Edward Hutchison, MD of BITO Storage Systems, looks at a storage solution that offers value for smaller operations
Smaller operations can deploy a range of storage techniques and equipment to fine-tune the efficiency of their warehouses. Not only can they maximise their existing space, but they will also be better placed to compete with bigger competitors.
With smooth material flow, minimised floor space occupation, maximum utilisation of storage volume and immediate product availability, an SME can provide competitive logistics productivity and efficiency. More importantly it will give them the agility to respond to any changes in business circumstances.
Order picking from a live storage system is a great solution for SMEs. In these systems banks of flow shelves can be installed for new, or additional, pick zones in free areas of their warehouses to gain faster picking operations. Other key benefits of live storage include reduced manpower and improved space saving, constant availability of stock for pickers and FIFO stock rotation.
Live systems are particularly suited to SMEs who need to compete with larger rivals that may be benefiting from the deployment of automation. While live storage will initially cost more than static shelving or traditional pallet racking, it gives a far greater pick location density – typically saving up to 20 per cent of floor space for small parts storage, for example, compared to static shelving, while travel time for pickers can be improved by two thirds.
Live storage is an agile solution that can adapt readily to changing business circumstances. For example, rather than set up new pick locations to deal with peaks that will be under-utilised for most of the year, companies can gain significant advantage from optimising existing pallet racking by retro fitting live storage flow shelves in the lower bays of existing racking to provide Carton Live Storage. This can be carried out quickly using flow storage modules that simply use the beams available in the existing racking. SMEs need only install what is needed. Drop on modules can be quickly reconfigured or removed to restore the static racking back to its original state when or if required.
By concentrating cartons into flow lanes, Carton Live provides dense storage that will also increase productivity. Cartons of goods fed into the system at the rear flow unassisted down rollers in a lane designed around the carton, or container, to be presented at the front on the pick face, giving pickers have constant availability of goods. It all works within the FIFO principle, which enables easy control of time critical products, such as goods with sell-by dates. The principle applies not just with cartons but with pallets also and companies will often combine a mix of the two to suit different types of SKUs and speeds of throughput.
Before installing any storage or picking system it would be prudent to try it out first to ensure there are no issues to prevent anticipated throughputs being achieved. For example, pallets today can be made of virtually anything and subsequently their characteristics are distinctly non-standard. The risk of it (or a bin or a container) getting jammed or not rolling smoothly can be eliminated at the design stage before the installation even takes place. By trying their storage or order picking system on a test bed companies can refine the design to meet their precise needs and overcome any specific operational challenges they may have before installation.
Designed correctly, a live storage system will give an SME smooth material flow, minimised floor space occupation, maximum utilisation of storage volume and immediate product availability, which are all important contributors towards improving logistics productivity and efficiency.