More space means more efficiency when working in a warehouse
Warehouses today face increasing pressure to become as efficient as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to optimize warehouse space, but this can be a challenge. As facilities get closer to reaching their maximum capacity, it’s not always clear how they can make more room.
As consumer trends like e-commerce have grown, warehousing demand has also risen. Consequently, average warehouse costs have increased over the past couple of years. Physical expansion isn’t always an option, so companies need to find other methods of increasing warehouse storage.
Here are five ways companies can do just that.
Maximize Vertical Storage
Perhaps the most straightforward way to optimize warehouse space is to extend vertical racking. Storage solutions can go higher than many people realize. As long as racks stay 18 inches from fire suppression systems, they can stack as high as manufacturer specifications will allow.
Warehouses should avoid storing exceptionally heavy items at higher levels, but higher vertical storage is ideal for light inventory. Even one additional level can substantially expand storage space if applied across the entire facility.
One thing to consider when maximizing vertical storage is how workers can reach upper-level items. If forklifts can’t reach the top levels, automated retrieval solutions are a possible, albeit expensive, solution. Installing a mezzanine can help, too, as long as the facility can physically support these structures.
Make Aisles Narrower
Another simple yet effective solution to increase warehouse storage capacity is too narrow the space between racks. Many facilities keep wide aisles to ensure forklifts and employees can pass through safely, but these spaces can often be smaller without jeopardizing safety. That’s because it only takes marginal changes to create substantial results.
Shrinking an average 12-foot aisle by just a few feet can save 20% of the area or more. These changes seem insignificant on an individual level, but if they occur across the entire warehouse, they add up to a more impressive figure. Most facilities can likely add at least one more aisle of racking if they make the spaces in between narrower.
When applying this solution, it’s important to keep equipment in mind. Warehouses should determine how much space their forklifts and other machinery need before shrinking aisles too drastically.
Use The Right Type of Pallets
Warehouses are complex environments, so seemingly unconnected factors can have a surprisingly significant impact on one another. For example, some warehouses may face storage capacity problems because they use the wrong type of pallets. While wood pallets are the standard for many industries, their weight and tendency to break and decay can create obstacles.
Plastic pallets have longer lifespans, often more than ten years, so they’re less likely to need repairs that could affect their shape and size. These pallets are lightweight which makes them easier to handle, so machines and employees may need less room to work with them.
Another advantage of plastic pallets is that they can come in a wider variety of styles and sizes. This allows warehouses to customize their storage solutions according to their space and inventory needs.
Reconsider Storage Containers
Many items can’t sit on racks by themselves, so warehouses put them in containers for more efficient storage. When it comes time to optimize warehouse space, many facilities should give these containers another thought. Since most facilities use a one-size-fits-all approach, they inadvertently create inefficient storage solutions.
Standardizing container sizes can seem space-efficient since containers may fill up an entire rack, but they’re often not. One item may fill a storage tub evenly, but another, differently shaped product may fill it while wasting half of the total volume. A more effective solution is to use various container types and sizes for different types of inventory.
It seems counterintuitive, but too much standardization can hinder organization. The most efficient storage solutions are typically more flexible and varied.
Reduce Unnecessary Inventory
Finally, most warehouses can afford to get rid of some of their inventory to clear up space. In the lean manufacturing philosophy, excess inventory is a type of waste. Many facilities store more of an item than they need to, especially in companies that see fluctuating seasonal demand.
Experts say that as much as 30% of companies’ inventory is either dead or obsolete on average. Warehouse managers should analyze their current stock to see if there’s anything they’re storing that they don’t need to. Clearing away this wasted inventory will create more room for other, more in-demand items.
Facilities with sudden demand changes can bring in trailers to expand short-term storage. This isn’t an effective permanent solution, but it can help optimize warehouse storage space in peak seasons.
There Are Many Ways to Optimize Warehouse Space
Warehouse space optimization can be challenging, but some solutions may be more straightforward than many companies realize. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but varying combinations of these methods can improve storage capacity in virtually any warehouse. As these facilities optimize their storage, they’ll become more efficient, cost-effective and flexible.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world. She has over 3 years experience writing articles in the industrial and tech sectors.