Food and Beverage Industry Storage

The food and beverage industry is a segment of our economy that nearly all Americans interact with daily. This industry is comprised of “all companies involved in processing raw food materials, packaging, and distributing them, including fresh, prepared foods, as well as packaged foods, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages,” per Global EDGE.

It is a unique sector in that, to truly maximize profits from their efforts, firms need to be operating in a way that maximizes the volume of throughput. Traditionally, these facilities are working on relatively thin profit margins – some even as low as 2% — so they are required to find fulfillment solutions that allow them to pack and ship their products as quickly as possible.

However, as labor unreliability grows and pick accuracy requirements increase, many of these companies are at a crossroads when it comes to optimizing their fulfillment operations. They are evaluating the question: “Is it time to introduce automation?”

Currently, they may be utilizing a less expensive storage system, choosing to instead rely on human labor for their fulfillment needs. However, they may be evaluating mini-load automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) or pallet shuttle technology to help keep their costs-per-pick at a manageable level. However, automation can be expensive. Alternatively, some can look to goods-to-person fulfillment options that do not require infrastructure investment. The goal for these fulfillment centers is simple: maximize throughput and minimize labor costs to help increase their profit margins.

While the industry continues to evolve to keep up with ever-increasing expectations on faster fulfillment and order accuracy, some common storage types still emerge among the top food and beverage distribution centers across the United States.

Common Storage Solutions for the Food & Beverage Industry

Selective Rack

Selective pallet racking is by far the most common style of storage within food and beverage distribution facilities. Typically, in this industry, decisions are made quickly, and there is not much lead time on projects. Selective racking tends to be quicker to install than other racking styles, and it offers a more durable option, which is ideal in an industry that relies on forklifts to the degree that the food and beverage sector does.

While other integrators never change their specifications regarding their racking configuration, we have found a creative solution that offers some cost savings to our food and beverage partners. In storage racks that are several levels high, we often suggest that companies in the food and beverage industry use structural racking for the uprights and the bottom few beam levels – the ones used the most and most susceptible to forklift impact – and then switch to a roll-formed option for the remainder of the beam levels. Though roll-formed racking is less durable, it is also less expensive and thus can provide cost savings with little impact to functionality in this design.

Drive-In / Drive-Thru Racking

Drive-in and drive-thru racking are common in food and beverage storage environments because it adds a denser storage option than traditional selective pallet rack configurations. These racking systems allow companies to increase storage density by storing more pallets in a smaller area because they require fewer aisles from which to pick. Typically, that means up to 75% more space dedicated for pallets than a traditional selective rack. They are relatively less expensive on a per-pallet-position basis and are ideal for companies that rely on LIFO (last-in, first-out) inventory practices.

While this type of storage medium has been popular in this setting for years, we are noticing that fewer facilities utilize this style of racking as its primary storage means. As orders contain a smaller number of products-per-order, SKUs become smaller, and fulfillment times shrink because of quicker end-user expectations, facilities rely less on the drive-in and drive-thru racking as dense storage mediums.

Pushback Rack

Also designed primarily for LIFO inventory management, pushback rack is a dense storage system that allows materials to be stored within a lane, with pallets being pushed back as new inventory is added. Pallets are stored on a slight grade, so when a front pallet is picked, the design of the storage configuration allows rear pallets to gravity flow down the lane to be selected.

In food & beverage, when FIFO is managed using lot codes or date codes, pushback can be a solution to provide more density of storage while allowing for the maintenance of FIFO. Operating rules must be in place to support this approach, but it is often done successfully.

We have found that pushback rack systems are often designed for 2-deep or 3-deep storage for food and beverage storage and fulfillment centers. That makes the putting and retrieval faster and easier than in deeper 5-deep or 6-deep systems, which is critical in hastening the fulfillment process. Remember, companies within the food and beverage industry rely on throughput to maximize profits. So, as order profiles continue to get smaller with a wider variety of SKUs, this configuration supports optimizing the throughput of stored products.

Pallet Flow

Pallet flow racking offers additional storage density and labor savings when installed within a food and beverage distribution facility’s selective racking. Pallet flow consists of a back-to-back selective rack with lightly graded conveyor wheeled flow lanes installed on rails within the racking. This configuration allows back-loaded pallets to flow toward a pick face with the help of gravity to move the pallets from the loading side to the pick side.

Ideal for FIFO inventory management, this system ensures that picking aisles are always stocked, which means faster pick and load times for the facility. While other types of racking can hold between two and five pallets per racking configuration, pallet flow can facilitate between as many as twelve to fifteen pallets racks, depending on the system. Facilities can also customize the racks for optimal flow by designing the structure to the size and weights of their pallets, meaning pallet flow can be among the most efficient storage systems available for food and beverage distribution facilities.

It is also common in the food & beverage industry to see a combination of pallet flow on the ground level of the pallet rack with pushback on the upper levels. This approach allows for alternating pick aisles & replenishment aisles throughout the facility to maximize throughput from a picking perspective.

Mezzanines

Mezzanines are great additions to any warehouse or fulfillment setting because they are designed to create additional storage locations at both the floor and mezzanine levels. They can be designed to include multiple levels, adding additional pick locations with each pick level. Mezzanines are typically free-standing, rack-supported, or bin-supported, giving warehouses and fulfillment centers a durable solution to increase storage capacity without expanding their facilities’ footprint.

Platforms can be designed and installed at a fraction of the cost of expanding the facility, which is crucial to a business operating on already thin margins. They are custom-built to support the exact type of products stored within the facility and can genuinely increase fulfillment speeds when combined with a conveyor system that gives those who are not at ground level the ability to transfer their pick loads without traveling up and down stairs or an elevator.

Carton Flow

Carton flow systems have two significant benefits to food and beverage companies: improved picking speeds and increased storage capacities. Carton flow systems use gravity to push products through a pallet rack on roller tracks, meaning as an item is picked from the pick face, the entity behind it (usually the same SKU) is fed to the front, ready to be selected. These systems are often installed within standard pallet racks, with tracks installed on the beams with the assistance of hangers. They can be customized to fit multiple sizes, so different SKUs (and their respective packaging) can be accommodated, whether stored in cartons, bins, or boxes.

In the food and beverage industry, these systems are ideal for each picking, as it makes the picking process easier and quicker for pickers. Instead of searching a pallet for a particular product, carton flow can be installed on floor level with selective or pushback lanes above, giving better access to the quick-moving products while maximizing storage space & minimizing the amount of travel required to pick an order.

Pallet Shuttle Systems

In the food & beverage industry, it is common to have many pallets worth of inventory on hand in the distribution center for the fastest-moving items. It is also common to have a need for expensive temperature-controlled storage – typically cooler or freezer space. Pallet shuttle systems can be a great way to provide very dense storage while still accommodating fast fulfillment speeds. A pallet shuttle system utilizes a deep rack structure (often 25-30 pallets deep, or more) and semi-automated shuttles (or carts) to move pallets into the dense storage.

The shuttles can be easily moved from lane to lane or level to level within the storage system by forklift operators. The same shuttles are used to retrieve pallets and move them to the front position in the deep lane system to allow for efficient picking.

What Storage-Type Combination is Best for Your Food & Beverage Distribution Center?

As is typical with most distribution centers and fulfillment centers, the optimal storage configuration for your facility will be determined by your products, your order profiles, and your fulfillment strategy. If you are beginning to assess your facility layout, the best place is to evaluate your system and design your storage configuration around a dynamic fulfillment process. If you have a facility in place and are looking to optimize your capacity or improve your operations, you may need to establish your opportunities for improvement.

Either way, we’re here to help. Give us a call, and our team of storage and fulfillment experts can talk through your business goals and challenges, perhaps even touring the facilities to determine the optimal course of action. Our team has decades of combined experience in determining storage solutions that can relieve the challenges caused by labor shortages, suboptimal storage, and poor facility design.

Let’s get the conversation started today!

Implement Forward Pick Area

For the uninitiated, forward pick areas can be among the most impactful storage solutions for warehouses and fulfillment centers stuck in what we call “day one” simple pick processes. These warehouses have products in static storage configurations throughout the warehouse and an area for packing and shipping. When an order comes in, a worker physically walks to select the products and walks them over to the shipping or packing area.

It sounds simplistic, but this is an inefficient process for most operations and is the lowest level of picking that one could execute. When we hear companies say they are picking from floor-level positions to pallets or carts, we tell them they are probably going about their processes incorrectly.

Why? Because in an environment rife with labor challenges, an increasing volume of orders, and increasing operational costs, forward pick areas can offer solutions to the challenges warehouses are facing today. Without a forward pick area, workers must pick each product from the main storage area, and transporting it to packing is an inherently expensive process.

Instead, by using a forward pick area, popular products are temporarily stored in a storage medium like shelving bins or on carton flow, located closer to the shipping area. Then, the forward pick area is restocked in bulk with the products with a high order volume. The idea is twofold: by shortening the travel distance required for popular products, you can reduce costs and hasten the fulfillment time for the most significant number of orders possible.

You also benefit from a streamlined restocking process, with separate, dedicated lanes for replenishment of faster-moving SKUs and your traditional picks outside the forward pick area for slower-moving items. This configuration allows you to assign efficient pick processes for your new, fast picks, while traditional picking can continue for slower moving items stored in reserve storage.
Within the forward pick area, products are stored so that they can be easily picked and sorted using carton flow or pallet flow, depending on the order rates and the size of the products.

In certain situations where the cube of the SKU is appropriately sized, you can increase the number of pick faces per bay, which can drive pick efficiency with denser storage compared to configurations of static racking that may hold a pallet worth of product when you are only picking the equivalent of a few boxes worth of product per week. The ideal forward pick area should have a week’s worth of product available to meet forecasted demand. The higher volume of product needed, the more likely you will need to utilize pallet flow or another larger storage medium.

There is also an added ergonomic benefit that can come with a properly designed forward pick area. Instead of having pickers bend, reach, and try to select a product that may be in the back of a static rack. By using carton flow or pallet flow, products are ready to be selected easily at the front of the pick position, expediting the pick, and providing an element of safety and comfort for workers.

While some warehouses may have investigated forward pick areas and scoffed at the initial investment in racking, they may not be looking at the long-term financial outlook of their operations. The savings on labor and operational costs can provide a return-on-investment (ROI) more quickly than you may realize, especially when you consider the increased throughput that comes with reconfiguring your facility and operations to include a forward pick area.

If you are looking at increasing costs-per-pick, increasing order volume, or even labor challenges, give us a call, and we can talk about forward pick areas as a solution for your facility. We can look at the throughput of your operations and your facility design to build a quick roadmap to an ROI that showcases why you should consider this solution. We know there is an initial cost that can be a hurdle for some operations, but by reducing labor costs associated with expensive picks, we can help you determine how best to move forward.

Misapplied Drive-In and Drive-Thru Racks

Drive-in and drive-thru racks are popular dense storage solutions for companies looking to increase storage capacity within their facilities. Typically, these solutions are best applied in environments with a high volume of pallets stored on hand with a low number of SKUs.

The two racking styles are very similar in that they store pallets on rails, which are attached to uprights that create deep aisles of storage that allow forklifts to drive in or through the system to select or drop off a pallet. However, they differ in that drive-in racking requires the forklift to back out of the aisle (making ideal for last-in, first-out (LIFO) inventory management). In contrast, drive-through racking allows the driver to enter through either end of the system (making some people think it ideal for first-in, first-out inventory management). Operationally though, using drive-through racking for FIFO inventory often creates lots of additional product touches and adds cost. Drive-through racking also requires an aisle for travel on both sides of the system, making drive-in racking a higher-density option.

In suitable environments, these styles of racking can undoubtedly be beneficial. They can help support storage density efforts with a relatively low initial cost. In fact, in an environment where steel prices are not as volatile as they are now, drive-in and drive-thru racks are typically around a third of the price-per-position as other dense storage solutions like pushback rack, pallet flow, or the use of pallet shuttles. After all, there are no moving parts and no mechanical components in drive-in and drive-through racking; it is static.

But in the wrong environment, drive-in and drive-thru racks can lead to unforeseen expenses, slower fulfillment times, and poor utilization of cubic storage space. Ironically, these negative consequences were likely all the problems the evaluator was attempting to solve in the first place.

How does that happen? To start, evaluators are looking at the wrong bottom line.

Because drive-in and drive-thru racking is the lowest-cost dense storage racking system, a decision-maker will look at and their area and determine that they can fit the same number of bays of drive-in as, say, pallet flow. However, because the cost of the former is roughly 30-40% of the latter, they will default to choosing the cheaper option.

That low initial cost looks good to the decision-makers looking at a project as an open-and-shut project but not part of an overall operational strategy. While that initial bottom-line number is appealing, they may not be considering that cost-based decision may end up with a wrong application or poorly utilized storage system. Operational costs can soar when drive-in and drive-thru racks are misapplied. Dense storage design is better managed with a long-term approach with a more strategically applied solution.

The trick with drive-in and drive-thru racks: you want to keep utilization high, so you need to keep the same product in each lane – front to back and the top. Ideally, you want more than one lane worth of product for utilization purposes – filling the entire depth and height of the storage system – for each SKU being stored. But what happens when orders change and SKU proliferation hits? Now, you may be storing fewer of a particular product, a greater variety, and those dedicated lanes start getting SKUs mixed. Now you may have to turn, rotate, move-and-return other pallets to get a pallet you need to select, adding several more touches-per-pick and increasing your operational costs in the process.

Now, consider that drive-in and drive-thru racking is a popular storage solution for the food-and-beverage industry, where temperature-controlled storage is frequent. You have to figure in lot codes, date codes, and other requirements to maintain the product’s integrity. It can be a real challenge to manage these inefficiencies while keeping utilization high, operational costs low, and discipline to those codes.

How Do I Know if I Have a Utilization Problem with My Drive-In or Drive-Thru Racking?

The challenge with knowing whether your drive-in or drive-thru racking is operating at its fullest potential – or if another strategy should be considered – lies in the fact that you need to be looking for that magic utilization number to know if it is truly working for your operations (or not). If you are not actively seeking to maximize your space, you may not notice that you are underperforming.

However, if you have a significant share of drive-in or drive-through racks and are finding yourself in need of expediting your orders, or you are looking at adding dense storage solutions, give us a call first.

Misapplications of drive-in and drive-thru racking can cause many unforeseen expenses and slow down pick processes intended initially for efficiency. Our team of experts knows how crucial operational flow is to a company’s long-term bottom line. We know the challenges associated with rising operational costs-per-pick and have the experience to design and provide solutions uniquely designed to meet your needs, now and with an eye toward future growth.

Storage Solutions for Third-Party Logistics Firms

One of the most common challenges we encounter with our third-party logistics (3PL) clients involves the ever-diminishing time expectation between when an end-user orders a product and when they think it should be at their door. To meet challenges associated with this trend, 3PL firms are consistently looking at ways to decrease pick time through storage and fulfillment processes.

For the uninitiated, the Material Handling Industry glossary defines a third-party logistics firm as “a business arrangement whereby logistics services, often including warehousing, are contracted to an independent business that specializes in such services and is not connected through direct ownership to the producer or factory requiring the service.”

Because a 3PL’s mission is to maintain profitable logistical operations of fulfillment within the facility – while not taking ownership of the products themselves – 3PL firms tend to prefer flexibility, scalability, and versatility. Typically, 3PLs are working on relatively short-term contracts with their clients (on average 1-5 years), so they want the ability to use the equipment for their current client on their next job.

3PLs are usually storing products for companies that fulfill small orders (for example, retail or e-commerce). This type of fulfillment is typically labor-intensive and costly, so finding the right mix of storage solutions is critical for optimizing operations. However, because their clients are frequently changing or renewing, 3PLs prefer standard solutions that can apply across various industries to allow these firms to be versatile in accommodating multiple pallets in multiple sizes if a client leaves or does not renew.

So, what are the standard storage solutions for 3PL? Let’s take a look:

Pallet Racking

Pallet rack is overwhelmingly the most common storage medium for 3PL firms. Traditionally, most of the industry will use a configuration of pallet rack at 54″ H x 40″ W x 48″ D with 2500-lb capacity beams, which covers most storage applications. That size is also ideal for shipping, as it allows shippers to be more efficient because they can optimally cube out a truck at that size with double-stacked pallets.

Small Parts Storage Solutions

To cover small parts storage, 3PLs rely on a massive amount of shelving and hand stack racks in their facilities. The products required to be most accessible will typically be at the floor-level, so sometimes those shelves are created by adding additional beam levels on the rack that currently exists (along with wire decking) to allow for optimal storage. If you do not have the racking above the shelving, you sacrifice valuable vertical storage space within the facility.

If more than one level of small parts storage is required, then we involve bin mezzanines. However, there are additional costs – both hard and soft — whenever other levels are constructed. Outside of the hard costs of the decking, lighting, sprinklers, etc., there is the soft cost of the additional travel time for the picker associated with the 2nd or 3rd level.

Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor (VRC)

When we introduce multiple levels within a 3PL facility, we typically enlist a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) to assist with moving single-load products vertically for storage or for picking. They can carry pallets, carts, cartons, or products to pickers or for storage on different levels, saving travel time associated with walking up and down stairs. VRCs can be assembled using single or double masts, single or double rails, and even some models can travel on an incline/decline grade versus solely traveling perpendicularly to the floor.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Because of the high cost and rigidity of traditional automation solutions, which are great for specialized, static retrieval and storage, most 3PLs avoid installing them. However, there are great on-demand automation solutions like autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) that can offer a great deal of support to 3PL facilities. AMR solutions are very portable, reconfigurable, and can be reprogrammed in a matter of hours versus the days or weeks it could take to disassemble and reconfigure some of the more extensive, static storage options. AMRs can improve pick speeds, lower labor costs, and provide other safety matters within most fulfillment operations. Plus, as needs change and the business grows over time, these solutions can scale and grow along with the organization.

Safety Solutions for Third-Party Logistics Firms

As with any installation, we recommend thinking through the safety of the employees, facility, and equipment within the design. After all, safety should be part of your operational philosophy, not just a mandate or requirement. When a project comes up, we provide warehouse safety solutions like mirrors, guard rails, signage, end-of-rack protectors, end-of-aisle protectors, and anything else that may be pertinent to operational safety. At the design and strategy stage, these can be afterthoughts, but we recommend getting everything you need when you begin designing storage solutions for 3PLs.

What’s Next?

While most 3PLs utilize some combination of the storage solutions listed above, we still see operations that require more robust set-ups like traditional conveyors, drive-in racking, and pushback rack. The size of the investment is typically determined by the client paying for the equipment.

Our team has decades of combined experience working with 3PLs across the country to deliver better storage options, quicker fulfillment processes, and greater order accuracy. We know that finding the right answer usually involves finding scalable, flexible, and portable solutions, all while being cost-effective.

We take that approach to every aspect of the fulfillment process, from storage and racking to the facility’s flow. If your third-party logistics operations could use a tune-up, give us a call today and let one of our experts learn about the challenges you face and provide solutions designed around your business’s unique needs.

Hidden Costs of Honeycombing

When working with our clients, we like to tour their facilities to find opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and optimize their operations. One common issue we run into is honeycombing, which is essentially dead space – horizontally or vertically – in a warehouse that results in hidden operational costs.

To be more exact in learning about this recurrent situation found in warehouses and fulfillment centers, honeycombing can result in three scenarios: (per Supply Chain Visions):

  1. The practice of removing merchandise in pallet load quantities where space is not exhausted in an orderly fashion. This results in inefficiencies due to the fact that the received merchandise may not be efficiently stored in the space which is created by the honeycombing.
  2. The storing or withdrawal of supplies in a manner that results in vacant space that is not used for storage of other items.
  3. Creation of unoccupied space resulting from the withdrawal of unit loads. This is one of the significant hidden costs of warehousing.

Honeycombing is a measure of how well a fulfillment center is using its capacity utilization. As expressed as a percentage of open space within a storage system, utilization plays a crucial role in understanding how much product should be stored.

As a guide, we typically aim for an 85% utilization. Anything above 85% can become operationally inefficient from having a lack of available locations. Anything under means you probably have too much free space that can otherwise be used to store additional products.

Typically, honeycombing is most common in dense storage systems, particularly with drive-in and drive-thru racks, which have deeper lanes with fewer picking access opportunities. However, honeycombing is also found – and is potentially more costly – in pushback, pallet flow, or other deep lane storage configurations.

Honeycombing can also be incredibly costly when we look at the food and beverage industry. Temperature-controlled storage is expensive, and managers are always looking at ways to reduce costs for storage. If their storage area is not designed correctly or optimized, the company is continuously wasting money cooling a room that is not effective in storing products.

Effective design and inventory management are required to keep costs down and operations profitable. There must be a strategy to hit that magic utilization ratio – and some analysis behind the storage design. With a simple, smart, and strategic approach to looking at honeycombing within your facility, we can help guide you to your goal of optimized storage.

If honeycombing affects your operations – and it is a good bet that it does – we would love to learn more about your operation and provide solutions that can help you reduce your costs and increase your cubic storage capacity. Give us a call today!

New or Used Warehouse Equipment

In the same way that one would evaluate the benefits of purchasing a car for themselves, many warehouse managers are consistently assessing whether to buy new or used warehouse equipment in their facilities.

Most of the same variables apply.  Do you want something sleek and new? Is long-term or short-term cost more important to you? Do you need the automobile for a specific purpose?

Whether they are expanding, relocated, or repairing the racks in your facility, warehouse managers have many decisions to make, which is why we want to make it easy for those in the market for warehouse equipment to evaluate which option is best for them.

Benefits of New Warehouse Equipment

  • Strict Permitting Issues: If your project requires stringent permits to adhere to local or state regulations, it may be wiser to use new equipment because you can select the exact equipment that matches those requirements. However, permitting requirements can often be met with the right preowned equipment also.
  • The warehouse is a “showcase” for potential customers: If you are giving tours or showing off your facility in some capacity, you may want to showcase the aesthetics that comes with new equipment.
  • A specific weight capacity, size, or specifications are needed: If you are housing specific products without many potential changes in terms of product size, weight, or packaging, you can optimize your capacity with new equipment by designing your racking to exactly match your needs.

Benefits of Used Warehouse Equipment

  • Cost Savings: With strict project budgets, businesses are continually looking for ways to save. Used materials can be just as reliable as new, without the high price tag.
  • Immediate availability, generally no lead time: It can take manufacturers up to 8-10 weeks, or much more in the current environment, to fabricate your equipment. Used pallet rack is available immediately from our 330,000 sq. ft. warehouse!
  • Need to match an existing system: Keep in mind that while different manufacturing styles are compatible, you should speak with an expert before matching equipment from different sources.

Did You Know About Our Certified Pre-Owned Program?

We are committed to providing our customers with reliable, quality products, which is why we’ve created our Certified Pre-Owned Equipment Program. The Storage Solutions Certified seal is only placed on products that pass our rigorous five-point inspection so you can buy with the confidence that you’re getting only the best quality rack.

Our Five-Point Inspection ensures products are:

  1. Rust-free
  2. Stored in a climate-controlled environment
  3. Produced by a known manufacturer
  4. Structurally sound
  5. Handled adequately during installation/dismantle

Let’s Talk!

While the above is a rather simplistic, high-level breakdown, the right answer depends on several variables that will be unique to your operations. If you need additional assistance or would like to speak to a storage expert who can connect you with the most appropriate equipment to meet your needs, give us a call today! Our team is on-hand and has the expertise to get the job done.

Storage Solutions Each PIcking E-Commerce

“Each picking” is a common style of order picking in the rising world of order fulfillment through e-commerce channels. With each picking, individual products or SKUs are selected from a storage medium instead of choosing an entire case or pallet. Once the order is complete, the picker transports the order to a packing area to be shipped.

Especially at a high volume, this process can be relatively highly labor-intensive, add to rising labor costs, and potentially cause delays in order fulfillment. Plus, because order sizes are getting smaller – in line with a rising share of e-commerce orders – warehouses and distribution centers need to be aware of various storage solutions that support each picking. This knowledge is particularly valuable as we continue to adapt to a rapidly changing supply chain.

light-duty-cantilever

Cantilever Shelving

So, which storage solutions allow for your warehouse to be best equipped to facilitate each picking?

  • Cantilever – Cantilever arms can be attached to pallet rack uprights and be outfitted with wire decks to keep products like clothing and other soft goods within a multi-level system from a picking perspective. This configuration can make continuous picking and replenishment easier for workers. Cantilever shelving can also be utilized as a creative way to put small-cube and slow-moving objects on a shorter pick path.
  • Carton Flow – Primarily used in first-in, first-out picking situations, carton flow uses gravity to feed products forward from a rear-load design. When an item is picked, the next case or object with the same SKU moves forward with gravity’s help to the pick face. This style of racking is designed for high-volume each picking where you need to keep operator travel low.
  • Spantrak Carton Flow

    Carton Flow

    Hand-Stack Racking – Similar to cantilever shelving, hand-stack racks are traditionally used for storing products that may be too bulky or large for standard bin shelving. This racking style generally uses wire decking or a solid surface to act as shelves within selective pallet rack with variable heights per row to best fit products in cases or cartons.

  • Modular Picking Carts – Modular picking carts are great accessories for pickers as they fulfill an order. They can accommodate and organize the storage of one (or a few) products of several SKUs, a regular feature of e-commerce orders. These mobile carts can also be configured to be either single-sided or facilitate back-to-back storage, depending on your products’ sizes.
  • Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs)
    vertical-lift-machines

    Vertical Lift Machines

    – The primary benefit of a VLM is the maximization of vertical space in your warehouse. For instance, a VLM may be capable of storing the same amount of small cube items that take up 5,000 square feet of floor space in a warehouse and transfer that into about 150 square feet of floor space, giving you a 90% decrease in your footprint. This goods-to-man solution allows operators to pick orders accurately and efficiently at a high rate by delivering products in trays controlled by your already-existing Warehouse Management System (WMS).

Which Solution is Best for Your Facility?

For the most part, determining which storage solution is right for you depends on the size of the products stored in your warehouse and how quickly your orders need to be fulfilled. However, that time keeps shrinking due to changing customer expectations.

Having an expert by your side can help determine the best answer, especially if you are looking at adjusting pick processes, facility layout, and storage optimization.

Of course, our team is here to help! We would love to get a conversation started around the challenges you see in meeting customer expectations, rising labor costs, and storage needs. With our “simple, smart, strategic” approach, we can develop the optimal solution to meet your needs. Give us a call today!

Increase Storage Capacity with Dense Storage Solutions

There can be many reasons why a distribution center or warehouse would increase storage density within their facility. Perhaps the company has grown but does not feel that investing in a new facility is the right move. Maybe they are changing their inventory strategy to combat future disruptions in the supply chain, so they want to add additional safety stock of popular products. They could even be adding a new set of products or SKUs and need to accommodate that capacity growth.

When a company is evaluating how to increase storage capacity, there comes the point in which the business needs to determine the best path to create additional storage without increasing the size of its footprint.

What do you do when you have more of each SKU on hand than you used to?

Dense Storage Solutions for Large Items

Pallet Rack Pushback Dense Solutions

Pushback Racking

  • Pushback Racking – Pushback racking uses a cart system that is pitched from back to front so that stored materials can gravity flow down into a pick position. When a new load is added, it pushes back pallets already on the rack. This system is ideal for Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory management.
  • Pallet Flow Ideal for First-In, First Out (FIFO) inventory management, pallet flow is created when multiple pallets are added from the storage system load end, and rollers propel pallets downward toward a pick position at the opposite end of the system, allowing for efficient picking and unloading.
  • Pallet-Flows

    Pallet Flow

    Drive-In / Drive-Thru Drive-In and Drive-Thru racking allow forklift operators to either drive in or drive through racking to pick up or drop off pallets. Because the system requires fewer pick aisles, this style of racking can accommodate a more considerable amount of pallet space than standard racking systems.

  • Semi-Automated Deep Lane Storage With this storage system, a motorized cart (operated by a remote) is used to pick up pallets and transfer it along the storage lane. This type of racking is very user-friendly and allows for quick retrieval of pallets.

Dense Storage Solutions for Small Items

  • vertical-lift-machines

    Vertical Lift Machines

    Vertical Lift Machines (VLMs) VLMs are goods-to-man picking solutions that help deliver trays of smaller products to a pick area. These machines are typically suited for small cube and slower-moving items.

  • Mini-Load AS/RS – Mini-load automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are a storage system that will automatically store and retrieve products under 350 pounds within an engineered rack system. These systems allow warehouses to have a smaller storage footprint by creating a vertical, automated storage system.

Several options are available, and the right storage medium will depend on the items you are warehousing. Once you determine the correct solution for your operations, you will also need to reconfigure your picking operation to maximize pick efficiency. Of course, we are here to help you throughout the decision-making process and be a partner that guides you to the correct decision.

No matter what challenges you are seeing, we have the expertise to match you with the appropriate solution suited to meet those challenges while accounting for future growth. Give us a call today!

Wire Partitions

Wire cages and wire partitions are common solutions for warehouses and distribution centers in which something needs to be protected, or access needs to be restricted. They are great for several uses within a facility and can essentially be constructed to fit any need you may have to keep individuals away from an area or keep something within a space.

These are simple, cost-effective solutions that offer operations managers additional controls over valuable products or infrastructure and keep employees safe by restricting access to areas of your facility to only the individuals who need to be in that area.

Common Uses for Wire Cages & Wire Partitions:

  • Tool/Storage Cages: Keep your expensive or specialty tools away from those who do not need to use them with restricted access.
  • Driver/Building Access Cages: Keep unnecessary people from traveling the floor of your facility by limiting access at public-facing doors.
  • DEA Cages: The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has specific requirements that need to be met to physically secure Schedule III – V controlled substances. These cages are ideal for pharmaceutical and medical companies, legal drug warehouses, and more.
  • Server Cages: Protect your information technology equipment like servers, routers, and more away from potential damage or accidents.

These products are incredibly popular because of the ease of installation – cages can typically be installed at a lower cost and quicker than other area restriction methods. Additionally, these products can be adapted to fit whatever need you may see. For example, custom colors are often available, custom locks can be added to your cages, and adjustable panels or doors can also be constructed if there is a need within your business.

Need to Know More About Wire Cages & Wire Partitions?

Our team of experts has decades of experience in outfitting warehouses and distribution centers of all sizes with wire cages. We know how these products can be customized to fit the needs of your operations. Give us a call today, and we would be happy to connect you with the appropriate solutions for your facility for today’s needs and beyond.

Productive Budget Uses

As we enter the fourth fiscal quarter of the year, we are often talking with clients about quick, simple additions, products, and new initiatives to try with the remainder of their annual budget. As operations managers look toward 2021, there are typically several options that can increase productivity, keep employees safe, or offer new benefits to your operations.

Whether you are sitting on $3,000 or $300,000, closing out the year on a productive note is a pivotal way to build momentum to start next year on a positive note. After a tumultuous year like 2020 – one that offered (and still offers) a high degree of uncertainty, this may be an excellent time to see a return on a relatively minor investment.

Below are four of the most common suggestions we offer our clients when they talk to us about the challenges they see in today’s environment with an eye on utilizing the remainder of their allocated budgetary funds.

Rack Additions to Support Facility Volume

Carton Flow FlextrakAmong the most common challenges we see from our clients is finding new and creative ways to increase storage volume and quicken the fulfillment process without expanding the facility’s footprint. Adding rack additions that can support a more efficient pick process is an easy way to see a return on investment without breaking the bank. One example of this would be adding carton flow systems or replacing full-width roller tracks with polycarbonate skate wheel tracks. Why? The beds formed with the latter option creates a full flow bed, adding flexibility without needing to reconfigure your racking. You can learn more about the pros and cons of different carton flow systems here.

Safety Products Focused on Employee Protection

driver-cagesWe have recently highlighted a group of warehouse safety products that assist facilities in adjusting to “the new normal” we are all experiencing. From building access cages to automated smart disinfection solutions, there are various products available to keep your employees safe. In a world where operations managers are looking to reduce labor costs and labor uncertainty, these products can offer a quick return by keeping your associates active and productive.

Safety Products Focused on Rack Protection

Safety Equipment and ProductsThe old phrase, “prevention is better than the cure,” certainly pertains to warehouse management. By installing warehouse safety products like building protector columns, end-of-aisle protectors, safety guard rails, or upright protection, you can prevent damage to your equipment that may arise from forklift accidents or improper storage methods. Our design consultants have decades of experience in seeing what products are ideal for any distribution center, and we’ve worked with businesses across North America as a trusted ally in their safety efforts.

Damaged Rack Repairs and Replacements

Damaged RackBy following the Rack Manufacturers Institute’s guidelines, rack safety surveys should be conducted annually at the very minimum. However, in warehouses with high traffic areas, narrow aisles, transfer aisles, or cold environments, the RMI suggests performing these surveys as frequently as once per month. If you have damaged equipment, we can recommend both pre-owned or new equipment, based on your needs. The preowned equipment we store in our 330,000 square-foot warehouse is protected from the elements and has all passed our Certified Pre-Owned standards, offering additional savings to the distribution centers looking to save on their replacement costs.

Let’s Talk!

Wherever you are in your project planning stage, we are here to offer advice and solutions to suit your needs. We are always looking for new ways to support our partners and clients, and whether you are planning that major project in 2021 or just looking to end 2020 on a positive note, we are ready to get started. Give us a call today!