Choosing A Warehouse Racking System
A racking system can make or break your warehouse or distribution center. Even if you plan to make some changes and reclaim space in an existing facility, you must consider physical constraints and unique operating requirements before selecting a rack system. Here, Bill Hillebrenner, director of consulting services, CEI Logistics, demystifies the rack selection process.
1. Consider storage density. By analyzing on-hand storage volumes by SKU, you can identify deep-lane storage opportunities. Deep-lane storage—such as double-deep, drive-in, drive-thru, pallet flow, and push-back racks—can dramatically increase cube utilization within a warehouse.
2. Know your selectivity. One-hundred-percent selectivity limits your choices considerably. If you must have access to specific pallets at all times, deep-lane storage is not for you. In a space crunch, you may be forced to "bury" pallets. If this practice is limited to the slowest-moving SKUs, the additional labor required to access these loads may be acceptable.
3. Are you FIFO or LIFO? Understand your requirements before selecting a deep-lane storage alternative. If you require pure FIFO (First in, First Out), consider pallet flow racks. You can use other deep-lane storage alternatives in a FIFO environment under the right circumstances. But carefully evaluate your choices, because buried loads may significantly increase your material handling labor costs.
4. Understand your picking profiles. What do your orders look like? Are you primarily picking pallets, cases, or pieces? Are you picking from bulk to replenish a forward pick zone? The answers can have a dramatic effect on what rack you select and how you configure it.
5. Consider forklift access. Fork truck selection is critical, particularly if using specialized storage such as drive-in, drive-thru, or double-deep racks. With select rack systems, always add a minimum of six to 12 inches to the "right-angle" stacking aisle requirement provided by the truck manufacturer. This will help reduce damage to both product and racks, as well as increase productivity and create a safer workspace.
6. Check for rack decking. Pallet variations are a way of life. Bottom board and fork pocket location, and damage, can impact the safety of both driver and product. You might need additional rack components (pallet supports, decking) to mitigate problems associated with inconsistent pallet type.
7. Identify your seismic zone. Understand all federal, state, and local codes relative to your location and seismic zone before designing and installing any rack structure. If you are in a high-risk zone for earthquakes, you will have more stringent engineering requirements for all man-made structures, including racks.
8. Think through your warehouse lighting scheme. Increased accuracy, reduced rack damage, and improved work environment are all factors to consider when lighting a warehouse.
9. The environment in your warehouse has an impact on the type and cost of rack selected. Consider warehouse climate, wash-down requirements, FDA regulations, and other special product handling needs.
10. Capacity. Don't guess how much your heaviest pallet loads weigh. Weigh them! Assume that the heaviest pallet might be placed into any of your storage locations, and build your system accordingly (yes, there are exceptions). This will build flexibility and safety into your storage system.