There are several racking and shelving systems for the modern commercial warehouse, distribution center, or factory. Every racking and shelving system is designed to meet a unique set of storage requirements, depending on the layout of your facility and the type of inventory you store. You’ll also need to consider your needs regarding retrieval and distribution to make the most of your pallet racks and optimize your space.
As a warehouse manager, you have to identify and reduce every cost associated with storage and retrieval to maximize your return on investment. As a result, you need to evaluate your options and choose the best type of storage system available to meet your specific requirements.
Evaluate Your Needs
Compare the average monthly cost to rent your warehouse, based on square footage, against the usable space. How much space is being wasted, and how much do you need for your storage facility to be cost-effective? Once you answer these questions, you’ll need to determine the average price of a new or used pallet racking system and how that can benefit your business.
Part of the order-fulfillment process is throughput, which refers to the quantity of goods you can retrieve and deliver in a specified period. Every choice you make regarding your warehouse’s layout and racking systems must account for throughput efficiency, ensuring easy accessibility for picking equipment and optimizing the flow of traffic.
Under some circumstances, depending on your storage costs, you can consider installing an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS). AS/RS systems include vertical lift modules, vertical carousels, and horizontal carousels.
If your expected return on investment from installing an automated system is low, a traditional racking system is adequate. The layout of your warehouse, ceiling height, and horizontal floor space determine which type of automated system is most practical. For example, vertical lift modules require high ceilings, whereas horizontal carousels require more floor space.
Automated systems can maximize storage density and order fulfillment. In addition, many automated systems use warehouse management software, which can alert you to when and where an order must be fulfilled, when to restock, and when products are set to expire.
In the field of order fulfillment, automated systems also often feature pick-to-light technology. Pick-to-light tech uses LED alphanumeric displays to guide order pickers to the inventory they need to retrieve. It notifies the worker of the location, type, and quantity required. This saves time and energy and reduces the likelihood of picking errors.
Choosing a Rack Shelving System
To ensure that you get a return on investment for your storage system, you need to choose the right shelving and rack system to accommodate your inventory and promote a more efficient workflow. The most common and cost-effective options include:
Selective Pallet Racks
Selective pallet racks are relatively inexpensive, adjustable, and easy to assemble and install. Selective racking is ideal for warehouses that store a diverse range of products where access by standard forklift trucks is necessary, offering a high degree of selectivity.
If you need shelving units instead because you rely on unassisted order pickers, always ensure you use the shelf space as efficiently as possible. Many shelving units provide more height between shelves than needed for storing goods. This can unnecessarily increase the shelving unit’s height, so consider adjusting the shelving positions according to the dimensions of your products.
In a mobile shelving system, the shelving unit slides along channels built into the floor. This is a high-density storage option for those who still want to use traditional shelving systems. Mobile shelving can be electrically or mechanically driven and feature a variety of safety mechanisms to protect workers. As the shelving units close aisles when not in use, less floor space is wasted.
Storing Perishable Goods
If you routinely store perishable items, such as food, consider evaluating your method of inventory rotation. Some racking systems are designed specifically for this purpose, for example, last in, first out (LIFO). If you need to create an environment where items like food are less likely to spoil, a climate control system can be highly beneficial.
For increased corrosion resistance in refrigerated storage facilities, we offer Midwest Wholesale wire shelving with your choice of a chrome-plated, black powder-coated, or green-epoxy finish.
Alternatives to Traditional Warehouse Storage
If you’re a small business owner who needs additional storage space for seasonal inventory fluctuations, but you don’t want to buy additional real estate for that purpose, you can rent a self-storage unit. Storage unit prices vary, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of storage unit cost and dimensions before renting a storage unit to store your stuff.
Managing Warehouse Layout and Aisle Space to Improve Efficiency
A critical factor regarding cost and efficiency in a warehouse is floor space. In many warehouses, horizontal space is limited. Warehouse managers are always searching for new ways to increase efficiency, and assessing your storage solutions to minimize aisle space can positively impact your workflow and productivity.
Using racks you can load and unload from the same point can reduce the aisle space required. If you need to reduce the aisle space between racking systems, always check the requirements of your forklift trucks first.
As material handling technology has advanced, forklift trucks have become increasingly compact. Combined with an improved turning radius, these new, compact forklifts don’t require as much clearance as older models: the narrower the aisles, the more dense the storage system. However, as the aisles between racks become narrower, the forklift driver has less space to maneuver. This can increase the likelihood of a forklift collision and damage to the rack uprights.
If you determine that reducing aisle space is the most effective way to increase storage density, always maintain sufficient clearance for the turning radius of the forklifts you use.
Assessing Damage and Deflection to Reduce Costs
One of the most important ways to reduce the costs associated with shelving and racking systems is to conduct regular inspections and augment your rack shelving with safety features.
Forklift truck collisions are one of the leading causes of damage to upright columns, resulting in deflection. Even when you find the ideal balance between aisle space and storage density, collisions can still occur due to other factors, like inadequate overhead lighting and driver error.
Also, pay careful attention to the load capacity of the shelving or racking system. Do not exceed the weight limit of the system. If you reconfigure a shelving unit or rack, you may inadvertently reduce its rated load capacity. As a result, it’s critical that you consult the manufacturer or supplier and the Load Application and Rack Configuration drawings before adjustment.
All these factors can save you money by allowing you to identify and address damage before it becomes catastrophic. Rack and shelving collapses can cost hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars and cause prolonged downtime during clean-up.
Find the Best Rack Shelving for Your Needs
When managing a warehouse, factory, or small business, one of your highest priorities is reducing costs. At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we know that the average cost of storage can be expensive, especially when every square foot of floor space is valuable. If you’d like to discuss ways to optimize your storage space and keep your costs down, call us at (800) 589-7225.