A small warehouse that has run out of inventory space can be a host of problems including longer retrieval times for misplaced parts, increased risk of employee injury due to heavy lifting and bending for improperly stored inventory, decreased productivity, and more. But warehouse relocation or facility expansion can be a costly option. On the other hand, however, developing a floor plan within your existing footprint that maximizes every square inch of space can be a quick and easy solution that also dramatically reduces the time required between initial concept and final implementation.
So how do you utilize your storage space? The key is to implement solutions that enhance storage and streamline distribution.
1) Select Space Efficient Storage Equipment
It can be helpful to conduct an analysis of your current inventory levels and cubic order activity to find the most space efficient option. This can be done by working with a storage manufacturing expert who can often conduct the assessment based on existing floorplan blueprints alone. Once this has been completed, it will be easier to select from the various single-deep to deep-storage equipment options. Designed with the flexibility of building blocks to grow as inventory grows, modular cabinets can double storage capacity and cut retrieval times in half when compared to open rack shelving.
2) Take Advantage of Vertical Space
By storing up rather than out you eliminate wasted vertical storage and make use of every cubic foot to free up floor space for other uses. Vertical cube utilization includes the space above existing stored items, total building height, cross aisles, work and pick areas, etc.
Captive lifting and handling devices and pallet racking systems, which use removable, adjustable pallets do just this by storing heavy, bulky items vertically. These systems also boost departmental productivity by providing work-in-process/buffer storage that reduces work cycle time by locating work-in-process close to the next station. Unique handling devices on racking systems can reduce the reliance on fork trucks, which means greater ergonomics and safety on the floor as well as reduced aisle space requirements than those necessary when using a conventional forklift.
3) Design with User Safety in Mind
For a system that can accommodate large, bulky items too heavy to be moved by hand, while ensuring the facility runs at peak efficiency, the answer is an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) system. AS/RS systems offer safety features for the user through two options to access stored items. These access options—an external or internal bay configuration—ensure a seamless progression through the pick, pack, and distribution of a product.
The external pick bay delivers a drawer to the user outside of the tower structure. Automatically delivering the inventory to the exact location of the user improves ergonomics and operator safety, and the drawer can also be used to assist with lifting heavy or bulky loads. The internal pick bay stores and delivers inventory at ideal height for each usage in a well-lit work area. Additional safety features include an on/off lock-out/tag-out switch and an emergency stop.
4) Consider Current and Future Needs
Select inventory management systems that offer the greatest flexibility to meet the current and future demands of your business.
As warehouse needs expand, so do these adaptable storage systems. Modular cabinets provide the ability for reconfiguration as much and as often as needed. Not only can cabinets be moved – locked and banded, evenly when fully loaded without facility disruption, but drawers within the housing cabinets can be rearranged and accessories added and customized as inventory needs change.
Brad Barckert is Vice President of Sales for Vidmar, reach him at email@example.com
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