Efficient pallet storage and retrieval
One of the most crucial parts of the supply chain for pallet distribution is storing and retrieving pallet shipments (or warehousing). For the efficient storage and retrieval of pallets, there are several methods to improve the efficiency and safety of all stored items.
Warehouse layout optimisation for pallet storage
Warehouses will need to adapt space-saving methods to optimise the available space. Insufficient space is one of many pallet distribution challenges, so layout adjustments must be made to optimise space for efficient pallet storage. Here are some layout optimisation tips for pallet storage:
There are three main layout configurations for a warehouse facility. Each of the layout configurations is tailored to different operational processes and flows. The three most popular layout configurations are I, U, and L.
I Layout Configuration
The first layout, I, adopts a layout in the shape of the letter I (hence the name). The I shape layout is the best for space optimisation, arranging the layout of a warehouse into one single rectangle. On one end of the rectangle, goods are received; on the other, goods are dispatched.
A staging section is located inwards from the goods in and out areas. Pallet shipments are temporarily stored in these areas before going into storage or departing the warehouse. The size of the staging area will depend on the facility size and your operational needs.
In between the two staging areas is the storage section of the layout. The largest area size of the configuration is for storage. Both static and dynamic storage areas should be considered. Static storage assigns a fixed place to items, while dynamic storage does not.
Dynamic storage is at the heart of the storage area, with static storage surrounding it. The I layout provides a clear workflow for warehouse processes and maximises the available space. However, pallets must flow through the whole warehouse, which could slow down processes.
The next layout configuration is U. Similar to the I shape layout, the U configuration adopts the layout of the letter U. The U shape layout is the best for avoiding congestion throughout the pallet storage process. The layout creates two separate arms or branches for warehousing processes.
One branch of the U layout is for inbound pallet shipments. All pallet shipments entering the warehouse are processed through this area before progressing further through the warehouse. The other branch is for dispatch, where pallet shipments are prepared and loaded for distribution.
The base of the U shape is where storage and staging areas are housed. Staging areas are on either side of the two branches, with the central area designated for storage space. Again, the storage space is divided into static and dynamic storage.
High-demand pallets and fast delivery shipments should be placed in dynamic storage. Static storage should focus on long-term storage. Static storage is placed at the heart of the U shape, allowing for easier and faster access to dynamic storage sections.
Adopting the U shape layout helps to minimise congestion within the warehouse by keeping inbound and outbound shipments on either side of the facility. This helps improve flow efficiency. However, narrow U layouts can see congestion build up on busy days for both inbound and outbound pallets.
L Layout Configuration
The final layout configuration is the L shape, which adopts an L-shaped warehouse layout. The L layout configuration is ideally suited for warehouses that want to separate incoming and outcoming pallets much easier.
The foot of the L shape acts as the inbound area where goods enter the warehouse. The other end of the L shape is the outbound area for outgoing pallet distribution shipments. As with the other layouts, staging areas are adjacent to both the inbound and outbound areas.
The large middle section of the L shape is the storage area, again with dynamic storage surrounding static storage. As pallets are processed in a single direction, it is less likely that congestion will build up due to a simple workflow to improve efficiency throughout the pallet distribution process.
It also creates a clear separation between incoming and outgoing pallets. However, the L layout configuration is more suited towards small and medium-sized warehouses as all material handling areas are grouped.
Alongside the layout configuration of a warehouse, you should also consider the storage systems that you will stack and store pallets on. Choosing the right storage systems reduces certain pallet distribution problems.
There are many different storage systems, each offering different storage benefits. The different types of storage systems include:
- Pallet racking
- Static shelving
- Mobile shelving
- Mezzanine flooring
- Multi-tier racking
- Automated storage and retrieval systems
- Cantilever racking
Warehouse management systems
Another method of warehouse layout optimisation for pallet storage is to implement a warehouse management system. A warehouse management system is software that improves the management and control of all warehouse inventory alongside monitoring warehouse operations.
Implementing a warehouse management system can help improve supply chain efficiency by providing real-time insights into warehouse inventory. Such systems can also help improve pick and pack accuracy, better resource utilisation, and provide unique insights and analytics.
For many businesses, a warehouse storing pallet goods can benefit significantly from implementing a warehouse management system, including better warehouse operational efficiency, real-time inventory tracking and monitoring, and improved customer satisfaction.
Some of the main functions a warehouse management system can fulfil include:
- Inventory management
- Improve inbound and outbound efficiency
- Reduce errors in pick and pack or order fulfilment
- Integrate with other logistics management software
- Area management, such as dock management
- Metrics and analytics on warehouse performance
Inventory management techniques for effective pallet retrieval
Alongside the warehouse layout optimisation techniques for pallet storage, several inventory management techniques exist for effective pallet retrieval. Not all of these techniques will be suited to every supply chain. But adopting the right technique can improve retrieval efficiency.
Combining with route optimisation in pallet distribution can also help improve efficiency.
Just in time
Just-in-time inventory management prevents deadstock from building up by ensuring deliveries are arranged according to supply chain requirements. In essence, supplies or deliveries are provided on a need basis. This helps cut down inventory costs and the need for storing excessive stock.
FIFO and LIFO
First in, first out or first expired, first out are both inventory management methods. Both methods use the oldest inventory first to prevent any expiration. Similarly, last in, first out uses the newest inventory first instead.
Perpetual inventory management
This method of inventory management monitors, tracks, and controls inventory units as they enter a facility in perpetuity. Many facilities adopt this approach as this inventory management can be done automatically and manually.
Batch tracking groups similar or the same items that share similar characteristics, such as expiry dates. This makes monitoring inventory based on specific characteristics more straightforward, minimising wastage and reducing costs.
Safety stock inventory
Popular or high-demand items may require excess stock supplies to ensure sufficient supply. The safety stock inventory method ensures that a surplus of items is available should they be required to fulfil sudden changes in demand or incorrect forecasts.
With the cross-docking inventory management technique, a minimal number of items is stored. Items are moved directly from one vehicle to another throughout the supply chain. For example, multiple items from a large vehicle will be directly transferred to multiple smaller vehicles.
The bulk shipping inventory management technique seeks to cut costs by shipping multiple or large quantities of items together. Typically, items distributed through a bulk shipping method are not packed, being loaded directly onto a distribution vessel instead.
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