Storing product is expensive. Whether the product is in a distribution center or manufacturers’ warehouse, the rising cost of labor, equipment, utilities, maintenance, and taxes make every square foot of space more valuable than ever. Therefore, utilizing available space to the fullest has become the primary focus of many operations leaders. If it is possible to increase storage capacity by somewhere between 10% to as much as 50%, it is well worth considering when comparing the cost of these approaches vs. add offsite warehousing, building expansion or a new greenfield warehouse.
Luckily, there are several effective solutions to assist in maximizing that space. Let’s look at a few of them.
6 Space-Saving Solutions
We will assume an existing warehouse is using sit down forklifts, has ten 14-foot-wide aisles, storing palletized loads in standard single deep racking. Let’s compare some common solutions and how they can increase total pallet capacity.
- Stand Up Forklifts: Swapping out your sit down forklifts for stand up versions like Raymond’s model 4250, will allow you to decrease your aisle width by up to 3-feet. In a warehouse with ten aisles, you just gained 30 additional feet of space. That could equate to two or three additional rows of racking.
- Narrow Aisle: This is by far one of the most cost-effective and common solutions to increase storage capacity. The reach truck, originally invented by the Raymond Corporation, is a stand up forklift which utilizes a reach mechanism and baselegs, allowing the machine to operate in aisles as little as a 9-feet wide. That is a savings of five feet per aisle, and in the same ten aisle warehouse, you now have 50-feet of free space to utilize. You may gain five or six rows of new racking!
- Double Deep Racking: Double deep racking is a variation to the narrow aisle reach truck design. The aisle width is a little bigger, but the double deep reach truck is fitted with an extended reach mechanism, allowing it to access two pallets deep per shelf. The result is twice as many rows of rack per aisle as compared to a standard reach truck design. In the same 10-aisle warehouse, we save the space for the aisles, but also double the number of rows of rack, which could equate to eight or nine additional rows of racking!
- Very Narrow Aisle (VNA): VNA machines, such as Raymond’s 9000 Series Swing Reach truck, works in aisles as narrow as 6-feet wide, thanks to the innovative ‘turret mast’ design and wire guidance. That is now a savings of 8-feet per aisle. In the 10-row warehouse, we now have an additional 80-feet of open floor space, and up to ten new rows of racking!
- Pushback Racking: Pushback racking utilizes wheeled carts which hold full pallets and are located on rails in a ‘lane’ within the pallet rack structure. Once a pallet is set on the cart, another pallet can be used to push the first pallet back, exposing the next cart position. Typically, pushback rack can be as deep as five pallets deep, creating a very dense storage system. This design can increase storage capacity of the same warehouse dramatically.
- Automated Deep Lane Storage: This is one of the newest offerings in the pallet storage arena. It is a great solution when there are many pallets of the same product, or when staging outbound trailer loads of material. Systems like Radioshuttle utilize a static rack system with a versatile ‘shuttle’ which when placed in a lane, automatically sends pallets to the other end of the lane, or retrieves them for pick up by the forklift. The design allows for a near limitless number of pallets per lane, making it an extremely dense and effective way of storing full pallets, and the cost is very competitive. With this system, you are nearing 100% space utilization and gaining as much as 50% over traditional options.
The Cost of Space
Keep in mind, there are limitations to each of these options, which need to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Additionally, there are many other solutions available, including those for less than full pallet storage, like shuttles and carousels from Kardex, and fully automated solutions like those offered by Bastian Solutions. Partnering with an experienced material handling solutions provider like Abel Womack will ensure that you take the right path when improving your warehouse and increasing your storage capacity.