Running out of space in a small warehouse can be a nightmare for warehouse managers. This can be due to reasons such as overstocking or seasonal inventory increases and can lead to a huge number of problems that reduce efficiency and potentially put warehouse workers in danger. Unfortunately, relocating or expanding a warehouse can be cost-prohibitive for many businesses.
The upside of tight warehouse space is that it forces managers to become more creative with their layout, warehouse racking, and other storage solutions to maximize the space they have. To help you improve your warehouse efficiency, here are a few storage tricks for small warehouses.
1. Use Industrial Shelving
For some businesses, it may appear more cost effective to have your pallets stacked tidily on the warehouse floor as there is no initial cost associated with building and materials. However, no matter how organized your system, there is only so much floor space available, and you cannot safely stack pallets vertically without the proper structure for support.
Industrial shelving such as warehouse racking and wire shelving are a worthwhile investment as they not only help to organize your inventory, but they also protect your product from damage, improve warehouse safety and increase efficiency and productivity with the right layout.
2. Build Up
The next logical step following the installation of industrial shelving is to use the vertical space in the warehouse. Vertical space is typically wasted space, and adding additional levels allows you to store more inventory in a tighter space without resorting to expansion.
Before adding additional levels to your current racking and shelving system, you will need to consider a few things, such as how you will access these higher levels. If your forklifts do not reach the upper levels, you may have to weigh the cost of adding upper levels against the cost of buying new forklifts. You could install a vertical lift module, which is an automated system that eliminates the need for forklifts and can be built to the entire height of the building.
You may also need to check whether you need a high pile storage permit which is typically required for storage facilities over 12-feet.
3. Reduce Aisle Width
When designing a warehouse layout, there are a lot of factors to consider as the layout should reflect the most efficient way to access your inventory. However, when it comes to aisle width, most warehouses leave a standard 12-feet aisle to accommodate forklifts and other picking equipment.
For some warehouses, a wide aisle is an absolute ergonomic necessity, but for others, a reduction in aisle width can free up to 15% of your current warehouse floor space. Before you decide to reduce the aisles, consider how workers can move and access inventory. Smaller forklifts or an automated storage and retrieval system that reduces the number of staff needed on the warehouse floor are good options.
4. Use Various Sized Containers
Since consistency is the bedrock of any successful warehouse operation, using different sized storage containers may seem counterintuitive. However, much of the dead space found in any warehouse can be found inside poorly fitted storage containers due to a one-size-fits-all approach to storing all types of inventory.
Using containers designed to fit around items eliminates this wasted space allowing you to place more stock in a tighter area. But, for this trick to be effective, reconsider your shelving and racking system. A flexible system should allow for various sized containers to be stored without wasted space between containers and shelving.
A small warehouse doesn’t need to reduce your efficiency or productivity; on the contrary, a little creativity with the space you have can dramatically improve your warehouse operation.