Expanding Warehouse Storage: Building Resilience to Supply Shocks with Cost-Effective Options
As the pandemic has shown manufacturers, distributors and retailers how supply chain disruptions can lead to dramatic shortages of products and materials, many are looking to increase inventory to avoid similar issues in the future.
However, warehousing space is scarce, particularly around coastal seaports and distribution centers, with prices rising as rental properties are quickly sold.
The recent New York Times article titled “Warehouse Space Is the Latest Thing Being Hoarded” describes the problem this way:
“As retailers and logistics companies attempt to stockpile goods to guard against supply chain issues, they face a new challenge: In many parts of the United States, there are few or no space available to store merchandise The shortage of commercial warehouse and industrial space is the latest consequence of the pandemic-fueled growth in online shopping and shows few signs of slowing.
With storage, logistics and distribution facilities now under strain, managers are now looking to optimize operations cost-effectively without renting more space or expanding the building with new construction when they are essentially lacking of space.
Fortunately, there are versatile options available in the industry that can help make the most of the installation’s vertical space and storage density. The cumulative effect of taking advantage of some or all of these offers can significantly improve resilience to supply shocks in preparation for the next wave of a pandemic, natural disaster, war, political conflict or other black swan event.
Take advantage of vertical cubic space
As floor space has become increasingly scarce, going up – not out – is an increasingly popular strategy. Businesses are shifting from thinking about storage space per square foot, in favor of cubic space.
To this end, one way to extend the use of existing square footage is to use freestanding elevated work platforms, which can essentially double the space in the same square footage.
Raised work platforms can be used to create additional workspace for small parts storage, picking and sorting operations, filing, factory office space and more.
Due to the importance of incorporating elevated work platforms into warehousing, Steel King Industries, a national manufacturer of shelving and storage systems, has created an independent business unit, called NexCaliber Structures, which focuses solely on providing turnkey solutions for elevated work platforms.
The business unit accelerates the technical work platform project while minimizing risk in several ways.
First, 3D design visualization software technologies are used to quickly determine the most efficient solution for the operation, including configuring custom rigs and accessories, reviewing costs, and determining efficient alternatives for warehouse footprint and workflow.
The project is accelerated with accurate quotes and streamlined 3D models using Automated Parametric Estimating (PET) technology. Assemblies and components are instantly populated from CAD models.
The process streamlines approvals through in-house structural and professional engineering. Surprises are eliminated through critical path planning. The resulting platforms are designed for complete warehouse integration as well as easy installation.
An example of a platform is the ClereSpan Mezzanine. The mezzanine system can be customized with a variety of floor surfaces, stairs and gates. Flooring options range from standard roof decking and wood to slatted.
To match the growth of installations, the platform can be combined with other products to form a complete turnkey system. Custom multi-level systems are also available.
Using valuable existing warehouse floor or rack space to store empty pallets can also waste valuable square footage. Again, better use of vertical space can solve the problem and eliminate a source of clutter which can also improve safety.
above the doors
In this regard, using the unused space above the warehouse dock door can be the solution. As a solution to empty pallet storage problems, the Over-Dock Pallet Storage Rack can help warehouse/logistics managers and shipping/receiving supervisors put more products into their warehouse without a taller building. large while improving operational efficiency.
Like a cupboard in the kitchen, the shelving keeps empty pallets out of the way until they’re needed, when they’re close at hand in a specially designed storage rack above the loading dock that can accommodate empty pallets, pallets or returnable shipping containers.
With typically two shelves installed above an average 12 foot wide dock door, nearly 100 square feet of additional storage space can be added above each dock door. This frees up floor or rack space to store higher value items than empty pallets.
Ultimately, however, to achieve much more efficient use of an existing warehouse or distribution center, it is necessary to increase storage density.
Increased storage density
Instead of less efficient traditional techniques like floor stacking and static or selective racking, warehouse managers are increasingly turning to advanced methods, like pushback pallet racking, which offers up to 90% more product storage than selective shelving systems and up to 400% more selectivity. than drive-in racks.
Unlike single-pallet static deep selective racking, a pushback racking system can store pallets two to five deep while providing easy access to a variety of different SKUs.
Pallets are stored one behind the other in a series of nested carts and are loaded from the same side of the system, eliminating separate aisles for each function. Consisting of a stable rack with a series of carriages and inclined rails, when a pallet is pulled, the one behind rolls forward.
To quickly teach forklift operators the key differences between traditional static loads and the dynamic pushback system while avoiding forklift or pallet rack damage, warehouse managers train staff using of a free manual “Pushback System Safe Operating Procedures User Handbook” provided by Steel Roi.
The Backflow Safety Handbook highlights best practices and illustrates them with easy-to-understand graphics.
However, for maximum utilization of pallet racking in a minimum footprint, as well as inventory management capability, a warehouse pallet flow storage system may be the answer.
In a pallet flow storage system, dynamic flow rails are angled into a static rack structure. This allows loads placed at one end to move by gravity on rollers to the unloading end, with speed governors acting as soft brakes. When a load is removed, the loads behind it automatically advance.
Once loaded, FIFO product rotation is automatic and the rack eliminates labor and the use of a forklift to organize loads. Forklifts are only needed for initial and final unloading. Compared to the traditional use of selective pallet racking, which requires multiple aisles, aisle space can be reduced by 75% and up to 100% more product can be stored.
Realistically, not every logistics company, manufacturer, distributor, or retailer has the resources to sign deals for new space before the land is laid. So when reinventing the warehouse space they occupy becomes the priority, implementing one or more of the options discussed can free up significant storage space in their existing facility.
The net effect of reclaiming this underutilized space can not only improve operational efficiency today, but also help address the inevitable supply chain shocks of the future, however caused. .