Lift Truck Tips: Narrow aisle solutions challenge assumptions

Cramped customers who increase throughput suddenly find they have all the space they need.

By ·

Facility expansion, redesign and installation are among the weightiest projects a business can undertake. However, as with too many business decisions, the company’s best intentions are often wrapped up in traditional notions of how things ought to be done. For instance, the role of a lift truck is rarely considered in retrofits or new building and is often only addressed once the lift truck’s future home has already been designed.

According to Michael Wiesenegg, product line manager of warehouse systems for Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America, the lift truck can be among the most crucial elements to the productivity of a new or existing space.

When selecting the right equipment for any lift truck application, says Wiesenegg, there are three key factors: available space, the nature of the product, and the required (or potential) speed of the product through the facility. Depending on the application, narrow aisle setups can offer the optimal blend of efficient use of storage space, safe handling of sensitive products, and rapid product processing. Whatever the application, the lift truck will only be ideal if correctly paired with the racking, aisle width and overall facility design.

“Often, the customer goes to a consultant company to design their new building. Unfortunately, by the time they get to the lift truck provider, the racking is already in place and poses problems,” says Wiesenegg. “We recently provided a customer with the perfect truck for their food handling application, but the truck did not accommodate the double-deep racking the customer had already installed. However, the speed and efficiency of the truck actually proved more valuable than the lost space, which remains unused. It makes sense to involve the lift truck manufacturer as soon as you get a rack supplier involved. The sooner you start that conversation, the more options you will have.”

In fact, by beginning that conversation early, a company might learn a new facility is not necessary in the first place. “Some say they need space when speed might help them reduce the amount of storage needed,” says Wiesenegg. “Do you need to move more product or do you need to move it quicker?”

In addition to improving speed, narrow aisle configurations can help make better use of space by enabling customers to lift heavier loads to greater heights. For even greater speed, and a significantly reduced likelihood of damage to racks, equipment or product, customers might consider a guided very narrow aisle (VNA) setup.

For instance, in the pharmaceutical industry the product can be very expensive. With single pallets often valued at thousands of dollars, product loss as a result of lift truck impact can add up quickly. This could be a good candidate for very narrow aisle, because although the product might sit on the shelf for longer periods, the customer wants to virtually eliminate the risk of product damage.

“If you know the cost per pallet and can think about what it means to move more of them, then you can determine whether that system will pay itself if in one or two or more years,” says Wiesenegg.

Read more Lift Truck Tips.


About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

Subscribe to Modern Materials Handling Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Find out what the world’s most innovative companies are doing to improve productivity in their plants and distribution centers.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Corrugated Boxes Deliver for E-Commerce
Corrugated box can and should be thought of as one of the key technologies for e-commerce-era fulfillment.
Download Today!
From the January 2018 Modern Materials Handling Issue
PFS built one of the largest and most automated AS/RS freezers in the world in Washington state. Next up is a new design for automation. Automated Storage/ Automated Retrieval System, Cold Storage.
Lift Truck Series Part 1: Lift truck technology connects pickers to productivity
Breaking Through On Yard Visibility
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Emerging Technologies for Your Distribution Center
Come get an insider's view of the latest technologies for inside your Distribution Center. You'll learn which technologies are being piloted, which are having success and moving from concept to implementation and into production on the maturity scale, and what's coming on the horizon.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
Trinchero Family Estates: Pallet handling in the vineyard
The second-largest family-owned wine company in the world turns to automated pallet handling and...
System Report: Rocky Brands Sees the Light
Confronting an aging materials handling system and new channels of business with new customer...

Top 20 industrial lift truck suppliers, 2017
The top lift truck suppliers list is changing with industry acquisitions causing a dramatic...
Lodge Manufacturing: Distribution Cast in Iron
In a new facility, iPhones and a new WMS allowed cookware manufacturer Lodge to double its business...