For many years it has been a sine qua non that warehouses should maximise the best use of their storage space but never before has it been more urgent to compete in a very dynamic, changeable market in which demanding customer habits emphasise speed and accuracy of delivery, often to their door or a click and collect point of their choice. This delivery speed is so crucial in terms of competitive advantage that it is forcing global distribution and traditional retailers like Amazon and Walmart to consider revolutionary distribution methods.
Walmart, for example, has filed a patent in America for an airship-style aircraft to rival Amazon’s “air-borne fulfilment centre”. Such flying warehouses, accompanied by drones, could reduce their reliance on local delivery companies, cut costs and hasten delivery times. It could also be significant environmental boon. Previously it filed a patent for in-store drones to stock shelves. Meanwhile, among Amazon’s more remarkable innovations it is a stockless system for books that can deliver within one hour from order receipt to shipping at its Polish facility, it’s third largest globally. How is this possible you may ask. Within its warehouse it has a book-printing facility that can print and big in a batch size of one, to a quality level as good, if not better, than traditional mass printed books.
For those however, looking for a more down-to-earth, less futuristic means of using their warehouse as a competitive tool, in most cases the optimal mare house design is one that balances capacity an operational efficiency, so they must look to how effectively they can pick, pack, dispatch and replenish goods while ensuring they have built in agility to give consumers greater service variability and faster lead times. It will be a constant struggle to adapt or perish.
While we could expect to see more automation in future warehouses married to the appropriate form of racking and shelving, one must not lose sight of that cast that all operations are different, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Automation may not be cost effective or provide the flexibility needed, for example. Before any new warehouse scheme is undertaken, therefore, businesses must properly analyse their SKUs and throughput data to arrive at a solution that suits their needs best. This can be a time-demanding exercise, as while some businesses know every warehouse activity measured to the third decimal place others may have only have very sketchy or inaccurate information about volumes, sizes, fragility, hazard level etc.
Simulation packages can be helpful as a verifier of suggested designs but long before it can be used in the design process must deal with collection, analyses and interpretation of quantitative data which should then be subjected to thought on delivering innovative options for the methods, layouts and dynamic systems. This should often include the impact of logistics trends like the JIT and cross-docking. Fast track distribution today stresses the importance of floor space for picking, sorting and load consolidation rather than the use of the cube.
Even so, wasted space is wasted money, therefore it is crucial to choose the most appropriate racking and shelving formats for one’s individual needs. In certain types of warehouses, like cold stores, the choice is easier and often falls on mobile racking or drive-in, which provide the densest form of storage to keep high energy costs as low as possible.
If getting close to a warehouses capacity and so more is needed there may be options much cheaper than new builds. If, for example, using conventional forklifts in aisles typically 3.6mt wide, there is the option of switching to articulated forklifts that only need 1.6mt of aisle width, which combined with rearranged and supplemented racking, could deliver up to 50% more pallet positions!
If you want to maximise your warehouse space through the use of second hand or new pallet racking, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on 0800 345 7088 or send an email to [email protected]
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