How to Calculate Warehouse Space and Storage Capacity

In warehouses and other storage facilities, space is arguably the most valuable asset. By making the best use of their warehouse space, businesses can significantly increase the amount of product they can store in the facility. By being able to store more items at once, they can save money on transportation costs and other expenses. Plus, it allows the staff better access to products, thus allowing them to fulfill orders faster and ultimately get products to the customer sooner.

Because of how precious space is in a warehouse setting, warehouse managers and business owners should take the time to calculate how much space they have and how well they’re utilizing it. In this article, we’ll discuss how to make those calculations and improve how you’re using your warehouse’s available storage space.

Calculating the Total Storage Capacity of Your Warehouse

To figure out how well you’re using your warehouse storage space, you first need to calculate the total storage capacity of the building. A common mistake is merely calculating the square footage of the entire facility and leaving it at that. This number, however, does not account for space within the building that cannot be used for product storage.

For this reason, you have to take a few additional steps to reach an accurate number for your warehouse’s total storage capacity. Follow these four steps:

  1. Calculate the complete square footage of your warehouse. Let’s say it’s 100,000 square feet.
  2. Subtract the total square footage of space that is used for non-storage purposes. This should include any office space, bathrooms, loading areas and other space where you cannot store goods. Let’s say that calculation comes out to 20,000 square feet. So, your warehouse has 80,000 square feet of usable space.
  3. Determine your building’s clear height, which is the distance from the floor to an overhead object. For most buildings, this would be the distance from the floor to the facility’s steel shell, but it could also be the distance from the floor to the lowest-hanging overhead objects, such as lighting or equipment. Your building’s clear height will impact your usable space because it dictates how high up you can store items.
  4. Multiply your total square footage of usable space (80,000) by your facility’s clear height to determine your warehouse’s storage capacity in cubic feet. Going with our example, if your building’s clear height is 25 feet, it has a total storage capacity of 2,000,000 cubic feet.

The reason you must convert your warehouse’s total storage capacity into cubic feet is because it makes it easier to analyze how well you’re using that space, as you can also calculate your warehouse storage utilization in terms of cubic feet.

Are You Utilizing All of Your Warehouse Space?

Once you know the total storage capacity of your warehouse space, you can begin to analyze how well you are utilizing that space. You can do this in two steps — learning how to calculate warehouse space utilization and then analyzing your individual usage.

1. Learn How to Calculate Warehouse Space Utilization

Calculating your warehouse space utilization will help you make sure you’re as efficient as possible with the available space at your facility. This number represents the percentage of your usable storage space that you’re using. Believe it or not, you don’t want this number to be a perfect 100% — in fact, you want it to be much lower than that. We’ll explain why after going over the calculation.

Going back to our previous example, we know the total storage capacity of the warehouse is 2,000,000 cubic feet. To determine how much of that space you’re actually using, you’ll need to calculate the inventory cube size of your facility. Follow these steps to calculate the inventory cube size of your warehouse:

  • Measure the footprints of all your pallet racks.
  • Calculate their total vertical storage capacity.
  • Multiply the true capacity of each of the pallet racks in your warehouse by the total number of racks you have.

The number you reach after making those calculations represents the size of your warehouse’s storage cube. Let’s say the number you landed on after doing this math is 500,000. With your total storage space being 2,000,000, that means your storage utilization percentage would be 25% — which is pretty good.

2. Start Evaluating Your Warehouse Space Utilization

Some of you may be wondering: “Why is 25% a good utilization percentage? Shouldn’t it be closer to full capacity?” The short answer is no. Instead, having a storage utilization that is more than 27% or less than 22% would signal a potential issue in the layout and design of your warehouse.

A utilization percentage of more than 27% would likely mean your staff is having a difficult time moving around the warehouse to pick and restock items, which would result in high labor expenses. On the other hand, a storage cube size that is less than 22% of your facility’s total storage capacity would indicate that you may be wasting potential storage space due to the layout of your warehouse. If we’re still working with the warehouse that has 2,000,000 cubic feet of usable storage space, that would mean a storage cube of between 440,000 and 540,000 would be ideal.

So, let’s take the middle of that range — 490,000 — and say that’s the storage cube size to aim for to achieve the optimal warehouse storage efficiency. This number, of course, will vary for every warehouse. But for the sake of this example, let’s say this particular warehouse has a 490,000 storage cube size. Warehouse managers and designers can then lay out the facility with optimization and efficiency in mind, and you can calculate how much of that storage cube size you are actually utilizing. If you are storing 350,000 of product, you would be using 71.42% of the optimal storage space that is available.

Tips for Maximizing Your Warehouse Storage Capacity

Now that you know how to calculate storage capacity, you can run the numbers on your own facility. If your storage cube falls outside that 22% to 27% range or you’re unhappy with the number you reached for the amount of potential storage space you’re actually utilizing, it’s time to focus on your warehouse capacity optimization. By making a few small changes to the layout and organization of your space, you can increase your warehouse utilization numbers and save both money and time.

Here are six tips you can apply to your facility to maximize the storage capacity of your warehouse and utilize as much space as possible.

1. Use the Right Storage Solutions

The types of storage solutions you use at your warehouse will have a direct impact on your storage utilization. To reach optimal storage capacity, choose solutions that make sense for the shape and size of your space as well as the types of products you’re storing.

Some popular storage utilization-enhancing solutions include:

  • Pallet racks: Pallet racks are common storage solutions for warehouses because they allow staff and machinery to access goods directly. Pallet racks are also adaptable and customizable to a range of product sizes and weights, making them compatible for most facilities. These steel racks can come with either welded or bolted frames.
  • Drive-in pallet racks: Drive-in pallet racks use the LIFO method — the last product to enter the rack is the next to be picked. This makes drive-in racks ideal for temporary storage solutions and high-volume inventories.
  • Drive-thru pallet racks: With double-sided points of entry in both the back and front for product entry and removal, respectively, drive-thru pallet racks utilize a FIFO system — first in, first out. This racking unit is typically found in the middle of the storage and order fulfillment process.
  • Mezzanines: A mezzanine is an excellent way to double or potentially triple the surface area of your warehouse that can be utilized for storage. It essentially serves as another floor within your warehouse, allowing you to increase your storage area without any construction or expansion. Mezzanines are ideal for storing odd-shaped products or serving as an assembly or sorting area. While mezzanines cannot replace pallet racks, they are an excellent complement.
  • Flow racks: Flow racks also follow the FIFO system, making them ideal for storing perishable goods that are frequently being rotated. Gravity will move the pallets on flow racks as they are picked or moved, sliding the products on tracks until they reach the end of the rack.
  • Mobile racks: Mobile racks operate by basically squeezing multiple rows of products together on guided bases that can slide laterally at an operator’s request. This means that the operator can move the racks left or right, creating an aisle anywhere within those rows to access particular products.
  • Stacker cranes for pallets and boxes: Stacker cranes for boxes and pallets will increase your usable space vertically by allowing you to access stacks up to 131 feet high for pallets or 65 feet high for boxes. These machines can also operate in relatively narrow aisles — 5 feet wide for pallet cranes and 3 feet wide for box cranes. These machines also move quickly to increase productivity and are compatible with pallets and boxes of all sizes.

2. Rearrange Your Aisles, Pallets and Racks

Once you’ve chosen the best pallets, boxes and racks, it’s time to arrange them in the most optimal way to boost your storage utilization. Keep like-sized items and storage units together for the best organization and fit. Make your aisles a bit more narrow to fit a few more rows in — as long as they’re still wide enough for your staff and equipment to fit through comfortably and efficiently. Not only will having a well-organized warehouse increase your storage capacity, cube size and overall utilization, but it will also increase your employees’ efficiency as they will be able to move around and find items easier. The same goes for any automated machinery you use in your facility.

3. Increase Your Clear Height

The clear height of your building has a significant impact on the amount of storage space you have available to you. While it may seem difficult to increase the amount of space you have vertically, it’s possible to boost your clear height by looking at any equipment, infrastructure or other items you have hanging from the ceiling. For example, you might have hanging lights, security systems or cameras, or other items that you can move, replace or reposition to give you a few more feet of clear space.

Rather than hanging lights and security systems from the ceiling, consider affixing them to the actual roof or walls to maximize your clear height and, therefore, your potential storage space.

4. Account for Fluctuation Due to Seasonal Inventory

If your warehouse stores a lot of seasonal products, such as holiday decorations, beach gear or winter gear, be sure to account for this fluctuation during the off-seasons. While the total storage utilization of a facility that houses mostly Christmas decorations may be lower during the summer, that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing well or even that they should revisit their warehouse optimization plan. If the managers of this warehouse were to instruct higher-ups that their storage utilization was low and they needed more products to store, they would likely be way over-stocked come winter.

Warehouses with significant amounts of seasonal inventory should ideally calculate an optimal storage utilization for their peak season, as well as an optimal storage utilization number to shoot for during the off-season. It simply wouldn’t make sense for them to keep the same amount of product in the facility all year-round, but it also wouldn’t make sense to rearrange the warehouse twice a year to suit the fluctuation in inventory.

5. Allow Room for Growth

Another reason the total storage cube of your warehouse shouldn’t be more than 27% is to allow room for growth and new products. If your warehouse is at full storage capacity and utilization, that’s a good sign that it’s time to expand. Always allow some room for quick growth at your warehouse — you never know when a product of yours will go viral overnight. If that happens, you’ll need to start overstocking that particular item as soon as possible to keep up with demand. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s even better when you’re prepared to handle it.

6. Avoid Estimating Warehouse Storage Capacities

Your warehouse storage capacity is not a number you want to “guess” on. Avoid estimating your storage capacity or “eye-balling” how much of the facility you’re using for storage. Now that you know the calculations and how to reach an exact number for your warehouse storage capacity and utilization, take the time to do the math and figure out the logistics of your space. Knowing your numbers will allow you to develop the most efficient warehouse optimization plan in terms of both its layout and organization.

Contact T.P. Supply Co. for the Tools and Supplies You Need

Once you’ve calculated your warehouse space and storage capacity, it’s time to fill your facility with the premium supplies and tools it needs to operate smoothly and efficiently. From storage rack and shelving solutions to material handling tools and machinery, our product offerings combine excellent safety and security features with durability and superior quality to create an effortless experience for the user.

Ready to stock your warehouse space with tools that will last you and your staff years to come? Contact our team today for more information about our product offerings and how they can be an asset at your facility.

What Is the Difference Between Racking and Shelving?

Any business with inventory storage needs knows the value of finding a smart solution. You only have so much floor space, and it needs to accommodate as much product as it can. Owners and managers of larger companies often invest in customized storage structures for their stock holding areas, intending to remain organized and highly productive.

When you’re looking for the right way to hold your goods, you have two options: racking or shelving. At first glance, you may not see much of a difference between the two options. However, if you choose a system that doesn’t adequately fulfill your purposes, you may end up limiting your team’s potential for efficiency. With that in mind, here is a guide to understanding rack and shelf difference.

What Is Industrial Shelving?

Everyone knows what a shelf is. We reach in and out of cabinet shelves and grab books or other items from them all the time, so what makes any type of shelving industrial? The answers are material and durability. Industrial shelving is purpose-built for holding items in a store or warehouse setting, so it needs to stand up to heavy use and a wide variety of items that may or may not outweigh the average novel.

Industrial shelves are for storing items people can walk up and grab with their hands, rather than cartons or boxes of goods workers can move around in bulk. Shelving often comes with accessory options for any special applications. To fit your needs, you can add features like drawers, bins or dividers with relative ease. There are four types of industrial and commercial shelving to consider, each with unique benefits and potential drawbacks.

1. Steel Shelving

Steel shelving is the most obvious choice for many applications due to its strength and relatively low cost. As long as you put it together correctly — which is simple to do — you’ll get years of service from a steel shelving unit.

To further improve the affordability factor, steel shelving is available in different gauges. You can purchase shelves with higher weight capacity for storing cases of heavier items and save some money by getting a higher-gauge shelf setup for employees or customers to grab unboxed items. Choose between two main types of steel shelving.

  • Closed shelving: This type of shelf has panels that cover the sides and back of the unit. These shelves are more durable as well as more aesthetically pleasing than the alternative. They are best placed back to back or up against walls, rather than freestanding.
  • Open shelving: These shelves forego the panel backing in favor of braces that create needed stability. With this design, employees can access the items they need from any direction.

While closed shelving is more likely to come in standalone units, open shelving has the advantage of being somewhat modular. For example, you can connect multiple shelving units with extended support braces, creating one large shelving run.

Advantages of Steel Shelving

  • Easy assembly
  • Customization and availability of accessories
  • Suitable for high-density storage

2. Wire Shelving

When looks matter, wire shelving is the way to go. Wire shelves can accommodate a wide range of products in commercial and industrial applications, and they help facilitate airflow. Whether or not your employees are working with food or other sensitive products, more airflow is never a bad thing.

Wire shelving has some safety advantages, like the fact that they collect barely any dust and the open wiring will allow water from fire sprinklers to reach some of the product they hold. Wire shelves are also much easier to move than other types, since they are lighter-weight and offer straightforward assembly. The main disadvantage of wire racks is that they are less durable than the other industrial shelving options.

Advantages of Wire Racks

  • Lightweight and can become mobile if mounted on casters
  • Easy to keep clean due to lack of dust collection
  • Ideal for high-visibility products

3. Rivet Shelving

If budget is a significant concern, rivet shelving is a durable and cost-effective option. These are almost always the most economical shelving option, and they have the distinct advantage of being incredibly easy to assemble. Rivet shelves are sometimes called boltless shelves, since there are no bolts involved in their assembly.

All you need to put one of these together is a rubber mallet. Assembly consists of aligning rivets and sliding them into the frame at whatever intervals you’d like. Other than their utilitarian appearance, the primary downside to rivet shelves is that they are made of heavy-gauge steel. Their excessive weight can be a hindrance if you ever plan to reconfigure your storage space. Rivet shelving is not a great option if you need bells and whistles like drawers or dividers to get the most out of your shelves.

Advantages of Rivet Shelving

  • Budget-friendly
  • Quick, straightforward assembly
  • Suitable for stockrooms, warehouses and nearly any other industrial application

4. Widespan Shelving

This form of storage helps bridge the gap between racking and shelving solutions. Widespan shelves are broader and sturdier than other types of shelving, and are ideal for situations where you need to store a lot of heavy products, but don’t have access to automated material handling solutions. For instance, if you operate a warehouse with a vast range of products, but only sell them in small quantities, employees will need to hand-pick the items.

Widespan shelves have the highest load capacity of all your options, and can often hold up to 2,000 pounds on each shelf. This form of storage is best for bulky items, making it one of the best warehouse shelving racks, but is not suitable for pallets or compatible with forklifts.

Advantages of Widespan Shelving

  • Huge weight capacity
  • Ideal for storing large items
  • Front and back item accessibility

What Is Pallet Racking?

If you run a warehouse or a business that receives products on pallets, it makes sense to have a specialized storage system capable of handling them. After all, what is warehouse racking good for if it doesn’t match the format of your deliveries? Warehouse shelving racks are an essential part of keeping pallets organized and accessible when you need them. There are five main types of pallet racking to consider.

1. Selective Rack

This most common type of rack consists of two vertical frames with shelf beams in between. Almost any warehouse is likely to have at least a few selective racks. This type of pallet racking allows workers to stack one pallet deep. Companies that use this storage solution generally either place racks up against a wall, or arrange them back to back.

This racking is “selective” because every pallet in the system is accessible without having to move anything else out of the way. It’s an excellent solution for convenience, but not ideal if you need to store a high density of pallets.

These racks are either bolted or welded together. Welding by the manufacturer is the preferred assembly method, as it reduces liability and provides a more durable solution. Warehouses can use selective racks in almost any environment with any size and weight of product. If you have low turnover along with high differentiation among products, selective racks are a good option.

Advantages of Selective Racking

  • The most economical option
  • Easy reconfiguration
  • No need for specialized lift vehicles

2. Double-Deep Rack

This type of racking involves having two rows of selective racks placed one behind the other. Warehouses commonly use this configuration to rack two pallets with the same product in a single slot that spans both racks. Employees need a lift truck that has an attachment for double-deep handling, or a deep-reach lift truck to retrieve pallets from the back rack.

Although double-deep racking is technically one configuration of selective racking, it’s a form of high-density storage. The higher-density your racking is, the better you can optimize your warehouse space. You can store more pallets per cubic foot, but the system is less flexible than standard selective racking. You would not want to use this storage system if you didn’t have enough of the same product to fill both the front and back slots of a double-deep rack.

Advantages of Double-Deep Racking

  • Lowest cost per pallet position among high-density racking options
  • Greater use of available space
  • Easier access than other high-density options

3. Drive-In or Drive-Through Rack

As another form of high-density racking, drive-in or drive-through storage systems have a design that accommodates lift trucks. Rather than using a shelf beam between vertical frames, these systems employ rails that extend the full length of the rack. Lift trucks can drive right into the rack structure to drop off and pick up pallets. Depending on your needs, you can get drive-in or drive-through racking that can hold pallets two or three deep and sometimes more.

  • Drive-in racks: These have an entry point that doubles as the exit, so they work best for applications where inventory in last goes out first.
  • Drive-through racks: These racks have two entry points, making them ideal for first-in, first-out inventory applications.

One of the things to remember about this type of racking system is that lift trucks can cause the structure to sustain more impacts than racks that don’t need lift trucks. Whether it’s a new operator making mistakes due to inexperience, or a more senior crew member bumping into a rack by accident, you want to be sure you purchase a quality racking system that will stand up to everyday use.

Advantages of Drive-In and Drive-Through Racking

  • Takes up fewer aisles than selective racking
  • Allows storage of up to 75% more pallets than selective racking
  • Only marginally more expensive than double-deep racking

4. Pushback Rack

This system is more complex and has more moving parts than other forms of racking storage. It consists of a progression of carts that nest within each other and move back and forth on rails. When a worker has a new pallet to deposit, they will push the current pallets backward and load the new pallet in the next position. When it’s time to retrieve a pallet, the one behind it moves forward so it’s ready for extraction.

Pushback racks are excellent if you have a lot of different SKUs and require many pick faces to operate efficiently. If you do bulk storage and store many of your products in groups of five pallets or more, this is an excellent storage system choice.

Advantages of Pushback Racking

  • Offers storage density similar to drive-in racking, but with better selectivity
  • Can reduce picking time
  • Faster to unload and load than drive-through and drive-in racking

5. Flow Rack

Pallet flow or gravity flow racking is the best solution for first-in, first-out storage systems. This rack uses wheels or rollers that carry pallets down an incline, allowing workers to pick them up when they stop at the other end of the system.

Flow racking allows you to store loads back-to-back, removing the need for aisles. One of the benefits of this is that you don’t always need a forklift, so you can free up the equipment to do something else. Another pro of flow racking is that it operates on gravity, thereby reducing energy costs.

Advantages of Pallet Flow Racking

  • Eliminates the need for aisles, replacing them with lanes
  • Can go as deep as you need it to
  • Ideal for warehouses with high throughput

The Difference Between Racking and Shelving

The central difference between shelving and racking is that shelving involves putting products into the system and retrieving them by hand. With racking, warehouse employees carry out storage and retrieval with equipment like forklifts.

Shelving usually comes in smaller units than racking, since it stores items that are lightweight enough for people to carry them around by hand. The large size of racking is due, in part, to the fact that it is usually better to use it in large warehouse spaces, rather than smaller rooms in a building. Shelving is also generally weaker than racking, as it will not withstand much in the way of impact damage.

It’s possible for a smaller business to use shelving exclusively. However, businesses with a warehouse component almost always need a mixture of both shelving and racking to effectively manage storage.

Storage Solutions From T.P. Supply Co.

If you’re not sure about pallet racking vs. shelving, or you’re ready to make a move on a more efficient storage solution for your business, come to T.P. Supply Co. We pride ourselves on service and solutions that have resulted in more than 90% of our customers returning for repeat business, and we’re ready to provide the right storage for your needs.

Whether you’re in the market for just a couple of shelves and a rack or two, or are looking to save money by ordering in bulk, we are happy to meet your needs. For more significant projects that require innovative answers, our customized quote tool allows you to share your vision and get a quote for your ideal system. Tell us the details, and we can make it happen.

Maximizing Vertical Warehouse Space

Warehouse managers are tasked with the important responsibility of continuous improvement to preserve and grow the company’s bottom line. Managers know there are lots of ways to make the company more profitable, whether that’s by investing in the right tools to increase worker productivity, streamlining processes to promote efficient picking, packing and loading or coming up with creative storage solutions when bringing on new product lines.

All of these approaches contribute to a much more efficient and smooth-running operation. But what happens when the biggest challenge a warehouse manager or operator faces has to do with space constraints? How can you create more space out of thin air? Lots of businesses may naturally start looking for extra real estate to lease or buy because it seems like the obvious solution. If you want to reduce the risks and costs associated with taking on additional warehouse space, it’s wise to assess your current warehouse layout and systems first and look for opportunities to capitalize on the existing space. For most warehouses, this means going vertical.

Tips for Increasing Vertical Warehouse Space

While growing businesses are thrilled to stock more inventory to sell, it also leads to a new set of challenges. Though it might be a desirable problem to have, a growing warehouse also means that managers need to think outside the box and look for ways to maximize their current space to prevent having to move or lease additional real estate.

Expanding your storage units upwards ensures you’re taking advantage of all the cubic feet you’re paying for. Moving goods upwards means you can free up floor space below too. You can use free floor space to add in more storage units, invest in more material handling equipment or give workers more space at their workstations.

If you’re looking to maximize your warehouse space so you can increase your storage capacity, it’s essential to take advantage of vertical space. Vertical space is widely underused in warehousing management, and it’s valuable cubic footage you’re paying for but not using. But before making any major changes to your inventory management, consider the following practical steps when getting started with maximizing warehouse space utilization.

1. Review Existing Vertical Space

The first step in maximizing your storage is to assess how much vertical space you’re currently underutilizing and how much more you can capitalize on. This means measuring your warehouse heights to get a more accurate idea of the actual amount of usable space. An industry rule of thumb is that once your warehouse hits 80 percent inventory capacity, it has reached its max. That’s because managers must take into account empty overhead and aisle space necessary for safety and compliance reasons, which should be set at a minimum 20 percent of capacity.

When assessing your vertical space opportunities, don’t forget to take into account ceiling and sprinkler clearances. These are critical for complying with fire and safety codes. The National Fire Protection Association requires 18 inches of vertical space between the top of a shelving unit and its contents and the ceiling. Always consult an engineering firm before making any big layout changes to ensure your operation is up to code.

At this phase, it’s also an excellent opportunity to look at your warehouse floor plan. If you’re planning on stacking your inventory vertically, you’ll likely need to invest in new storage units that are conducive to vertical storage. You may end up overhauling your existing layout to adapt to the new vertical approach, such as making new aisle widths that accommodate forklifts. Because of this, you may also consider rearranging your layout for minimum aisle widths. Make sure you know where all mechanical and electrical units are as these will factor into your new layout and where you can place your new storage structures, especially when placing them against walls.

2. Take an Inventory Audit

Once you’ve determined that vertical storage is the right solution for your warehouse, the next step is to assess your current inventory. Some people may perceive vertical storage as a drawback because it makes top-shelf items less easily accessible. To avoid this drawback, warehouse managers need to think strategically about where to place their inventory in a new vertical system.

By conducting an inventory audit, warehouse managers can identify items that should take up the top-level space. Consider which of your items have slower sell-through rates, are seasonal or are less frequently accessed. Naturally, these items should be placed higher up, leaving frequently accessed goods on the lowest shelves. Auditing your inventory will help you determine which items you want to keep closer to the floor or at ground-level and which products should remain higher up.

3. Invest in Vertical Storage Systems

Going vertical in a warehouse requires the right equipment designed to free up floor space and safely house inventory. Pallet racks are universally considered the simplest and most efficient method for increasing vertical space in warehouses. These industrial shelving units are designed to store palletized goods in multiple rows, primarily facilitating first-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory management systems. Accessible either by forklifts or manually, pallet racks are adjustable and can be made to fit your warehouse heights as well as the types of products you stock.

Going vertical with sturdy pallet racks makes stocking and picking much more convenient for workers. It also makes the warehouse safer, both by keeping items protected from overcrowdedness and by giving workers better accessibility to goods picked repeatedly.

4. Leave Room for Future Needs

When investing in new vertical storage solutions, you should also consider your company’s future needs. While it’s impossible to predict the future, you can use your recent growth trends as a gauge to determine how much vertical storage you may need in two to five years.

Will you be storing greater inventory levels of certain products or equipment? Will you be downsizing any offerings down the road? Thinking about the future direction of your warehouse inventory can help you make smarter decisions today without creating more problems later on. Investing in more vertical storage, like pallet racking systems, upfront can help you save on having to purchase additional units in a few years.

Use Pallet Racking Systems to Maximize Vertical Space

One of the simplest warehouse space optimization techniques is to use industrial pallet racking units. Pallet racking systems are designed to maximize vertical space by taking advantage of available overhead areas. Pallet racking standardizes your inventory management, ensuring that all products are benefiting from the same shelving frames and widths, making it easier to operate material handling equipment efficiently and consistently.

There are a few typical pallet racking types. In general, all pallet racks allow you to store palletized or containerized goods on horizontal rows and on multiple levels. How pallet rack types vary is in their design, ease of adjustability and function they ideally serve. At T.P. Supply Co, we offer the following types of pallet rack solutions that allow you to maximize your warehouse vertical space.

1. Selective Pallet Racking

Selective pallet racking, also known as standard racking, is the most common type of pallet rack system used in vertical storage. Made of two vertical steel frames known as uprights connected by rows of two horizontal load beams, selective pallet racking is designed to hold pallet loads safely. The load beams are often covered by wire mesh decking, which offers an additional layer of stability and prevents small items from falling through. Accessible from either side of the rack, selective pallet racks enable workers to retrieve pallets and goods from the front or back. Their one-deep design means that selective pallet racks allow workers to retrieve pallets and products without needing to move other pallets out of the way.

2. Teardrop Pallet Racks

Teardrop refers not to the design of the rack itself but to the way the cross beams are secured to the uprights. Teardrop-shaped holes in the uprights securely fasten the teardrop beams to the structure. Teardrop beams are easy to lift and pull from the uprights and reposition if you want to increase or decrease your shelf height. Teardrop pallet racks are designed to be universally compatible with other storage solutions, parts and brands. If you’re looking for flexible, versatile and easy-to-assemble pallet racking, consider implementing teardrop pallet racks as part of your new plan for maximizing warehouse space.

3. Double Slotted Pallet Racking

If you’re handling large and heavy pallet loads, double-slotted pallet racking was designed for your warehouse needs. Compared to teardrop pallet racking, double-slotted pallet racking is a vertical storage solution designed to be exceptionally sturdy. As its name suggests, double-slotted pallet racking refers to load beams that are secured to uprights by two slots. These high-quality pallet racking systems are also easy to adjust but made with heavy-duty materials meant to withstand the toughest industrial settings. If you’re counting on sturdiness and security from your vertical storage solution, then double-slotted pallet racking might be the right rack style for you.

When moving forward with a new vertical storage plan, it’s essential to invest in pallet racking or any form of shelving unit that meets the various codes they’re subject to. Racking needs to be in place to support load weights and be structurally sound enough to meet seismic codes and other restrictions. Warehouse managers must do their due diligence when choosing pallet racking systems to increase vertical storage capacity. Partnering with material handling experts like T.P. Supply Co is the best way to ensure your racks perform how you need them to while keeping your people and products safe and secure.

Pallet Racking Components and Accessories

Pallet racking systems consist of multiple components all working together to make a strong, dependable and functional vertical storage system. This includes pallet rack accessories and extensions that help further support loads, protect goods and building structures and stabilize the rack units. At T.P. Supply Co, we offer the following accessories and solutions to accompany your vertical storage solution:

  • Wire mesh decking: Wire mesh decking is a welded metal layer added to pallet racks. This is a popular pallet rack accessory to enhance load capacity and meet certain local codes.
  • Column protectors: Going vertical means more use of motorized material handlers, which increases the risk of structural damage. Column protectors keep your building’s structure safe from damage.
  • Crossbars: A staple component of any pallet racking system, crossbars are designed to withstand pallet loads. Our sturdy crossbars come in 36-inch, 42-inch and 48-inch lengths.
  • Double flanged pallet supports: In some cases, you may need additional support bars, like double flanged pallet supports, that stop overloaded pallets from falling between the load beams.
  • Hat-style pallet supports: Another additional support option, hat-style pallet supports are an alternative style to double flanged pallet supports used when you don’t have slots accessible.
  • Structural pallet support: Our structural pallet supports are a standard 42-inch length appropriate for box beam and channel beam crossbars.
  • Row spacers: Choose from 6-inch, 8-inch, 12-inch and 18-inch row spacers that help ensure consistent spacing between pallet rack rows.
  • Wall spacers: Our 6-inch, 9-inch and 12-inch wall spacers help make sure there is a consistent distance between your racking systems and the supporting wall.

Material Handling and Safety Equipment for Vertical Storage

When going vertical, there are other considerations beyond choosing vertical storage solutions like pallet racks. Warehouse managers must shift the entire warehouse ecosystem to support the new vertical storage solution. Being able to access goods stored on shelves higher up means you need the right material moving equipment to place and retrieve these goods safely.

Given your warehouse is now reaching new heights, your workers will likely need forklifts capable of retrieving pallets from top shelves. For non-palletized goods, such as items stored in containers, totes or boxes, workers will need scissor lifts or rolling ladders to help them reach the top shelves.

OSHA’s 4-foot fall protection rule means that workers accessing items 4 feet or higher above ground must be secured. Guardrails and fall protection equipment are essential to keeping workers safe and ensuring your facility is compliant with OSHA regulations. Though going vertical requires additional planning and prevention measures, T.P. Supply Co is here to help you implement a new vertical storage system with multiple solutions to improve efficiency and keep your people and products safe.

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Pallet Racking

If you’re ready to take advantage of valuable vertical space in your warehouse, choose to partner with T.P. Supply Co. As material handling and warehouse solution experts, we offer your business the complete package in vertical storage systems. From pallet racking, wire mesh decking and accessories to lift tables and guardrails, we’ll ensure your warehouse is well-equipped to implement a successful new vertical storage plan.

Since 1979, T.P. Supply Co has worked with warehouses and distribution centers to implement simple, effective storage solutions that improve operational efficiency and safety. Our preconfigured racking systems are proven vertical storage solutions that help you maximize your facility’s cubic footage. Choose from our wide selection of new, used or reconditioned pallet racking systems that meet your needs and your budget. We always deliver our products on our own trucks and offer installation by our in-house crew.

Contact T.P Supply Co today to learn more about the best vertical storage systems for maximizing your warehouse space. Call us at (205) 301-5934, or you can reach us online.

Using Minimum Warehouse Aisle Widths to Maximize Space

With today’s real estate prices in the warehouse market, you must take advantage of all the useable space you have. While there’s plenty of good advice about making the most of vertical space by filling your racks to the roof, there is another way to maximize warehouse space. An often overlooked warehouse design practice is to make the most of your warehouse aisle widths.

If you’re wondering how wide your warehouse aisles should be, there are several important factors to consider. Minimum aisle widths in a warehouse aren’t an exact measurement. Warehouse aisle width requirements largely depend on the type of material handling equipment you use.

Determining the minimum aisle width for a forklift relies on the forklift model and configuration. Forklift types have a significant impact on designing your optimum distance between pallet racking and industrial shelving. You can follow specific rules of thumb that indicate just how much space a particular forklift needs to operate safely and efficiently.

Reducing Aisle Width to Maximize Warehouse Space

Studies by supply chain consultants strive to help warehouse managers and operators like you squeeze every available square foot to maximize valuable floor space. Experts realize many warehouse operations fail to look at their cubic foot area as an integral part of the storage equation. Although warehouse values get calculated on a cost-per-square-foot formula, failure to think upward means leaving a lot of money on the table.

Smart operators realize the value in stacking products as high as they can. But even the thriftiest managers sometimes forget reducing aisle width to maximize warehouse space is another valuable key to efficiency. However, it’s easier to talk about than it is to enact, and sometimes this strategy can work against you.

Professional warehouse designers believe once a warehouse achieves between 80 and 85 percent of filled floor space, it’s reached maximum efficiency. Capacity above this becomes counterproductive when you don’t have enough area to safely and smoothly pick and place products. That is why the very narrow aisle warehouse layout concept has gained in popularity.

It makes sense to reduce your warehouse aisle widths to free up more useable floor and vertical space. Warehouse designers work with these three aisle concepts and widths.

  • Wide aisle designThis is the typical warehouse design that’s been around for ages. The wide aisle concept evolved due to the available material handling equipment of the time. These were conventional counterbalanced forklifts needing about 12 feet of aisle width to function. With tighter spaces, there wasn’t enough aisle space to accommodate a forklift’s body length, its load size and a reasonable amount of clearance for safe turning.
  • Narrow aisle designAs forklift designs evolved, they required less area for maneuvering in warehouse aisles. Design improvements happened partly because technology advancements made them more efficient in compact configurations. Forklifts also became smaller because of economics. Increasing floor space costs demanded improvements in area capitalization. As such, aisle widths reduced to meet compact lift sizes, which were about eight feet.
  • Very narrow aisle designs: This next generation of aisle width design is catching on in new warehouse construction. Some companies are even renovating their older and existing warehouse facilities to meet the very narrow aisle layout. These aisles are size-reduced to less than six feet. That might seem like tight quarters, but modern forklifts made for very narrow aisle applications make out just fine. Very narrow aisle designs aren’t the wave of the future. They’re here to stay, and they are highly effective in maximizing your warehouse space.

How Wide Should My Warehouse Aisles Be?

The maximum aisle width for a warehouse depends on what the material handling equipment requires to safely navigate the corridors and efficiently pick products. The aisle width also depends on the products placed and the type of pallets in use. There is no precise measurement. Widths are entirely relevant to how the overall warehouse functions.

There are, however, specific parameters and guidelines you need to consider when designing efficient and highly productive warehouses. It begins by appreciating how much additional space you can gain by narrowing your aisle widths. For instance, reducing your aisle width from 12 feet to eight feet gives you an extra 15 to 20 percent of storage area. That, in itself, is a significant saving and an excellent method of increasing warehouse capacity without physically expanding your building.

If you’re considering redesigning your warehouse to a narrow aisle configuration, it’s worthwhile reviewing the different forklift types that work with varying widths of aisles. While lift trucks designed for narrow aisles will operate well in wide aisles, the opposite certainly isn’t true. Here are the common forklift designs on today’s material handling equipment market and the minimum aisle widths they need to function.

  • Sit-down counterbalanced forklift: By far, this is the most common forklift in American warehouses. The sit-down counterbalanced lift truck may be the most popular material handler in the world, but it takes up a lot of space. Most of these designs have elongated chassis to accommodate the heavy, rear-mounted counterweight that balances the load in the mast and carriage. As a rule, sit-down counterbalanced forklifts need aisles at least 12 feet wide to handle standard 48-inch pallets.
  • Stand-up deep-reach forkliftThese material movers are made for narrower aisle work than conventional sit-down machines. They still work on a counterbalancing principle that offsets the load, whether in a raised or lowered position. Operators stand up in deep-reach forklift designs, which save space from the operator area decreasing to accommodate a vertical driver profile rather than the more space-consuming semi-horizontal position. Deep-reach stand-up machines need an approximate minimum aisle width of nine to 11 feet, depending on the manufacturer’s design.
  • Stand-up single-reach forklift: Single-reach forklifts designed for standing drivers use less aisle room than their deep-reach cousins. That is because the fork extensions aren’t designed to pick from double pallet racks. They’re only capable of operating in single pallet racking environments. Single-reach forklifts have a smaller footprint due to reduced tine extension length. Depending on the particular forklift model, a single-reach design might be a foot shorter than a deep-reach machine. That can reduce the minimum aisle width required for a single-reach stand-up forklift to eight feet.
  • Turret or swing-mast narrow aisle forkliftTurret forklifts operate in tight and confined aisles. They have a unique design in that the mast swivels or turns 90 degrees from the forklift body to let the driver move the machine through a tight corridor. When ready to pick, the operator swings the mast to either side. The forks then extend and deal with the product. Once placed or pulled, the turret returns to its regular axis to the forklift’s centerline, and the driver can continue navigating in a narrow space. Swing-mast or turret lifts need between four feet six inches and five feet six inches of aisle width.
  • Narrow aisle order pickerThese mini-forklifts work well in very narrow warehouse aisles. Where space is a premium concern, there’s nothing more efficient than a narrow aisle order picker. These highly compact material tools get in and out of confined spaces easily. Most narrow aisle designs have walk-behind controls, rather than operators sitting or standing on them. Many modern warehouses opt for narrow aisle order pickers, as they save a tremendous amount of valuable floor space. Narrow aisle forklifts work in aisles as tight as four to five feet.

Calculating Minimum Aisle Width for Forklifts

Determining the minimum aisle width in your warehouse is a crucial decision. You certainly don’t want to give up valuable space by making your aisles unnecessarily wide. However, it would be a disaster to set your racking and shelving components too close together.

Calculating the minimum aisle width for forklift travel and operation is a compromise. You need to know your exact forklift parameters and what absolute physical requirements they require to function within. That starts by being familiar with your forklift characteristics. Here is the primary information you must consider about your forklifts before you can comfortably calculate the minimum aisle width they can fit in.

  • Outside dimensions: Forklifts are three-dimensional machines. They have fixed lengths, widths and heights. Forklift height is not usually an obstacle to setting minimum aisle widths. Some forklifts can reach 30 or more feet with their mast fully extended. However, your forklift’s length and width represent restrictions. The most restrictive measurement is its width, as this is the bare minimum aisle size it can pass through.
  • Turning radiusIf you’re operating a sit-down counterbalance forklift, you need to compensate for the circle it needs to turn within. By design, most forklifts have a tight turning radius. That’s especially so with three-wheel models. But even if your forklift can turn within its footprint, that will be at least the measurement of its length. Most forklifts are naturally longer than their width, and much of this is because of the tine or fork extensions.
  • Head and load length: Designers and manufacturers calculate forklift length through two measurements. First is the head length. That’s the physical boundary between the machine’s rear and the face of the mast where the forks start. The second measurement is the load length, which is not only how far forward the metal forks protrude. Load length includes the maximum size of the pallet or other loads the forklift handles.
  • Right angle stackThis measurement allows for the bare minimum your forklift needs to move a pallet from the pick or place position to a run configuration where the machine and load can safely navigate the aisle. As you can appreciate, the right angle stack adds to the outside dimensions and turning radius, as well as the head and load length. Here is where narrow aisle forklift designs conserve critical space by way of their plan and purpose. However, there are always some allowances to make for right angle stack when calculating minimum aisle width.
  • Clearance: No matter how carefully and precisely you calculate your forklift’s maximum measurements, you still need to allow some clearance before you fix your minimum aisle width measurements. Clearance is a safeguard. There is no set formula for it. It’s a better-safe-than-sorry figure, and it takes in an allowance for inevitable operator error. The suggested clearance rule of thumb from material management experts is to give yourself at least one foot of clearance.

Deciding How Wide Your Warehouse Aisles Should Be

One foot of clearance sounds like a lot of extra room when you’re striving for maximum efficiency in minimum aisle layouts. In very narrow aisle warehouses, the foot of clearance could extend a five-foot aisle to six feet. That’s a 20 percent increase in space, and that sounds like a lot of expensive room to give up.

You should always err on caution’s side when deciding how wide your warehouse aisles should be. You need to start with your mobile equipment’s limitations before setting your fixed material handling products in place. It’s much easier to put your pallet racks or storage and shelving units in a safe position than it is to go out and purchase new material handling equipment to accommodate narrow warehouse aisles.

It makes good sense to narrow your aisles to a minimal size where your mobile equipment still functions. It is one of the best strategies to make the highest and best use of your storage space. However, calculating the minimum aisle size can be tricky. The best approach you can take is working with a nationwide distributor of storage products and material handling equipment.

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Storage Solutions

T.P. Supply is one of North America’s top storage solutions providers. Since 1979, we’ve served the United States, Canada and Mexico with superb customer service and professional-grade products to outfit warehouses across the continent. Our warehouse rackingbulk rackmaterial handlingstorage and shelving and safety and security products will make your warehousing tasks more efficient and economical, not to mention being a safer workplace for your employees.

At T.P. Supply, we can even help design your warehouse layout. That includes expert services in calculating your minimum aisle widths. Here’s what you can expect when working with T.P. Supply’s warehouse design service:

  • Communicating with a warehouse design expert
  • Arranging an in-depth meeting to discuss client needs
  • Meeting to review and discuss the proposed design/layout
  • Receiving a guaranteed quote for materials
  • Considering the option for T.P. Supply professional installation
  • Signing off on a quotation and setting a delivery/installation date
  • Beginning actual material delivery and installation work
  • Signing off on the completed project

Although T.P. Supply will design and build you a maximum-capacity warehouse system that implements narrow and very narrow aisle configurations, we want to stop and caution you on a crucial point. No matter how tight you make your warehouse aisles, you can only go so far. Your forklifts have to safely navigate your warehouse corridors, and your staff has to efficiently pick orders. If you exceed the maximum capacity rule, you’ll be too congested.

When you buy from T.P. Supply, you get a complete package. We can provide you with your materials in three different conditions to meet your budget: new, used or reconditioned. We deliver on trucks we own, and provide installation of your materials using our in-house installation crews. We do not contract out any work, and we are entirely self-contained.

Call T.P. Supply today and talk with our design experts about minimizing your warehouse aisle widths and maximizing your storage capacity. We’re at, or you can reach us through our online contact form.

Teardrop vs. Double Slotted Pallet Racks

Most American warehouses have at least one thing in common — the need for selective pallet racking. Racks, as they’re commonly called, are indispensable pieces of material handling equipment. They capitalize on space, safely store a multitude of products and make workers’ jobs easy for retrieving materials and merchandise.

But, not all racks have common designs. Racking has evolved over the years, and the main difference is in the beam connection slots built into the racking system’s vertical or upright members. Although there are many slot designs, there are two primary profiles commonly found within warehouses — teardrop pallet racks and double slotted pallet racks.

Both configurations get their name from their connection opening shape. Teardrop rack connections are pear-shaped. They look like inverted teardrops. Double slots, on the other hand, are vertical incisions in the metal members. As their name suggests, double slots have two vertical holes sitting side by side. Teardrops also have parallel perforations in most applications.

Why Are There Different Racking Slot Designs?

There are clear reasons why selective racking manufacturers offer two main slot designs. This dates back to World War II when massive manufacturing of war goods required pallets and related material handling equipment, including racking and shelving systems. Different companies produced rack systems, leading to non-uniformity in design. This made rack uprights, beams and decks incompatible with one another.

Following the war, the demand for warehousing and efficient racking didn’t slow down. As post-war production for civilian interests expanded, so did the demand for pallet racking components. This led to manufacturing competition and many unique vertical member slot designs showing up on the market.

The theory was that each racking system maker would hold proprietary patents on their systems through creative slot designs. That way, a warehouse business would have to buy additional racking components from the original manufacturer. This supposedly ensured continuous demand and not losing market share to the competition.

In practice, this led to incompatibility between systems. As pallet racking equipment aged and needed replacement, or as warehouses expanded and required additional racking, consumers became frustrated by the differences between competing rack components. Rather than adding on more verticals, beams and decks, the warehouse businesses had to replace entire systems at significant costs.

Rack manufacturers slowly responded to consumer demand. Industry-driven cooperative associations like the Rack Manufacturers Institute, Inc. (RMI) worked to streamline the rack options offered by a multitude of racking manufacturers. This led to uniformity in the bulk storage industry. As a result, today the most popular upright and beam connection point is the teardrop design. That’s followed by the less-popular, but still functional, double slot connection design.

What Is Teardrop Pallet Racking?

Teardrop pallet racking is the most popular rack design in the world. After decades of experimenting with several different vertical rack slot profiles, the simple teardrop configuration won out. That’s because the teardrop slot is simple, secure, steady and safe. It’s also due to the teardrop design being speedy to assemble and disassemble when rack configurations need changing.

From an engineering point, the teardrop racking design is superior to others in several ways. With the teardrop being similar to a V, the load transfer from the rack’s horizontal beam to the vertical support compresses the beam’s pin into the teardrop slot. As this force bottoms out, the pin’s head is well below the opening diameter at the top of the slot. This makes it impossible to slip out without an upward force lifting the beam and deck assembly.

The friction produced by squeezing the beam pin into the teardrop slot also strengthens the entire rack assembly. A tight fit prevents the rack from swaying and buckling. Teardrop slot racks are exceptionally stable. However, they are easy to loosen and disassemble if required. It’s the combination of easy use and dependable performance that make teardrop slotted racks the warehouse industry standard.

Safety is another critical issue with all selective pallet racking systems. To prevent accidental loosening and beam separation, the teardrop vertical members and beams have a locking device that keeps the pins inside the slot unless intentionally released. Accidental loosening could be caused by forklift mishandling where a deck and beam assembly is suddenly raised. Racking pins can’t be accidentally dislodged when held in with safety catches.

Uniformity is a significant advantage with teardrop racks. Today, the industrial racking industry has come together to ensure most brands using teardrop designs are compatible. Here are some of the common teardrop rack designs and their builders:

  • Husky Rack & Wire: a standard teardrop design with safety clip
  • Frick Gallagher: a combination of teardrop/keyhole design
  • Lyon: a true teardrop configuration
  • Mecalux: a leading brand name and design
  • Spacerak: a new style teardrop and an older style teardrop
  • Speedrack: a conventional teardrop indentation
  • Bulldog: a teardrop design that’s slightly slanted
  • Kingway: a standard and interchangeable teardrop
  • Excel Storage Products: another conventional teardrop
  • Ridg-U-Rak: a large opening teardrop with a single exposure
  • Interlake: a teardrop design appearing like a question mark
  • Prest: a dual-opening, mirror-image question mark shape
  • Unarco: another dual-opening teardrop slot
  • TP Rack: universal teardrop beams & uprights

Teardrop pallet racking profiles are highly flexible in matching and mixing different brand name components. However, although the teardrop slots might be universal in accepting beam pins, the beams might vary slightly from maker to maker.

For instance, a beam classified by one company as 8-feet might be longer or shorter than another manufacturer’s 8-foot rating. One beam might be exactly 96 inches between pin centers while a competitor’s true distance might be 95 ½ inches. While two slightly different length beams will fit a universal teardrop slot, the length variance will cause a rack to go out of square and be unstable.

The best method of interchanging components in a teardrop racking system is to make sure each vertical, beam and deck is from the same manufacturer. That way you can safely add additional beams to an existing system regardless of manufacturer.

Benefits of Teardrop Pallet Racks

The main benefit of using teardrop pallet racks is compatibility. This alone has led to teardrop connection profiles being universally accepted by the warehouse industry. There is no sign of this trend changing or being replaced by another upcoming improvement.

Teardrop racking systems have significant benefits for end-users. This design is a proven performer, and that’s clearly established by the number of teardrop racks in operation today. Here are some of the main benefits gained by using teardrop pallet racks:

  • VersatilityBeing interchangeable with different manufacturer brand names allows the user to source components from different makers and suppliers. That could be new, used or reconditioned racking components.
  • StrengthTeardrop designs let beam pins lock into place by friction and gravity. The more weight placed on a teardrop vertical support, the more it compresses and strengthens.
  • Installation ease: Teardrop verticals and beams are easy to install. They don’t require a high skill level, special tools or expensive fasteners.
  • CustomizationIt’s simple to mix and match suitable components. Parts from one rack manufacturer used with another supplier’s product allow warehouses to customize their racking systems to suit their needs.
  • SafetyProperly matched and assembled, teardrop pallet racks are entirely safe. The safety catches add extra protection to ensure a teardrop connection isn’t accidentally released.

What Are Double Slotted Pallet Racks?

Double slotted pallet racks are second in warehouse popularity to the teardrop style racking systems. The main difference between the two selective pallet racking structures is the beam-to-upright connection configuration. Slot systems have two parallel and elongated rectangular openings that accept the beam flanges and pins.

Double slotted pallet rack designs are older than the teardrop systems. The first commercially manufactured racks had slot designs, and that suited the purpose at the time. However, double slotted racks aren’t as compatible with different manufactured components as teardrop rack styles are. That’s the primary reason that double slotted racks have waned from warehouse popularity while teardrops have grown.

There is one area where double slotted pallet racks excel — in strength and durability. Modern racks that choose the slot designs are heavier and bulkier. Quite simply, today’s manufacturers choose double slotted racks because they can support the heaviest loads. Users of the double slotted pallet rack prefer its indisputable strength compared to the more universally accepted option of teardrop pallet racking.

Most double slotted rack uprights built today are called structural pallet racks. These slotted uprights are formed from molten iron cast to configurations. Teardrop-style uprights are usually lighter weight and made from cold rolled steel sheets.

Because double slotted uprights are iron rather than steel, they weigh more. That’s not a disadvantage when it comes to heavy-duty applications where strength is the issue, not speed in setup and takedown. Therefore, double slotted racks are more commonly found in large warehouse situations where the racks might have a double-duty purpose, forming part of the building’s structural integrity.

Some double slotted rack uprights require independent fasteners to secure the beams and platforms. Where almost all teardrop uprights simply snap together, many double slotted verticals need bolts, washers and nuts to secure connections. This adds assembly time and effort as well as additional expense.

Like teardrop configurations, there are different brands and sub-styles of double slotted pallet racks. Each type has individual features to offer warehouse organizers. Here are the most popular double slotted rack designs and manufacturers:

  • Paltier 50: an old style keystone slot design
  • Penco: a double slot with tapered openings
  • T-Bolt: heavy-duty application requiring bolts
  • Speedrack Selective: oval-shaped double slots
  • Ridg-U-Rak: elongated slots with deep openings
  • Lynx: conventional double slots from Wireway Husky
  • Redirack: one of the most common rack styles
  • Master Rack: a square hole design from Buckley
  • M-I-Rack: lighter weight design by Inca
  • Interlake New Style: unique slots slightly resembling teardrops

Benefits of Double Slotted Pallet Racks

The main benefit warehouse businesses receive from double slotted pallet racks is their strength. Because speed and versatility aren’t as important as support in certain cases, many warehouse owners and managers choose double slotted racking systems. When weight retention is a big issue, they forgo a speedy process in favor of maximum security.

Many structural racks are double slotted configurations. These simple and straightforward designs aren’t intended for continuous change of deck heights and widths. Structural racks with double slots are meant for permanent or semi-permanent locations. They’re installed by professionals using specialized knowledge and tools.

Double slotted pallet rack systems have other benefits besides brute strength. They’re not intended to compete head-on with teardrop designs, and there’s a definite marketplace for them. Here are more benefits delivered by double slotted pallet racks:

  • Impact resistanceBecause most double slotted uprights are made from cast metal, they’re far more impact resistant than cold rolled steel. This makes them ideal for areas with aggressive forklift and truck traffic.
  • Structural supportDouble slotted verticals can act as structural supports to the building. Engineers can certify the racks as load-bearing structural members that serve a dual purpose.
  • Longevity: Because most double slotted rack systems are so durable, they last longer than other products. Needing to replace a double slotted system is unlikely.
  • Return on investmentMost double slotted pallet racks are more expensive than teardrop rack systems. However, because they tend to last longer in industrial settings, support heavier loads and guarantee against failing, double slotted racks deliver an excellent long-term return on investment.

Choosing Teardrop vs. Slotted Pallet Rack Uprights

Choosing teardrop vs. double slotted pallet rack uprights might sound difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. For most warehouse applications, fast and easy teardrop systems are a better choice. The fact that teardrops are the most popular style in America and around the world speaks volumes to their serviceability. For many people in a decision-making role, that’s proof enough that teardrop pallet racks work.

Teardrop pallet rack systems are best for warehouses that need flexibility. Teardrop designs allow for quick changes to deck heights and widths. They’re also best-suited where add-ons are expected, and the work can be done by existing staff. There’s no need for contracted help just to make rack changes with teardrops.

However, there are situations where double slotted pallet racks are a better buy. When load capacities exceed teardrop system ratings, there’s no choice but to invest in rugged cast-metal uprights with double slot designs. This is normally a matter of safety rather than economics.

Double slotted pallet rack systems are ideal for heavy-duty applications. That includes warehouses with permanent or semi-permanent rack intentions. It also includes placement where material handling machinery risks are high, and the budget for having professionals install the rack systems are flush. For large loads in heavy traffic, nothing beats a double slotted pallet rack design.

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Pallet Racking

T.P. Supply is one of America’s leading suppliers of teardrop and double slotted pallet rack components. As our slogan goes, “We’re not the biggest, just the best.” We’ve been the best pallet rack and material handling equipment supplier since 1979. Today, we’re an international distributor for storage racks, shelving solutions and material handling products.

At T.P Supply, we also offer professional pallet rack installation. We use our own teams to deliver and set up both teardrop and double slotted systems. That’s part of our customer commitment for outstanding service and unparalleled choice.

For more help in choosing teardrop vs. double slot pallet racks, call T.P. Supply today. We’re at 877-302-2337. Or, we can be reached anytime through our online contact form.

Beginner’s Guide to Pallet Racking

If your warehouse is like most, you keep stock organized on pallet racking. With so many pallet rack sizes and types, narrowing down your options may seem overwhelming. However, you can find the best pallet racks for your facility’s needs by looking at what materials you stock and how you need to access them.

Why You Need Pallet Racks

Pallets hold loads of goods in a warehouse or other storage facility. The design of the pallets makes it easier to move the goods on them with a forklift. To preserve what you have stored on the pallet from pests and moisture, you should not keep the pallets directly on the floor. Floor storage puts the goods at risk of damage while making it harder to move them when needed.

A well-organized warehouse is much more productive than one that lacks arrangement. Pallet racks help you keep goods stored in easy-to-find spots while reducing floor space. Your workers can move around the facility faster and retrieve pallets quicker if you have an adequate storage system. The pallet racks you use for storing inventory make the difference.

Though you may already know why you need pallet racks, you may not be aware of the many types of systems available. Depending on how you arrange goods in your warehouse, you have several choices of racking systems.

Different Types of Pallet Racking

With storage systems, you have multiple options to suit your warehouse’s operations. How you stock and pull inventory will significantly determine the type of pallet racks you need. Some are more common than others, based on the most frequently used pick and pull systems. Learn the different rack options available to make choosing the right ones for your facility easier.

1. Selective Racking

Selective racking ranks as the most common type of system. Due to its vertical design and one-deep storage, you can use a majority of the space for storage. This system is best for first in-first out storing and retrieval. It also provides access to all pallets in stock by picking from the front or back of the shelves. Additionally, this form of racking allows for increased flexibility because you can add wire decking to allow for storing products off pallets, as well. Unfortunately, since you cannot have shelves as wide as with other storage methods, you will need more single-deep selective racks in your facility than different types of systems.

2. Double Deep

Selective racking may be single-deep or double-deep. For a high-density storage system for first in-last out retrieval, consider double deep racking. Use this system if you retrieve entire pallets for orders rather than pulling inventory off pallets. Compared to other forms of high-density storage, double deep racking costs less and lets you use the most the shelving space. If you stack the pallets high, your lifts may need cameras and extended reach to get your operators to the higher levels. Even without extra-tall racks, to reach the rear pallets, you will need a means of extending the reach of your lift truck.

3. Pallet Flow Racking

If you store large numbers of pallets carrying the same goods, consider a pallet flow system, also called a gravity flow system. These racks angle the shelves downward to automatically feed the next pallet into the front of the shelf for picking. If you use a first in-first out system, pallet flow racking is ideal since the order you feed the pallets into the system from the back of the shelves is the same as the order you will pick them in from the front of the shelves. Depending on the size of the racks you purchase, you could stack pallets up to 20 deep.

4. Drive-In Racking

When you have shelving that allows trucks to drive through them, you have a drive-in, also known as a drive-through, system. Use this system for storing large amounts of inventory in a compact space. The design of the racks and shelves allow you to stack pallets up to seven high and 12 deep. Though this system provides for storing almost twice as much as a selective racking system, you only will have up to 60 percent use. The method best for drive-in racking is last in-first out. Despite its benefits, this racking system has some downsides. The care required by the lift truck driver may slow the rate of picking and storage. Additionally, you can only store products with overall uniform sizes on the pallets.

5. Drive-Through Racking

Drive-through racks have a similar design to drive-in systems, but you can drive a lift truck all the way through the tunnel, whereas drive-in systems have a dead-end in them. Since you can access both sides, this system allows for first in-first out methods.

6. Pushback Racks

If you implement a first in-last out system, consider pushback racking. This system pushes each pallet on a cart back on the shelves as you load in new ones. Though you can have these racks filled up to six-deep, most warehouse operators opt for only two deep. Unlike other systems, you cannot store partially filled pallets on a pushback system. Though you can use almost all of the available space, these racks can cause damage to pallets that should not touch each other.

Choosing the Right Pallet Racking System

Depending on your operations, you may find one pallet system more beneficial to your warehouse’s needs than another. Several factors will play into helping you make the right choice for your storage facility.

  • Storage method: Do you use first in-last out or first in-first out systems? The answer will narrow down the racking systems available to you. For first in-last out options, pushback racks are a good choice. Racking options for first in-first out include drive-in, pallet flow and selective racking.
  • Moving equipment: Do you have equipment available to reach shelves above standard height? You may not be able to stack pallets several shelves high if you do not also have the retrieval equipment to safely and quickly remove them.
  • Space available: How much space do you have for racks? Will racks that require aisles in the front and back fit into your warehouse? Do you need a system that only requires access from the front? If you want to install as many shelves as possible in your warehouse, reduce the number of aisles you have by selecting racking systems that load and pull from the front only.
  • Type of storage: Do you need to break up pallets to retrieve inventory from them? You may not be able to use double deep or other high-capacity storage systems if you regularly need partial pallets.
  • Inventory stored: The type and weight of the inventory you store will help you choose the load capacity of the pallet racking system you need. The sizes of the pallets will also help you find the right size uprights and beams.
  • Storage use: Not all racking systems allow you to use every inch of storage space. Some types have greater space use than others. Drive-in racking, while convenient, does not allow for using as much use of the storage space as selective racking.
  • Inventory type: Do you have multiple product types you store? Or is your warehouse filled with a smaller variety of products kept in large volumes? You may benefit from a double deep storage method if your facility houses considerable quantities of the same product. However, consider a single-deep storage option if you keep a wider variety of items on hand.
  • Location: One other factor you should consider when choosing racking systems is your location. If you are in an earthquake-prone area, you may need stronger racks to prevent product loss or injury if an earthquake occurs.

Racking Systems for the Future

A racking system is an investment, and you will want the type you choose to serve you today and tomorrow. Future changes in the warehouse and distribution industries will require faster picking times. By 2028, predictions from industry leaders suggest 40 percent of products will ship in two hours or less. How will your facility prepare for this scenario in under a decade? The pallet racking system you choose may have a role in your facility’s preparedness.

Though pallet racks have mainly remained the same over the years, their uses and placement in facilities have changed to allow for automated storage and retrieval systems or to reduce the picking time. Will the system you install now be capable of handling the substantial needs of future delivery times?

Determining the Sizes of Pallet Rack Uprights and Beams

One of the most critical attributes of creating a racking system is the size of the components. You need to select the uprights and beams that will accommodate the size and number of pallets you want to store. Getting the right size of these parts is even more important than knowing how to build pallet racking because you can have the racks professionally installed.

Determine the pallet sizes and how many you will have per shelf. Measure your pallets and the heights of the loads you store on them. When considering height between beams, add at least 6 inches above the tallest products you will store. Also, allow for storage on all sides around the pallets when calculating the depth. If you have a system that will enable stacking pallets, consider that when choosing the height for the uprights.

Typical pallet rack bays measure 96 inches wide and 42 to 44 inches deep. These measurements accommodate two standard pallets. You may need larger rack bays for storing more pallets. The sizes also depend on the type of storage racks you use. Gravity flow racks do not require space between pallets, which is why you should not use flow racking for pallets with easily damaged contents.

For example, in a facility with an automated storage and retrieval system, uprights could reach 125 feet tall. Unlike racking systems of the past, which once averaged 20 feet tall, today’s systems average between 40 and 50 feet in height. With so many differences in the heights of the uprights, you may need help finding the right size racking components. We’re here to help you find the right sizes for your shelving system.

If you need help determining the measurements for your pallet racking system, contact us at T.P. Supply Co. We can help you find the right size uprights and beams for your needs. The exact measurements will depend on the type of system you use and the amount of space you need between pallets.

The Capacity of Pallet Racking Systems

The capacity of your system is how much the system can hold. Upright and beam heights both control the maximum weight your pallet racking system will support. Individual pallets may support up to 3,500 pounds each. The number of pallets you have will help you decide on the capacity of the rack. However, do not purchase storage systems that will accommodate a weight equal to what you will store. Always incorporate extra weight to prevent the racking system from collapsing.

Pallet Racking Installation Guide

How you install a pallet racking system depends on the type you purchased. Some installation and fitting methods are used more frequently in some parts of the world than in others, though you can find all types worldwide. The two primary methods are welding or bolting together the upright frame parts. In European warehouses, bolting is the preferred method, but in American facilities, most choose to weld the vertical pieces.

As with the upright frames, you have options for connecting the beams and frames. Some systems require bolting while others use a slotted system to connect the parts. Check with the manufacturer of your racking system to see which method they recommend.

Installing racking systems requires time and personnel you may not have available. If you want to ensure you have adequately installed storage racks, book our professional installation service. With professional installation, you will not have to worry about whether you put the racking system together correctly. Because the safety of your employees and the security of your inventory are at stake, how tightly put together your racking system is does make a difference in your operations.

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Pallet Racking and Installation

Whether you need to expand the storage space you have, replace aging racks or create a new storage area from scratch, let us at T.P. Supply Co help with your endeavor. While we are not the largest provider of warehouse supplies, we strive to be the best by offering parts directly to you. Since we don’t contract out our work, we can ensure you the best service possible.

When you order pallet rack systems from us, you have the choice of new, used or reconditioned parts to match your budget. We have in-house drivers and installers to make coordinating your installation much more manageable. From brand-name racks to individual parts and refurbished frames, you can find everything you need in our online store. Check out our range of pallet rack types and accessories to locate the right ones for your warehouse. If you need to customize your order, we can also help you with that through our easy-to-use customized quote toolContact us today for the pallet racking system your warehouse needs to maximize its storage capabilities.

Inventory Storage Management for Small Businesses

Inventory Storage Management for Small Businesses

There are over 30 million small businesses in the U.S., so you can bet there is a lot of a variety represented in that number. No matter what your company sells or how you sell it, one thing is sure: You have inventory. Some companies are small enough that they can keep all their inventory in a storage room in their retail location, or in a small warehouse if it’s an e-commerce business. Other small businesses may need larger storage facilities or warehouses to hold inventory.

No matter how much inventory you have or where you keep it, managing your inventory well is key to the success of your business. Properly managing your stock helps you satisfy customers, maximize profits and avoid headaches. Small business inventory storage can seem overwhelming at times, but with the proper storage and organizational practices, you can manage your store’s goods like a pro.

What Is Inventory Management?

What Is Inventory Management?

Inventory management comes down to being aware of what you currently have in stock, where to find it and what to order when. It involves three main components:

  • Diligent organizing
  • Detailed record-keeping
  • Careful strategizing

Organization permeates all aspects of inventory management, but it plays a tangible and pivotal role in your inventory storage. Inventory takes up space, and you should use that space in the best way possible. Arrange the items you have in stock in a way that is intuitive, consistent and accessible. If your inventory is not well organized, the other parts of the inventory management process become more difficult.

Detailed record-keeping is necessary because, especially if your business is doing well, inventory never remains static for long. New items are constantly coming in and going out. Each time a customer makes a purchase from your business, that’s at least one less item in your inventory. Every time a truck comes in delivering more stock, that’s many more items in your inventory.

So how do you keep track of it all? Very small businesses may figure out how to manage inventory effectively by using a digital spreadsheet or even a physical notebook. Most companies quickly outgrow this method, however. Even if you have the time and manpower to sustain this process, it still limits you. For one, this manual method doesn’t offer any analytics to show you which items are selling the most frequently, and which are not moving and may no longer need to be among your product offerings. That means you have to make those calculations yourself.

If the manual method is no longer practical for your business, you’ll want to keep track of your inventory digitally. You can do this through a point-of-sale system equipped for inventory management or through an inventory management software program. In both cases, software can keep track of each item through scanning the barcode or SKU code. You label and scan items into the system when you first add them to your storage facility or warehouse, and you scan them again when someone purchases them.

Whether you keep records manually or digitally, it’s essential to use these records to make predictions, then make smart decisions based on those predictions. What is selling like hotcakes and needs reordering in larger quantities or more frequently? What isn’t selling much at all? Ill-managed inventory can result in storage shelves overflowing with unwanted product or an out-of-stock notice that disappoints customers and loses you business.

Inventory Storage Options and Equipment Needed

Inventory Storage Options and Equipment Needed

Now that we’ve established the basics of inventory management, let’s walk through the door of your storage facility. This is where your inventory is, and it’s where much of the behind-the-scenes work goes on to make the sales that happen online or in the storefront possible. In a moment, we’ll look at tips for how to organize inventory for small businesses, but first, let’s talk about some practical aspects of storing your inventory.

Businesses that don’t have a storage plan in place typically default to stacking boxes or bins of inventory on the floor. This method, known as block stacking, doesn’t make efficient use of space, however. In a recent post, we discussed a few more efficient storage organization methods you can use. These include:

  • Using pallet racks — With pallet racks, which come in a variety of types, you can take advantage of vertical space and keep your inventory in pallets.
  • Using fixed shelving — Shelving is a great way to keep lighter inventory accessible and off the floor. You can use space horizontally or vertically.
  • Using a pallet flow design — Also called carton flow, this method is expensive, but it allows you to take advantage of depth to keep the oldest inventory in the front and the newest in the back.

How to manage inventory for small business depends on your needs. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you try to determine the best way to store your inventory:

  • How much space do I have to work with in my storage facility?
  • Do I have vertical space I can take advantage of, in addition to horizontal?
  • What shelving or racks would support the weight of my inventory items?
  • Does it make sense for me to store inventory in pallets, in boxes or out loose?
  • What is the shelf life for items in my inventory?
  • Which products should be most easily accessible?

If your storage is part of a warehouse used for packaging, shipping or other enterprises, this will also influence the way you set up your inventory storage. For shipping purposes, it makes sense to arrange it so your most popular products are closest to the shipping area.

If you sell an imperishable product, shelf life may not matter much, but if you sell a product that has a finite shelf life, it’s smart to use a setup that is conducive to the FIFO method. FIFO stands for first-in, first-out, meaning older items that entered your inventory first are also the first to sell, rather than remaining on shelves while newer versions of the same product get sold.

A pallet flow setup is designed to facilitate this method, but if your inventory storage is small and doesn’t use pallets, you can use freestanding shelves and have a system for taking products from one end, and adding new ones to the other end.

However you choose to lay out your storage facility, there are some basic supplies you need to store inventory effectively:

  • Racks or shelving — Unless you’re going to block-stack your inventory, you need either racks or shelving. You may choose to use a combination of both if you have some heavier items you want to stack in pallets, and lighter items you’d prefer to shelve. If you use shelves, you may want to also add bins to your supply list so you can keep items orderly.
  • Hand trucks and service carts — These pieces of equipment help you move bulky items in your warehouse or storage facility. Both hand trucks and service carts are on wheels, allowing you to roll items from point A to point B across the floor. Dollies can also perform a similar function, though they don’t include a handle for steering.
  • Lift equipment — If you have heavy items you need to also be able to move vertically, you’ll need some lifting equipment. A pallet jack can help you move pallets. A lift and tilt table can make jobs like sorting or labeling easier, since it allows the operator to raise and tilt a box of items. Depending on the size of your operation, you may even want a forklift to help you move items and place them up on shelves.
  • Rolling ladders — Unless you and your employees can reach the top shelf in your storage facility on your own, you need a way of getting up there. Rolling ladders allow you to access higher shelves anywhere in your facility. Choose a ladder that gives you the height you need, whether just a foot or 15 feet, and fits into your space.
  • Labels — Labels are important throughout your inventory storage area. Especially if you store items in bins, you need labels on each bin to show what item it contains. You want workers to be able to tell what item is in each container at a glance and to know precisely where new items go as they come in.
  • Safety equipment — If you have stacked heavy objects anywhere near where people will be working, you want to be aware of any safety hazards and do what you can to keep employees safe. Fortunately, safety equipment like aisle shields, rack guards and guardrails can help you do just that. Never compromise when it comes to safety.

Five Tips for Inventory Organization

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of inventory management and storing your inventory, let’s look at five tips you can use to help you organize your inventory more effectively.

1. Do a Physical Inventory at Least Once a Year

Using inventory management software is smart, but it still leaves room for error. After all, people still have to scan items for them to get counted. The software itself could also experience a glitch. To make sure you know exactly what you have on hand, you should conduct a physical inventory at least once a year — though biannually or quarterly is even better. This process involves physically counting every item in your inventory. To prevent complications, you should cease other operations in storage during the time of the physical inventory.

2. Keep Storage Clean and Orderly

How can you keep track of inventory and find a certain product when you need it if your storage is in disarray? It’s extremely important to keep your storage area orderly, regardless of its size. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to let things become disorderly over time. Especially when you add new products to your inventory, if they don’t have a designated place, your workers may end up putting them haphazardly wherever they fit.

Old items that won’t sell can end up taking up permanent residence in a corner somewhere. To prevent this problem, have a clearance sale to get rid of these items — otherwise, you’ll just be storing them indefinitely. People love sales, and you need an orderly storage facility where you can be confident you are using every bit of space.

In addition to being orderly, you also want to make sure to keep your storage facility clean. Accumulated dust and dirt present a health hazard for employees, and they may settle in places where you don’t want it, like on the products you plan to sell. You might want to hire someone or designate an employee to clean your storage facility periodically.

3. Update Storage Layout Annually

Successful small businesses grow and change over time. Are you selling the same products this year as you were this time last year? Probably not. As you find which items don’t sell and which do — a vital aspect of inventory management — and as you create or discover new items you know your customers will love, the products in your storage facility will change.

Because of this fluctuation, reevaluate at least once a year to make sure you are still using the optimal organization and layout for your storage facility. It’s especially vital to do so if your company packages and ships items from your facility. If you have newer items that sell like crazy, but they’re not in the most accessible place, move them to be more accessible. Make sure employees familiarize themselves with any changes to the layout and organization of the facility so they know where to find things.

In some cases, you may find a new layout calls for new equipment. Perhaps you didn’t use pallets before, but now you do, and you need a pallet rack. Instead of relying on methods you’ve outgrown, intentionally take time to determine the best way to store and organize your current inventory every year. After you’ve done this, make an updated map to show where items are.

4. Label Receptacles With SKU and Photo

You want employees to know what’s in each bin immediately. You could use a label maker to make small labels with a product’s SKU on it. However, the best way to label boxes and bins is with the SKU number of the item along with a photo. Even if someone doesn’t remember a certain SKU, they are sure to recognize a picture.

To keep these photos vibrant and in good shape, laminate them. If you’re placing labels directly on bins, affix them to the bin using adhesive-backed Velcro. The fastener will hold the photo on securely, but it also allows you take it off and replace it with a new photo if you need to repurpose the bin to hold a different item. You can also affix labels to the shelf to show all bins in a given row or stack contain a certain item.

5. Hire an Inventory Manager If You Need One

Depending on the size and scope of your business, handling inventory management may be something owners or general managers don’t have adequate time for. Since this is such a crucial aspect of your business, you should give it all the time it needs. If you can’t do this, it’s a good idea to hire an inventory manager — someone who can dedicate their focus to managing your inventory with excellence.

Before you hire externally, you may want to think about your existing staff and determine if anyone has shown the diligence and wisdom to manage your inventory well. If you hire a current employee, make sure you still provide training, though you won’t need to spend as much time as you would showing the ropes to a new employee who is completely unfamiliar with your storage facility and with the products you sell.

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Inventory Storage Solutions

Contact T.P. Supply Co for Inventory Storage Solutions

If you need supplies to outfit your storage facility, T.P. Supply Co has you covered. For four decades, we’ve provided the best storage solutions for our customers, and we’re confident we can do the same for you. In fact, over 90 percent of people who buy from us become repeat customers! When you order from T.P. Supply Co, you can also take advantage of our installation services to ensure everything gets professionally installed in your warehouse or storage facility. Call us at 877-302-2337 or contact us online today!

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