When it comes to finances, companies have been forced to get a little more creative over the past year, and one area where significant savings can be made is in reconfiguring existing storage and racking systems.
“Budgets are tight and fewer companies are looking to expand or take on new buildings,” says Howard Gillard, managing director of Dynamic Systems. “As a result, existing operators are looking to maximise the productivity and cost effectiveness of what they already have. One significant development has been the willingness of customers to invest in mezzanine floors to create additional storage capacity.”
However, before committing to a mezzanine floor or multi-tier shelving installation, Steve Richmond, Jungheinrich’s general manager of the Systems & Projects Division, says: “Storage requirements must be carefully considered in an operational context to ensure that the proposed throughput and material flow can be accommodated within the physical confines of the client’s existing facility.”
Furthermore, he advises that all aspects of the materials handling offering should be considered when any changes are made. For example, he says altering racking could mean the forklift or order picking truck used in that area needs to be changed too.
The recession has also accelerated the trend for businesses to consolidate activities and the number of third party warehousing operations offering shared-user facilities has increased. “This means the site is often required to accommodate a wider range of products and, therefore, more storage mediums are required,” adds Richmond.
SSI Schaefer’s business development manager, Mike Alibone, reckons consolidating facilities puts pressure on logistics providers to come up with storage systems that not only improve bottom line performance and exploit competitive advantage, but also maintain current performance and offer the flexibility to grow and adapt as market conditions change.
He believes automated storage systems can play a key role in ensuring all objectives are achieved.
“Any company considering warehouse automation should consider the modular approach to system building and integration, enabling small and medium sized operators to grow, change, adapt and invest in stages with ease over time – an alternative option to investing in a brand new facility, for example.”
However, if the only option is to develop a new system, Edward Hutchison, managing director of BITO Storage Systems, says testing it prior to implementation to make sure it is ergonomically friendly is vital.
BITO offers a test bed at its Nuneaton headquarters which allows customers to try out carton live systems designed according to the principals of the TUV Rhineland ergonomic studies – a German certification.
Hutchison says: “Our test bed allows us to show how ergonomic a new carton live system is going to be. It’s usually small things that make the difference. For example, will the pickers need a step up rail within the system or not? What incline angles will be within the carton live lanes? Will this create good visual contact for the pickers, who may come in different shapes and sizes?”