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Pallet Rack Evaluation: Storage Density

How to increase warehouse storage density

Pallet Rack Inquiry

Walking in the warehouse to evaluate a pallet rack layout.

Space utilization has always been important, but in today’s environment of tight real estate, materials and labor, it’s critical to efficiently use every last inch of your space. Industrial space is in high demand, so finding ways to squeeze more from your pallet rack system is more important than ever. Is underutilized square footage is hiding in your rack system?

When your rack is laid out, installed and in place, you have more limits than you would with a new installation, but you do have options for improvement. What should you look for?

Do you have accurate drawings?

It’s easier to understand your situation with a good plan view of your facility and its current condition. This lets you understand the layout and workflows so you can create concepts for alternative storage. If you don’t have a complete layout, you can probably get by with a detailed sketch–it just needs to be accurate enough to let you know the spaces and possibilities.

pallet rack layout drawing.

Read more: A Guide to Measuring Your Facility

How are your storage positions allocated?

The easiest way to increase capacity is to maximize existing pallet positions.

The most important loads should be positioned at the most efficient access points. Good slotting helps you find the optimum place for your faster-moving products and lets you prioritize backwards to the loads that occupy a disproportionate amount of space vs. their value.

  • Is it possible to store slower moving, less valuable inventory offsite?
  • Can any of that less valuable stock be phased out?
  • Could less useful stock be consolidated into a reserve storage area?
  • Can you use its storage positions for more productive and valuable things?

Use the Pareto principle to place the most important 20% of your inventory in the most accessible areas with room for expansion and extra stock when you need it. This doesn’t create more space, but it may give you efficiencies that reduce the need for that space.

Consider seasonal adjustments

If your business is seasonal, and certain items are fast-moving some of the time, but slow-moving at others, can you deplete that stock and use the space for other things until the next season? This can be a balancing and timing headache, but if you can manage the flow of stored pallets, it can relieve some space constraints.

Can you add pallet positions by modifying your racks?

You may be able to create storage density in your existing rack system by evaluating your loads and situation. Here are some options:

#1: Can you add beam levels by adding more beams and reducing vertical gaps?

Comparison of vertical storage with the maximum number of beam levels added to the pallet rack system.

In some warehouses, there could be room for more storage positions within every single bay if your load profile, rack hardware and lift trucks are right.

In the scenario above, reducing vertical spacing increases pallet positions from 9 to 18 in the same rack bay. That’s a huge gain, but even modest gains can add scores or hundreds of pallet positions. Adding a single level of pallet storage would increase pallet positions from 9 to 12. Multiplied across the warehouse, one extra beam level could mean scores or hundreds more pallets economically stored in the same space within the same rack structure.

Check to ensure your frames can hold the heavier loads: See our guide to vertical beam spacing for more information.

#2: Can you add more beams for partial or low-profile loads?

warehouse rack storage density with partial or lower profile loads

This scenario works if all of your loads aren’t the same height or if you can shift partial pallets to dedicated storage positions.

Companies sometimes standardize the rack system’s beam spacing at a given height no matter the load profile. That tends to be: pallet height + load height + buffer space between top of load and the bottom of the next beam level, but standardization can reduce storage density. If you have a particular set of pallets that are always shorter than others, they can be stored in tighter vertical space, meaning that you can reduce space and add more to the same rack bays.

This means you lose some flexibility, but if your inventory is consistent, it’s a good way to increase storage density without altering your entire rack layout.

If only standard, full-size pallet positions are available, you might find underutilized vertical storage you can take advantage of.

#3: Can you increase the height of your pallet racks?

pallet racks with taller upright frames to add extra beam levels and storage positions.

If your uprights are too short to utilize the full vertical cube of your warehouse, increasing frame heights will add new storage positions.

If you have four levels of pallets and can add a fifth with new uprights, you can significantly increase storage capacity across an entire warehouse. You can do this situationally by adding the extended uprights only in some areas. This method is disruptive, with costs for the new upright frames, loading, installation and re-loading. However, these economic costs are usually far less than the cost of a new facility.

These are factors you’ll have to evaluate as you move forward, but the costs are minimal vs. the flexibility of adding many new pallet positions at relatively low costs vs. expansion, moving or splitting your warehouse capacity over multiple facilities.

Can you add new racks to the layout by shifting your layout?

In some warehouses, some processes can move to areas that do not require the high-bay warehouse. Can a kitting or quality control area move to another part of the facility to allow a high-bay rack system to use the previously-occupied vertical space? If you’re not utilizing the full length of potential aisles, can you add extra bays at either end, either in unused space or space that can be re-tasked for storage expansion?

Remember that laying out a warehouse and moving functions should always be evaluated in the context of overall flow and efficiency. Space isn’t the only goal, but should prominently factor in.

More resources

Use the Cisco-Eagle pallet rack guide

A guide to industrial space optimization

Taking advantage of every inch within your facility space is critical to push operations forward. The Cisco-Eagle guide to space optimization shows how layout affects everything you do, and what the right design and equipment offer to help you maximize the efficient use of space in your facility.

Download the guide today

Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.

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