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At a time when warehouse users are examining how best to use every inch of warehouse space, mezzanines offer a cost effective alternative to the cost and inconvenience of a warehouse extension or moving to a new building. But, asks Ed Hutchison, MD at BITO Storage Solutions, can your supplier make the most of a mezzanine?

Before you think about moving to a new warehouse or extending your existing facility with all the associated cost and disruption that will ensue, walk into your existing warehouse and take look straight up at all the empty air space and ask yourself: ‘Can this be turned into operational space with a mezzanine floor?’

A structural mezzanine floor with load capacities of up to 1000 kg per square metre can be used in a variety of applications to offer extra storage or office space as well as multi-tiered order picking. Order picking operations accommodated on a mezzanine tend to be for non-palletised goods in bins and containers, often for small parts picking. Appropriate warehouse management and the integration of suitable conveying equipment, such as powered vertical conveyors or lifts, will enhance the efficiency of these operations.

Whatever its purpose, careful thought needs to be given on how to optimise the use of the mezzanine by integrating it into the warehouse operation.

Given that it will only take a week to install approximately 100 sq metres of mezzanine, the impact this will have on existing operations will be minimal. The success of the installation however will be determined by how well the supplying company can work around existing structures or obstacles such as plant and equipment where possible to cause minimal disruption to operations during construction.

But it is at the design stage where your supplier will come into its own if it can offer the solutions to maximise the use of this floor space. Suppliers who can integrate the mezzanine as part of an overall storage solution with racking and shelving will often be able to offer innovative solutions to do this.

For example, you need to consider how the structure will affect the warehouse space below it. A mezzanine will of course obstruct natural light to the work area below it. Instead of using the tradition dull powder coated columns, light reflecting galvanized racking, such as BITO’s PRO racking, can help create a much lighter environment beneath a mezzanine to create a more pleasant working environment. Galvanised racking is also easier to keep clean.

Upstairs, on the mezzanine floor, it’s all about using the space as effectively as possible. BITO recently developed an innovative design that provides a good example of how to maximise the usability of a mezzanine by integrating it with a pallet racking structure. Here the mezzanine abuts against a pallet rack that forms a wall along one side of the mezzanine floor. The pallet rack comprises flow racks at ground level to serve the picking zone located beneath the mezzanine, which are replenished from the picking aisle behind the rack. Buffer pallet storage levels for the flow racks are provided at the top of the rack, again accessed from the replenishment aisle.

However at the mezzanine floor level BITO can build 800 mm deep galvanized shelving into the rack that can be accessed by pickers on the mezzanine floor on their side of the rack. Anti-collapse wire mesh fencing at the back of the rack ensures that product in the pallets above the shelving does not fall onto the mezzanine. A mesh section is placed along the top of the shelving to ensure products do not drop down the gap between the pallet and the fencing and onto the head of somebody picking from the shelf. This section is angled to allow the picker sufficient headroom to access the back of the 800 mm deep shelf.

This design allows an entire lane of shelving to be added to the mezzanine floor. The shelving is part of the mezzanine without actually occupying space or adding weight to the floor. Reducing the amount of weight a mezzanine has to be designed to support is an important factor in its cost.

For replenishment of stocks pallets are often delivered by reach truck onto a mezzanine where they are broken down to replenish stocks. There are several options for pallet access position on the mezzanine.

Sliding access gates are manually operated and consist of a railing segment, guide rollers and a push handle. To protect the chipboard flooring, the gate is supplied with an edge protection. This design means there is no loss of mezzanine floor space as the sliding gate is integrated into the railing.

A second option is a ‘set-back pallet access position’. This low cost solution creates a space on the mezzanine for the lift truck to deposit the pallet. It comprises two posts fitted at a distance of 800 mm from the mezzanine edge as well as hand and knee level railing and a red and white plastic chain, which can be unhooked as required.

The third method is a swing access gate. This offers the operator the optimum protection as the gate is always closed, either behind the pallet position when the pallet is deposited onto the mezzanine floor or at the mezzanine edge in front of the pallet position when the operator removes the goods.

So it is not just a case of simply installing a mezzanine; if you really want to make a the most of available space it can offer, it’s down to what you do with it and the overall design of the solution.

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