Storage rack production – keeping pace with the online boom

Many new warehouses are being built to cope with the rapid demand in online sales. Storage rack production has increased to provide the storage space for the goods online shoppers want to buy.

High street struggles

Many high street retailers and facing challenges and some have gone. Mothercare, Comet and Maplin are among the many high-profile chains to have ceased trading in recent times.

Physical stores have to pay high rents and rates compared to online retailers with out-of-town warehouses, which are generally cheaper to run. Costs have risen to the extent of making many stores unprofitable.

The business model of clothes retailers such as Crew Clothing, electrical retailers like Currys and the major supermarkets have changed. They retain their stores but have added online operations. Customers are given the choice of home delivery or can pick up orders from stores through ‘click and collect’ services.

The online revolution

Internet sales accounted for 4% of the retail market in 2018. By September 2019, this proportion has risen to 19.1% – nearly a fifth. This rapid growth has meant that online retailers have had to find large warehouses to stock, pack and dispatch items. They also have to deal with returns, especially clothing retailers whose return levels can be up to a third of all orders.

Organising the warehouse

Undoubtedly the leading online retailer is Amazon, which has pioneered fast delivery. For its Prime customers, orders arrive the next day. In London and other major cities, some items arrive within hours of the order being placed. Amazon has raised customers’ quick delivery expectations, and while not all retailers can match this speed, they try to pick, packs and dispatch orders as quickly as they can.

To provide the best service requires a high level of organisation in the warehouse. Technical innovation helps with software that tracks every stage of the order process. Communication with the customer by email or text message lets them know at what stage the order is at any moment, from pending, to picking, to dispatch, and delivery arrival.

An efficient and organised warehouse is not just about technology. The physical layout of the warehouse equipment needs carefully designing so that everything works together. How the storage racks are located, the components of packing stations, and the locations of picking trolleys, all need to be integrated into the warehouse logistics system.

Quality racking system

It is essential that racking systems are sourced from suppliers or manufacturers that are committed to quality. A substandard racking system could fail and can be a safety risk. The worst-case scenario is a rack collapsing and causing severe injuries when heavy goods fall on workers. This has been known to happen, though such incidents are rare.

A good quality racking system starts with using quality components. Tubular steel is preferred for its lightweight and durable qualities. The construction of racks is not very complex in itself – lengths of tubular steel are cut shaped and welded together to form the structure. The key to a reliable rack is the quality and strength of the welding. Manufacturers rely on the skills of metalworkers and should only employ expert welders.

British manufacturers are able to provide bespoke racking systems made to custom sizes to exactly fit the available space. They can modify rack designs for particular uses. The rack manufacturer will probably make other warehouse equipment such as garment rails and trolleys that can be ordered at the same time as the racks.

Some storage operations need specific storage rack solutions. For example, sofas need specialist tracks to store them safely one above the other.

The manufacturer will have a team of skilled fitters who install warehouse racks and make sure that they conform to all safety regulations.

Warehouse owners should use British manufactures who do the whole production process in-house. A trustworthy manufacturer will welcome a workplace visit so that their clients can see for themselves the attention to detail and quality control used in fabricating storage racks.

Warehouse racks should last for many years even in very busy warehouses. Little maintenance is required, and they do need to be safety inspected regularly. If a forklift of trolley collides with a rack it could damage the rack, making it unsafe. If this happens, it is straightforward to replace the damaged section.

The future is small?

Most of the top online retailers such as Amazon, Marks & Spencer and Waitrose operate huge warehouses that hold many thousands of products. In these warehouses, racks seem to stretch for miles and pickers have to travel a long way to locate items. Some warehouses have robots to pick order items and, in the future, their use is expected to increase.

Many retailers are looking at how to make delivery even faster. To solve what they call the “delivery puzzle” they have turned to the use of smaller warehouses. One logistics model is to locate small warehouses near areas of large populations to deliver high-demand items quicker. Another way of dealing with the issue is to have several small to medium size warehouses located around Britain to decrease delivery travel distances.

Choosing a reliable storage rack manufacturer

Whether the business model is a few large warehouses or many smaller ones, the forecast is that online retailing will continue to grow and this puts pressure on storage rack production. Most rack manufacturers anticipate demand and fabricate storage racks without long wait times.

It is important to use a reliable storage rack manufacturer, especially when equipping a new warehouse. Delivery dates need to be accurate as a lot of other work on the warehouse depends on the date that racks arrive ready for installation.

Safety is paramount in warehouses. The storage rack manufacturer specifies a maximum load level for every rack installed and this must never be exceeded. The manufacturer works with warehouse owners to make sure that racks are suitable for the expected load.

The online retail sector is predicted to continue to grow. Storage rack production in Britain is able to cope with the extra demand for their products, and here at Steely Products, we can help you optimise your warehouse. Why not get in touch?

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Posted by Derek
29th November 2019
Manufacturing

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