Flow racks are a high-density storage system that can be implemented into warehousing operations to increase space utilization and create FIFO product rotation. While they are a warehouse staple, flow racks can be deceptively complex to order and install. With a variety of styles and sizes on the market, determining the correct fit for your operation can be a challenge.
If you’re looking to implement a flow rack, here are the 5 most common installation mistakes that can impede operational efficiency.
Related Reading: Maximizing Warehouse Storage Space
1. Choosing the Wrong Style Track
When it comes to flow rack options, there are typically two styles of track to choose from: dedicated lane and universal bed. While they are both track styles that are commonly used in flow rack systems, they have different features that make them ideal for certain applications.
For example, dedicated lane tracks utilize carton flow rollers and are great for predictable box sizes such as storing shoes, liquor, or apparel. On the other hand, universal bed carton flow tracks are ideal for unpredictable box sizes, offering great flexibility. This includes applications like closeout merchandising, where merchandise that comes in is unexpected. Or, there may be a situation where packaging is at the manufacturer’s discretion, such as imported goods. A highly seasonal business where SKUs are re-slotted based on throughput is also an excellent fit for universal bed carton flow track, due to its ability to adapt to different product types.
There are also other styles of track that have been common in operations before more durable and flexible options came onto the market. For example, plastic wheel rails may be suitable for managing lightweight products with specific dimensions, but utilizing this style of track comes with several limitations. Plastic wheel rails are not as durable as dedicated lane carton flow rollers or universal wheel beds - these newer style tracks prevent major hang-ups, creating much more efficient flow.
Using the wrong style for your operation can cause inefficient workflows, which will ultimately impact the bottom line. For example, if dedicated lane tracks are used in a setting where unpredictable box sizes are processed, products are not being stored effectively. This keeps companies from making the most of their available space.
2. Choosing the Wrong Track Width
Choosing the wrong track width can result in several efficiency-killing consequences. Firstly, it prohibits workers from placing SKUs in the optimum location. In addition to putting a wrinkle in productivity, incorrect track width wastes space when the SKU is undersized compared to the track it’s in.
Most businesses can operate efficiently with a mix of two widths of track. Typically, lanes work better when they are slightly undersized compared to box width. Tracks sized in this manner are easier to pick from because workers can easily and safely slide their hands underneath and it doesn’t waste horizontal space. Implementing flow racks with universal bed allows for additional flexibility, giving you the ability to re-slot without having to move tracks. Flow racks using dedicated lane feature a built-in discipline for replenishing, which keeps spacing optimum.
3. Choosing the Wrong Lane Depth
Ensuring the depth of the track aligns with what you’re storing is another factor that is easy to overlook. With a flow rack that is too shallow, the system may need to be replenished more frequently, which costs valuable time and resources. While a rack that is too deep wastes vital floor space because it stores more inventory than necessary for the required throughput. If the rack is too full of inventory, it can result in unwanted additional operating costs. The alternative is that the rack remains partially empty for the majority of the time, resulting in wasted space.
Related Reading: Order Picking: Best Practices
4. Not Optimizing Space between SKUs
Spacing SKUs is another key consideration to make when implementing a flow rack. Keeping the proper spacing between boxes (approx. 2”) helps maximize horizontal storage, ensuring there is enough space to pick boxes up from their sides. This is important because if boxes are too close, it makes them hard to pick. On the other hand, if boxes are too far, it wastes valuable horizontal space.
5. Incorrectly Sizing Beams
From time to time, facilities need to repurpose existing pallet rack structures where the beams may be sized for heavier loads. These taller beams take up valuable vertical space. in order to ensure warehouse space optimization, make sure the beams are properly sized for the anticipated load. This tip alone could be the difference between three, four, or even five levels of storage, which could yield a 20-30% increase in storage density.
Solve space challenges with a robust, engineered-to-order storage solution
Avoiding these common mistakes is important when determining the flow rack solution best-suited for your space. After all, every warehouse footprint and operational objective is different. Instead of an off-the-shelf storage solution that may, or may not, fit your unique operational needs, consider a customized flow rack solution that is designed for your warehouse’s unique footprint and product offering.
Not sure what type of flow rack you need to be successful and make the most out of your space? The space optimization experts at UNEX take a consultative approach to help you choose the right solutions to take your business to the next level.