Making the Switch from Static Industrial Shelving to Dynamic Carton Flow
In many warehouses and distribution centers, each picks - items picked individually from a master case - are stored in an inefficient manner that stretches pick times, eats up your valuable floor space, and costs you thousands in lost productivity. What’s the best way to optimize your storage for each picks in your order fulfillment operation?
Most commonly, order fulfillment startups store product in static industrial shelving, with enough spacing between shelf levels to reach in and pick eaches. This is a very inexpensive way to get your order picking business up and running, and is most often seen in small or medium warehousing or fulfillment operations.
This is a great place to start, but this basic layout will create several challenges for you as your business begins to grow.
Why Static Industrial Shelving Only Works for So Long
As your order fulfillment business begins expanding, you’re going to require more space. Due to the challenges presented by things like omnichannel retail, SKU proliferation, and re-shoring, your space will most likely start shrinking pretty quickly. Instead of expanding your footprint, you can better utilize your existing warehouse space by implementing a dynamic storage solution like carton flow.
Static industrial shelving is cheap upfront, but it comes with a hefty price tag over time. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that it’s just plain inefficient. The space required between shelf levels that allows workers to make their picks will drastically lower your storage density.
There is also a lot of unused space in the unreachable back of the rack, which wastes a lot of valuable space. In addition to being inefficient in terms of space utilization, static industrial shelving is also ergonomically inefficient. It forces order pickers to bend, reach, and strain more than they need to. It's hard to see actual products or out of stocks, so pickers must rely on barcodes. All of this creates a lot of little inefficiencies that add up very quickly.
Another huge con of relying solely on static shelving is that shelving units are only so tall and any open space above is wasted. In warehouse environments, the ability to store above can easily double, triple, and even quadruple the space utilization with no other changes.
Bottom line: the lost space and time from static shelving WILL accumulate, and create massive growing pains for your burgeoning business.
Advantages of Upgrading to Carton Flow in Each Picking Operations
As your business grows up, so too should your storage optimization. One of the best and most cost-effective ways to increase space utilization in your each picking operation is to convert your static storage into dynamic storage using carton flow.
In this example, we replaced static industrial shelving with pallet racks and installed knuckled carton flow track, with pallets stored via forklift above the carton flow.
Converting to this layout unlocks the vertical storage potential of your operation. Being able to store pallets vertically in the same space where you are picking out of boxes down below is an excellent use of space. This improved layout using carton flow drastically reduces the space you need for both your each picks and your pallet storage above. Additionally, this layout provides improved sightlines - the knuckled carton flow tracks are critical for improving SKU visibility as items are clearly presented to workers for easy each picking. A gravity-fed system like carton flow is also much more cost-effective than its AS/RS counterparts, so it's a great next step for newer businesses experience rapid growth.
Advantages of Upgrading to Carton Flow in this layout:
- Pick path is reduced by 18%
- Floor space is increased by 3%
- Pallet storage is increased by 108 positions
- Pick labor is reduced for top-level picks, eliminating unnecessary bending and reaching.
Using this alternate layout with dynamic carton flow will free up valuable floor space and give your operation the room it needs to grow.
When you implement a dynamic storage solution like carton flow, you save space. When sightlines and ergonomics are improved you save time. This adds up to big cost savings and profitability for your budding business.
UNEX’s space optimization specialists can help you discover, design, and implement dynamic carton flow solutions that will work for your warehouse or fulfillment center and save you thousands in wasted space and time. When your operation is ready to grow, we’re here to help - contact us today!