Every warehouse operation of a freight forwarder involves storing and handling of goods, and this is the major activity within the warehouse. To do this in an efficient and productive way, storage and handling equipment are required. Activities include ground and high-level picking, moving products to specific locations, retrieving and shipping them out of the warehouse.
Goods also need to be stored in a secured manner using racks and shelves or simply keeping them in block storage. Storage and handling systems are varied, complex and mostly automated; and new systems are constantly being introduced into the market. The type of equipment suitable for any warehouse will, however, depend on the activities that are carried within the warehouse.
I will be examining the storage racking systems that are used in modern warehouses and also discuss some of the handling equipment;
Racks are simply frameworks for storing, organizing and displaying goods. For warehousing operations, they are laid in a systematic order so as to provide more space for the goods. Most racks consist of horizontal rows attached to uprights with multiple levels on which products mounted on pallets are stored.
The pallets are lifted on top of the racks with the aid of forklifts. It should be noted that not all goods require racks for storage. Homogenous and break-bulk goods such as bags of rice, drums of chemicals, or steel oils that can be placed on each other may simply require block storage.
Other break-bulk goods in cartons and boxes which usually require pallets are the ones that are stored in pallets. However, some non-palletised products can also be stored in racks. There are a variety of storage pallet racks with different designs to cater for specific functions, but warehouse operators must consider their type of operations and decide which one is most suitable.
For example; some racks will allow for high-density storage with limited accessibility to the goods but with room for more space, while others will provide easy accessibility to the goods but take more storage space. Among other things, when selecting a pallet racking system, consideration should be given to the following;
1. The design of the warehouse- floor space and building height as well as the location of doors and upright pillars.
2. Required storage density.
3. Inventory accessibility and rotation in relation to the storage method of first-in, first-out (FIFO) or last-in, last-out (LIFO).
4. Size and weight of products to be stored.
Here are some of the pallet racking systems used in warehouses by freight forwarder;
1. Selective pallet racking.
2. Very narrow aisle pallet racking.
3. Pallet flow racking.
4. Push- back racking.
5. Double-deep racking.
6. Drive-in and drive-through racking.
7. Powered mobile racking.
Mezzanine Storage System
These are designed to achieve adequate and full utilization of storage space by taking advantage of the entire height of the storage area. Proper utilization of space in the top area of a warehouse can create a lot of savings for a company as it will not need to expand or build more warehouses or hire storage space from a third party.
Mezzanine storage involves the use of decks, handrails, and shelves to create a two-story storage facility. The top area can be used for storage as well as offices, work stations, etc.
Block-Stack Storage System
This is the arrangement of goods including pallets closely put together to form a mass. It can either be done manually using labour or with the aid of forklift trucks. In a block-stacking system, goods are arranged in rows from the wall up to a required depth to the aisle. More goods are then put on top of the ones below up to the desired height or as far as the warehouse vertical height can permit, although this does not occur in all cases.
A variety of equipment is used for the handling and storage of goods within the warehouse and some of them are specifically recommended and suitable for certain types of goods or unit loads. Typically, goods will arrive in pallets, ISO containers or in break bulk( cases, cartons, bags, drums, etc). The proper type of equipment must be used otherwise damages can occur during handling.
In addition to handling, storage and retrieval of goods, some of the equipment are used by warehouse staff for other purposes, including order picking. The range and type of equipment that are available and those that are constantly being released into the market are highly diverse. As a result, a full understanding cannot possibly be given in totality by one person.
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