Warehousing is facing a potential crisis. Despite our factories experiencing the longest period of expansion for more than 20 years, figures released by property experts Savills in 2017 show the availability of warehouse space declined by 71% since 2009. Recent news reports suggest many sectors are ill-equipped to cope as warehouses are already too full to allow stockpiling of goods.
This is being fuelled by a shortage of suitable land earmarked for industrial use, no doubt not helped by Government subsidies making it more attractive for developers to build housing instead, especially in urban areas.
At the same time, demand is increasing – particularly in the retail sector, where a rise in online shopping and customer expectations for next or same-day delivery are causing a headache for businesses planning their last-mile delivery requirements.
With this in mind, businesses are starting to think radically about ways of finding or creating suitable warehouse space.
UP, DOWN, OUT OR FAR OUT?
One option is to go high, as expanding upwards is a lot cheaper than expanding outwards when space is at a premium. Many warehouses are already storing pallets at frankly dizzying heights, but it doesn’t end there. Amazon hopes to take storage at height to the next level, having patented plans for a floating warehouse suspended 45,000 feet above ground below Zeppelin-style airships, supplied by thousands of autonomous delivery drones.
The retail giant isn’t just thinking skywards though – and it isn’t the only one.
Underground storage is particularly popular in Kansas City, where an estimated 10% of commercial space is underground, including the world’s largest underground storage space, SubTropolis, a manmade limestone mining cave measuring more than five million square metres.
In the UK, plans have been approved for a two-million square-foot underground warehouse near Heathrow Airport, while commercial document storage company Deepstore already uses a 200 million m3 salt mine to store records for the National Archives.
Back to Amazon, a patent filed showed the company would like to start storing products in watertight packaging under lakes, reservoirs or even the sea, using the acoustic vibrations from blasts of sounds to make packages rise to the surface on demand.
This is all pretty out-there, but what does it all mean for managers of existing warehouses? With a lack of new warehouse space available, and demand obviously high for additional capacity, warehouse managers will want to do everything they can to maximise their capabilities to help meet some of the demand.
The problem is that, inevitably, available space in a warehouse seems to get used up – overstocking, old stock, inefficiency, opportunistic bulk discount purchases – these all eat up space. Suddenly, you find your business constrained by your warehouse capacity.
With no options for expansion into additional space, it’s time to make the most of what you have by using it better.
One quick, easy and relatively inexpensive way to create more space is to reassess the racking and shelving you are using. This is why, at PALLITE®, we created the PALLITE® PIX® range. Made from the same recycled paper and PVA glue as our other products, these lightweight, strong and flexible warehouse storage and shelving solutions are designed to consolidate pick-faces, freeing up more space. This in turn allows more product storage, generating additional revenue by taking on new business, or provide other value-added processing services using the newly-created extra space.
By combining multiple pick-faces into one solution that has dedicated space for labels and barcodes, warehouse managers can group together multiple SKUs in a way that saves space without compromising ease of picking – in fact making it easier. Our PALLITE® PIX® units can also be built and dismantled with ease with no need for tools, and stored flat packed during periods of low demand, maximising floorspace even further.
What’s more, moveable dividers allow pick-faces to be tailored to the size of individual SKUs with ease – even awkward or unusually-shaped ones – providing added protection for valuable products and reducing space wastage. By allowing customers to fit their storage around their products instead of the other way around, PALLITE® PIX® permits denser packing, which reduces walk sequences and pick times, improving overall pick efficiency.