How to Choose the Right Warehouse Aisle Width?

Warehouse Aisle Width

Your warehouse layout influences your facility’s efficiency and the safety of your employees. A well-designed layout can optimize material handling and create a smoother workflow, resulting in faster storage, picking, sorting, and order fulfillment.

The warehouse aisle width between your racking and shelving systems is critical when planning your facility. It determines how easily your material handling equipment can move in and out of the space. Learn how to choose the best aisle width for your warehouse to increase productivity and enjoy a healthier bottom line.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Warehouse Aisle Width

The aisle width in your warehouse can benefit your operations’ success, such as improved employee safety and faster picking and sorting. Here are a few more ways the right aisle width can positively impact your warehouse:

  • Enhanced material flow. Your company benefits from a more streamlined material flow when you have an aisle width that suits your warehouse layout and racking systems. You also have plenty of space for forklift maneuverability, reducing foot and vehicle traffic congestion.
  • Maximized storage capacity. Optimized aisles increase storage density and capacity, making the most of your facility’s floor square footage and usable storage space.
  • Faster order fulfillment. Properly sized aisles allow for faster movement of workers and equipment like forklifts, facilitating faster picking. When your material handling gear has easier access to storage space, you benefit from improved inventory organization to reduce order search times. Appropriately sized aisles also allow for the integration of automated systems like AGVs to expedite order processing.
  • Flexibility for growth. As your business expands, its operational requirements evolve. You ensure scalability by designing aisles that can adapt to different inventory types, volumes, and equipment sizes. This means you can expand or modify your operations without needing a warehouse layout overhaul.
  • Cost savings. Redesigning a warehouse layout can be expensive. By planning aisles that can adapt to future needs, your company can avoid or reduce the costs associated with major redesigns.
  • Damage prevention. Wider aisles make it easier for equipment like forklifts to navigate your warehouse, reducing collision risks and preventing damage to racks and inventory. Your workers also benefit from increased visibility, reducing the risk of mishandling goods.
  • Improved ergonomics: Aisle designs that enable easy access to goods reduce repetitive motions and strain on the body, contributing to improved ergonomics for workers.

High LiftScissor Lift Pallet Trucks

What are Industry Standard Warehouse Aisle Widths?

Warehouses typically feature three main aisle types: wide aisles (WA), narrow aisles (NA), and very narrow aisles (VNA). The type of aisle width impacts your choice of forklift style for efficient pallet placement and retrieval.

Aisle Type Width Forklift Style Application Key Features
Wide Aisles (WA) 11 to 13 feet wide Standard sit-down counterbalanced forklift Most storage applications with palletized products Accessibility for multiple workers or forklifts
Narrow Aisles (NA) 8 to 10 feet wide on average Stand-up trucks, reach trucks, double-deep reach trucks Space-efficient, increases storage capacity by 20-25% Operators stand, optimizing space
Very Narrow Aisles (VNA) Less than 6 feet wide VNA forklifts with guidance systems Ideal for compact spaces, increases storage capacity by 40-50% Various forklift types: man-up order selectors, swing mast trucks, turret trucks, Bendi-style forklifts

Explore the selection of forklifts and trucks at Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. Our selection includes all-welded heavy-duty platform trucks options, high-lift pallet trucks, and double-deep reach trucks, all designed to work across a range of aisle widths.

We also offer automated solutions and VLM options like Modula for dense storage areas or narrow spaces.

Modules LIFT

Factors to Consider When Choosing Warehouse Aisle Width

There are several considerations you need to think about when developing an effective warehouse layout and selecting the appropriate aisle width. Here’s a more detailed look at what to keep in mind:

Size of Your Warehouse

In larger warehouses, choose aisles wider than 12 feet. The additional space allows forklifts to maneuver more easily, particularly during peak operational hours.

For smaller warehouses, maximizing storage space is a priority. Narrower aisles less than 6 feet wide can help you use every possible inch of the warehouse floor for storage purposes.

Type of Equipment You Use

Before settling on a racking layout, always measure your material handling equipment, from forklifts and pallet jacks to order pickers and reach trucks. Measure the vehicle length, width, and load length. Also, check the right angle stack rating, which is the smallest amount of space a forklift needs to be able to turn and enter a pallet. This rating is usually listed on the forklift.

Then, use the following calculation to find the minimum aisle width for your warehouse:

Minimum Aisle Width = Right angle stack + Load length + 12 inches

The Nature of Your Inventory

Evaluate how inventory is stored, picked, and moved through your facility. Assess pallet dimensions, package sizes, product weights, and dimensions. Determine storage methods like pallet rack versus industrial shelving.

If you use bulkier, heavier pallets, you may need wider aisles for safer movement; however, if you have high-turnover items, you need more easily accessible locations and faster picking. A very narrow aisle width and AS/RS can help maximize your storage density and access.

Safety Considerations

Warehouse safety should be your first priority. Begin by evaluating the visibility of forklift operators in all directions around your racking. Also, consider the turning radius of your forklifts and their load-bearing capacity within the aisle width. And don’t overlook visibility at intersections and corners within your racking system.

One effective approach is to use simulation modeling software to enter your layout. This advanced tool can help identify potential collision risks and further enhance safety measures.

While sufficient aisle width improves workplace safety, it does not substitute the ongoing need for operator training in safe driving and load-handling practices, so ensure your staff is well-trained. Also, account for increased traffic during peak seasonal volume as well when planning aisle layouts.

Warehouse Layout Design Tips

After finding the ideal aisle width, you can continue to develop the rest of the warehouse layout. To ensure that your storage space maximizes your material handling efficiency and creates a smoother workflow, consider the following tips:

  • Logical flow. Arrange aisles logically to minimize the distance your employees and forklifts need to travel, consequently reducing the time spent navigating the warehouse.
  • Zoning. Divide your warehouse into specific functional zones, including receiving, storage, and order fulfillment. Zoning creates a structured environment that can prevent traffic congestion and reduce the risk of collisions.
  • Flexibility. Design a layout that allows your space to adapt to changes in inventory and scale in the future. A flexible layout ensures you can manage seasonal inventory fluctuations and accommodate technological advancements like AS/RS.
  • Accessibility. Make sure your layout is highly accessible to reduce material handling delays and speed up order fulfillment.
  • Safety. Integrate safety measures, like clear signage and designated walkways, into your layout to prevent accidents and injuries.

Improve Your Warehouse Efficiency With SRS-i

Your choice of the right warehouse aisle width affects the efficiency and success of your material handling operations. Find the best storage options at SRS-i, where our experienced team can help you create tailored solutions to meet the unique needs of your warehouse.

Contact us today at (800) 589-7225 to find out more about our products and get started designing a warehouse layout to help your company succeed.