Fulfillment Strategy

Good news! Your business is growing! Now, what do you do?

Growth in business is often nonlinear. Instead, growth comes in stages. Like a staircase, businesses grow until it is time to invest in more people, technology, or equipment needed to advance to that next stage. Then, repeat.

Usually, the move to each new “stage” occurs when the cost of labor becomes higher than the cost associated with investing in new equipment. Especially when it is time to make that jump from “small” to “midsize” business, managers often debate which investment they need to make.

For those businesses in any growth stage, there are some excellent fulfillment optimization tools out there. These tools are mature, proven pieces of equipment and/or technology with a proven return-on-investment attached.

Let’s take a look at a few that we have seen be particularly useful to improve warehouse operations:

Modular Pack Stations

Modular pack stations are simple workstations that allow packers to efficiently right-size a box to a series of products, add void-fill, tape, and send down a conveyor to shipping once packed. A proper modular pack station will have everything ergonomically located and within arm’s reach from a packer. These pack stations optimize product flow, boost productivity, and improve your packing area’s floor space by keeping everything clean and organized. Workers are happier because they have everything they need at their fingertips, and accessories like ergonomic floor mats can be added to absorb shock and take the stress off joints.

Gravity Flow Racks

Gravity Flow Racks are perfect for packing environments in which identical kits are created from the same sets of products. The racks are comprised of a mobile cart with angled flow wheels on each level that allow gravity to deliver the next part in line to you seamlessly. If you have a gravity flow rack next to a pack station or area, you could put all of the components one would need for a day’s worth of packing, and then allow the packer to ergonomically access whatever part is required next. These are mobile, sturdy, and adjustable, with the ability to be accessorized to meet whatever challenges your worker has.

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs)

Automated material handling is another resource available to improve productivity in picking areas. Our partners at Fetch Robotics, a leading provider of On-Demand Automation, offer AMRs that do not require an integration with a WMS/WES and can be programmed to move carts from the storage/kitting area to the point of use line side. The carts could also be programmed to pick up packing materials or totes and return them to another area of the warehouse to be reloaded with new products/packages.

Value-Added Solutions via Simple Conveyor Lines

Conveyor lines offer a dynamic solution to improve productivity, quality assurance, and safety for a warehouse or distribution center. Conveyors also can give facilities the ability to move totes at higher speeds. However, conveyors bring with them the opportunity to add Value Added Services (VAS) to your packing process. VAS includes items like coupons, magazines, or marketing pieces that encourage the end customers to make another order. Adding VAS through conveyor has become increasingly popular in recent years and has helped e-commerce companies stand out among their competitors.

Pick-to-Light / Put-to-Light Solutions

Pick-to-Light and put-to-light technologies help with order accuracy and fulfillment speed by indicating when a specific product needs to be placed in (or picked from) a specific area. We recently put a spotlight on these technologies in an earlier blog (https://storage-solutions.com/pick-to-light-put-to-light-systems/), but these systems have proven successful for businesses in e-commerce or direct-to-consumer industries in which there is a high volume of orders.

Let’s Talk!

While these products and technologies all may vary in their ideal use for your business, they are all mature pieces of equipment with proven returns-on-investment attached. There may not be one perfect solution for you, but rather a combination of solutions that can custom fit your operations while leaving room for growth. If you need help getting started or making that decision to hit the next stage of your business growth, give us a call, and we can help find you solutions for every square foot of your facility.

Creative Picking Solutions

Warehouse managers can take solace in knowing that they may not have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to evaluating their picking strategies. There are some simple-yet-creative picking solutions available that can improve productivity, increase order accuracy, and reduce labor costs associated with the fulfillment process.

Identifying these simple, smart, and strategic solutions becomes even more critical as more warehouses and distribution centers adjust their operations to meet the ever-changing dynamics of the world we live in. We often see warehouses operating under the mindset of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, those working under that mindset may be overthinking – or underthinking – how to improve their operations. By finding the solutions that can deliver a near-immediate return-on-investment, managers can quickly and effectively improve the processes for their workers without breaking the bank.

Let us look at some of the simple, creative picking solutions that can smooth your processes:

Corrugated Bin Boxes

Corrugated boxes are like your typical, everyday cardboard boxes. However, they differ in that corrugated boxes are made up of three cardboard layers that make the boxes more durable, cost-effective, and offer a higher strength-to-weight ratio. They are created to be more heavy-duty than the boxes that may come to your home from an e-commerce giant like Amazon.

Because of their construction and heavy-duty nature, they are stackable, creating a better storage density for the picking items.

Corrugated Plastic Bin Boxes

Corrugated plastic bins offer pickers a lightweight but durable receptacle that is attractive, stable, and cost-effective. The layered design is similar to corrugated boxes and similarly provides a higher durability level than traditional boxes and bins. Corrugated plastic also does not absorb moisture and is dust-free, making it an ideal option when cleanliness is essential for a pick process.

High-Density Modular Storage

By incorporating high-density storage shelving, like UNEX’s Speedcell solution, workers can maximize their space, pick orders faster, and increase their order accuracy. These high-density storage options consolidate your picking area by dramatically increasing pick faces, bringing a higher SKU density, allowing for less travel and less time searching for the appropriate location.

Goods-To-Man Automation Solutions

The prospect of introducing automation seems like too large of an investment, but products like OPEX’s Perfect Pick® system offer a scalable goods-to-person picking solution that increases the pick process’s rate and efficiency. This, and similar systems, provide a low-risk entry to automation because you are introducing automation aisle-by-aisle to learn early if this investment is right for your operations. There are other options, like the Exotec system from our partners at Conveyco, that can bring a simple automation level to your picking process. These automated systems bring a high degree of sophistication to your operations and can be game-changers in the right situation.

Learn More, Start Today

We are here to help your warehouse incorporate solutions – big or small – to support your operations and keep your facility running optimally. You can introduce manual solutions that have a lower cost to entry and are easier to implement, or you could add more automation that brings with it a higher price and requires more training but brings a higher level of efficiency. Ultimately, the key is to find the right solution for where your operations are at.

If you are interested in these simple, creative picking solutions, or you like the idea of improving your warehouse’s operational efficiency, give us a call, and our team of experts can speak with you and identify solutions to improve the speed, safety, and accuracy of your operations.

Roll-Out Pallets

Did you know that, according to the National Safety Council, overexertion causes 35% of all work-related injuries? This type of damage is, by far, the most significant contributor to workers’ compensation costs at more than $15 billion and is also the top reason for lost workdays.

Also, repetitive movements, such as lifting and lowering, account for 34% of work-related injuries.

Let’s face it; how often have you seen employees having to bend or lean into racking to pick or load their pallet positions? By installing roll-out pallets into existing racking, you can prevent employees from having to bend or lean under racking beams. These pallets feature an ergonomic, smooth roll-out that provides easy access to full pallet positions.

Roll-out pallets are easily installed into any style of existing racking. Plus, our partners at Roll Out Racks offer a nationwide turnkey service, meaning they are available to help you service your racking anywhere in North America. They also provide quick delivery of in-stock sizes.

Some other benefits include:

  • Designed for any structural and roll-formed racking
  • Ergonomic access to the full surface of pallet positions
  • Installed easily to any existing racking – less than 10 minutes
  • 42’’ or 48’’ deep In-Stock throughout North America
  • Engineering Services available upon request throughout North America

If you are looking to improve the ergonomics of your workplace, give us a call. Our experts are on hand to share how these roll-out pallets can keep your employees safe and healthy, all while reducing labor inefficiencies in your operations.

Dense Storage Solution

Warehouse managers are frequently challenged to find efficiencies in their processes, their workflows, and, most often, their storage capabilities. With dense storage solutions, warehouses managers get a solution for their problems in storage capacity by storing more product in less space.

However, finding the right storage solution may not always be as simple as asking, “Which mix of storage mediums gives me the best capacity?”.

There are several other factors to consider, including inventory style, pick process, product dimensions, and much more.

Whether warehouse managers are looking to assess and redesign their layout, or they are designing a new facility layout altogether, dense storage solutions are certainly a viable option for increasing capacity. While the three most popular options – drive-in, pushback, and pallet flow – are relatively simple to understand, which is the best for your operation? The answer may be easier to solve than you may think.

Pushback Racking

Pushback rack is a storage system that incorporates a sliding device to feed several pallets into the same pick location by “pushing back” the previous pallet. The pallets then gravity feed back to the pick location in the rack as they are removed. This type of dense storage lends itself well to a Last-In, First Out (LIFO) inventory style because, quite literally, the last pallet placed in the pushback rack is the first pallet available for picking. Typically, pushback racks are capable of storing up to six pallets at each pick location.

Drive-In and Drive-Thru Racking

Drive-in racking and drive-through racking are both similar in that they are designed for forklift operators to enter the racking system for picking purposes. However, the difference is that drive-thru racking allows the operator to pass through the rack. Drive-in/drive-thru racking is a popular storage medium because it is typically less expensive than other dense storage options. However, these styles of racking also typically accommodate less storage capacity due to ‘honeycombing’ or storage utilization challenges.

Pallet Flow

Another high-density storage system that works with storing multiple pallets in a rack is pallet flow. Pallets are loaded into the back of the rack and picked at the front. Sometimes referred to as gravity flow or dynamic flow, this system uses a slight decline plane to store pallets, allowing them to “gravity flow” toward the picking position as pallets are removed.

Which Dense Storage Solution is Best for You?

Ultimately, there are many factors to consider when determining the best mix of storage solutions for your operations. Our experts are here to guide you and walk you through the process to determine what is the optimal use of storage mediums for your facility. We have years of experience with hundreds of projects involving dense storage solutions and the expertise to match you with the equipment you need to meet today’s demands, while also factoring in growth potential.

Contact us today to get started at 800.474.2001 and let us talk about your current needs and how we can help you plan for integrating dense storage solutions.

Narrow Aisle or Very Narrow Aisle

In previous posts, we have discussed how warehouse design is the foundation upon which an optimal operation exists. Finding the right mix of picking efficiency, storage capacity, and equipment is the key to an optimal workflow. The best time to plan for these efficiencies is at the design stage, whether you are starting a new warehouse or reconfiguring your current layout.

One variable to consider is the width of the aisles in your facility. Conventional aisles tend to be between 12’ and 14’ wide. However, some designs are optimized with narrow aisles, ranging from 8’ to 10’-wide. Even more extreme designs feature very narrow aisles, which can be less than six feet wide. With each degree of narrowness, storage capacity increases. However, as the width of your aisle decreases, so does picking efficiency (unless other pick methodologies or technologies are applied).

Finding that perfect mix can be challenging. However, there are a few key variables that, once decided upon, can point you in the right direction to fit the best design to meet your needs.

Conventional or Narrow Aisles? 

How frequently are forklifts going up and down your aisles? The answer to that question is probably the most significant determinant in adopting narrow aisles for picking products. If you need two forklifts – which typically vary between 4’ to 7’ wide – then narrow aisles may not be ideal for your operation.

However, all it takes is a simple calculation to see how much additional storage space you gain by switching to a narrow aisle. By reducing the width of your corridor, you can now fit more storage in your facility, and the transition from conventional to narrow aisles can bring an increase in storage capacity between 20-25%. Keep in mind, though, that there may be an increase in equipment costs if you need to outfit your operation to adapt to a narrow aisle. Also, your pick process may become less efficient because it may take more time to get from the storage area to your delivery area. These are all variables that we can talk you through as you evaluate your options.

How Narrow are Very Narrow Aisles? 

To an even further degree, very narrow aisles are an option for warehouses looking to get the maximum storage capacity per square foot. Very narrow aisles are typically between 5’6” and 6’-wide and can increase your storage capacity by up to 40-50% when compared to conventional aisle widths. That sizeable increase – imagine 1,500 pick locations instead of 1,000 – can mean a lot for certain types of warehouse and picking needs.

Very narrow aisles also typically require an investment, both in terms of additional equipment but also in outfitting your warehouse. Most lifts designed for very narrow aisles operate based on the magnetic strip (or wire guidance) embedded directly into the floor of your facility. However, if your operation relies on case picking, broken case picking, or each picking, then this storage design may be the best way to maximize your space.

Safety First, Safety Last

Lastly, in evaluating your options, keep in mind the experience level of your warehouse associates. They may have years of experience in operating forklifts in various warehouses with various levels of traffic. However, what happens when you reduce aisle size and increase potential traffic stops? Did you give them the proper training? Can you rely on them to navigate your new warehouse layouts? Anything “new” brings with it a safety concern for your warehouse associates and equipment.

Let an Expert Guide You 

There are many options when it comes to finding the best design for your warehouse layouts. Don’t worry. We have a team of experts with decades of experience in design and installation who have seen best practices in action and know that each operation is unique. If you are looking for some guidance, we are here to help. Call us at 800.474.2001 or submit a callback request, and we can talk about your warehousing needs and which storage solution is best for your operation.

Rivet Shelving Steel Shelving

Rivet Shelving or Steel Shelving: Which is Right for Me?

In most cases, shelving should be used as a simple storage solution in situations where you are looking for storage for individual case picking or each picking. In addition, shelving works well when associates are not picking entire cases, but rather individual pieces. Shelving also is ideal for picking situations in which a warehouse associate needs a high number of pick faces to keep their products separated, organized, and easily identifiable.

While both rivet shelving and steel shelving solve the simple storage need for “less than a case” picking situations, each of the warehouse shelving options has its strengths and weaknesses. For those evaluating the right option or mix for their warehouse, let us explain the differences so you may better determine the best fit for your storage needs.

When to Use Steel Shelving

Industrial steel shelving, otherwise known as “clip shelving,” is ideal for storage situations in which accessories like drawer units, dividers, cabinet doors, etc., may be needed to separate and organize products. This style of shelving is popular because it is easily reconfigurable, akin to an “erector set” for storage. This option can genuinely be customized to fit the needs of your picking process. Steel clip shelving also typically provides more weight capacity per square foot of shelf space than other types of shelving.

When to Use Rivet Shelving

Industrial rivet shelving is a simple storage solution for case picking situations in which bulk shelving is required to store cases of products. The design of the rivet shelving unit inherently does not require hardware like nuts and bolts; the rivets on the shelving beams slide and lock into place when connected to their corresponding uprights. Due to its design, rivet shelving provides more & bigger size options than steel clip shelving. Typically, particle board or wire decking sits upon the beams and uprights to create a surface for storage. However, in recent years safety regulators have been pushing for more use of wire decking due to safety and flammability concerns.

Need More Help?

There are many more shelving options out there, from carton flow to wire shelving to plastic options and more. Rivet and steel shelving are just two of the most commonly found options for warehouse and distribution center needs.

If you need assistance with more information concerning rivet shelving or steel shelving, we’d love to help. Keep in mind, as an industry leader we can offer a variety of warehouse storage accessories customized to your needs. Our online sales team is available at 317-442-8752 or click the chat below to start a conversation about your storage needs.

Driver Cages Building Access Cages

While safety is always on the minds of warehouse managers, crises can trigger an evaluation of your practices. Who can access your facility? How easy is it to get in and out? How are you controlling your visitor access?

The COVID-19 crisis sweeping the world is causing much re-evaluation of safety protocols within warehouses. Our Storage Solutions experts have been recommending the installation of building access and driver cages at the entry points of warehouses across the country because they are a simple, smart, and strategic way to control access to facilities, creating an additional level of security to prevent unnecessary contact and the potential introduction of unwanted pathogens into a building.

driver-cagesBuilding Access Cages Are Adaptable

While these cages are customizable to suit your needs – they can be ordered in any size and can even be constructed as free-standing entities – typical cages offer the security of restricting full access to your facility while still allowing some level of visitor interaction through service windows. The service windows are ideal for exchanging small package deliveries and paperwork.

Give Your Team Control Over Who Can Access Your Facilities

building-access-cagesStandard cages are equipped with a push bar on the warehouse side of the enclosure to allow for visitor access when required. There are also coded push-button locks, and remote control latches available as well. This way, you can allow truck drivers or other visitors into your facility if they need to. If they don’t need to be in there, they are restricted to a defined area. There are also accessories available, such as benches, that you can install to keep your visitors comfortable until they are addressed, and cage ceilings if additional security is required.

Increase Safety After the Pandemic

wirecrafters-cagesAlthough managers are currently concerned about “flattening the curve” and containing the virus, these cages have untold benefits for as long as your warehouse is operating. Warehouse visitors are often not aware of how busy operations can be, how loud they can be, and how easily they can be introducing themselves into safety hazards. Fork truck traffic and automated machinery rely on clear paths and can cause immense harm if accidents occur.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Think About Safety

By installing building access and driver cages, you are not only protecting your team and everything within the warehouse; you are protecting visitors from disrupting your business and potentially causing themselves harm.

Let’s face it: every facility can be safer. A time like this makes a perfect opportunity to make a minimal investment with a sizeable impact.

We work with the experts at WireCrafters to ensure that our partners’ warehouses are outfitted with exceptional quality solutions. Contact one of our Storage Solutions experts to learn more about these cages and take a natural step to make your facility safe and secure.

Delivery Expectation Changes

Some call the “Amazon Effect” a disruption. Some recognize it as an evolution of the retail market. While both may be true, one thing we all can agree on is how consumers are changing their expectations on delivery – both in terms of timing and specificity.

However, the “Amazon Effect” is not changing the retail industry alone. Shipping, wholesalers, warehouses, and other sectors that branch off the retail industry are all undergoing seismic changes in how to meet customers’ new levels of expediency. Essentially, consumer behavior & service expectations are proliferating through the business world as well. When people buy, they want their product as soon as possible. In order to meet these new delivery expectations, every point on the supply chain needs to adjust accordingly.

According to Forbes’ Insights Team:

Customer demands for ever more rapid fulfillment are forcing businesses of all kinds to warehouse their goods ever closer to intermediate and end-customers… Getting goods to consumers faster means “seven, eight or nine touches moving the freight to a network of warehouses and forward positions.” In short, says the executive, “that final mile is being redefined almost every day.”

When change is happening as quickly as it is, decision-makers who are “forward-thinking” are getting ahead of the curve.

Being “forward-thinking” means evaluating all aspects of your operations to maximize efficiencies — either by reducing inefficiencies or by introducing new technologies to meet your customers where demand is shifting. In a sense, you know changes in your clients’ expectations are coming if you have not already experienced them.

What Are Your Options?

  1. You could be proactive and adjust your operations now. Get ahead of your clients and provide a seamless experience in catering to their needs.
  2. You could be reactive and wait until your clients require you to change. Run the risk of your clients having a disruption of service when their needs change.
  3. You could never adjust to changes in your industry. Good luck with that.

When you are ready to explore your options to adjust to changes in delivery expectations, we are here to help. Storage Solutions has decades of combined experience in working with our clients and partners to optimize – not just for today’s needs, but for tomorrow’s growth as well.

essential solutions storage needs

As the COVID-19 crisis continues its lifecycle, businesses deemed non-essential are closing down across the country. Because our company serves many necessary logistics, construction, and supply chain industries, Storage Solutions is continuing to operate unless circumstances change. We were early to establish a COVID-19 Task Force and shift to a remote workplace, wherever applicable.

We also know that we are not alone in our essential role in our economy. Companies in the material handling industry are working safely to ensure deadlines are being met, and progress continues as well as it can, given the circumstances. We are seeing many businesses responding to a change in demand. Now more than ever, companies are seeing the need for flexible, dynamic operations and are adjusting how they work to meet those challenges head-on.

Our experts are always ready to learn about how the challenges are causing pain in operations. As our company is continuing to evolve, we have the expertise in providing essential solutions and so much more.

Let us know what we can do to help. Below are a few ways we are supporting companies who are running to the best of their ability to meet changing patterns in demand at a rate they may never have before.

We Are Buying and Selling Used Warehouse Equipment

We are here to help make sure your business and storage space has what it needs to operate as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Sometimes that means having an affordable solution. We hunt for the best-used equipment and thoroughly inspect every piece to ensure it’s 100% safe and ready to use.

If you are getting rid of your equipment, reconfiguring your warehouse to meet new demands, or relocating your operations, we are also here to help you solve the issues that naturally arise. Whether it’s tools, lighting, logistics, or anything else the job requires, Storage Solutions’ experience and integrated services approach creates truly effortless teardowns that don’t need your constant attention.

Plan Projects with Turnkey Solutions

Because we take an integrated supply and service approach, we can manage projects of any scale to meet your timeline and budget. Need to get permits signed off? We can do that. Need an installation schedule developed? That’s our bread and butter. Need to handle logistics? Why rely on another vendor when we can do that in-house. Our Project Managers assume the unexpected and work with you closely to give you a single point of contact and peace of mind with better command and more control.

Determining the Right Course with Design and Dynamic Solutions

We know that the best solutions start with the best designs (link to blog), and we are ready and capable to get started in providing Design Solutions to develop the optimal storage layout and pick process custom developed for your operation. We can address issues like SKU proliferation, the impact of e-commerce, anticipated changes in demand, and factor in costs associated with labor. We want to give you a flexible and scalable solution based on data and expertise.

We can also talk about how adding dynamic solutions like automation to your operation no make it more technology-driven, no matter what level of automation currently exists (if at all). Many companies are looking for creative ways to stay competitive in an ever-changing economy, and one of the most cost-effective forms of changing the way your warehouse works is to introduce these solutions.

Let’s Talk About Essential Solutions!

Whatever your needs may be during this time, we are here for you. We are interested in learning about the challenges you may face. Whether those challenges arose before, during, or after the crisis, we are ready. Give us a call at 800-474-2001, and our experts would love to connect.

We are here to serve you with the essential solutions that are necessary to keep your business optimally running. And, we are here to do so in the highest degree.

dense storage solutions

As a natural byproduct of business cycles, warehouses need to be flexible as storage needs ebb and flow. During periods of economic growth, these warehouses need to find ways to increase capacity without increasing the facility size. Similarly, as a result of new equipment or new inventory profiles, managers are often tasked with finding ways to decrease their layout’s footprint while maintaining (or even increasing) their storage capacity.

In our experience, many small-to-medium-sized companies are unfamiliar with the benefits of introducing dense storage solutions. Often, these companies are more familiar with a traditional, selective pallet rack option. Depending on your inventory, there may be an opportunity to install dense storage racking at this stage of a business cycle. But first, before you evaluate those options, managers should make sure they design the optimal plan.

Perform a Facility Design Assessment

Whatever steps you decide to take, know that your best bet for an optimal result may begin with a complete facility design assessment. Our experts can look at your layout and provide suggestions for the optimal design for your operation. Our experts can help you take the guesswork out of the process.

Integrate Smart Slotting Data

Primarily, Smart Slotting introduces a data-centric approach to optimizing your picking process. The tool measures operational and storage costs against the volume of your picking demand to give you the optimal inventory slotting strategy. However, this approach also improves your ability to increase capacity by moving SKUs to the best possible storage media types.

Are You Ready for Dense Storage Solutions?

If you have large quantities of pallets on hand for each item you are storing, dense storage may be right for you. Let’s look at the options:

  • Pushback: These are systems in which pallets are stored on a cart system on a slight pitch so pallets can gravity flow back down to the front location as pallets are removed from the system. Pushback racking is ideal for Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) inventory systems or First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory for larger lot/date code SKUs. These systems often utilize nested carts, which make the placement and retrieval of products easy.
  • Pallet FlowPallet flow rack is an ideal option for warehouses that operate on a First-In, First Out (FIFO) inventory system & have large quantities of pallets on hand per SKU. This flexible racking system can be designed to your desired depth to maximize your capacity & utilization of the storage system. Pallet flow systems are customizable and uniquely designed for your products.
  • Drive-In / Drive-Thru: Drive-In and Drive-Thru racking are similar in that they increase storage density & require fewer aisles in your warehouse. The main difference between the two is Drive-In racking is accessible via forklift by one end. Drive-Thru racking is accessible from both ends. Drive-In & Drive-Thru racking work best for operations with really large quantities of pallets on hand per item. The best applications have the same SKU stored from the ground to the top & from the front to the back in each lane of the storage system. To keep utilization high, it is also ideal to have multiple lanes of Drive-In or Drive-Thru racking filled with the same item.
  • Semi-Automated Deep Lane Systems: These systems allow an operator to utilize a semi-automated cart to move packages into dense storage racking. This system can integrate perfectly with both LIFO and FIFO inventory systems. Semi-automated deep lane systems are often 25-40 pallets deep & work great for operations that have lots of pallets on hand per SKU & relatively high throughput requirements. These modern systems are fast and extremely easy to use, also utilizing green technology to operate.

Whenever you are ready to talk about your dense storage solutions, we are here for you. To get started, contact us and we can look at your inventory profile and share how our design-based solutions can increase storage space and ultimately increase your warehouse’s capacity.