Warehouse Management Tips: Narrow Aisles Boost Efficiency In Smaller Operations
It has been consistently found that storage premises and warehouses which utilise lift trucks or stackers as part of their operation tend to think of massive overhauls in order to increase their efficiency. Simply put, this just isn’t the case. Bill Pfleger, who is president of Yale Distribution for Yale Materials Handling Corp, explains that “many people think of narrow aisle and picture these huge facilities with tall aisles and sophisticated warehouse management systems. But, it’s also possible to make a lot of space very quickly by adding just one additional layer of racking for storage or picking.”
Pfleger provides a case study to prove his theory. A client used traditional internal combustion lift trucks to stack their product on the ground. The client had no expertise in warehouse management methodology and operation. However, despite this, by utilising this technique they were able to increase the amount of product which they handled by 100% the following year. The solution ended up being a total shift in warehouse management to narrow aisles with the addition of a second-level of order picking. “It was simple enough to add a second level of racking in the 5- to 12-foot pick zone, and the customer was able to meet their expected growth.” Pfleger said.
The benefits of converting to a narrow aisle system are not limited to an increased efficiency in storage space. It has been found that converting to this system can also result in a reduction of inefficient travel time as well. Pfleger provided an explanation for this reduction. “Travel time is lost time in the picking business. Significant losses in picking occur from travel time between picks and from the last pick to wherever the finished pallet needs to be transported.”
The transition in warehouse management from a system of standard aisles to a system of narrow aisles in your warehouse or storage facility can transform a few feet of space per aisle into productive space. When a building utilises an extremely narrow aisle system they are able to take advantage of the subtle differences in the size of product dimensions to utilise their floor space further. An example was provided by Pfleger of a customer who utilised a slightly thinner model of lift truck. This change enabled the warehouse to add three more aisles of shelving, which resulted in an overall increase of 2% to the sites storage capacity. This can be cost effective way of increasing your storage capacity and revenue without performing any physical expansion to the size of your premises.