How to improve the capacity of your warehouse

The aim of every business is to grow but as it happens, storage is likely to become one of your main concerns. If moving to a larger facility isn’t an option, there are ways you can increase your current capacity to resolve some of your problems. Here we look at some of the methods you can use to make the most of your current storage space. 

Signs of capacity issues

One of the most common signs of capacity issues inside a warehouse is a rise in incidents related to customers. For example, product traceability becomes a problem or goods are not received on time. In many cases, this is often due to oversaturation and incorrect use of the storage system.

Operational difficulties for both mechanical and personnel equipment can start to arise when warehouse space is too small. This can lead to a loss of safety with loading and unloading, meaning that urgent solutions need to be found to get things back to normal.

How to calculate your warehouse capacity

Before you can maximise the space, you need to understand its potential capacity. Using the process below will help you discover the amount of space at your disposal.

  • Calculate the square footage of your entire warehouse. For example, 125,000 sq. ft.
  • Then see how much space is being used for non-storage purposes. This includes offices, break rooms, loading areas, restrooms etc. For example, this could be 15,000 sq. ft.
  • Subtract the unusable space total from the storage space total to get a total usable space. In this case it would be 110,000 sq. ft.
  • Next up is the calculation for how much storage you have from the ground up (the maximum clear height). This requires you to measure up to the lowest hanging overhead object (such as the lighting fixture). For example, it could be 30 ft.
  • Now multiply the total usable space by the maximum height to get the total cubic feet figure. In this case it would be 3,300,300 cubic feet.

This will give you a general idea of the potential storage you have at your disposal. However, you also have to consider specific areas of the warehouse, such as picking and packing sections.

Using more units in the same section

High density storage systems can help you to optimise space in your facility. You gain more storage capacity using the same space by removing the need for work aisles and replacing them with more storage positions.

Compact storage systems provide several advantages, despite not offering direct access for all goods. Apart from providing more storage capacity, they also enable increased logistics management, better inventory control and maximisation of your available floor space. Some of the compact storage options include:

  • Drive in/Drive through

This enables you to store a high number of pallets in place. A single access drive in type can use the last load to enter/first one to leave method, or the drive through type, which has entrance and exit points and the first load to enter is the first one to leave.

  • Pallet shuttle racking

Use of motorised pallet shuttles reduces the need for work aisles, relying instead on automatic control of the inventory through integrated sensors.

  • Live pallet racking

Adjustable pallet racking systems such as this enable you to increase the capacity of the warehouse. Not only does this help with pallet loads, but also in increasing medium and small loads in cartons.

  • VNA racking

VNA racking combines the benefits of compact pallet racking and adjustable pallet racking systems. This produces a narrow aisle pallet racking solution that increases storage density, reducing aisle width to a maximum of around 1.5 metres.

Grow your storage vertically

It can be easy to forget that the height of the warehouse can also provide a solution to storage issues. Providing you have the height in the facility, there are vertical storage systems that can be introduced. This includes:

  • Mezzanine floors

The construction of one or two new levels in the warehouse can increase the surface area of the facility. There are lots of different types of mezzanine floors that are relatively simple to install and if you move to a new, larger warehouse in the future, these types of structures can also be taken with you.

  • Elevated walkways

Elevated walkways can add significant cubic metre storage space for areas of reduced use in the warehouse. They typically support loads that operate manually, with aisle levels built at varying heights that are accessed by staircases. The structure also serves at the racking where goods are deposited.

Warehouse automation

There is a way to combine the methods we discussed above through another option: automation. This is gaining popularity across the sector due the demands placed upon suppliers by ecommerce, the pandemic and the continued raising of the bar by Amazon and other large companies when it comes to delivery times.

With automated robots and machines responsible for much of the product handling, warehouses can maximise storage density. Structures that can store goods at higher heights than adjustable pallet racking systems can be installed, while aisles can be narrower, meaning horizontal and vertical space is being fully utilised. While the upfront costs can be high, the long-term return on investment can be made on reducing costs and improving productivity to secure more orders and faster deliveries.

Some of the options available here include:

  • Automated pallet systems

Stacker cranes or shuttles can manage the movement and weight of the automated elements of the system, enabling pallets to be stored at much greater heights while being retrieved and deposited quickly and safely.

  • Automated mini load cartons

Warehouses that have intensive packing processed tend to benefit more from an automated system that is designed for mini load cartons. If the current system works with small and light loads, then automated elements integrated into the racking can handle the goods, along with an operator product system.

  • Automated clad racking

This type of racking is integrated into the structure of the warehouse itself, enabling you to increase productivity with uninterrupted flows and ongoing inventory control. Maximum height of the warehouse is used and the installation and removal is relatively straightforward.