One of the biggest challenges faced by warehouse and distribution centers is a lack of available space. This can lead to reduced storage and material handling efficiency which can have a negative impact on the total productivity of the operation. Optimizing your warehouse space utilization prevents the need for expensive relocation, or the use of a third party off-site storage facility.
The goal of space utilization is to increase the quantity of inventory that can be stored in your current shelving and racking system in a way that is safe and increases warehouse efficiency. The right type and configuration of wire mesh shelving, pallet racks, and other industrial shelving solutions can help you boost the productivity of your warehouse. Here are 10 ways to improve your warehouse space utilization.
1. Assess Your Current Capacity and Space Utilization
You can’t improve on your current layout until you know exactly which areas work and which don’t. Assessing your current space utilization is an essential first step toward optimizing the available space in your warehouse.
Gather quantifiable data on your total warehouse space, current rack and shelving configurations, storing and picking efficiency, and inventory management. Include seasonal trends and inbound and outbound product flow. There are many software programs that can help you to reconfigure your layout for optimal space efficiency.
2. Reduce Aisle Width
The floor space of your warehouse is determined by the aisle width and a poorly optimized aisle can end up costing your company time and money over the long-term.
Conventionally, aisles were designed to accommodate standard loading and retrieval equipment. However, with recent developments in technology forklifts now have a smaller profile and tighter turning circle allowing companies to boost productivity and save money by reducing their aisle width.
Reducing the aisle width means you can increase the number of storage racks on your pallet racking system making more room for stock. If you take your aisle width into consideration during the design phase of your layout, you can even reduce your overall footprint.
Design your aisles to the minimum width of your material handling equipment with clearance either side according to OSHA standards.
3. Use Vertical Space
The vertical space in most warehouses is a highly underutilized element of warehouse storage. Expanding your rack and shelving units upward increases your space available for inventory with minimal cost as you can simply build on your existing structures.
There are a few factors to take into consideration. When it comes to material handling on the upper tiers you may need to invest in additional equipment if your forklift can’t reach. A vertical lift module is an automated system that can run the entire height of your warehouse and protect worker safety.
You may also need to get a high pile storage permit depending on how high your industrial storage extends. Storage facilities over 12-feet require a permit.
4. Reassess Your Depth of Storage
In addition to increasing the height of your storage system, also evaluate the depth of your wire shelving or pallet racking system. Increasing the depth of your storage system can add stability to high structures and increase your storage density significantly.
Double deep racking systems are cost-effective and offer flexible configurations that can grow and change alongside your business. Double deep pallets can also help you to consolidate your SKUs and keep product lines together for more efficient material handling.
5. Consider Installing Mezzanines
One of the primary methods for increasing your floor space is to install a mezzanine area which offers an alternative way to utilize the vertical space in your warehouse.
Compared with expanding or relocating your warehouse, a mezzanine area offers a cost-effective solution to maximize space. Additionally, mezzanine installation is quick and simple there will be minimal disruptions to your normal warehouse operation.
Incorporate a mezzanine area into your current storage configuration and move picking and packing stations as well as office and staff areas to the mezzanine for improved productivity.
6. Consolidate Storage Locations
Often poor inventory management and overstock issues can lead to multiple items with the same SKU being located at various positions around the warehouse. This not only reduces productivity when it comes to material handling but also wastes space.
Consolidate your inventory into a single SKU location for easier loading and retrieval. In some cases, multiple SKU locations are due to poor stock visibility. You can remedy this with steel shelving and wire decking. Increasing the depth of your steel storage racks also allows you more space to keep items with the same SKU together.
7. Use Automated Storage and Retrieval
Automated storage and retrieval systems save you warehouse space by taking minimum aisle width out of the equation. With an automated system, you no longer need to consider the width and clearance of picking equipment so you can create an extremely high density storage system which allows you to more efficiently store more inventory.
Automated storage and retrieval systems reduce labor costs, protect employee safety and increase picking accuracy for a more productive warehouse operation. It also lets you have greater control over your inventory by keeping all inventory within a closed system that is accessible only to authorized personnel. This means that individual items can be tracked and traced back to the operator for increased security and accountability.
8. Right-Size Storage Slots
When it comes to warehouse productivity consistency is key. However, adjusting the sizing of your storage solutions to suit your inventory can help to free up a significant amount of space that is otherwise wasted.
Right sizing reduces the need for excess inventory and works to reduce the footprint of your operation. Right sizing includes using various shaped containers and flexible storage solutions. You can also implement a right sized slotting system according to the size and sales performance of the items.
Right sizing your storage can be challenging for products without a uniform shape. Bulky and odd-shaped items should have their own dedicated storage system of heavy- duty cantilever racks to accommodate these items in the smallest space possible.
9. Optimize Your Inventory
SKU rationalization has shown huge benefits for big brand companies and can help to maximize your warehouse space by optimizing your inventory. Many companies get drawn into a never ending cycle of overstocking to compete with customer demand. Unfortunately, the more stock you have the more space you need, and many companies find that their internal SKU codes overlap and reduce efficiency.
SKU rationalization is effectively decluttering your SKU system. However, it must be done regularly approximately every six months in a systematic way as to not alienate your customers.
10. Use Pallet Flow Racking
For high volume operations with frequent stock turnover, pallet flow racks can optimize your space by storing high density inventory in a small space and facilitating easier loading and retrieval. First In, First Out (FIFO) product rotation minimizes the amount of inventory that needs to be stored in the warehouse at any one time and using pallet flow racks can drastically cut the square footage required for storing inventory.
The Wrap Up
Optimizing the space in your warehouse and distribution center is the key to a more efficient and productive operation and can help to boost revenue for your company. For the most effective operation possible, flexible storage solutions and continued evaluation and assessment of your space can help your warehouse to adjust and grow to accommodate the needs of the company.
To find out more about our range of industrial steel shelving and warehouse racking systems, call Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. on (855)-969-4164 to talk with our experienced staff about how we can create the right storage solutions to optimize your warehouse space.