Maximising space: It’s all in the operation

Multi-tier system offering 40 per cent space charge savings

With the ever increasing lack of stock in the UK warehousing and distribution market, it is becoming more important to maximise the space that you have available.  However simply maximising capacity may not be the right solution, and you should also be prepared to challenge your operation, says SEC Storage.

As a storage solutions provider and Associate Corporate Member of the UKWA, SEC Storage often gets approached with the brief to ‘maximise capacity’.  Depending on the operation, simply achieving a high density of product may not be the right solution.

Forty per cent space charge savings

By re-analysing the stock profile of a leading fashion brand, SEC Storage were able to devise a cubically efficient storage system that could store over 27,000 BDCM1 cartons, 640 bulk pallets and 10,000 garments on hanger in just 25,000 sq/ft of space.

The application of a rack supported multi-tier meant that the facility only occupied 25,000 sq/ft of the warehouse floor, but the system provided an effective space of 75,000 sq/ft over multiple floors.

This was achieved by taking an Omnichannel approach.  By grouping stock into seasons and faster moving SKUs, it enabled the cubically efficient structure to be created.  The typical approach and one previously adopted was grouping stock according to sales outlet (retail, online, wholesale) however this results in duplication of stock holding and therefore additional, unnecessary space is required.

The solution offered the fashion brand 40 per cent space charge savings over their existing third party logistics provider as they were simply occupying less space than previously.  Efficiencies were gained with pickers having less travelling time across the installation.

At the planning stage

A leading vinyl flooring manufacturer had begun to outgrow its national distribution centre in Worcestershire.  With no available warehousing stock in the area, the only solution was to construct a purpose built facility.

By engaging with SEC Storage at the architectural stage of the process it was found that by increasing the height of the warehouse by a small margin it would increase capacity for full height pallets.  At this stage of the process, it would have very little impact on the warehouse build cost and was fully considered by planning authorities, with no impact on their decision.

The wide aisle pallet racking system may not seem like the most efficient use of space when considering the rise of very narrow aisle or articulated forklift configurations.  However the operation includes picking of individual packs of flooring, not suited to shelving, on powered pallet trucks and also bulk pallet picks from the same racking apertures.  The wide aisle configuration enables the simultaneous use of pallet trucks, order pickers and reach truck forklifts in the same aisle.

The facility which was constructed in 2008 with the wide aisle racking configuration and is still suitable for the companies needs and has the ability to accommodate future growth.  All achieved by simply planning the storage system and analysing their operation, enabling them to truly highlight what warehouse size they need.

11,500 sq/ft of storage space in 3,921 sq/ft

A Hertfordshire based greetings card publisher and manufacturer has increased storage capacity for its picking operation to 11,500 sq/ft in an effective floor area of just 3,921 sq/ft.

The additional capacity was required due to exceptional sales growth.  The opportunity came for the company to expand its facilities into the next warehouse.  They also took the opportunity to analyse the operation and make this as efficient as possible for the future, whilst allowing for capacity growth.

By standardising the apertures of the storage system to suit varying SKU sizes, a multi-tier racking system was devised.  This provided a cubically efficient solution for the picking operation, in as small area as possible.

The rest of the warehouse is assigned to bulk pallet racking based on an articulated forklift configuration.  This maximises capacity without the need for larger transfer aisles associated with very narrow aisle systems which would impact on the marshalling area near the loading bays.  Furthermore, the articulated forklifts can be used outside, which offers a cost effective materials handling solution.

Prepare to re-plan and challenge to maximise space

“As you can see with the examples, planning the warehouse to fit the business needs should be done before the acquisition process is even embarked upon.  This will enable you to focus on exactly the right size facility and open up opportunities of available warehouses,” says Steve Watts, Managing Director.

“Just because you plan to double your business in five years, doesn’t mean you will need double the size of the warehouse.

“The balance between efficient storage, stock management and retrieval is extremely important.  In reality, most warehouses are inefficient.  Be brave and be prepared to re-plan it from an operational perspective.  The more effective utilisation of the cube and the more efficient you can become will often provide significant return on investment very quickly,” concludes Steve.