturing, installation, and commissioning.

All parking systems equipment should be tested at the manufacturing facility before delivery. This ensures that the equipment is manufactured and wired correctly, which results in reduced commissioning time on-site. After the in-house test is completed, computers and related equipment are shipped to the automated parking garage site where final on-site testing and training is conducted.

Conclusion

APSs are a game changer for developers and cities crowded with cars that need to park. Automated parking is an aesthetically pleasing parking method that creates a stress-free and seamless user experience. The stress of driving around looking for a parking spot is eliminated, as are the exhaust fumes emitted. For developers, the benefits of “robotic” car parking are even more pronounced. The space needed for a structure with finely tuned machinery and sophisticated software to move and store cars is about 60 percent less than the space needed for self-parking. No space is needed for people walking around the parking area. No lights are needed. No security guards are needed. The extra space gained from specifying a compact parking solution can then be used for other profitable buildings or assets. Comparing the simple costs of an APS with a conventional parking garage is misleading. Considering the long-term benefits from automated parking, it is more than possible to create a positive ROI for the developer. Add to that the user experience and the “cool factor” of automated parking, and this modern technology is certainly something to consider at the beginning of any design and build project.

Architect Mike Rosen is considering automated parking for more projects. “In my line of work, and playing in the arena that I play in, we are constantly dealing with cutting-edge technologies that test the mettle of some of the clients,” he says. “I am bullish on automated parking. I would recommend it highly and have made the argument to many developers and clients as to the benefits it presents. Overall, I think it is an extremely useful and viable approach to minimizing the impact of the automobile on the building.”

End Notes

1Guide: Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Requirements in CALGreen Building Code – Developers, Property Owners, and Property Managers.” City of Sacramento. Web. 9 December 2020.

 

Westfalia Technologies, Inc. Westfalia’s parking solution is paving the way for innovation in the automated parking industry. By capitalizing on existing core competencies in warehouse automation and materials handling, its parking solutions specialize in cutting-edge, time-tested, fully automated parking systems for businesses, cities and municipalities, hotels, and residential properties. www.westfaliaparking.com

 

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Originally published in December 2020


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