6 Warehouse Storage Solutions to Consider
If you’re considering updating your warehouse storage solutions, it’s only natural to start by considering your racks and shelves. But while optimizing your racks and shelves can lead to some decent improvements in terms of space utilization, they’re far from your only option. A number of automated solutions can lead to even greater improvements, while introducing additional functionality to your operation.
From manual to automated there are many warehouse storage solution options available. Below, we take a look at the most common warehouse storage solutions you should consider, from manual technologies to robotic and automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) in your facility.
Are you looking to optimize the storage solutions in your warehouse or order fulfillment operation? We can help you think through your options.
Types of Warehouse Storage Solutions
1. Traditional Shelving
Shelving is amongst the most traditional forms of warehouse storage, and what many instinctually think about when they think about storage options.
Shelving can be static or mobile.
Static shelving is designed to stay in one place, typically where it was installed. Static shelving by nature created fixed aisles. Mobile shelving, on the other hand, is designed to move. They are often mounted on a system of carriages and wheels. Mobile shelving can reduce or eliminate the need for fixed aisles, allowing for denser storage. Each type of shelving has its role to play in an operation.
2. Carton Flow Racks
Carton flow racks are a type of racking system designed to hold products, typically at the carton level (hence the name). The shelves are designed with a slight slope. When the front carton is removed from the rack, this slope causes the next carton to roll toward the front of the rack and take the space left by the carton that was removed.
Carton flow racks are often used for fast-movers or for first-in/first-out (FIFO) operations.
3. Wire Partitions
Wire partitions are essentially wire cages that are placed in an operation to hold inventory. They can generally be installed (and removed) fairly quickly, making them an ideal solution when time is of the essence. Because of the nature of these cages, wire partitions will often hold large or awkwardly shaped items, such as tires or balls. They are not typically a good option for overly fragile product.
Wire partitions can also be leveraged to store items that need additional security beyond simply being placed on a shelf.
4. Pallet Racking Systems
Pallet racking systems are essentially racks designed to accommodate and store pallets full of inventory. Inventory is typically placed into storage (and retrieved from storage) via a forklift or some other automated means.
Pallet racking systems are often leveraged in large, high-throughput operations. They allow for dense storage, reducing unused or wasted space, and can be an excellent means of reclaiming vertical space in a facility.
A mezzanine is essentially an additional level of warehouse space built within your facility. Building a mezzanine can be thought of as adding a second (or third, etc.) floor inside your warehouse, which essentially increases the amount of usable space that you can leverage for storage and other activities.
Adding a mezzanine in your facility can be a cost-intensive process, but it will typically be less expensive than pursuing new construction, and will allow you to reclaim unused vertical space in your operation.
Alternative: AS/RS for Warehouse Storage Solutions
In addition to the “classic” options discussed above, AS/RS is an excellent automated alternative that should be considered.
While there are many different types of AS/RS that you can deploy in your facility, they primarily fall into one of three primary categories:
AS/RS for Unit-Load or Pallet Handling
If you are looking for a solution for automatically storing and retrieving pallets, then unit-load cranes, shuttles, moles (without shuttles), omni-moles, and various AMRs can all be leveraged effectively. Each of these options can all lead to large improvements in efficiency and floor space utilization when compared against manual options such as pallet flow rack, pallet rack, push back rack, forklifts, etc.
AS/RS for Case Handling
If you need to store and retrieve full or partial cases, your options expand a bit. You can still leverage shuttle-based systems, AS/RS cranes, and a variety of AMRs, but you may also be able to leverage flow rack and automated horizontal carousels, depending on the characteristics of the product.
AS/RS for Piece Picking & Handling
You will have perhaps the greatest number of options at the piece-handling level. Shuttle-based systems and AMR-based systems can be effective here, as with pallet handling and case handling. Additionally, you may consider horizontal carousels, vertical carousels, A-Frame automatic dispensers, vertical lift modules (VLMs), vertical sequencing modules (VSMs), and/or mini-load AS/RS.
How AS/RS Can Improve Storage Space Utilization
Depending on the specific type of AS/RS that you choose to leverage in your facility, it’s possible to realize a number of benefits:
- High-density storage: When you leverage AS/RS in your facility, you are removing the need for a human worker (and with them forklifts or other equipment) to interact with your inventory. Because shuttles and other forms of AS/RS need much less space to store and retrieve inventory, this can dramatically reduce the amount of space between shelves and racking, allowing for ultra-high-density storage.
- Reclaimed vertical space: Likewise, with AS/RS it’s possible to build vertically instead of horizontally. This allows you to reclaim “empty air” in your facility that would otherwise be going unused, granting you a more efficient space utilization rate.
- WIP Buffer Storage: Buffering allows you to increase the productivity in your facility by ensuring that you’ve always got the right inventory where it’s needed exactly at the time that it’s needed. But traditional forms of buffer storage can use up quite a lot of floor space. By buffering your inventory with AS/RS instead of on shelving or racks, you can dramatically reduce the amount of floor space eaten up by buffering.
Understanding Your Warehouse Storage Solutions Options
There are many different paths that you might take to make your warehouse’s storage more efficient, from traditional options to more advanced, automated options such as AS/RS.
In moving forward with an automated solution, though, it’s crucial that you choose the right option. Which option is right for you will depend on your goals, your facility’s footprint, the available floor space, vertical height, throughput requirements, and the unique characteristics of your inventory.
A trusted systems integrator can guide you to the right solution and design the perfect system for your needs. Contact us today to speak with a member of the Conveyco Team.