Determining your warehouse layout for space maximization


Making the most out of your warehouse space is a must. There are ways to fill up all three dimensions of space available, not just the floor. But to understand how to do that, you have to know a little about theoretical storage capacity, utilization, working capacity, inventory characteristics and shelving options.

Theoretical storage capacity is the actual physical capacity of the space in the warehouse that is for storage purposes.  So say you already have a floor plan, and you have enough space for 2000 of traditional size pallets (40” x 48” x72”).  Then the theoretical capacity is 2000 pallets or 160,000 cubic feet.

But rarely does it really work that way. Product moves in and out, there are gaps and holes while waiting for deliveries, just after filling large orders, or an odd-size pallet occupies a different amount of space.

So working capacity is the reality of your storage situation. How much space, at any given time, is really being used? Now remember, your storage capacity is based on traditional pallet sizes, meaning all the inventory in your warehouse has to be those dimensions.  But inventory comes in all shapes and sizes, especially if you are storing odd-shaped items like lumber, pipes, and such.  You lose cubic space, even if you are using up the floor space.

That leads us to utilization. Utilization is how much of the working capacity you are using. In some industries a 60% to 70% utilization could be considered full, because there is just no way to “fill” the rest of the cubic space.

Working capacity and utilization are impacted by inventory characteristics. This probably needs no explanation but just in case, it is the description of your product that affects how you store the inventory.  It can be as simple as its length, width and height, which has a profound impact on the way they are stored, but it also describes if it needs to be first in, first out or last in, first out. It can also mean environment storage, like in a freezer or other climate controlled condition.

Knowing the available warehouse pallet racking options can help you determine the best floor plan to make the most use of the overall warehouse space.  There are many pallet rack systems that you can choose from, and mix and match, to meet your needs.

Traditional shelving is what is in the example used previously, but there are also drive-in pallet rack systems that have ease of entry points that allow for more rows in a smaller area while increasing productivity. Push back systems accomplish a similar effect while cantilever storage systems let you store those long, narrow and odd shaped pieces on arms instead of shelves, cradling product and allowing for vertical stacking. You can add conveyor belts, and accessories like baskets and wire shelving, to store small items or supplies, freeing up pallet positions for actual inventory.

The best way to determine your optimal floor plan is to evaluate your inventory characteristics, determine the shelving option best suited to hold it, and mix and match options to design a comprehensive, flowing storage and traffic pattern that keeps everything moving safely and efficiently. Atlantic Rack personnel have years of experience doing just that, and can answer any questions you have or lead the design effort.

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