Archives for October 2018

How to to Minimize Your Distribution Center Storage Footprint for Slower-Moving, Low-Cube SKUs

By Ian Hobkirk | 10/15/2018 | 9:29 AM

Six Ways to Postpone DC Expansion Part VI - Slow Moving SKUS -DCVThis blog is the sixth and last in a series on distribution center capacity and space utilization.  So far, I’ve covered the concepts of slottingoptimizing storage depthsreducing aisle widthshow to take advantage of overhead dock space, and automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). This last post will focus on two types of storage systems that can condense the storage footprint for slower-moving, low-cube SKUs.


If your company’s budget cannot bear the cost of an automated storage and retrieval system, there are some pragmatic alternatives that may be worth considering for storage of slower moving, low-cube SKUs: SpeedCell® storage systems and mobile storage rack. Let’s explore:



SpeedCell® storage systems can be retrofitted into standard pallet rack and can significantly increase the number of SKUs which can be stored in that space. This technology functions somewhat like a hanging closet organizer: three rows of hanging shelving store product in a very dense configuration, and the front rows can be pushed to the side to access the rear rows. Pick speeds with SpeedCell® systems are relatively slow, so fast-moving product should not be placed here. (Image Source: SpeedCell®)




Another form of storage that is gaining in popularity is mobile storage rack. Each section of the rack is mounted on a track system in the floor, and when not in use the rack system actually collapses its footprint so that there is no aisle space at all between rack sections. When a bin location needs to be accessed, the rack sections roll open and create an aisle for a lift truck driver to travel down. As one might imagine, these systems do not move quickly, and should only be used to store slower moving product. Despite their unorthodox design, these systems actually offer very high storage density at a relatively low cost for slow-moving SKUs. (Image Source: Spacesaver®)



This post concludes the Blog Series: Six Ways to Postpone – Or Eliminate – Your Distribution Center Expansion.  Companies faced with expansion decisions have a variety of options to consider before deciding on how to proceed. However, one fundamental strategy any such company should consider – which is not addressed in this series – is an inventory reduction strategy. Some companies have experienced success by employing tactics such as improved order management, postponement, and in-transit visibility programs to safely reduce inventory levels and delay a costly build-out.  Inventory reduction in conjunction with the six concepts discussed can often work together to open up less costly solutions for companies that need to expand operations but minimize operating cost increases.


Did you like this post? Read the Whitepaper: Six Ways to Postpone -Or Avoid- DC Expansion or watch the recorded webinar.

Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems: When to Consider the Investment

By Ian Hobkirk | 10/04/2018 | 9:31 AM

Six Ways to Postpone DC Expansion Part V - ASRS DCVThis blog is the fifth in a series on distribution center capacity and space utilization.  So far, we’ve covered the concepts of slotting, optimizing storage depths, reducing aisle widths, and how to take advantage of overhead dock space.  While these four tactics can be used to postpone an eventual facility expansion, using automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is often a way to prevent an expansion entirely. AS/RS systems come in many flavors, and include equipment like:

  • Horizontal and vertical carousels
  • Vertical lift modules
  • Pallet-handling AS/RS
  • Mini-load systems
  • Shuttle systems

These systems have several common attributes:

  • They often take full advantage of building height
  • They usually minimize or reduce aisle space
  • They seek to minimize labor requirements by bringing product (either cases or pallets) to the workers rather than the other way around

Due to these factors, AS/RS systems are among the most space efficient solutions available and offer the added benefit of labor cost reductions. However, these systems are expensive and typically not easy to change or reconfigure as business needs evolve. AS/RS systems should be carefully designed and planned to ensure that they meet expectations.


Next up in the series: A blog on pragmatic alternatives to AS/RS systems that may be worth considering for storage of slower moving, low-cube SKUs. Can’t wait? Read the Whitepaper: Six Ways to Postpone -Or Avoid- DC Expansion or watch the recorded webinar.

Could You Park a Blimp in the Unused Space Above Your Dock Area? How to Take Advantage of Overhead Space in Your Distribution Center.

By Ian Hobkirk | 10/02/2018 | 1:41 PM

Six Ways to Postpone DC Expansion Part IV - Overhead Space DCV

This blog is the fourth in a series on distribution center capacity and space utilization.  So far, I’ve covered the concepts of slotting, optimizing storage depths and reducing aisle widths. In this post, I’ll look at how to take advantage of overhead dock space.

Even in highly-optimized distribution centers, overhead space in the dock area is often completely un-utilized. Since this is a high-traffic area, using overhead space requires creative thinking. Some ways that companies have found to take advantage of this space include:

  • Storing empty pallets or consumable supplies over dock doors. Pallet racking can be used to bridge over dock doors and create single-deep storage areas. While only a small percentage of the dock area can be reclaimed in this way, valuable space in the main pallet rack area can be freed up for storage of inventoried SKUs.
  • Build a mezzanine but be careful how it’s used. Mezzanines are poor places to store pallets – it can be hard to transport loads onto and off of the mezzanine, and lift trucks are generally impractical on a second level. Companies should focus on storing smaller parts here or performing labor intense manual operations in these areas. Good uses for mezzanines include:
    • Small parts storage on shelves or carousels
    • Packing and shipping areas for small parts (work benches, case sealers, etc.)
    • Value-added service centers for small parts (kitting, ticketing, labeling, etc.)

When designing a mezzanine, be sure to position the support columns in areas where they are less likely to cause lift truck collisions, and be sure to allow an easy means of transporting goods up and down from the mezzanine.

The next blog in the series will dive into the advanced topic of AS/RS systems. I’ll lay out an objective perspective on their benefits, costs and risks. Can’t wait? Read the Whitepaper: Six Ways to Postpone -Or Avoid- DC Expansion or watch the recorded webinar.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

About Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk

Ian Hobkirk is the founder and Managing Director of Commonwealth Supply Chain Advisors. Over his 20-year career, he has helped hundreds of companies reduce their distribution labor costs, improve space utilization, and meet their customer service objectives. He has formed supply chain consulting organizations for two different systems integration firms, and managed the supply chain execution practice at The AberdeenGroup, a leading technology analyst firm.


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