Space, Warehousing and Conveying
The growth of e-commerce is driving changes in the world of internal storage and logistic systems. Meeting customers’ rapid order fulfillment requirements has become a focal point for the suppliers of conveyor systems.
In this article, Dennis Brian, CCO for Apollo Europe notes that they are seeing a lot more manufacturers, retailers and logistics companies updating their DC’s (distribution centers) to incorporate new technologies, automation and pick modules for rapid-order fulfillment.
As we evaluate multichannel warehouse operations, Apollo are frequently asked when a warehouse is considered to be at full capacity. The company’s response is that if movement and storage efficiency drops, then capacity has been reached. Meaning if pallet movement becomes restricted and each move takes multiple actions to complete, then you have reached the point at which you should consider increasing warehouse space and handling processes.
One of the toughest things to address, is whether you can reduce use of space by focusing on the age of the inventory and then liquidating overstock. This may be the first step in your DC space study. If you have inventory reporting which shows by SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) the period of supply and inventory turnover, this will show how many weeks it will take to sell off excess stock. But is it sufficient to counter the warehouse space issue?
Beyond the initial step of addressing potential overstock, there are several ways you can improve your warehouse space utilization. Warehouse space often represents 15% to 20% of the cost per order. Moving to new space is expensive and time consuming.
Have you considered using your vertical space?
Look up and make sure you’re using all the vertical space available and investigate storage methods which take advantage of your clear span height. Whether you have a small warehouse or a distribution centre of thousands of square metres, often every bit of floor space may have been utilized. However height often represents 50% of under-utilized space in existing facilities.
The proliferation of automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) is impacting the design of conveyor systems. Selective static storage racks are giving way to more multi-level picking and vertical conveyor systems that can accommodate faster and more accurate picking and multi-item order handling.
“Instead of just sending very narrow aisle order pickers out to fill boxes or to fulfill orders, companies are using our spiral conveyors that send items down to sortation equipment that’s automating and stream lining the entire operation,” suggests Brian.
Beyond just picking to custom-designed handling systems
“All systems installed by Apollo are customer specific. While the components themselves may be similar from one operation to the next, there are distinct variations in height, storages levels and performance,” states Brian.
This requires much more engineering design involvement and goes far beyond picking just from the shelf. Conveyor system components integrate with robots, AR, RS, carts and other tech-oriented equipment, pushing manufacturers into a completely different realm: that of end-user orientated system design engineer, versus just a product maker.
Conveyor system manufacturers such as Apollo, work with an integrator to ensure that the design and installation process is smooth and trouble-free. We have to understand exactly where the conveyor is going, how it will be positioned, what it will be moving and how the goods will flow across it. Even just one subtle change on the integrator’s part can have major repercussions on the vertical transportation system.
Dennis Brian concludes “from the initial quote, through the design phase and right into the actual conveyor manufacturing process takes a lot of teamwork. Our well established relationships with the integrators enables us to meet customer demands successfully already for many years”If you want to know more about utilizing your warehouse space to its maximum, please consult your Apollo specialist, or speak with one of their trusted system integrators.