Your business may need more warehouse space for many reasons, like a boom in orders, over-stocking, or obsolete inventory. What do you do when you run out of room? Before determining that moving your merchandise to a larger warehouse is your only option, consider whether you’re making optimal use of your current space. Check out our seven professional material handling tips and tricks.
How Insufficient Warehouse Space Impairs Your Material Handling System
Warehouse space plays a major role in material handling, meaning all the steps of moving products and materials down the supply chain: storage, inventory management, packaging, and shipping, as well as handling returns, redistribution, and recycling.
Overcrowding complicates warehouse logistics. Once a warehouse or distribution centre reaches an occupancy of 85%, your processes lose efficiency. You may shift products temporarily to make room for new materials, use staging space for storage, or even let materials overflow into aisles. Consequently, inventorying, retrieving products, and moving around the warehouse require much less labour.
What’s more, an overstuffed warehouse can be dangerous to your workers. When operating in a crowded space with poor visibility, it’s only a matter of time before someone trips, gets hit by materials from a collapsed rack, or suffers a forklift accident.
How To Use Warehouse Space More Efficiently
You can improve your material handling system even if your available square footage and gross volume of products and materials stay the same. The following tips can enhance the space efficiency of your distribution centre or warehouse.
1. Add Racks Vertically
Many warehouses have a lot of empty, and potentially useful, space between the uppermost racks and the ceiling. Evaluate your available space and see whether you can extend storage up rather than sideways. Of course, before you add racking, consider any extra equipment and training your workers will need to reach higher racks safely and conveniently.
Depending on your industry and existing material handling system, you can choose between different types of racks, including:
- Basic pallet racking
- Carton flow racking with slanted panels
- Cantilever racking with protruding arms
2. Build a Mezzanine
A mezzanine is another popular way to expand warehouse space vertically. If your ceiling is high enough, add a mezzanine – essentially an elevated platform – to increase usable space. A mezzanine may be helpful to not only for storage but also as an office, a packaging or sorting area, and more.
A few things to consider before installing a mezzanine floor:
- Access. Where would be the most convenient and least obtrusive spot for a mezzanine staircase?
- Load capacity. Can mezzanine flooring handle the loads you plan to use it for?
- Safety. You’ll need a secure handrail for the mezzanine staircase and an appropriate fire safety system.
- Climate control. If your warehouse gets hot, the mezzanine floor will be hotter. You may need floor insulation and a targeted cooling system for the mezzanine.
3. Optimize Warehouse Layout
Consider your current warehouse layout and how it interacts with material handling. The right layout can help streamline your operations, make life much easier for your workers, and even reduce costs since you’ll profit from better order processing and less human labour.
Here are a few tips for improving warehouse layout:
- Consider aisle width. Can you reduce aisle width and add more aisles while preserving convenient access for workers and equipment?
- Leave enough room. Ideally, only about a quarter of your warehouse space should be for storage, while the rest should remain free for moving materials and other tasks.
- Arrange storage racks by size. For example, smaller items can go on a designated rack with more closely spaced pallets.
- Make picking convenient by placing the picking area next to the storage area.
- Keep the shipping area separate for smooth traffic flow.
4. Consider Material Flow
How long do materials and products stay in your warehouse, and what can you do to improve material flow? For instance, if unusable returned products gather dust for months, it may be time to consider more efficient redistribution or recycling workflows.
On the other hand, if overcrowding in your warehouse is mostly seasonal – e.g., your storage aisles are overcrowded at times of peak demand – you may think of short-term solutions like trailers for temporary storage.
5. Look Into Warehouse Robotics and Automation
Warehouse automation offers improved speed, productivity, and safety. By performing tasks like lifting, relocating, sorting, packaging, and stacking items, warehouse robots can free up your staff to concentrate on macro tasks, like designing more efficient storage and material handling workflows. Robots can also reduce the rate of workplace accidents that occur while employees handle heavy objects or operate forklifts.
6. Increase Storage Density
A higher-density storage system can help you hold more materials in the same space without overcrowding. For instance, you may consider replacing single-deep racks with double-deep racking. Push-back racking and drive-in racking are other dense storage options.
Naturally, you’ll need to consider how to move to higher-density warehouse storage without compromising FIFO (First In, First Out). For example, if you use drive-in racks, you’ll need a forklift to access the deeper pallets.
7. Think Out of the Box
Almost every warehouse has underutilized space. Look at all your open spaces and see where you might add storage without compromising convenience or safety. You could install shelves above doors or a hanging shelf above a conveyor. These solutions can be great for smaller items as long as the extra shelving doesn’t hinder visibility or access to nearby areas.
Finally, observe your storage area with a critical eye and identify areas that waste space. Do some material batches come in lower quantities? Consider using half pallets to accommodate smaller-scale shipments and reduce clutter.
Profit From Optimal Warehousing and Streamlined Material Handling With Encore Deliveries
Warehousing and material handling are easy with Encore Deliveries, a premium B2B delivery company with warehouse locations across Canada. Level up your logistics with our supervised, climate-controlled warehouses and advanced material handling equipment. Contact us today for a service offer.