Plant Maintenance

Our Tips for Warehouse Expansion

February 2, 2020

Whether you are in need of just a little extra space or looking to assess how much added space can be efficiently utilized before pulling the trigger on expensive new facilities, every warehouse operator can benefit from a thorough reorganization.

Whether you are in need of just a little extra space or looking to assess how much added space can be efficiently utilized before pulling the trigger on expensive new facilities, every warehouse operator can benefit from a thorough reorganization.

1. Never Forget To Put Safety First

When looking to reorganize to free up space, safety considerations must be top of mind throughout the entire process, else your hard work will be for naught. Whether you’re looking to add overhead storage or condense a warehouse’s footprint, change should always be made toward building a safer warehouse in addition to creating a more productive warehouse.

2. Take The Opportunity To Clear Out Clutter And Organize Inventory

When considering a warehouse expansion, take the opportunity to clean out all the clutter and random items that have made your warehouse their home over the years. You might very well discover you don’t need additional space at all, or you will have at least cleared some room for the next step, which is to get your current inventory organized.

Even if you know an expansion is in order, you might not have a clear idea of what kind of expansion you need. For example, will you need the new space to accommodate smaller inventory items or larger ones? Organizing you inventory to optimize for movement is the best way to determine the ideal nature of your new space. If, say, you have a bunch of small trinkets that do not frequently see, those items are best stored in the least readily accessible areas of your warehouse. If, however, your new space is more accessible than the existing space, you’ll want to design the new space to accommodate your faster moving inventory.

3. Optimize Racking Systems And Lateral Storage

As a rule of thumb, a rack should be a minimum of six inches above the top of the highest point of the load stored in its bay to allow for storing and pulling of inventory. Generally, any more than six inches—or whatever height is necessary for safe forklifting—is wasted space. For warehouses with fixed-height racks, this wasted space can be minimized to some degree by reorganizing inventory, but the best solution is to begin investing in either multi-tier or adjustable rack systems that can accommodate loads of all sizes without wasting vertical storage space.

Prioritize premium racks positions—those with easiest access for quick stocking and pulling—for the fastest moving inventory. Likewise, slow-moving inventory can be placed on racks in less convenient, tighter fitting places.

Make sure your racking system isn’t heavier-duty than necessary. The more weight a system has to bear, the more material (i.e., quantity of support beams) the system contains. If your system is designed to support inventory loads far exceeding actual need, odds are that you’re sacrificing valuable storage space.

4. Remove Bulky Packaging And Wooden Pallets Before

For inventory sold in less than one-pallet quantities—which applies to nearly all e-commerce sales—pallets are unnecessary once inventory is stocked, and removing wooden pallets can save about ten-percent lateral storage space. Likewise, any packaging material that is included in inventory pallets for transport purposes but isn’t necessary for stationary storage can and should be discarded prior to stocking in order to free up rack space.

5. Optimize Aisles For Storage And Maneuverability

While there is no one perfect aisle design solution for every warehouse, there are a few rules of thumb that every warehouse manager should consider. First, the number of aisles is not the most important consideration—more is not always better. If, in fact, a warehouse footprint is found to be able to accommodate additional aisles, the design of the aisles and their width must then be assessed for accessibility.

If an aisle is too narrow for a forklift to quickly and safely pick a product or if the corners are too tight to safely maneuver around the warehouse, there are probably too many aisles. If the warehouse operation relies on that storage space for inventory, consider redesigning the layout to allow for faster and safer stocking and pulling without losing valuable storage space.

6. Level-Up With Mezzanine Office Space And Overhead Storage

Make the most use of floor-level stock space by elevating non-inventory operations, such as office space and packing supplies. Warehouse ceilings are often much higher than the practical height of storage racks, leaving a substantial amount of unusable vertical space. Since forklifts can’t climb stairs, the empty overhead space can best be utilized by building a mezzanine suitable for people-centric activities. Alternatively (or additionally), drop-down storage bays for things like bulky packing materials or backup supplies can be placed above warehouse aisles.