Efficiently Using Your Warehouse Storage Space

Maximizing warehouse storage space can be a significant challenge for facility managers and operators. Making the most of available floor space and room volume seems a lofty mark for warehouse owners. Effective product storage and retrieval efficiency are the goals all warehouse people try to achieve, yet it often seems unobtainable. It doesn’t have to be so.

The first key to unlocking warehouse space utilization is proper planning. The second key to freeing warehouse space optimization is selecting the right equipment. It’s combining these two principles that make your warehouse space management successful.

When you seem to run out of room in your warehouse, you have three choices. First, do you relocate to a larger facility? Second, do you reduce inventory? And third, do you find creative ways to increase existing warehouse capacity?

Maximizing Your Warehouse Storage Space

Relocating to a larger facility is rarely an option for most warehouse companies. It requires a large capital investment and a significant amount of time in selecting, relocating and reorganizing an already busy business. Reducing inventory is also a poor choice as it limits the potential to fulfill customer orders. For most warehouse organizations, finding creative methods to improve efficiency in their existing facility is the ideal solution.

In evaluating your current warehouse operation, you’ll wonder what maximum warehouse capacity really is. Supply chain consultants find that when a warehouse reaches 80 to 85 percent of storage utilization is when efficiency in movement and storage declines. In other words, you might consider 80 to 85 percent capacity as a good guideline for your warehouse’s top end.

These experts go on to describe their findings that warehouse space typically accounts for 15 to 20 percent of per-order costs. By these figures, we can calculate that 20 percent of space inefficiency could reflect as much as five percent your cost-per-order. If you’re in a big warehouse with large throughput volume, that figure of inefficiency could have a significant impact on your profits.

Clearly, there’s a lot to be gained by carefully planning your warehouse layout and equipment. That includes your product storage tools like bulk racking systems, cantilever racks and pallet racks as well as industrial shelving and storage systems.

Main Warehouse Functions and Storage Needs

In general, four main functions happen in every warehouse facility. It doesn’t matter if you operate a large, medium or small facility. These primary functions remain consistent:

  1. Storing products: This can be anything from brake pads to beverages. They can be small items with multiple SKUs, or they might be large volume pallets loaded with similar materials. Each application requires storage solutions unique to their characteristics.
  2. Inbound operations: Every product in your supply chain has to arrive and find storage, including receiving and returns. You’ll find your best efficiency in reducing travel time and minimizing inbound operation trips. Generally, high turnover items need the shortest distance and time for inbound product placement.
  3. Outbound operations: Picking and staging are two main outbound operations. How you select your options and implement your storage systems will have a profound effect on outbound product handling. You need storage racks and shelving that are durable, efficient and safe while being easy to access.
  4. Value-added processes: No doubt you have value-added processes as part of your warehouse production. That might include labeling products, additional packaging measures or some special kitting process. No matter what customer value-added service you supply, you’ll need efficient space and equipment for it.

Let’s look at the types of storage options for warehouses that you can implement for warehouse layout best practices.

Types of Storage Options for Warehouses

Effective warehouse storage options should address these primary functions. Your objectives are to use space efficiently, allow access for effective material handling equipment, provide excellent storage-to-cost ratios, have maximum flexibility to meet changing needs and do this within the best and safest housekeeping model. It sounds like an impossible challenge, but it’s not if you use the right storage options.

To accommodate these warehouse functions and maximize your efficiency, you need to know what storage solutions and system designs you have available. There are a few main storage system options universally used in the warehouse industry. Not all will be ideal for your operation necessarily, but let’s examine the four most common systems:

1. Bulk Storage

Floor stacking or bulk storage is your most basic option. It’s the simplest and usually requires the least investment, but it can also be the most inefficient use of space. Bulk storage requires no physical storage equipment like racks or industrial shelving. Products sit directly on the warehouse floor and are arranged in horizontal depths. Depending on product durability, pallets might be stacked two or three high. Bulk storage has no efficiency for vertical cubing or elevated storage. You can consider bulk storage as a starting point before graduating to more effective systems.

2. Pallet Racks

These are upright storage frames connected in various methods. The idea is housing individual pallets in vertical applications without direct stacking. With pallet racks, you can isolate loads with inbound and outbound operations without moving or disturbing another loaded pallet. Typically, pallet racks are either bulk racking systems or cantilevered racks. Each pallet rack type serves its purpose such as drive-in/drive-thru racks, selective pallet racks, pallet flow racks, pushback pallet racks and cantilevered pallet racking.

3. Fixed Shelving

These systems aren’t designed to handle pallets. Rather, fixed shelving is a warehouse solution better applied for lighter products and multi-SKU applications. Fixed shelving units are also racks made of upright frames, however, their shelves serve a dual purpose as horizontal structures. You have two options with fixed shelving storage systems. One is wide-span shelving, which allows plenty of shelf access for products stored in bins and boxes. The other option is called industrial shelving, which offers many levels of adjustable storage in a small footprint.

4. Pallet Flow

Also known as carton-flow in the warehouse industry, this is a product storage system with a specific intention. This is a conveyer or deep-storage method where boxed products are stored in a first-in/first-out (FIFO) method. They’re delivered as-needed and have a fast recovery time suitable for high-throughput warehouses. Pallet, or carton-flow, storage systems are by far the most expensive warehouse storage systems. As such, only specialty warehouses employ pallet flow operations.

Most warehouse facilities commonly integrate a combination of pallet racks and fixed shelving. Your facility is likely no exception. You’ll undoubtedly want to make more use of vertical space than bulk or floor storage offers. But, if you’re unlikely to need or want to invest in some form of pallet flow system, you’re left with some attractive and affordable options.

Racking System Options

Don’t be confused between the terms “bulk storage systems” and “bulk racking systems.” Bulk storage is the basic floor-only option. It’s a significant space waster, and you’re likely going to want a better option for maximizing your warehouse efficiency. Bulk racking systems are a different matter. They still store bulky items, but they do it with vertical applications with pallets stacked in special-designed holding racks.

Bulk racking systems are also excellent solutions for storing products that aren’t palletized. That could be building materials such as lumber, pipes or rolled goods like carpets. For those long and bulky items, you’re best to invest in a specialty bulk racking system called cantilever racks.

Cantilever racks have horizontal metal arms extending from vertical uprights. They allow forklifts access to place or pick long products without having to disturb other goods stacked above or below. Many warehouses find cantilever racks the ideal space-saving solution. Cantilever rack systems come with different components, including:

  • Single-sided cantilever towers: These are the vertical uprights or supports. Cantilever towers are the system’s backbone and create the general structure. Single-sided cantilever towers work best against a wall where only one-sided forklift access is necessary.
  • Double-sided cantilever towers: For center-aisle access where your forklift needs pick and placement from both sides, double-sided cantilever towers are the way to go. This space-saving option turns your aisles into dual-purpose rows serving both sides of one passageway.
  • Cantilever arms: These components are your horizontal members extending out from single or double-sided cantilever towers. They serve as shelves but only support a small part of the stored products. Sizing cantilever arms depends on how heavy your expected loads will be, how much room you have and what materials you’re serving. Large arms will support up to 3,000 pounds and extend 48 inches.

Having the right pallet racks also has a marked impact on your warehouse storage efficiency. They allow pallets to be stacked or slotted in similar arms that are sized and spaced specifically to house loaded pallets. You might be familiar with top brand names like Bulldog Rack, Husky & Wire and Unarco Rack. These strong and effective storage systems also offer you options like:

  • Teardrop racks: These are easy to assemble systems that streamline installation. They employ teardrop-like punched holes for arm adjustment.
  • Keystone racks: Their name comes from the upright hole shapes. Keystone racks are highly useful, effective and strong.
  • Structural racks: For overall strength and durability, you may consider investing in structural racks. Besides holding countless pallets with heavy weights, they withstand the inevitable forklift impacts.
  • Double-slotted racks: These are highly versatile warehouse racks. Because of the double-slotted upright design, they’re adaptable to other racking systems, making them true team players.

Shelving Storage Options

Another true payer for your warehouse efficiency team is industrial shelving. You’ll use industrial shelving in places where cantilever and bulk racks are impractical or unnecessary. That could be anywhere in your warehouse, and it might be one of the best small warehouse layout ideas.

With industrial shelving, you can organize any imaginable combination of loose or packaged products in an orderly and efficient manner. These commercial shelving units are extremely adaptable. They’ll quickly maximize your floor-to-ceiling space by incorporating accessory options like:

  • Bins, totes and baskets
  • Closed and open clipper shelving
  • Multi-tiered, open and closed lockers
  • Double and single wire Rivetrite shelving

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Your Warehouse Layout

In addition to knowing all your options for storage equipment to maximize your warehouse efficiency, there are other factors to consider when deciding your warehouse layout. If you’re starting with the design of a new building, you’re really in the driver’s seat. You have the luxury of working with a warehouse design service expert like T.P. Supply Company, Inc., an international storage products and material handling equipment supply company. T.P. Supply works with you throughout the warehouse design process to guarantee you maximum efficiency for your time and capital investment.

However, you’re likely not relocating to another facility, nor are you inclined to reduce profitable inventory to solve space problems. That leaves you with the most likely solution, and that’s to improve your existing facility layout. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Existing structural components: You’ll already have some fixed structural elements in place including the exterior walls, doors and non-obstructing openings. You’ll also have interior support columns, stairs and non-bearing partitions. Look at each component as a help, not a hindrance. Work with them, not against.
  • Aisle widths: This is an area where plenty of warehouse space is lost or gained, depending on design efficiency. By using the right bulk and cantilevered racks as well as the proper industrial shelving, you can easily add extra usable square footage at minimal cost.
  • Vertical cubes: You’ll hear vertical cube as an industry standard when discussing warehouse organization and layout. This refers to maximizing your space in cubic volume from the floor up to the ceiling. By selectively placing stock from low to high, you’ll easily pick up extra space that’s efficient as well as valuable.
  • Dock door placement: Your dock doors are fixed commodities that are expensive to relocate. It’s much more effective, not to mention less expensive, to design your aisles and storage systems around them. This is another area where a professional storage and material handling equipment company like T.P. Supply can help you.

Tips for Maximizing Your Storage Space

Over the years, we’ve picked up a few storage space tips, and we’d like to pass these on to you:

  • Place fast-moving products closest to your docks. This reduces travel time on workers and equipment.
  • Store high-volume items at low levels and low-volume products high. This also reduces worker time as well as physical strain.
  • Put bulk storage products against walls. This allows you to implement racks and shelves along aisles with dual-sided pick and place.
  • Use your entire vertical cube effectively. It includes spaces above docks, offices, aisles and pick areas.
  • Consider building mezzanines. These “second-floor” spaces are ideal for low-volume or out-of-season stock storage.
  • Keep it simple. If you have a choice between a complex solution and a straight-forward one, keep it simple and maximize the most of what you’ve got. Remember that warehouse space accounts for 15 to 20 percent of your order costs.

Work With T.P. Supply Company to Optimize Your Warehouse Space

T.P. Supply Company, Inc., has been in the warehouse supply business since 1979. Located in Mount Airy, N.C., T.P. Supply distributes storage solutions and material handling equipment throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. We’d like to help you find storage solutions for all your warehouse space problems. You can call us at 877-302-2337 or reach us anytime through our online contact form.

Preventing Pallet Rack and Inventory Damage in Warehousing

Preventing Pallet Rack & Inventory Damage in Warehouses

Keeping your warehouse’s inventory and storage systems safe and secure protects you from profit and productivity losses. Preventing pallet rack damage starts with having the right parts to keep the racking system safe from harm during the daily operations of your facility. Additionally, you must also protect inventory from the elements in all areas of your warehouse. You’ll need more than just pallet rack protectors to secure your stock. Discover the ways you can invest in your warehouse to extend the lives of your storage equipment.

1. Reduce Warehouse Damages

Warehouse damages to your storage equipment or products do not have to happen. You can cut the likelihood of losses in your facility through several means. In some cases, the methods will overlap to protect both your storage racks and the products stored on them.

The problem with warehouse damages comes from the increased traffic and inventory. With more forklifts and products, the chances rise for a collision between a truck and a pallet rack. Damage from forklifts often occurs in the bottom 12 inches of shelves. You will need to protect this area from damage with rack protectors. But even higher places such as at the joints of the beams and uprights can sustain damage when forklifts reach up for pallets from the higher levels.

Protecting your racking systems is one way to prevent harm to products stored on them. You will also need to take care of the products themselves, especially when they sit in exposed areas. The elements can ruin many products unless you’re proactive in keeping the goods dry.

2. Prevent Pallet Rack System Damage

The pallet racks in your warehouse need protection against impacts and use. You have several options at your disposal to increase the longevity of your pallet racks and make them more secure for the products stored on them.

  • Column protectors: Column protectors come in heights of 12 inches to 24 inches. These metal protectors fit around the bases of your rack uprights to prevent damage to the uprights from forklifts and foot traffic.
  • Rack Pals: Rack Pals are similar to column protectors, but instead of just blocking the base of the column, these cover the column and the entire rack as well. You can select wrap around or double-sided Rack Pals in sizes from 24 inches to 54 inches.

Prevent Pallet Rack System Damage

Aside from equipment, there are other ways you can protect your pallet racks in your warehouse. Widening the aisles to allow for easy maneuvering of forklifts also reduces the chances of collisions on your pallet racks. Label the aisle width and height clearances to inform workers of the space they have available for safe movement of products or forklifts. To also make it easier for the drivers, keep the aisles clear of debris and pedestrians. Mark out separate lanes for those on foot and vehicles. These two lanes will prevent personnel from moving outside the corridor into a rack to avoid hitting a person or vehicle.

The drivers of your forklifts also play a role in the safety of your racks. Ensure you thoroughly train all forklift operators in moving the vehicle throughout your facility for both safety and adherence to OSHA regulation 1910.178 (I)(1)(i). When untrained people use forklifts, the chances for accidents and damage to the vehicle and racks increases. Don’t put your warehouse or workers at risk.

3. Know Your Weight Class

Pallet racks and beams have weight limits. Always order storage systems that exceed the highest load you will put on them. Additionally, make the weight capacity information for your pallet racks available to your employees. Doing so will prevent your workers from overloading the shelves, which could cause severe injury if an overloaded stand collapses. Consider labeling the racks with their weight limits. Having the loads and racks marked will prevent employees from overburdening the racks with too much weight.

4. Inspect Your Racks

The racks you store pallets on are only as good as their construction. Over time, bolts may loosen, which could pose a hazard to your facility. Schedule regular inspection and maintenance of all your warehouse’s racks. Replace bent, rusted or otherwise damaged components. These include beams, uprights, bolts and accessories. Tighten bolts and other connectors. If you have accessories such as Rack Pals or aisle shields, check those for signs of wear as well. Some accessories, such as wire mesh decking, have weight limits that could reduce if the part becomes worn. Your workers may overload a worn rack without knowing it. Regular inspections can prevent disaster in your facility by keeping your storage system in prime condition to support its full capacity.

5. Avoid Inventory Damage in Warehouses

Inventory damage may occur in many ways in your warehouse. Sometimes, the fault is not your own. Between two and 11 percent of goods coming into distribution centers already have damage. But for most goods you store, you must prevent harm from happening to them. Protecting the products from falls and the elements could make the difference in how many parts reach their destination unscathed. There are several pallet rack guards you can use to prevent damage from falls.

Avoid Inventory Damage in Warehouses

  • Aisle shields: Aisle shields prevent products from falling off pallets into the aisles. While these shields protect the items you keep stored, they also protect your workers from getting hit by falling boxes or bags from pallets. Since this shield prevents products from falling off the racks, you have less worry about products getting damaged from hitting a catch net or the ground. Additionally, products that stay on the rack do not become lost if they fall from the pallet.
  • Rack guards: Rack guards also keep products from falling into the aisles. The see-through design of rack guards and aisle shields makes it easier to see which products you have stored on the shelves. Like aisle shields, rack guards protect your employees as well as the goods you have stored on racks in your warehouse.
  • Pallet supports: Adding pallet supports increases the support under the pallets, which would otherwise only have support where they rest on the beams. Crossbars are ideal for use under old pallets that might sag from the weights of their loads. Even newer pallets need extra support in the middle if they are holding up too much weight. As with any accessory for your racking system, never undersize the components. Always use parts designed to hold more weight than they will need to.
  • Mesh decking: Though pallets hold most of your products, sometimes boxes or bags may fall off the pallets. To keep them from slipping to lower levels or the floor, use mesh decking on the racks to catch the dropped items. Mesh decking will also prevent products from falling into the aisles and creating a trip hazard. When selecting wire mesh decking, avoid sagging by purchasing decking with a capacity higher than the products you store on it. We have wire mesh decking with load capacities from 2,000 pounds to 3,500 pounds.

With the right accessories for your storage racks, you can reduce the number of products that get damaged in your facility. Cutting down on product damages will make your suppliers happy to continue doing business with you. Fewer product damages also lessen your liability and costs you incur. Your workers will even feel safer at work since they will have less concern about improperly stored products falling from their pallets.

6. Improve Lighting

Check the lighting in your warehouse. If you don’t already have adequate lighting, now is the time to install it. All workers need to see the labels on products to avoid pulling the wrong containers. Removing the incorrect products from the shelves could damage the products when your workers must replace them on the rack. Every time someone moves a product, the chances for damage increase. Better lighting can prevent excessive movements of containers from the racks, which could reduce product damage.

Poor lighting may also contribute to accidents in the workplace. If a worker falls, he could also damage products nearby. Reducing accidents protects your workers and the products you store in your warehouse. You may require updated light fixtures if you add storage racks, which could create new shadows with your existing lighting. If you’re concerned about the costs of adding more lighting, use energy-efficient lights and fixtures in addition to natural light. Repainting the ceiling in your warehouse increases the amount of light reflected off it.

7. Train Employees in Proper Procedures

How carefully the products get picked from shelves depends exclusively on the training of your employees. Too often, workers will pull bagged products from the area closest to them. When employees pull the nearest products to them instead of from the top, the action puts the bags in a precarious position on the pallets. Poor positioning of the containers encourages falls and spills. Train your workers to always pull individual packets from the top to avoid disrupting the stacks on the pallets. Bagged goods are also different from boxes. Since the bags lack exterior integrity, you should not use machinery if possible to move bags. A forklift can cut through a bag instead of reaching for a pallet. Vehicles, though, work well to move intact boxes.

8. Protect Against the Elements

Temperature, moisture and humidity can severely damage products in your facility. Depending on how you store the items, you could increase their exposure to these harmful elements. Learn the best ways to protect the products under your care from the elements with the right storage methods and accessories. Planning for inclement weather and natural disasters goes a long way toward keeping the goods in your facility safe from the unexpected.

9. Plan for Natural Disasters

Depending on where your warehouse is located, you may have a higher chance of dealing with certain natural disasters. For instance, not all areas of the country deal with earthquakes, but those that do must take precautions to keep racks from collapsing. If you’re in an area with seismic activity, choose heavy-duty racks with extra bracing. Aisle shields or rack guards are also necessary to keep products on the racks in the event of an earthquake.

In flood-prone areas, keep all products at least a foot off the floor. If you have the luxury of a day or two warning of storm surge from a hurricane, you can move the products higher off the ground. But it’s best not to store anything directly on the ground to reduce the time your workers need to prepare your warehouse for a disaster. Occasional flooding from rivers and torrential downpours can happen without warning. Even if you have insurance to cover lost products of a catastrophe, it’s best not to have to use the policy to prevent a rise in your rates and a loss of business.

10. Control Humidity and Temperature

If you store goods in corrugated cardboard, you will need to maintain a low humidity inside the warehouse. After 30 days of storage, corrugated cardboard loses 40 percent of its strength. The loss increases to 71 percent as the humidity rises from 50 to 95 percent. The moisture from high humidity levels combined with heat may erode the glue holding the tape that keeps the box intact. Lowering the humidity in your facility could keep cardboard storage containers from falling to pieces.

Control Warehouse Humidity and Temperature when storing goods in corrugated cardboard.

Humidity and rain may also affect your shelving. Use rust-proof racking and decking to keep rust at bay. Over time, rust can wear through metal, causing it to lose its integrity. The result could be sagging or collapsed shelving. Even if you choose weather-resistant parts, always conduct thorough inspections of your storage units. Regular checks will identify wear before it has a chance to cause a failure of the structure.

11. Keep Rain Away

Rain can ruin a shipment waiting at the loading dock. Keep tarps on hand and always cover everything waiting on trucks if it’s overcast. It’s better to be safe than have a shipment soaked from an unexpected rainstorm. Use the tarps, too, if it’s raining during unloading from a truck. Cover all products while they are still inside the delivery vehicle before moving them through the rain into your warehouse. Even exposure to water for the short trip from the truck to the warehouse could ruin some products. Don’t take the chance.

If possible, consider constructing an overhang near your dock to stack products awaiting shipment. The overhang will protect the containers until you load them onto the truck. But because you cannot control the conditions outside, especially temperature and humidity, never leave products outdoors too long. In addition to hazards posed from the elements, shipments left near the dock pose a security hazard for your warehouse.

Protect Your Pallet Racks With T.P. Supply

Maintain your warehouse storage equipment by protecting your pallet racks. At T.P. Supply, we have the pallet rack protection items you need. Our easy-to-navigate website makes it simple to find the right rack accessories to fit your pallet racks. We also have rack system components to create the storage your facility requires. If you need more information about us or our products, contact us. We want to help you maintain your warehouse and its equipment.

Contact T.P. Supply to Protect Your Pallet Racks