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Efficiency, Safety, Storage

Whether your warehouse has to pack up pallets to ship out to their final destination, or you assemble your own pallets for easier storage of smaller/irregularly shaped items, building a pallet is a common task for many different warehouse workers.

While the steps to building a pallet will vary depending on the items being stored and organized, the goal is always the same: a safe, durable pallet where the items are unbroken and not in danger of falling off and hurting anyone. There are always a few guidelines you can keep in mind to help your pallets look and work the way they should, and knowing them will both help make the process easier as well as keep everything safe and sound on their way to the pallet rack. Here’s a few of our favourite tips for better pallet packing:

Start with heavy goods

It may sound obvious, but it bears repeating when arranging goods on a pallet, make sure the heaviest products go on the bottom. This will stop anything below them from getting crushed by accident and create a good center of gravity that will help the pallet get moved around the warehouse.

Never load over the edge

Make sure everything is loaded onto the pallet parallel to the edge and as close to the edge as possible without going over. This will make strapping the goods down easier, as well as preventing safety hazards with overhanging items that could fall and injure someone or impede the flow of traffic on lower shelves.

Avoid pyramid shapes

A lot of pallet shippers make the mistake of trying to build their pallet up into a full-sized pyramid, but this can cause problems down the road. Pyramid-style stacking can compromise the overall integrity of your stack by placing more weight on the center. If you’re faced with a lot of different box sizes, try to work smaller boxes into the stack itself to keep a more cubic shape with better-distributed weight.

Strap up

It’s crucial to remember to leave enough room for straps in your pallets to safely wrap over and contain everything, before the shrink wrap is applied. The straps will do much of the work as far as keeping the items level on the pallet itself, as well as providing for a better distribution of weight before the shrink wrap collapses and contains everything. Factor in the space you need to safely strap everything up before it gets shrink wrapped and you’ll have an easier time buckling everything down.

Leave room for safety

Finally, you’ll want to make sure your pallets are as stacked as neatly along the edge as possible to accommodate for safety guards. Many pallet racks these days are built with pallet rack safety guards along the edges of their decking to prevent injury or damage, and as such they have to enforce pretty strict edge overhang to make sure everything fits. If your racks include safety guards like these, make sure everything lines up accordingly.

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Storage

In the modern food industry, frozen foods are a staple of many businesses – and diets.

Advancements in frozen and cold-stored foods have made them a popular choice for people of any inclination or health requirement, but the transportation, storage, and delivery of pre-packaged frozen goods is an industry and a process all unto itself.

To fill this need, there’s been a rise in the storage industry of cold chain warehouses. Cold chain warehouses are any warehouse that serves as a stop along the way for frozen goods, from frozen pizzas to produce, and any temperature sensitive product that depends on the right conditions for safe storage. Whether your warehouse distributes the products after they arrive, or you serve as storage for a larger food retail outlet, cold chain warehouses have storage requirements that combine the safety of a restaurant with the durability that extreme environments call for.

Here’s a few storage tips for cold chain warehouses to help maximize your refrigerated storage:

Use durable shelving: Cold chain warehouses primarily deal in refrigerated and/or frozen storage, and the temperatures involved can be hard on your storage solutions if you’re not careful. Focus on using rust proof wire shelving, aluminium shelves, or plastic food shelving to make sure they can stand up to the extreme cold needed to keep your products safe.

Inspect for damage: Even if your shelves themselves are built to last, you need to inspect your shelves and the areas around them for damage to prevent unwanted guests and/or keep your food from spoiling due to external factors. Check to make sure your shelves are intact, look for holes in or around window frames and ledges, and make sure there’s no cracks in the walls for pests to get in.

Set a picking/lot tracking method: All frozen food inventory needs to be rotated on a FIFO (first-in, first-out) basis to prevent spoilage and ensure “best-by” dates are adhered to. Develop an in-house system to track products as they come in, including product date (both date of arrival and date of shipment) and lot codes, as lot codes can be the easiest way to track how long a product has been at your warehouse and when it needs to be sold by for freshness and safety.

Proper humidity and temperature: Finally, no matter what you’re storing or where you need to store it, the right temperature and humidity requirements need to be observed. Review the individual storage requirements of each of your products and designate storage space as needed for each one – fruits under these conditions, frozen mac and cheese under these different conditions, and so on. Knowing the difference can provide a much healthier environment for both your goods, your staff, and your customers.

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Storage

During certain times of the year, you probably couldn’t imagine willingly taking on more products – but as more businesses turn to outsourced fulfilment to manage their orders and handle product flow, the idea might start to be a little more appealing.

A UK survey conducted of third-party logistics providers in 2016 showed that a whopping 66% of companies across various industries have turned to outsourced fulfilment in order to get their products delivered and their orders handled effectively. Particularly in ecommerce, with the changing scope of delivery options and turnaround times, the need for retailers and vendors to have other options for fulfilling orders in a timely fashion is greater than ever – and outsourced fulfilment is one of the best ways to meet those needs.

By strategically partnering with various warehouses and distribution centers in major markets and/or near their targeted geographic area, retailers can better meet the changing retail needs of their customers and can help get their orders out the door in a more competitive fashion. This does require the assistance of warehouses such as yours, however, and if you want your warehouse to stand out and serve as a better retail partner to businesses that may be looking for a leg up in distribution, you’ll need to make sure your warehouse is ready for the rush:

Do you have the room to spare? 

The biggest concern with giving over any part of your warehouse to another operation is making sure you have enough room to function. Warehouses in any major metropolitan area are probably already stuffed to the gills, but if you have enough viable unused storage space (specifically storage space, as things like offices aren’t going to be much help in this case) this can be a good way to maximize the profitability of your facility. Make sure the space is viable – convenient location, easy to access when picking – and don’t be afraid to look high and low in places like warehouse mezzanines to find adequate space.

Can you safely store a range of products? 

Opening yourself up to outsourced fulfilment is going to require you to be able to store a wide range of goods. Knowing that your warehouse can handle anything from retail goods to pharmaceuticals and vitamins to cold storage will make you more attractive to potential vendors and partners and having a pre-installed range of storage options will make your offer seem more viable. Make sure to offer the standards like pallet racks and gravity conveyors, as well as options like medical shelving and food storage shelves to provide a wealth of coverage for any partner that may need to enlist your services for product shipments.

Do you have enough staff to handle the orders? 

Above and beyond the material installations in your warehouse, your outsourcing capabilities are going to strongly depend on your ability to staff up as needed. Review your current staff capacity and see what changes will be needed to properly handle the new influx of items, as well as what their current skill levels are – if your outsourcing partner is bringing in products you don’t normally carry, will you need to get your current team trained or certified (in the case of things like food storage or medicinal products) to handle their goods correctly? Will you need to bring on new team members to specifically handle these products, due to the scope and demand of your current warehousing operations? The human element is critical when ramping up warehouse operations in this way and asking these questions ahead of time will make things easier in the long run.

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Safety, Storage

From retail to food, warehouse storage can take a variety of forms these days.

One of the more important, yet occasionally understated roles a warehouse can perform is the storage of liquids. Whether they’re needed chemicals for manufacturing purposes, automotive fluids for retail or distribution to repair shops, or any other type of commercially available fluid, warehouses can often serve as a home to a vast array of liquids that need to be handled correctly.

Much like with the storage of hazardous materials, liquid storage can carry with it a long list of rules, requirements, and regulations from various governmental bodies. Knowing these requirements will go a long way towards helping you maintain safe storage of each of your liquid products, but there’s a few tips that can apply to nearly any liquid or chemical that needs to be stored:

Segregate and store by hazard class

Even liquids that aren’t considered immediately dangerous need to be stored carefully according to industry or manufacturer guidelines, as liquids like motor oil or cooking oil shouldn’t come into contact with one another even if they don’t post as immediate a health risk. Whatever sort of warehouse storage you use, make sure to carefully sort and arrange each liquid by their designated hazard class, and further separate them to avoid cross-contamination.

Keep flammable materials far away

Whether among other flammable materials or on their own, certain combustible chemicals and liquids need to be stored as far away from other materials as is safely possible. In a lot of cases, you can use designated warehouse storage cabinets to store flammable materials away from anything that they can’t come into contact with, such as other chemicals or heat sources.

Never store anything on the floor

No matter how safe your liquid products may be, liquid canisters should be kept as safe from damage as possible, and that means keeping them up off the floor. Even the bottom shelf of your pallet racking is a better option than anywhere where they may restrict traffic and run the risk of getting bumped into.

Provide ventilation

All liquids, from the most benign to the most hazardous, need to be stored in an area where air can flow freely around them and can provide ventilation in the event of a leak or other damage. Avoid using chemical fume hoods as they can reduce the available workspace and may block proper air flow from the containers – instead, make sure to give enough space for each container to ‘breathe’ and provide ample ventilation around each area.

Inspect frequently for mess or damage

Finally, even above and beyond the other installations in your warehouse, make sure the area around these liquid goods is as clean as possible. Remove all clutter from the floors, make sure the nearby exists and aisleways are unblocked and easy to access in the event of a spill or any other issue, and make sure you have proper industrial lighting around every relevant area to increase safety and make it more easily visible in the event of a spill.

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Efficiency, Storage

It’s the phrase no warehouse manager wants to hear: “We’re losing a lot of money on storing/shipping our inventory”.

While it may not be accurate to call these issues ‘unavoidable’, in many cases they tend to creep up without notice. Some of the biggest money sinks when it comes to inventory management and transport can lay hidden in plain sight, camouflaged by being ‘part of the process’ and frequently considered just another cost of doing business.

You might be happy to learn, then, that there are ways around these expenses and ways to keep them manageable so long as you have an open mind and keep a close eye out:

Multiple Shipments for Large Orders

Large orders can often feel like a no-win situation—by splitting up the orders into multiple shipments you can make the orders easier to manage but more expensive; but if you keep the order together you can create a lot more headaches in trying to locate the items. Try to consolidate your shipping options for larger orders to a single provider or a single vendor and watch as costs roll back down to a place where you can better handle them.

Excess Safety Inventory/Unsold Items

The old push-and-pull over what to do with unsold items is a never-ending struggle for most warehouses and can lead to a lot of increased cost. While safety stock might look like a good idea at first, in most cases it just results in you needing to buy more warehouse storage and trying to make room for everything, while last season’s items linger on the shelves. Be more vigilant in paring down your overstock and be ready to throw out anything that isn’t moving like it should be.

Transport Vendor Safety Record

When it comes to product safety and timely delivers, it usually pays off to avoid the temptation of ‘cheaping out’ on transportation vendors. Even if you’re saving money upfront by going with the cheaper option, in many cases this can start to cost you more in the long run due to tardy deliveries, truck accidents, damaged products, and the like. Remember: they’re the cheaper delivery option for a reason. Stick to the vendors you know will get you there on time.

Lengthy/Outdated Inventory Handling

Another often unseen cost of storing inventory is labour and man-hours. Even if you’ve “always done it this way”, using an outdated method of counting inventory and tracking orders can begin to add up and incur extra costs for your staff. Try to make sure you’re training all your workers on whatever the newest inventory tracking and handling methods are, and update things like barcode scanners and tracking software as able to help prevent slowdowns due to outdated equipment.

Using the Wrong Sized Warehouse

Finally, the very area you store the items in can be part of the problem. Are you paying for too much storage space that you’re not using, even if the holidays bring a lot of extra inventory with them? Or are you renting out extra space to hold overages that you could either get rid of, or move it all into a bigger, cheaper warehouse? Take a good look around at how you’re using the space you have available and be prepared to ask yourself the tough questions—you might not like it, but you may need to consider a move soon.

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Efficiency, Storage

The constant struggle for space in a warehouse is a tale as old as time, isn’t it?

You think you’ve got everything laid out exactly where you need it and then suddenly your holiday shipments come through and you’re right back to panicking about where to put things. Even with the smartest organisation of your racking and the best-used aisle space between warehouse racks, it can start to feel like you’re running out of space to put everything.

Before you overreact and start looking into new rental warehouse spaces, there may be unused space all over your warehouse you haven’t considered using before. Chief among these undiscovered territories is usually the loading dock.

The loading dock, generally reserved for…well, the loading and unloading of inbound goods, is an ample source of unused space for storing goods, even with the constant influx of trucks, forklifts, and staff. In most cases, the trick is to look up.

Loading docks are just like anywhere else in the warehouse. You need to leave room for your staff, but there’s a lot of vertical space that goes unused since, frankly, most people just don’t think about it. Next time you’re in your loading dock, look at the gap between your loading bay doors and your ceiling. Does it look like there’s enough space for an installation like warehouse mezzanines or even just some taller-than-usual pallet racks?

Pallet racks, specifically, are a good solution if you find yourself cramped for floor space but still have access to space just under the ceiling. By using taller upright frames, you can build your pallet racks with enough space between each door to still allow workers and vehicles to flow freely through the loading bay. These posts will need to be anchored as securely as possible, but with careful measurements you should be able to create additional overhead storage space.

This newly created space is going to be best served for items that need to be stored long-term. Obviously, items that sell through pretty regularly or anything that needs easier access (holiday specials, frequent sale items, etc) will need to be stored somewhere lower and easier to get to, but this will be a perfect place for things like out-of-season goods, anything that sells more slowly, or overflow stock that needs to be retained until it can be returned to the manufacturer or blown out on clearance.

Of course, there are safety issues to consider, just like with any racks. These racks will have to be bolted down as securely as possible and protected from collisions with trucks or forklifts along the way—warehouse safety guard rails can be a huge help in that regard if space allows. Otherwise, try to buffer your posts with shock-absorbent material like foam core or rubber to help further insulate them from accidental collisions.

Hopefully with this advice you’ll find all-new ways of storing goods in your loading docks. If even this doesn’t work, you may need to start considering some inventory changes—but that’s an adventure for another time.

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Storage
Pallet racks are one of the most useful types of warehouse storage systems available thanks to their versatility and storage capacity—but are you using yours to their full potential? While a lot of warehouses are content to just place things on pallet racks and call it good, there’s actually a lot you can do to maximize your existing pallet rack space and make sure everything is stored as carefully as possible, while ensuring there’s extra room in the warehouse for other goods as well. If your warehouse relies on pallet racking to store items and you want to make sure your storage is being used as wisely as possible, take a look at our tips for maximizing pallet racking space: Reduce aisle space: One of the best ways to maximize the space around your pallet racks is to reduce the width of aisles between them. Many warehouse aisle widths are determined by guidelines put forth by forklift manufacturers, local safety regulations, and the like, but in a lot of cases from pallet racks you can reduce these widths to the minimum required size to increase the amount of warehouse storage space you can include while maintaining a steady traffic flow (particularly in areas with less foot-traffic). Reconsider their usage: A lot of warehouses use pallet racks for standard daily tasks like picking or shipping/receiving, but in many cases, you can actually repurpose some of your less-populated racks for case flow and/or full-carton processing instead of individual item picks. This obviously depends on a lot of factors such as inventory density and carton flow, but if you have pallet racks with room to spare, converting them to overflow storage and using smaller shelves for daily picking could help make the most of your available space. Use safety panels to set limits: Pallet rack safety panels are a good call in general to protect your workers and your inventory from accidents, but they can also help better measure the amount of product currently on a beam level by providing a hard backstop against which products can sit and act as a guide to how much space you still have to use. Make racks more mobile: For faster-moving products, it may be more worth it to move some inventory from your stationary pallet racks onto gravity flow racks to encourage product movement. This can help free up space on pallet racks for items that aren’t accessed as much and may produce a ripple effect where handling times and product movement are improved through mobile storage. Look for unused room space: It might not always be possible, but a good way to improve storage space and free up room elsewhere in an area is to look for lesser-used space in rooms. Try to make sure every corner has a rack in it, look for spaces between aisles that aren’t being utilized, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box – look over doors, under mezzanines, and in other areas that might not be the most common spot for pallet racks. Need help optimising your current warehouse space?  Contact Us!
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Storage
There is not a better time than now to reorganize and rethink the way your company stores inventory. With so much happening in a warehouse, it can be difficult to find time to plan a storage strategy that works for your business. However, making a few inexpensive changes can pay dividends for any company that wants to make the most of their space. Here are some tips for optimizing limited storage space in a warehouse:
  • Rethink warehouse layout. Before you decide to make any extensive procedural or structural changes, decide if the current layout of your warehouse makes sense. Does the orientation of your beam levels allow for efficient use of forklifts or other machinery? Is there more inventory of one product that should be allotted additional racking? Is racking at an unsafe height, putting your employees in danger when working on the floor? These are all important things to consider before introducing any new technology or policies.
  • Implement vertical storage. Utilizing available vertical space is one of the most practical and cost-effective ways to maximize space. Figure out exactly how much space you must work with, then decide on the right storage type for your situation. Whether it’s mezzanine racking, platform racking, or a different type of vertical storage, using as much space as possible above the shop floor leaves room for additional inventory, thus giving managers more options.
  • Consider a push back racking system. Where it’s safe and practical to do so, making aisles narrower and installing a push back system can free up valuable square-meters on the warehouse floor. Push back systems allow for more efficient use of space in high-density warehouses while offering increased accessibility to products. While it may require a high cost up-front, installing a push back racking system offers many benefits and could pay off in the long run.
  • Planning for the future. Any changes you make to your warehouse should be carefully thought out and intended to make your space more efficient and ultimately, more profitable. Ensure that if you install new technology or new racking, it is built to last and will provide you with reliable service for years to come. In addition, remain flexible as your business grows and be prepared to upgrade your racking or add space accordingly.
If you’re interested in learning more about our products and how they can improve your warehouse space, contact us at sales@nolwaziprojects.co.za
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