Warehousing Myth: Pallet Racking Densifies Storage

Warehousing Myth: Pallet Racking Densifies Storage

This blog is another in a series by ArcherPoint’s Rick Dill that dispel myths about warehousing and offer alternative approaches. If you’re interested in reading some more Warehousing Myths blogs, click on the links below:

Warehousing Myth: Grouping Like Products
Warehousing Myth: Accuracy Takes Too Much Time
Warehousing Myth: You Can Count Your Way to Accurate Inventory

Another myth that exists in warehousing is that buying more pallet racking will improve your space utilization. This might be true, but it is not ALWAYS true. Let’s consider some of the errors in thinking about space utilization in this way.

Arm reach

If you pick from pallet racking, then it is very possible that you will not densify storage by adding pallet racking. Keep in mind that the average arm span of a woman is 5’4” and 5’9” for a man. However, you don’t have that much to work with. Regarding arm length, you have less than half that distance, since by definition it is half the arm span. Then you need to account for body width. So, the reaching distance of the average human is around two feet.

For example, if I install pallet racking in my human pick locations, I am likely only able to use half of that storage space since the pallet shelf is typically 42 inches deep. So what happens? My warehouse team loads only the front half of the bin since they can’t reach the back half, anyway.

Sounds like about 50% utilization to me.

Aisle width

So you think you can fix that by picking from both sides of that bin? Wrong. The problem with picking from both sides of a pallet is that you need an aisle to put place product in the “Too High to Reach” bins. This will require an 8-12-foot-wide aisle depending on the type of fork truck you have. Even if you can minimize the aisle width, that still leaves us with 8 feet of aisle width for less than four feet of storage.

Still around 50% utilization.

Combining storage methods

It is important to focus on space utilization, but don’t be tricked into thinking the only vertical storage solution is pallet racking. You gain vertical space but you lose human usable space in doing so. Increasing space utilization is a complex issue that may require the use of multiple storage methods, including the following:

  • Shelving Units
  • Flow Racks
  • Mezzanines
  • Pallet Racking
  • Bulk Floor Storage
  • Push Back Pallet Racking
  • Drive through Pallet Racking

Maximizing your cube utilization will likely be a result of a combination of all of the above, depending on your product type.

You have to really understand your product and your product mix to select the correct storage equipment in your warehouse. For example, Drive Through (or Flow) pallet racking is a great way to densify your storage, unless you never have more than one pallet of an item. You won’t believe how many times I see Drive Through pallet racking with one pallet in the row. It is great that I can stack 5 pallets deep with one aisle, but if I can only ever put one pallet deep, then it is a waste of space (or time) to have nothing but Drive Through racking.

I know this sounds basic, but be careful of the traps. Make sure you are purchasing what makes sense for you. Don’t get caught in the “Best Practice” trap. Best practice for a full case/full pallet shipping environment is not the best practice for a less-than-case pack warehouse environment.

Make sure that neat storage gadget works for you before you buy it.

Need help getting your warehousing processes in order? Talk to the experts at ArcherPoint.

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