When establishing or upgrading a warehousing operation, it’s necessary to invest in storage systems like pallet racks. Racking systems allow you to protect and organize inventory, which is usually palletized, for efficient retrieval.
When installing and using racking systems, you may face several challenges. By taking the time to plan, you can avoid pitfalls and increase the efficiency of your business, meeting fluctuations in demand and improving your bottom line.
Poor Warehouse Layout
The layout of your warehouse operation plays a vital role in determining the best type of racking system for your storage and retrieval needs. Therefore, planning your layout is critical.
You’ll need to account for obstructions, such as support columns, overhead lighting, drain pipes, and sprinkler systems that may interfere with the ideal placement of pallet racking systems.
Many warehouse managers underestimate the importance of sufficient floor space in the shipping and receiving area, which can delay the process of storing goods received and preparing goods for distribution. Workers need enough space to break down, label and verify the contents of pallets before storage.
Racking systems allow you to store inventory items vertically, reducing the horizontal warehouse space needed for storage. The clear height can be a limiting factor, but you’ll also need to account for the reach of your forklift trucks.
High Up-Front Cost
Racking systems can be expensive to purchase or lease, assemble, and install. In addition, the complexity of the system and its density directly affect the price of the rack. If you’re starting a warehouse, you need to budget your project to maintain a healthy bottom line. You can reduce the up-front costs associated with racking systems by considering materials, assembly methods, and rack types.
Materials and assembly
Roll formed racking is the least expensive option per pallet position. It is also the most readily available and the simplest to assemble. Structural racking, which uses bolted or welded components, is more expensive to buy, more costly to ship due to the increased weight, and more complicated to assemble.
However, if you need racking systems for warehouses employing a high number of forklift trucks, structural racking’s increased strength and impact resistance is an invaluable long-term investment.
Single-deep selective racking is the least expensive and most common type used in warehouses today. Selectivity is high, but storage density is low. If you need to increase the storage density of your warehouse, you might need to choose drive-in/drive-thru racking or push-back racking. These systems are more expensive per pallet position due to the increased manufacturing complexity.
Qualified Personnel and High Labor Costs
You need qualified personnel to load and retrieve inventory items to gain the most from your racking systems. Unlike shelving systems where order pickers don’t need special qualifications, pallet racks require trained and certified workers to operate forklift trucks and other material-handling vehicles, limiting the recruitment pool, raising labor costs, and complicating the hiring process.
You’ll also need to ensure your forklift drivers adhere to safety guidelines, have adequate room to maneuver between racks, and receive refresher training.
In addition to the manpower needed to operate the necessary equipment, you’ll need a fleet of forklift trucks suitable for use with your racks. Ensure the forklift trucks you purchase or lease have load capacities consistent with your requirements and reach inventory at the needed heights.
Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), such as vertical lift modules and horizontal carousels, reduce the need for licensed and certified workers and specialized material handling equipment. Instead, the training requirements are comparatively low, reducing labor costs without compromising picking accuracy.
Inefficient Picking Processes
One of the most common problems in warehouse operations is an inefficient picking process or workflow. Regardless of the type of racking or storage and retrieval system you use, picking inefficiencies can cost time and money, especially if they increase the error rate.
Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) and directed picking systems can reduce the time your workers spend searching for items and increase the picking accuracy considerably. An example of a directed system is pick-to-light, whereby a sequence of LED lights assists workers in identifying the bins, trays, or bays in which the needed items are located.
Maintenance and Safety
Every storage system requires periodic maintenance to function optimally, but racks are more susceptible to damage from forklifts or improper loading than automated systems. As a result, you’ll need to inspect your racks regularly to ensure they are free from damage.
Since racking systems are not generally enclosed, there’s a risk of inventory items falling off beams, especially due to forklift impact.
You can reduce the risk of these hazards by installing guardrails, safety netting, illuminated tape, and column protectors. You should also ensure your forklift drivers are properly trained and receive periodic refresher training at reasonable intervals.
Another common challenge regarding conventional racking systems is avoiding inaccurate inventory data and other supply-chain problems. Modern warehouses often incorporate warehouse management systems (WMS) to track stock levels accurately.
It’s important to track current levels in real-time to ensure you have enough stock to meet constantly changing demands. Monitoring this metric lets you know when to order more, especially during seasonal demand spikes.
The use of barcode technology can simplify maintaining adequate stock levels and avoiding the accumulation of unsold, expired, or obsolete inventory items when using traditional racking systems.
Increase the Efficiency of Your Warehouse with the Right Racks
At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we know that choosing the right racking system for your warehouse can pose several challenges, and we’re here to help you meet them. Give us a call at (800) 589-7225, and our team will be happy to guide you through our selection of racking and shelving systems to find the perfect solution for your storage needs.