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Cliff Holste is Supply Chain Digest's Material Handling Editor. With more than 30 years experience in designing and implementing material handling and order picking systems in distribution, Holste has worked with dozens of large and smaller companies to improve distribution performance.

Logistics News

By Cliff Holste

January 7, 2015

Logistics News: Uncovering Hidden (in-plain-sight) Storage Space

Rapidly Increasing Inventory Levels are Forcing DC Operations Managers to become more creative in their Search for Storage Space

Holste Says:

Sometimes finding additional "hidden" storage space requires departing slightly from conventional thinking.
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Previous Columns by Cliff Holste

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking To Increase System Capacity Are Surprised To Find It May Already Exist!

Sorting It Out: For Shippers - Benefits Of Real-Time Control In The DC Are Huge!

Sorting It Out: Shippers Looking to Improve Operations Choose Customer Centric Approach

Sorting It Out: Productivity is a Crucial Factor in Measuring Production Performance

Sorting It Out: Packaging Construction Impacts on Logistics Operations


Most DC managers are perpetually searching their facilities for usable and accessible storage space. In especially high demand is active or on-line stock picking locations. For those DCs equipped with multilevel picking modules there is often unused space available within the module as shown in the following two examples:

Example #1 - Adding Case Flow Lanes above Pallet Flow Positions

While pick-to-belt modules are efficient for order picking, they are not all that great when it comes to space utilization.

The adjacent sketch shows a typical two level high double-deep pallet flow pick module. The vertical clearance for the second level mezzanine is shown at 7½ feet above the floor, which is about the minimum requirement for such applications in order to satisfy code.

Unfortunately, this arrangement can leave a large void above the top of the pallet loads. Often, this dead space can be put to good use by installing a shelf of carton flow lanes into the pallet flow rack. This can be easily accomplished by utilizing standard components readily available from rack suppliers. Now, this previously dead space becomes a productive on-line picking location for slotting additional slow to medium velocity SKUs.

Example #2 - Incorporate Case Flow Shelf into Static Pallet Rack

When walking through the typical DC selective pallet rack storage and retrieval area, it is not unusual to find underutilized pallet slot locations. This may be caused by honeycombing, and/or SKUs that are purchased and received in less than full pallet loads. Another reason for the empty or depleted spaces may be that the picking slot replenishment quantity is by the case rather than by the pallet load and customer orders for particular SKUs are being filled from reserve pallet storage locations. Whatever the reasons, space designated for full pallet storage is being lost.

The adjacent sketch shows how part of a selective pallet storage rack can be equipped with shelves of carton flow lanes to maximize the storage space. Lane assignment can be random or dedicated. Each SKU can occupy as many lanes as is required.

By utilizing carton flow in the lower bays, you can reduce or eliminate underutilized pallet locations while increasing case picking and replenishment productivity.

Another way to increase storage and picking efficiency is to optimize SKU slotting locations. There are several software providers and industry consultants who offer SKU slotting optimizing programs.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes finding additional “hidden” storage space requires departing slightly from conventional thinking. It’s all about providing more options and having the flexibility to change picking and storage strategies when required to maintain the highest possible storage efficiency and order picking productivity levels.

We would love to hear any suggestions you may have for taking advantage of “hidden” storage space in the DC.

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