How to create more space in a warehouse

When a warehouse is running out of space, the obvious solution is to extend the warehouse or move to a larger one. This is not always practical, but fortunately, there are several strategies available that can maximise existing warehouse space.

Why warehouses run out of space

There are several reasons why a warehouse can be short of space. It can be due to business growth, and while this is welcomed by business owners, as it means income increases, for the warehouse manager, it’s a challenge. Sometimes, the opposite occurs, and there is a slowdown in sales, meaning that not enough stock has been shipped from the warehouse to make space for new items.

There are also seasonal peaks in demand. Sometimes, stock at discount prices is sourced, but to gain the maximum discount, large volume orders are required, which can take up valuable warehouse space.

Temporary space issues due to too much inventory

Often, the lack of warehouse space is temporary. High-demand stock or bulk discount stock may have a large inventory that will be sold within a few weeks. As this is a temporary issue, there may be the temptation to store excess stock in aisles. However, this is a hazard, and whether a lack of space is temporary or not, there is no excuse for stacking items where they pose an injury risk.

Poorly utilised space

The first step to creating more space in the warehouse is to find poorly utilised space. A warehouse layout is designed to cope with the inventory and stock levels at the time it was designed. However, as stock demand fluctuates over time, high-demand items can become a slow seller in the future.

A large space may be allocated for a once high-volume item that needed a large inventory, but now demand is low, and so is inventory. Therefore, having a small number of items stored in a large bin is badly utilised space.

In addition, wide aisles don’t necessarily need to be extremely wide. It is a waste of space if there is a nine-foot aisle that would be just as efficient if it was narrower.

Temporary space solutions

One option to store more items is to find temporary storage space. This could be outside the warehouse if there is enough space, or in the company car park. For example, seasonal products that are not in demand could be stored in shipping containers or other temporary structures. Space in third party warehouses could also be hired on a temporary basis.

Redesigning the warehouse

A longer-term solution is to redesign the warehouse. There are several goals to consider when redesigning a warehouse: maximising existing space, making manual handling more efficient, providing an economical space-saving solution, providing flexibility so that the design adapts to changing storage requirements and making the warehouse tidy and free from hazards. To achieve these goals, the following steps should be taken:

1. Plan

The first step is to create a plan of the existing warehouse, its dimensions and fixed features such as columns, doors and walls. This can be done by hand or using 3D CAD software.

2. Define

Storage condition zones need to be defined. For example, if items are temperature sensitive, like food, there may need to be hot and cold storage areas.

3. Redesign

Next, start redesigning the warehouse. Define ideal stock levels and how often stock needs to be replenished.

4. Create flow

Flow patterns or paths need to be created. These paths include those for goods coming into the warehouse, picking routes and the flow from the packing stations to dispatch areas,

5. Determine facilities

As well as storage areas, determine other facilities such as offices, dispatch docks and packing stations. There may also need to be areas for returned goods and damaged items.

6. Improve

Look for all areas where improvements can be made.

Partial warehouse redesign

A complete warehouse re-design is the best way to use existing space more efficiently. It can take a while to come up with the most efficient solution and it can be expensive, as it may involve purchasing new warehouse equipment. An alternative is to have a partial warehouse redesign, taking the existing warehouse layout and modifying it.

Wide aisles can be reduced, and shelving moved. This may also require narrower picking trolleys. Many warehouses don’t utilise their vertical space, and so making the racking higher can extend the storage space to roof height. High racks may mean that the warehouse needs new material handling equipment to be able to safely store and pick items from elevated shelves.

Mezzanines

Another way of utilising vertical space is to build a mezzanine floor that can be used as a storage area. Alternately, the administration offices and toilets could be relocated from ground level to the mezzanine to release more ground floor storage space.

Better inventory management

Another key to freeing up space is improved inventory management. New inventory management software systems can monitor inventory demand in real-time, and can manage the ordering of items to avoid overstocking.

The ultimate solution

Until a business has grown to the level where it can afford a new larger warehouse, creating more storage space is making the best use of available space. It is unlikely that the ultimate solution for creating more space is found. Instead, aim for the best solution and be aware that there will always be room for improvement. Uncovering new ways of utilising space is a challenge, and solutions change according to varying sales and new stock added to the inventory.

Seek guidance

Quality warehouse equipment is essential for modifying a warehouse to maximise storage space. At Steely Products, alongside standard warehouse equipment, we also supply bespoke equipment including racks, shelving, picking trolleys and packing tables, all of which can be designed to fit your exact requirements.

For further help in creating more space in your warehouse, talk to our team by using the contact form below or call us today.

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Posted by Katrina
23rd September 2020
Retail & Warehousing

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