Whether it’s flexible working, agile project management, responsive design, reactive technology, multi-use products or the word ‘adaptable’ in a job description for a new employee, the ability to change in reaction to different events and requirements is increasingly in demand.
In warehouses, it’s no different.
Warehouse managers are increasingly looking for ways to make their warehouse space more easily adaptable in the event of unforeseen circumstances, or to cater for peaks and troughs in demand. New build warehouses are advertised as providing ‘flexible’ square footage storage space that can be, tailored upon purchase or lease to suit the needs of individual businesses.
The ability to react quickly and adapt to change – both good and bad – is an understandable desire. E-commerce is enjoying a prolonged boom, but no one knows how long it will last, or what new consumer buying models may replace it. Social media trends come and go, meaning that something that is today’s ‘must-have’ item could well be forgotten tomorrow. The pace of warehouse technological advancement is immense. And then there is the increasingly uncertain world to consider: we’ve had Covid; what will be the next global disruption?
Being flexible and adaptable, for a business, is closely linked with resilience. If organizations can quickly and easily modify how they go about business in response to changed or changing circumstances, then they will be in a better position to weather any storms that may come their way.
There are many elements that go into making a business truly adaptable but – in warehousing – having a flexible physical space and storage solution is a big part of it.
Think about it: when it comes to warehousing, space is key. The amount of space you have at your disposal affects how many clients you can take on, how much stock you can store, and how quickly you can pick, pack and dispatch orders, or process returns. A lack of space may limit how efficiently your people can work, and the technologies you can use to augment processes.
But it isn’t necessarily the square footage you have at your disposal that is the most important factor – it’s how you use that space. A bigger warehouse is not necessarily better run, more efficient and more productive. A warehouse that optimizes its use of space, however, will reap the rewards.
How to create flexible warehouse space
Creating flexible warehouse space requires three things: planning, zoning, and the right warehouse storage solutions.
Creating flexible warehouse space #1: Planning
Efficient, well-organized warehouses aren’t created by accident, but rather as the result of careful planning and thought.
Good planning includes a detailed understanding of the following:
- Products – being able to identify which SKUs move fastest through your warehouse and, by contrast, which stock items are slow moving.
- Numbers – understanding current walk sequences in your warehouse and how they affect pick times.
- Clients – being familiar with client SLAs, how they like to do business with you, and the seasonal fluctuations in demand for their products.
- Team – understanding how they use your spaces to fulfill customer orders, knowing how they like to work for maximum efficiency, and seeking out any suggestions they have for improvements to the physical warehouse space.
- Space – understanding what constitutes good use of space in a warehouse context, including consolidation of pick locations, use of vertical space, and safe access considerations for pedestrians and vehicles.
Creating flexible warehouse space #2: Zoning
Once you have all this information at your fingertips, you can start to think about creating the flexible warehouse space you crave.
Start by dividing the space into zones according to most pressing need.
Possible zones might include:
- A separate section of your warehouse to store slow moving SKUs, out of the way of the busiest areas of activity.
- Dedicated space near to the dispatch area for the most in-demand SKUs that quarter, including seasonal or always-popular items.
- Reserving an area that may be blocked out with a single customer’s stock as required to meet specific demands
- A dedicated zone for customer stock returns and rework.
- Floor space that can be quickly and easily modified to add extra capacity to any one of the existing zones as needed, whether to cope with increased volume of fast-moving stock in peak, large numbers of returns post-Christmas, or any unexpected rise in demand.
Creating flexible warehouse space #3: Warehouse storage solutions
The third step to creating flexible warehouse space is to invest in good quality, well-designed warehouse storage solutions.
Whether it’s pallet racking to make the best use of the vertical height at your disposal, pick bins to speed up the picking and packing of seasonal and popular items, or collapsible shelving units for ultimate flexibility, the right storage solutions can dramatically increase the amount of product a warehouse can store at any one time, as well as improve the efficiency of its operations.
PALLITE™ PIX™: The ultimate flexible warehouse storage solution
At PALLITE™ Group, we offer warehouse operators the ultimate flexible warehouse storage solution in the shape of our PALLITE™ PIX™ warehouse shelving units.
Designed to stand alone or sit underneath pallet racking, they consolidate multiple pallet pick locations into the space usually occupied by a single pallet. By bringing multiple pick locations together in this way, walk sequences are shortened and pick times improved. Use of space is maximized, freeing up previously underutilized space to store more product.
Moveable dividers allow individual pick bins to be flexed to best suit the size and shape of different products so they may be housed more securely, while the option of rearwards angled shelves helps to retain lightweight items that may otherwise slip from shelving during picking.
Made from recycled paper cardboard that slots together in minutes and can be flat-packed when not in use, the entire PIX™ range can be quickly and easily assembled and disassembled without using any tools, depending on whether you need more storage space at any given time, or less.