A warehouse occupied at more than 85% of its capacity spells trouble. An overly congested factory almost always implies more work. You may discover your staff creating extra space in unsafe or unauthorized areas of the facility. Likewise, production floor workers often find themselves bogged down with moving items from one location to another only to get a product onto the loading dock and into the truck.
More often than not, staging areas within the facility account for the only available free space after your warehouse reaches 80-90% capacity. Consider your warehouse on the same lines as your three-car garage. The common problems associated with storage congestion become clear. If you own three cars, and all three stalls remain occupied, that means your space is at capacity. In this case, you must house your boat, snowblower, and lawnmower elsewhere.
Your solution might be constructing an expensive barn or shed if you don’t want those items sitting out in the driveway. You might consider parking one of your cars outside. However, this proposal is less than ideal considering the car now faces exposure to weather elements. The only other remaining options entail packing things around the vehicles, which will cost you time as you enter and exit, or consider investing in a cost-prohibitive parking lift.
Concerning your warehouse storage, you run into virtually the same issues once your facility gets too full. You must move items to access them before moving those same items back into place, where they’re improperly stored. This process invariably consumes valuable labor resources to the point that it may even require you to bring on additional staffing.
Regarding this, we checked in with PCH Technologies, a New Jersey outsourced IT firm that works with several leading supply chain management companies. Their senior consultants repeated that space optimization is among the most pressing issues facing expanding warehouse management operations today.
Accordingly, in this blog, we examine a few reasons why warehouses run out of space and suggest a few tips to prevent this from happening in the first place.
Why do warehouse facilities run out of space?
For starters, you could be running out of space because your business’ growth is outpacing your current warehousing capacity. If you or your clients are selling more items than in the past, this always commands storage. If the items are immediately available to ship, you pointedly cannot sell them to your customers. Indeed, this is a desirable problem to have because it means you are well-positioned to reinvest in space-preserving automation or, if need be, a larger facility.
Conversely, a less than desirable issue emerges when your procurement team over-purchases inventory. When planning your distribution, a situation may arise in which a vendor offers a considerable discount if you buy six months’ worth of inventory instead of the three months’ supply that you know you’ll need. If you or your purchasing team decides it is wise to move forward with a discounted bulk negotiation such as this one, it could be more costly because there’s nowhere to store the products.
Inventory that is too old or obsolete is another big contributor to congestion at many warehouses. This problem might consist of parts to a sparsely used assembly kit, damaged goods, or other materials that have exceeded their expiration dates. Ultimately, these items sit in the warehouse to only collect dust. In this case, the best practice is to discard them or, at a minimum, transfer them to a less-congested area of the plant if they can’t be destroyed and removed from the facility.
How to optimize your warehouse space
Returning to our three-car garage analogy at the beginning of this article, you would be remiss not to explore whether or not you can extend vertically. Moving your racks upward is perhaps the most basic way to generate more warehouse space without inducing a congested warehouse environment.
New facilities come equipped with fire-suppressing sprinkling systems. You can store inventory within 18 inches of the ESFR. If your building has high ceilings, extending your racks will produce a lot of additional space.
If you’re unable to produce additional vertical space with the racks you own, you might benefit from changing the type of storage racks presently in use. The types of storage racks are as follows:
- Pallet Racks: The most common type of rack. Warehouses are full of them.
- Cantilever Racks: This particular rack is designed for long inventory such as piping or lumber.
- Carton Flow Racks: These racks are best suited for first in, first out inventory processes.
- Mezzanines: A type of platform, this type of storage effectively adds a second level of storage to your warehouse. It’s one of the best tools for optimizing warehouse space
Additional tips for warehouse optimization
Mezzanines above floor-level process
Installing mezzanines in your facility is by far the best way to increase the storage capacity of your facility. You’re effectively adding a second story to your facility. If you can manage to establish a mezzanine in a shipping or receiving area, for instance, floor space in these areas is effectively doubled.
Minimize isle width
Typical warehouse isles are around 12 feet apart. If you can reduce that distance down to five feet, the added storage space will be substantial. Before making any permanent changes, evaluate your lift equipment. You must ensure that the isles spacing is suitable enough to allow your forklift to pass.
Storage containers and trailers
If all else fails, and you are completely running out of space, remember that storage containers and trailers can always be kept outside the facility. There are times when this is the only solution. If you can bring in extra trailers for temporary storage, you can avoid expensive shelving upgrades and building expansion.
Conclusion: no two warehouses are the same
Because no two sets of warehouse operational requirements are alike, optimizing your space at your facility often requires expert consultation.
WiSys, known for solving problems with SAP Business One and Macola Software, helps logistics industry professionals take back control of their warehouses by bringing unique space optimization solutions to their enterprises.
If you’re struggling with decreased efficiency and escalating costs at your facility, call us now at 770-955-3530 to find out how you can start maximizing your warehouse space today.