One of the most frequent themes we hear from clients when discussing layout and design projects is that space capacity is a concern in the current facility. If a new facility is not in the future for your company, how can you continue growing sales and inventory, knowing you only have the current space to work with. Let’s make the assumption that your company is already fine-tuning inventory forecasting and removing excess and aged inventory – what are the next steps?
This article looks at some of the ways changes to the layout and design can help to improve capacity and extend the life expectancy of the current space.
Install New Rack Bays
A little bit of creativity is needed when trying to squeeze every ounce of possible capacity out of your facility. Think of places you might not normally install racking but makes sense in these special scenarios.
Over the dock doors is commonplace to put new rack in this situation. Ensure that the uprights fall between the doors and the first beam level is high enough to not impede the loading and unloading of trucks. This new storage space is great for empty pallets, corrugate, and document storage, opening up more valuable rack space in the facility.
Another place to consider is along the back or side walls, provided there is still adequate turning space for the Material Handling Equipment.
Install Tunnels in Your Existing Aisles
Do your current rack aisles have a pass-through halfway between the front and the back of the facility? If this pass-through is not already a tunnel, this is a great place to gain some capacity. Ensuring enough space is left between the ground and the first beam level for lifts to pass under, several levels can be gained per new tunnel bay.
Decrease Aisle Widths
How wide are your current aisles? Are they classified as a standard aisle (12-14 feet), a narrow aisle (9-11 feet), or a very narrow aisle (5-7 feet)? By moving down a tier or two in aisle classification, you can create enough space to add additional aisles to your layout.
This change would require a fair amount of work to execute while still trying to operate. It would also require new material handling equipment that can operate in the new aisle widths. However, if executed, it could allow for a substantial increase in capacity.
Add Additional Beams to Existing Bays
If you were to walk through your facility, would you see a lot of wasted space above the top of the product within the racking? Meaning, are you storing a lot of short pallets in tall pallet positions, not utilizing all available cube storage within the bay?
If so, does it make sense to add additional beam levels to create two additional pallet positions? Find where this makes sense to do in the entire facility. It’s imperative to not just use the location but to use the entire available space within the location.
This can also come into play on the pick path. Does it make sense to make pick slots smaller at the expense of increased replenishment? Smaller pick slots mean you can fit more within a smaller footprint, opening up the vacated space for additional bulk storage.
Remove Rack to Make Space for Bulk Floor Storage
Do you have products that are easily stackable on itself without causing damage or stability concerns? It’s important to note that you need a lot of the same products that answer that question with a yes.
It may make sense to remove a portion of the racking to make room for floor slotting and storage. The density that can be achieved by stacking three pallets high and two or three pallets deep is denser per square foot than what can be achieved within racking. However, to utilize this type of floor density, you must have enough pallets of the same SKU for it to make sense, otherwise, you are double and triple handling pallets to get the one you need. Each lane must be the same SKU.
Install a Mezzanine
Are there functions, such as kitting or other value add services, being performed at the ground level today resulting in wasted space overhead? These areas could be excellent opportunities for a mezzanine – whether structural or rack-supported mezzanine.
A mezzanine would allow for the work being performed on the ground level to continue while also giving an additional level overhead to be used for storage etc.
Determine if Automation is an Option
There are a lot of innovative and new ideas in the material handling world surrounding goods to person and automation. The Perfect Pick by Opex, the AutoStore, and VLMs all provide dense storage of product while also providing increased efficiency in picking. However, the product type and order profiles must make sense for your business to make these automation options feasible.
The ideas above are not a complete list but a good first step in helping determine if additional storage capacity can be gained in your facility or not. It helps to get creative, think outside the box, and really examine the current layout for improvements, not just thinking about adding more.