For those not directly involved in logistics or the bulk storage of wholesale goods, the wide range of warehouse equipment available for this purpose might come as a surprise. While the bulk of these items take the form of racks, the individual design of these units varies quite widely. To some extent, this variation is a necessary requirement in order to cater for the type of goods to be stored. However, just as important in these facilities is a system that is suited to the available space and the type of picking and packing operations in use.
In the case of uniformly sized, stackable packages, and where turnover is rapid, one could resort to block stacking. This would obviate the need to purchase any specialised warehouse storage equipment. For block stacking to work, however, the items on the bottom must be sufficiently robust to support those above. Furthermore, picking will be limited to items on the top of the front stack. In the event that the items to be stored are in need of support, however, some form of racking solution will be necessary.
Of the available options, selective pallet racking, in which the loaded pallets are supported between a pair of beams, is among the most widely used. Ideal for rapid throughput, it is economical and easily installed, supporting optimal use of vertical space combined with easy access to pallets. In facilities where the density of stored pallets tends to be high, a drive-in or drive-through racking system might prove to be a more suitable choice of warehouse storage equipment. To ensure optimum use of space, drive-in racking requires just a single aisle for a “first in, first out” operation, while a drive-through system will require a 2-aisle setup and supports “first in, last out” use.
Flow-through racks, such as Krost Carton Live, and push-back racks are designed to utilise the natural effect of gravity in combination with rollers or carts to support FIFO and LIFO operations respectively. These systems can be a good choice where labour is limited. On the other hand, in a facility where the need to store particularly high volumes of goods may be combined with the need for rapid turnover, selecting a more automated system should provide the owner with the greater efficiency required.
For such purposes, the modern range of warehouse storage equipment now includes the choice of shuttle racking and pallet-mole racking. In the former system, remotely controlled shuttles are used to provide 2-way transport of goods between tunnels and lanes with a depth of up to 50 pallets, where they can be stored in either FIFO or LIFO configurations. Automated handling helps to minimise damage while requiring only the minimum of manual intervention.
Perhaps the ultimate solution, in terms of space utilisation, and ideal for use in high-volume businesses where individual stock keeping units are generally kept to a minimum, is pallet-mole racking. Goods are delivered on pallets to the racking system where the battery-driven moles utilise a built-in sensor system to facilitate accurate placement, automatically transporting the loaded pallets to the next vacant position in the stack. This type of warehouse storage equipment can save time and labour, increasing a business’s productivity and reducing its operating costs.