Space is one of the most valuable assets a warehouse can have. The more room a storage facility has, the more inventory it can handle, improving business and increasing profits. However, some storage facilities struggle with space optimization, and expanding isn’t always practical.
So, how can leadership increase their current occupancy limits when expansion isn’t an option? There are a few options that could make your existing storage methods more efficient. Learn how to make the most of your warehouse space to improve conditions and boost your business.
Perform an Audit
The first step in maximizing your warehouse space is performing an audit. In this stage, you will analyze your current storage processes and look for areas of improvement. The information you gather in this stage is essential to making a plan. Having a plan of action will keep you from wasting time, money, and energy on unnecessary work.
You should look for potential improvements in every aspect of your storage facility. Your auditing team will need to ask themselves important questions, like:
- What space aren’t we utilizing?
- Are we holding onto too much inventory?
- Which areas can we optimize without breaking our budget?
Research Various Methods
Believe it or not, storage and organization are a science. Experts have spent countless hours developing various techniques to help warehouses and general businesses optimize their space. Take some time to research these methods and see if they could help improve your storage facility’s performance.
The Pareto principle is a concept that states that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes in most situations. Various industry leaders apply this theory in their everyday businesses, but it’s also valuable information for warehouses struggling with occupancy.
Under this theory, you are likely dedicating 80% of your warehouse’s operations to 20% of your inventory. These items have the highest demand and probably take up the most space. Identifying these products and optimizing their organization first will free up a lot of valuable storage room for additional inventory and equipment.
Another storage method worth exploring is the “5S” methodology. This workplace organization technique uses 5 principles to describe how an efficient workplace organizes current inventory and manages new products.
- Sort: go through all items in one location and get rid of unnecessary inventory.
- Set: find the ideal location for the remaining inventory.
- Shine: maintain your equipment and work environment to eliminate any nuisances.
- Standardize: establish a reliable organizational procedure.
- Sustain: encourage consistency in your employees to follow new policies.
Explore Storage Systems
After researching various organizational methods, you need to learn about all of your storage options. There are several storage systems available that warehouses can use depending on their specific needs. The information you collected from your audit will be incredibly valuable in this stage since you can use that data to choose the best storage system for your facility. Some of your options include:
- – Floor stacking
- – Selective racking
- – Pallet flow racking
- – Drive-in racking
- – Double-reach racking
Stack Items Vertically
One of the easiest ways to make the most of your warehouse space is vertical stacking. Extending your storage systems “up” instead of “out” will free up floor space, allowing you more room for racks, floor storage, and movement. You’ll need to check your building codes to ensure that your facility can sustain this type of reorganization, but most warehouses have plenty of overhead space to make accommodations.
Pallet racking is the most convenient way that warehouses can stack inventory vertically. Pallet racks are among the most common types of racking systems, and your facility probably already operates with this equipment, making it simple to optimize. You could also look into carton flow racks and cantilever racks if you need a first in, first out process or store long pieces of inventory like piping and lumber.
Install a Mezzanine
Since many facilities have a lot of unused overhead space, installing a mezzanine is a simple fix to most occupancy issues. Mezzanines are platforms you can secure between the floor and ceiling, creating more floor space without doing a full-scale expansion. Installing this additional space above your shipping area could improve processes and increase efficiency.
If you can’t install your mezzanine near a particular department for productivity purposes, designate this space for items in less demand. This could include small parts, archived files, and excess packaging supplies while they aren’t in use. As it is with vertical racking, you’ll need to check your building codes to see if your facility can accommodate this kind of renovation.
Use Temporary Storage
Depending on your clients, your warehouse likely deals with seasonal inventory and supplies that you don’t usually handle on an everyday basis. This is especially common in storage facilities that work with retail clients, whose product demands vary as trends change and take influence from the seasons. Since you don’t need to have the items readily available all the time, where do you put everything?
Some facilities reorganize their seasonal products using temporary storage. Keeping items in trailers and other external storage areas removes them from your work floor, reducing overcrowding while keeping everything on-site. Renting trailers isn’t very expensive and helps improve production during the busiest seasons.
Eliminate Excess Inventory
While racks and heavy machinery take up a lot of warehouse space, nothing occupies as much room as your inventory. Eliminating excess inventory is one of the most efficient ways to maximize your warehouse space. Get in the habit of sorting through your products frequently and removing anything that isn’t in demand.
The best way to avoid collecting excess items is by investing in an inventory management system. Technology has changed the way storage facilities track their products, so implement software that will collect data and identify which items you don’t need. Along with frequent inventory audits, doing this will increase your space and create more room for higher-demand items.
Organize the Work Floor
Of course, you can’t expect to optimize your storage space without organizing your work floor. Even if you install a mezzanine and vertical pallet racks, you still need floor space to operate picking vehicles and store items that won’t fit in other places. Encourage staff to keep their work areas clean and free of any clutter that’s occupying space. In warehouses, every square inch counts, so freeing up even the smallest of space could be valuable to your overall operation.
Every storage facility is unique and may require a combination of these tips to function at and above standards. However, maximizing your warehouse’s space is essential to improving your business, so contact us today to optimize your facility.