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5 Benefits of Implementing Carton Flow in Your Warehouse


In many ways, efficient order fulfillment comes down to inventory flow. More precisely, it depends on how freely inventory moves through your warehouse, with minimal friction or barriers to smooth stocking and picking. For most warehouses, carton flow racks are integral to streamlining and smoothing out this inventory movement.

Carton flow systems simplify inventory movement by creating a clear path for products to move from the loading side of the shelf to the pick face. Also known as gravity flow or roller racking, these dynamic storage solutions use wheel beds and roller lanes to enable seamless inventory flow. Without carton flow racks as part of your warehouse layout, inventory that could be condensed grows too spread out and workers must spend more time stocking and picking, leading to all sorts of operational inefficiencies.

In today’s omnichannel, fast-moving eCommerce environment, dynamic storage systems like carton flow are critical for maximizing warehouse productivity. In this article we will share our top 5 benefits of implementing carton flow racks in your facility. Plus, we’ll walk through best practices for choosing the right carton flow solutions to meet the unique needs of your operation.  


5 Benefits of Carton Flow Racks

Carton flow storage is uniquely designed to meet the complex, fast-paced fulfillment needs of today’s warehouses. Here are five key benefits carton flow racks bring to your operation:

1. Better Space Utilization

Modern warehouses are home to a vast array of products. Many companies today, especially those with booming eCommerce sales, fulfill complex, multi-SKU orders that require pulling products from multiple shelves. 

In this environment, space is a precious commodity. Unlike static storage shelves, carton flow systems set products up to roll forward as they’re picked, making it easy to condense each product into one pick face. The more products you can fit in a smaller area, the more space you have for additional inventory or other aspects of your fulfillment operation. In expensive rent districts, it may allow you to save money by reducing your footprint, eliminating the need to move or expand.

Carton flow can save you more than just a little space, too. One UNEX client, Darn Tough Vermont, was able to fit 10 times more inventory in one pick space after installing carton flow racks in its warehouse.

2. Increased Picking Efficiency

Thanks to better space utilization, carton flow racks also accelerate order picking. When products come to pickers, rather than vice versa, it results in a significantly streamlined picking process.

Because inventory is organized in a smaller footprint, workers can find products more quickly. Pick paths can be reduced by as much as 65%, and less movement and search time leads to more time directly picking products. These efficiencies pay real dividends: Thermo Fisher Scientific, a global biotechnology company, used UNEX carton flow racks to improve picking efficiency by 45%.

3. Improved Organization and Inventory Control

Picking is only one aspect of order fulfillment. Effective storage solutions make the entire process of inventory management easier, from start to finish.

Carton flow racks can keep products arranged neatly from the pick face to the back of the shelf. Where a high volume of SKUs would be in disarray on static shelving, carton flow keeps everything visible, accessible, and organized. This streamlines the process of counting inventory and makes it much easier to identify fast and slow movers or spot out-of-stock items.

4. Faster Replenishment

A carton flow setup is also beneficial when it comes time to restock inventory. Pickers no longer have to walk down aisles, replenishing at the pick face and working around existing inventory and order pickers. Carton flow is designed to simplify first-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory management — workers handling replenishment reload from the rear, and that’s that.

With streamlined FIFO processes, workers can double or triple their restocking speed. This reduces labor costs and frees up time for other tasks, such as lean warehouse improvements for even greater efficiency. 

5. Ergonomic Benefits

The benefits of carton flow go beyond efficiency — this type of dynamic storage improves employee work conditions. With carton flow, employees will spend less time bending, stretching, kneeling, and reaching to pick orders compared to picking from static shelves.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, poor ergonomics account for around 60% of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. By improving the ergonomics of your shelving layout, you can head off many of these injuries, reduce worker fatigue, boost morale, and reduce worker’s compensation claims.

Get The Definitive Guide to Carton Flow Storage and The Ultimate Order Picking Checklist. Download the guide today!


Choosing the Right Carton Flow

If your fulfillment processes require a lot of case picking or each picking, your warehouse will benefit from carton flow storage. However, there are a variety of carton flow setups and styles to choose from, and you’ll need to consider several key features to select the right configuration for your unique needs:

  • Consider weight capacity: Assessing your item weights will help you make the critical choice between light-, standard-, and heavy-duty options. Product weights play an important role in determining your ideal shelf span, and you can choose from a wide range of capacities, all the way up to 100 pounds per linear or square feet. 
  • Assess your SKUs and space requirements: Understanding the type and variety of your SKUs will help you choose between systems designed for mixed product sizes and those made for uniform carton width. Dedicated roller lanes work well for shelves with dedicated, uniform lanes for consistent product sizes, while universal wheel beds are ideal for operations where item width varies. The latter is especially important for 3PL operations that may have multiple contracts and an ever-changing lineup of SKUs.
  • Evaluate SKU velocity and replenishment needs: Inventory velocity plays a critical role in determining your dynamic storage requirements. If you have seasonal products or ones that tend to spike in demand, you’ll likely need a more modular setup that allows you to tweak and expand as needed. Here again, wheel beds offer greater flexibility for making quick adjustments to lane sizes, adding infeed guides, or attaching guide rails.
  • Weigh your unique stocking and picking needs: Ultimately, you'll want to consider the details of your stocking and picking process to design a system that works for you. Carton flow beds can be tailored to fit the specific flow challenges of your inventory and the ergonomic needs of your workers. Whether you need knuckled ends, stability supports, or slow-down strips or plates, you can build a setup that accommodates your needs. Optimize your shelving for case picking, each picking, or both, as your inventory dictates.
  • Anticipate your ROI: Whatever your budget, you can design a carton flow system to fit it. Be sure to also consider what you’ll save by building a storage setup that truly maximizes your efficiency. In the end, it’s worth spending a little more if it substantially reduces your labor costs and keeps your footprint to a more manageable size.
SpanTrack Lane Carton Flow Rollers

Efficient, durable, and dependable, SpanTrack Lane carton flow rollers drop into existing structures to create the ultimate carton flow rack system for manufacturing facilities and order picking operations.

SpanTrack Carton Flow Beds

SpanTrack wheel beds are flexible carton flow beds that drop into existing structures to create the ultimate flow rack system for order picking operations, manufacturing facilities, and more.

SpanTrack Keg Flow

SpanTrack Keg Flow gets kegs off the ground and gives beer distributors room to grow. This high-density keg storage solution replaces palletized storage, consolidates floor space, reduces bending for workers, and improves stock rotation.

Shelf Track Carton Flow Shelving

Shelf Track replaces unreliable plastic wheel rails with a durable, dependable carton flow shelving system that drops into existing racks to save time, money, and aggravation.


Optimizing Your Warehouse Operations With Carton Flow

Carton flow systems help warehouses maximize efficiency, reduce labor costs, and increase picking speed. They can radically improve your inventory management processes and even reduce employee injuries. Optimized inventory flow is a crucial investment for all kinds of warehouses, whether you manage a complex 3PL inventory or run your own fulfillment operation

To truly seize these benefits, you have to plan for challenges and build a carton flow setup that fits your unique operational needs. UNEX provides dynamic storage solutions tailored to your specifications and engineered to make your warehouse more efficient. 

Ready to improve your stocking and picking speed, streamline your warehouse layout, and enhance workflow for your employees? Contact us today.

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