Fulfillment centers are being put to the test like never before. The eCommerce boom coupled with global supply chain issues has put the strain on fulfillment centers to handle high consumer demand and keep order fulfillment operations running smoothly. A major obstacle getting in the way of that goal is a lack of available storage space.
Warehouse space is expensive, so building a new one is often out of the question. Plus, rents have continued to rise and vacancy rates are low. Research indicates that vacancy rates across the U.S. industrial sector decreased in the first quarter of 2022, reaching an all-time low rate of 4.1 percent.
If building or renting additional warehouse space simply isn't in the cards for your business, there's a third option that you should consider— optimizing your existing warehouse space. If you're wondering how to increase storage capacity in your existing facility, check out these four ways you can do so without spending a fortune.
Start with the Eye Test
We know it might seem like a no-brainer, but many facility managers are so busy with their day-to-day operations that they don’t take the time to look up — literally.
The typical fulfillment center deals with fairly consistent SKUs, meaning they have a good sense of how many products they regularly need to be stocked, and where those products should be stored. But what about when order volume suddenly increases, or more product lines are added? It’s usually not until a storage problem presents itself that facility managers start to look for more space.
Regardless of whether or not storage capacity is an issue for your business, you should take time to learn what wasted space looks like. If you see a good amount of empty space or if you're storing air, you have an opportunity to be storing more products in your existing space. Unused warehouse space is one of the most common culprits of inefficient storage and can be remedied with some relatively simple and cost-effective changes.
Store Items According to Throughput
Time is money. This adage is especially true in the world of order fulfillment, where, for example, shaving just 10 seconds off the time it takes a team member to locate, pick, and deliver medium-throughput SKUs can reduce variable costs by 20% and allow for 100 more picks per day. An effective way to streamline order fulfillment operations and bring back valuable time and money to your warehouse is by organizing your SKUs based on their throughput.
Low-throughput SKUs may be seasonal or just ordered infrequently, which means they don’t need to be taking up storage space in a high-profile position. Still, they need to be easily accessible when they are ordered. Keep these products in static-shelving, tilted-pick shelving, or a dynamic high-density shelving solution like SpeedCell so they aren't taking up valuable storage space, but can still be easily picked when ordered.
Medium-throughput SKUs likely represent the bulk of your operation‘s picks, so these need to be incredibly easy for your workers to locate, access, and pick. A carton flow solution, like SpanTrack, is the ideal solution for these frequently picked products.
High-throughput SKUs likely arrive and depart your facility rather quickly, so it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to store them away, only to retrieve them a few days or even mere hours later. These products are best left on a pallet or loaded into a pallet flow system, like Pallet Track, not just for optimal efficiency, but also to keep your shelves open for other products.
Organizing your SKUs based on their throughput helps to optimize the cubic space in your warehouse, which enables you to increase storage capacity while also minimizing the time spent searching for misplaced SKUs. Having more room to store your SKUs and ensuring pick paths are as efficient as possible, no matter the product, equates to greater profits for your business.
When there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place, SKUs are easier to locate. This makes it easier and faster for workers to locate and pick SKUs to efficiently fulfill orders. 5S is a lean thinking method that provides best practices for creating a more productive work environment. Although this concept is more commonly associated with lean manufacturing, there are a lot of cues fulfillment operations can take from 5S - a system designed to reduce waste within your facility and ultimately bolster your bottom-line results.
5S is all about keeping your warehouse organized and tidy for peak efficiency. Within the process, there are five pillars you should look to follow:
- Sort: Get rid of your nonessential items, and use only what’s needed. Examine your existing storage solutions and identify any pallet racking, shelving, or other pieces of equipment that are underutilized. Ideally, your warehouse should be using the right products, in the right spaces, and in the right quantities.
- Set in Order: As we discussed above, arrange your items for easy access and use. Find ways to reduce excess motion and searching by enabling team members to quickly find what they need, when they need it.
- Shine: Make an effort to keep things clean. Keeping storage solutions and picking equipment in your order fulfillment areas spotless minimizes injuries and wasted time.
- Standardize: Put processes and standards in place that ensure workers know what’s expected of them. Organizing and restructuring shouldn’t be a one-off occurrence — it should be the norm for your warehousing and order fulfillment business.
- Sustain: Once you’ve made an effort to keep your warehouse neat and tidy, stick with it. Make a habit of properly maintaining correct procedures to avoid backsliding to the way things were.
Implementing 5S best practices in your fulfillment operations can go a long way toward decluttering your warehouse and avoiding impediments when it comes to order fulfillment. When your space is optimized and everything is where it should be, you suddenly have additional SKU storage space on your hands. Filling that void with smart, space-saving storage solutions further improves your ability to store more SKUs in less space.
Implement Dynamic Storage Solutions
If you’re wondering how to increase storage capacity in your warehouse, a dynamic storage solution may be your best bet. Ultimately, keeping operations flowing smoothly requires you to take a proactive approach to storage capacity. If you wait until order volume increases or space runs out altogether, it’s too late.
With the right dynamic storage solution, you can upgrade your existing setup and implement space-saving products without completely overhauling what’s already in place. Building on your existing storage solutions is an effective way to increase storage capacity in your warehouse without a whole lot of leg work.
Whether you’re looking to better organize your low-throughout, medium-throughput, or high-throughput SKUs, you’ll have options when it comes to the type of dynamic storage solution you should consider.
UNEX: Warehouse Storage Solutions Built With You in Mind
At UNEX, we pride ourselves on providing our clients with tailormade dynamic storage solutions that take into account your particular warehousing and order fulfillment needs. SKU storage looks different for every business, which is why we work closely with our clients to help them custom-configure the ideal storage solutions for them.
Check out our custom configurators to create the exact UNEX solution you need to optimize workflows and maximize warehouse storage. Using our 3D sandbox environment, you can virtually create a space-saving storage solution with your particular needs in mind. From there, you can download your designs and work with the UNEX team to bring your ideas to life.
If you have any questions or want to learn more about how to increase storage capacity in your warehouse, don’t hesitate to contact us today.