Imagine the headache of physically retrieving a paper file from a large records room stuffed full of files. Now expand the problem by imagining a 250,000 square foot facility full of 360,000 filing bins stuffed with paper records.

Not interesting enough? Well, these aren’t just any files, but sensitive law enforcement records that could be crucial in stopping crimes and vindicating innocent people.

That’s the scenario facing administrators of a Winchester, Virginia, retrieval warehouse for FBI files built to consolidate records previously contained within more than 250 FBI field offices around the world. The FBI is famous for its record-keeping and has collected billions of pages over more than a century in existence. The job of building the facility to house about 2 billion of those pages falls to the government’s General Services Administration, and it quickly became evident that manual retrieval for all the files in the new facility simply wasn’t an option.

Enter the robots — 140 of them, to be exact. After vetting various solutions, the GSA chose an automated record filing and retrieval system from robotics technology company AutoStore, which not only streamlines retrieval via radio-controlled robots but also optimizes space by allowing files to be stored in a way that eliminates aisle space. Within the facility, the robots maneuver on an overhead steel grid system to identify, access and retrieve requested items from any of the 360,000 bins.

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