Other Voices: There’s gold in that there rack!
Vertical storage optimization might not be top of mind, but it can yield substantial efficiencies.
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Editor’s Note: The following column by Bryan Jensen, vice president at St. Onge Co., is part of Modern’s Other Voices column. The series features ideas, opinions and insights from end-users, analysts, systems integrators and OEMs. Click here to learn about submitting a column for consideration.
Distribution center storage configuration is rarely a topic to discuss when you’re trying to elevate your distribution operations to best-in-class levels.
Productivity, order cycle time, accuracy, cross dock percentage, even environmental friendliness usually become top of the best-in-class characteristics of a distribution operation. However, we dedicate the majority of area in distribution centers to optimizing vertical storage to save space, thus reducing fixed overhead while increasing productivity.
The best and simplest example in distribution is the pallet. The most common rack configuration, single deep selective, holds full unit loads of product stored on a unit load carrier, which we’ll assume is a pallet (apologies to slip sheets and alternative unit load devices). Most rack-sized openings hold a full pallet worth of product, let’s say five feet high, with storage position openings about five and a half feet high, allowing for movement of the pallet in and out of the position.
However, most distribution operations have some product in less than pallet quantities. With only full pallet positions available, many slots would be dramatically underutilized, resulting in a lower overall storage capacity. Adding beams within the existing rack structure to create the appropriate number of partial pallet locations increases the overall density of the storage system.
The cautions associated with right-sizing partial pallet storage are few but important. If all the partial pallets in stock started as full pallets of product and were depleted over an extended period, they would need to be put away as two partial pallets to achieve a utilization increase over time. In this case, one of the two half-pallet positions becomes available for other product in half the time it would require the depletion of a full pallet.
Also, you need to analyze the appropriate number of partial pallet positions to review the operation’s use of storage over time. Working with one snapshot may cause the installation of too many partial positions, leaving the operation with a shortage of full positions if you need them.
Right-sizing locations doesn’t only apply to making pallet positions smaller or to products stored on pallets. For large storage quantities, such as items that have over a half dozen pallets in stock consistently, storage equipment configured for larger quantities of single items will yield density increases over single deep selective racking. Racking options such as double deep selective rack, push-back rack and drive-in racking all offer significant density increases for operations whose storage requirements make deeper rack configurations suitable. The same analysis over time of storage demands that serves to determine if partial pallet positions are appropriate can determine if and how much deep storage you need.
Right-sizing storage equipment within your facility can bring tremendous value to an operation. Mining this value requires caution that you right-size the storage equipment and not simply ‘downsize’ it. With optimally sized pick and storage location sizes, an operation increases fixed-asset utilization and reduces variable operating costs, moving closer to best-in-class on both fronts.
About the AuthorJosh 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.
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