In a tight economy, warehouses are looking up
In a fast-paced industry with e-commerce demand holding strong, many warehouses are aiming to work as efficiently as possible, including through the use of overhead space.
Moving faster, maximizing space, and creating leaner operations.
Some say these practices are becoming common goals in warehouses of all types, as demand for e-commerce holds steady.
At Quantum Storage Systems, Director of Sales Ed Granger said the company has been working with a fair amount of retailers lately. “We are one of the largest suppliers of plastic bins” in the market, he said, explaining how Quantum helps operations achieve goals of leaner and well-organized operations with its bins and systems.
The company has recently been securing orders for large distribution centers and is seeing more demand for high density types of bins. “A lot of soft products that retailers might be selling can easily be stored flat within bins,” Granger said. “The massive bins with a lot of product can be floor loaded. They are good underneath the first level of pallet racks,” he said. “It’s a great use of space.”
Also, popular recently are Quantum’s rack bins, two of which can fit on a standard pallet. Operators are “filling up and forklifting the pallets up to the taller pallet racks,” Granger said. “We are seeing a lot of success with the bins that can be stacked on each other,” he said, noting some are stacking them four levels high.
The footprint of warehouses is top of mind for many companies currently, Granger said. “They don’t necessarily have the ability to expand. They’re looking to go up, utilizing as much space as possible, vertically,” he said.
Granger noted there are different possibilities at the ground level in which warehouses can be smart about using space and then can build up from there. Quantum offers a high-density shelving system and floor tracks to help with product movement.
For some smaller warehouses that do not have the ability to maximize vertical space, the floor track system can help in arranging storage space.
“Not everybody has the luxury of being able to knock down walls or being able to add more square footage to the existing building,” Granger said. “They may have low ceilings and have to be creative in how they utilize storage space.”
What is universal right now is the drive to optimize the use of space, according to Granger. “Everybody is looking at it,” he said.
As pandemic conditions improved, Granger said warehouses encountered a lot of pent-up demand. “What we really saw, coming out of COVID, was that it was almost like everybody flipped the switch at the same time,” he said. “There were a lot of different industries with a backlog of orders.”
And so, the storage industry “really took off,” according to Granger, who said Quantum Storage Solutions has had some “phenomenal years” since this shift.
He does not foresee anything disrupting this focus in warehousing in the coming years. The only possibility he can see thwarting the growth would be a large global disruption. “Only something like that right now could derail the pace we’re on. I think we’re in for a solid couple of years of economic growth,” Granger said.
At Custom Industrial Products, Corporate Vice President Kyle Goodwin said that currently “speed is everything” in many warehouses. “With the reliance on e-commerce, especially after COVID, the faster operations are staying ahead of the competition,” Goodwin said.
Lean operations fit with this focus on speed, he said, describing how many warehouses are looking more to automation to move material as efficiently as possible. “Anything spread out takes longer to move material. They can shorten that by stacking,” Goodwin said.
In this respect, Custom Industrial Products can assist by utilizing its vertical reciprocating conveyors, or VRCs. “We can help them be leaner by moving supplies or products between levels. This helps to optimize floor space needed,” Goodwin said.
Formerly, an operation would need a forklift operator and spotter to move product up and down levels, as well as plentiful aisle space to accommodate the lift. By comparison, VRCs can function in smaller spaces and do not require special certification for operation, according to Goodwin.
The company has an especially fast lead time with installation, as well. “We have some of the shortest lead times in the industry,” he said. “We can install a unit in one to two days,” he added, of the company’s modular VRCs.
Custom Industrial Products is seeing use of its products across industries, according to Goodwin.
He noted that there has been a boom in the automotive industries over the past five years, as they work to meet increased demand for parts and servicing. Some are working to efficiently set up operations in the wake of consolidations, according to Goodwin.
Like Granger, Goodwin said the growth of e-commerce is being felt in warehouses across industries and use of space is a top consideration. “People are looking to optimize their floor space more because they can’t grow outward because the cost is prohibitive,” he said.
And operations are looking to move products as close to end users as possible, where real estate is at more of a premium. “To be located within a convenient position within the city they have to build up more than out,” said Goodwin, who said this need can be seen across sectors, even in those like farming.
Goodwin envisions the next few years will bring smaller distribution centers in a variety of locations, like bricks and mortar stores offering pickup and delivery. “It’s going to change their models. How do they get the small products back out to the customer,” he said, adding some companies will look at using real estate space already there like old warehouse buildings or shopping centers.
With the demand for e-commerce and rapid changes in the economy, Goodwin believes warehouses will keep looking at ways to maximize space, especially vertical space. “Tight economies force people to relook at the operation, to think outside the box and into these other areas,” he said.
About the Author:
Eileen Mozinski Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 13 years. Email Networkeditorial@MHNetwork.com or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen. If your company would like to be featured, email Networkeditorial@MHNetwork.com