BEST PRACTICES: Space utilization

Warehouse and distribution center managers constantly face the challenge to efficiently utilize space – and therefore reduce costs – while selecting material handling solutions that are specific to their applications and needs

12/15/2010


Warehouse and distribution center managers constantly face the challenge to efficiently utilize space – and therefore reduce costs – while selecting material handling solutions that are specific to their applications and needs. Considering the throughput of products at a facility can better help managers understand their warehousing needs, helping to uncover solutions that combine material handling products and storage solutions to enhance productivity and drive down costs.

Lift truck, rack choices impact storage density

Effective warehouse space design must accommodate increasing numbers of stock keeping units (SKUs) while increasing cube utilization. To achieve this task, there are many types of lift trucks in various configurations and racks to consider, as each provides a specific storage function. For example, rack options include selective, deep-reach, drive-in or push-back rack.

The type of lift truck also is critical to efficiently utilizing space. Sit-down counterbalanced trucks require a wide (10-foot) aisle to retrieve materials stored in rack. Reach trucks require a narrow (8-foot aisle), and turret trucks require a very narrow aisle (5½-feet wide). The trucks that work within narrower aisles allow for more pallet storage and less space devoted to the aisle. In addition to using the horizontal space more effectively, narrow aisle trucks can lift higher, better utilizing available vertical space.

Chart 1 shows the number of pallet levels accommodated and the square feet required for each pallet stored using different types of lift trucks.

As an example, when comparing four levels of pallet storage, the reach truck enables storage of more than 20% more pallets in the same space as the sit-down counterbalanced lift truck. The turret trucks increase storage by more than 30% compared with the counterbalanced truck. When the turret truck is used for nine levels of pallet storage, it increases storage density 70% more than the sit-down counterbalanced truck.

One size doesn’t fit all

Some warehouses employ multiple methods of storage, such as various types of racking or mezzanines. Combining different types of storage systems is important in maximizing warehouse space utilization. However, the storage mediums should be selected based on the movement of inventory.

The Pareto principle states that 80% of the activity in a warehouse comes from 20% of the items, and these items are the fast-movers within the warehouse. The next 15% of the activity comes from 30% of the items, which are the medium-movers. Finally, 5% of warehouse activity comes from 50% of the items, which are the slow-movers.

By separating the fast-, medium- and slow-moving products within a warehouse, throughput can be increased by optimizing access to the fastest-moving products. Easier access to the products that generate the most warehouse activity reduces time spent traveling within a warehouse, enabling more time to be spent handling products.

Fast-movers typically are stored in bulk storage and wide-aisle selective pallet rack. For companies using reach trucks, fast-moving products can be stored in narrow aisles. Medium-movers are often best stored in narrow aisles that are equipped with selective pallet rack, carton-flow rack or carousels. Slow-moving products generally are stored in very narrow aisles and utilize turret trucks, carousels and shelving.

Seek opportunities for storage

Consulting with a material handling expert can help companies identify additional ways to increase pallet storage capacity or enhance warehouse design efficiency. For example, there may be an area above cross aisles that can be converted to storage space. Or, it may be possible to add racking to the area above dock doors. By examining opportunities to expand vertically into available space, warehouse managers can utilize the existing area more efficiently within a facility.

Understanding the number of SKUs and the number of pallets of each SKU is essential to optimizing warehouse design for ideal space utilization. In addition, warehouse managers should evaluate the movement of each of the SKUs. This information will drive decisions regarding material handling and storage systems, including rack height and required aisle widths.

By properly configuring warehouse space and material handling products to meet material handling and storage needs, facility managers can take steps to meet their ultimate challenge to drive down overall warehousing costs and enhance productivity.

- Susan Comfort is product manager of narrow aisle products, The Raymond Corporation

Return to BEST PRACTICES: Finding the way forward



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
click me