Space Saving Storage Systems for Rack and Shelving
Eliminate aisles to increase storage density
As a business grows, usually storage demands also increase, leaving you facing choices like storing goods off-site, relocating to larger facilities, or turning to a third party for warehousing or distribution – choices that increase overhead costs year over year. What if you could avoid those choices and increase available space in your existing storage by removing the aisles between the rows of racking and even shelving?
Make rack mobile instead of static, to capture aisle space
Say you’ve got 10 rows of storage. This means you have 9 aisles, all taking up space, 100% of the time whether you use those aisles or not. While this is a valid and very common way to address storage, it also means that at a facility level, you’re allocating lots and lots of floor space that is rarely utilized. Since rack aisles for selective applications are usually 10′ to 12′ wide, that is a lot of unused space.
By removing 8 of those aisles, you almost double available storage space. By mounting your rack and shelving on sliding carriages and opening aisle space only between the rack or shelving rows you need access to at any given time. This is the mobile aisle storage concept, and many companies who need to squeeze space out of their current operation use it.
In a mobile aisle application, racks and shelves are in a ‘closed’ position with no aisles between them. Only one aisle is ever open for stocking or retrieval. When access is needed, a control system is actuated and carriages move on in-ground rails to open an aisle, whether that’s between rows 2 and 3 or between 7 and 8. The entire block of rack or shelving glides into a new position, opening space between two rows of rack or between two rows of shelving.
Consider the space savings when you have those 10 rows of rack and they are more than 50 feet long. That’s a lot of square footage.
What about other high density storage methods?
Pallet flow, pushback, and drive-in systems are all high-density storage equipment (see Selectivity vs. Storage Density). They’re all useful in the right situation, but mobile systems are particularly suited for those applications that desire dense storage, the absolute storage flexibility of selective, and the flexibility to store any SKU in any storage position. Where the other types of rack restrict you to a single SKU per lane or bay, mobile aisle systems allow any pallet position to store any SKU without restriction. Mobile aisle systems aren’t as accessible as a static selective system, but they deliver high-density storage and excellent selectivity.
All shelving, save for mobile aisle, is the equivalent of a selective rack – the units are configured in rows that require an aisle in between for access.
What about safety concerns?
These systems have technology that triggers an emergency stop if an eye beam is broken by a person or object stepping into a closing aisle, halting all motion in the system. Once the obstruction removed and the beam is cleared, the system can resume operation.
What about time spent waiting on the aisle to open?
Generally, by the time a forklift, pallet jack, or cart travels down to the desired row position, the system will have completed its travel, especially if the system is controlled by a WMS or remote control system. The system provides plenty of access, but a little slower than a selective system does. Some companies maintain fast movers on a few aisles of selective or pushback, and then utilize mobile aisle to store higher density products that aren’t accessed quite as frequently.
What applications benefit from these systems?
What’s the return on investment?
Return on investment is actually very good because of cost saving advantages you gain: lower product costs, streamlined workflow, improved inventory management through consolidation, and improved floor space usage.
Since these systems work for shelf storage, too, your order pick operations areas can be consolidated as well as your long term rack storage. Give us a call – we can help you nearly double your storage space, too!
Scott Stone Cisco-Eagle's Director of Marketing. He has over 25 years of experience in the industry.