Maximizing Space Vs. Accessibility

Product mixes are helping to determine racking strategies.


Companies such as All Star are receiving these variations in smaller product quantities, sometimes in the two-to-three pallet load range. For that, Sadowski turns to shallower pushback racking. "We put that right up on the two-deep and three-deep," Sadowski says, "which allows us the storage we need, but also makes it accessible for us."

Maximizing Storage Space

The high cost of warehouse space—especially cold storage—is driving a trend towards better space utilization. Companies are putting the emphasis on cubing-out every available inch of space that they can, to get the most out of it.

"It used to be that a 30-foot clear height facility was the standard, but 40-foot ceilings are becoming common in food distribution," says Steel King's Curry.

"Today with the cost of real estate, you don't need as big a footprint; you don't need as much real estate because you can go up higher," agrees Jeff Warneke, vice president of sales for Unarco, Springfield, TN.

As the racks get taller, warehouse aisles are shrinking as companies turn to narrow aisle racking systems.

"The beauty is if you have 10 aisles in a facility and you change them from 12 feet to 10.5 feet, you save 15 feet that can now be used for additional product storage," says Steel King's Curry. "Companies want to get more space for product—they don't get anything for an aisle."

Another method of maximizing storage space involves changing existing selective racking over to deeper storage racks.

AmeriCold Logistics is an Atlanta-based third-party supplier of temperature-controlled supply chain solutions, which operates 102 facilities across the country. The company wanted to find ways to maximize the amount of storage space in its facilities, so it turned to Steel King to find a cost-effective, high-density storage solution that would require fewer aisles, while providing deeper storage than selective racking would.

Steel King provided AmeriCold with drive-in racking solutions that were two pallets deep and between four-to-six pallets high. The drive-in racking allows fork lift operators to drive into the structure itself and thereby gain access to palletized loads. Because of this, drive-in racks are able to provide up to 75 percent more storage space than typical selective type racking.

"Drive-in storage racks help us get denser product storage and a better setup," says Jim Romine, Americold's director of engineering support.

For warehouses that have large volumes of products, Tompkins' Hudock suggests flow-through racking, which involves putting pallets of products in one end of the rack. These automatically flow to the forward end. This keeps the product rotating continually, as long as the racks are kept full. "It's a little bit more expensive, but it does allow for more high density storage and very good product rotation."

Finding The Balance

Warehouses need to maximize storage space and somehow get product out the door on a timely basis. To accomplish this, experts suggest that planners think strategically.

"It's really dependent on the mix of product," says Tompkins' Hudock. When his firm consults with customers, he needs to know information such as what the hold time on the various products are, as well as the lot or batch sizes involved.

Often, racking solutions depend on the type of businesses the facility caters to. For a foodservice company that is delivering specialty items to restaurants, experts recommend shallow racking. "Those type of products don't sit on the shelves very long," says Curry. "Those types of operations should consider single-deep, selective rack or two-deep pushback."

The bulk storage facilities that quickly turn around mass quantities of goods, like frozen french fries, should use some deep storage and vary that with two-deep racking for SKUs that are variations on the same theme, like crinkle cut french fries, steak fries, etc.

Next Generation's Dbeery suggests using the classic 20/80 Pereto ratio to help determine racking solutions. This says that 20 percent of a company's fastest moving SKUs account for 80 percent of its volume. If a company's inventory falls into this ratio, he suggests concentrating these top 20 percent SKUs in back-to-back two-deep selective rack or back-to-back pushback and then focusing on pushing full pallets of the fast items out of that area.

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