No matter how difficult a product is to store and pick, improvement can always be found, says Edward Hutchison, Managing Director of BITO Storage Systems.
Some items are more difficult to pick than others. Often these items are stored the way they always have been. But that is never an excuse not to investigate how storage efficiency and picking productivity can be improved. Many operations that have straightforward pallets and cases also deal in irregular shapes and outsizes that present their own challenges. Some operations deal only in items that are difficult to store and, more particularly, difficult to pick.
Picking individual or multiple sheet material from racking is a good example. One recent application involved installing a roller-tracked location solution that combines standard BITO components and specially designed parts in a ‘letter-box’ style rack (pictured), where sheets can be picked either individually or in a collection. The racking allows multiple sheets to sit in a location that has sufficient clearance to allow air to be blown in via a hose to raise a delicate, thin single sheet to allow it to be picked individually.
Garment and apparel is a fast growing ecommerce sector requiring a mix of solutions, from hanging garment conveyors to shoe box storage and shelving for folded garments. The latter, while not presenting an obviously awkward storage challenge, can often create a problem where polythene covered individual garments easily slip out of a shelf. BITO created an essentially simple solution to this issue with modules of shelving designed to fit neatly between two uprights on the ground level of a racking structure. The shelves have a divider with a vertical return at the pick face to create a retained location that can hold a pile of individual, polythene wrapped garments securely, preventing them from sliding around during picking, while providing a gap that is wide enough to make an easy pick.
Providing locations for large and outside pallets and goods, which many facilities block stack on floors, is another route to improved storage and picking. Handling can be made easier by adding a bottom rail in the rack to lift the larger pallets off the floor and creating a rack location with a higher first beam level will make it easy to store and pick bulky, outsized items.
Sometimes odd shaped items are stored in stillages that, being heavy themselves, are often block stacked on floors. Placing stillages in a racking system however gives better utilisation of the total space and also allows use of the full height of the warehouse. A system comprising racking designed with a rail on each side of the uprights, running from front to back, will allow lift truck drivers to place a stillage in a fashion similar to a single-deep drive-in rack. This is a far more space efficient solution than using beams to rest stillages on, as is done in a traditional pallet-style rack.
More and more unusually sized items are being moved from the warehouse floor into racking, where they are better protected and can be more easily located, picked and handled. Even 6-tonne gas turbine engines can be racked, as demonstrated by an award-winning project that included an impressive three-level high gas turbine engine rack, providing 72 locations, served by a wire-guided side loader. This was created from a bespoke BITO design, using standard beams and uprights, enables engines weighing up to 6-tonnes, and stored on 1-tonne pallets to be located on the first beam level as well as ground level. The top-level locations can hold up to 4-tonnes. In this instance, the client had never previously racked engines, and it was also the heaviest pallet that BITO has ever stored.
If you think your product is too difficult to store in a better way, think again. With the right expertise, experience, and access to a broad range of storage systems and state of the art techniques, there will always be a way to improve your operation.