Blog Posts Maximizing Warehouse Space in a Tight-Capacity Market


Industrial vacancy rates are at a historic low of 4.3 percent, leaving little room for expansion. Companies need to get creative to optimize warehouse space.

“When space is tight, we look for different layout and storage solutions for our clients,” explains Bobby Hays, Saddle Creek’s Vice President Distribution. “We try to use the smallest footprint possible to maximize capacity.”

How to Make the Most of Your Warehouse Footprint

Available options depend on the company’s inventory profile, Hays says.

To tighten up density for full-pallet or case-pick storage, companies can explore different racking solutions.

One option is to position two single-select racks back to back. This double-deep configuration works well in grocery warehouses, for example. It’s important to be aware of related equipment requirements, however. Hays points out that this arrangement requires a double-deep reach truck.

Drive-in racking solutions are another option. Layouts can extend from four or five to even 30 racks deep. With new technology, robots can retrieve deep pallets and bring them to the front of the aisle. “This configuration works really well for companies that have a lot of inventory with the same SKU,” Hays suggests. “Then, you just stock a different SKU in each location going up.”

Each-pick operations can also be reconfigured with an eye toward increasing density. Many companies add shelving, varying the height depending on the size of cases or products.

Cardboard drawers can be effective, particularly for apparel, Hays says. They might house 60 to 80 SKUs but usually don’t contain many units.

For very high-density operations, Hays recommends “bookshelves.” Rolling shelves on casters are used with single-select racking to position products like books on a shelf. This allows hundreds of SKUs to be stocked in a single location. Hanging shelves on hooks (similar to a closet organizer) are another option.

Narrow and very narrow aisles are also gaining in popularity. For example, Saddle Creek stocks 50,000 SKUs in a 45,000-square-foot space for one client at its Fort Worth facility. To help navigate the tight footprint, guided-rail systems were installed along four-foot-wide aisles. A cherry picker retrieves overstock or slower moving items from higher shelves.

Depending on clear height, some companies add a mezzanine level to existing buildings. It’s still much cheaper than a new building, Hays points out.

“Don’t just think in 2D,” he stresses. “You’ve got to think in 3D and cubic feet when space is tight.”