Case study

Could your warehouse pass the unexpected visitor test?

Our perception of a warehouse typically involves lots of pallets and boxes, moving handling equipment, conveyors and people, pallet racking structures and warehouse shelving systems but on visiting a warehouse you learn more about how it operates by observing its various processes, effectiveness to time management and of course health and safety aspects.

Visits to your warehouse may only happen occasionally, however health and safety as well as first impressions are crucial every single time. This could be the deal breaker when it comes to potential clients or partners who want to see for themselves how well your facility operates.

At least you can prepare your warehouse for a pre-arranged visit, but what about an unexpected visit or one at very short notice? If an unplanned visit is likely to catch you off guard, you may need to adopt a daily visitor approach. This may sound time consuming and complicated, but in reality its simply ensuring that all procedures and regulations are followed at all times by your well trained employees, that your structures are properly maintained, your warehouse signage is visible and your processes are streamlined.

Warehouse time management and organisation

A chaotic operation when it doesn’t have to be can be off-putting to visitors not to mention the negative effect it can have on profitability. This alone could potentially steer any prospect partners, clients or investors in the opposite direction. To combat this issue your goal would not to make your operation look safe, time effective and organised, but to be safe, time effective and organised. Not only will this benefit your business as a whole, your obvious commitment to health, safety and productivity will be clear to visitors, even the unexpected ones. So what contributes to a positive and productive warehouse environment where health and safety is evidently prioritised?

Warehouse Layout

They way in which a warehouse is laid out can affect productivity in either a negative way or positive way. A poor layout will almost certainly increase travel time and can inflict confusion which results in even more time wasted. An optimal warehouse layout will aid the directional flow of inventory ensuring the process is streamlined as goods journey through the facility. As the diagram bellow illustrates, directional flow is largely influenced by the location of your goods-in and despatch areas between which a pathway is formed through a combination of storage structures and departments. An optimal warehouse layout promotes organisation allowing a process that is sequenced and streamlined, simplifying every day tasks. Items are easy to located, travel time between departments is minimal and traffic flow is orderly.

Inventory directional flow diagram infograph

Warehouse storage structures

Insufficient storage can lead to an array of potential problems including disorganisation, safety concerns and insufficient use of space. Not only is this likely to affect productivity and profitability but such issues will mould the warehouse environment making them obvious to visitors.  Improvements to your current warehouse storage structures can be made rather than replacing your systems completely. With numerous warehouse racking formats available the ability to meet changing needs is easer to achieve, especially as there’s a high degree of flexibility, adjustability and versatility amongst the various systems.

Pallet racking

To store items in large bundles the most common practice is to compact them securely onto a racking pallet. This is a 120 x 100cm square wooden pad and when multiplied these can take up a lot of floor space.

Loaded Racking Pallet


Pallet racking is a structure that enables the storage of fully loaded pallets in high volumes, safely and neatly in a space saving and organised configuration. Used in collaboration, a fork lift truck is a material handling vehicle with a large fork attachment that can reach heights so pallets can be lifted, placed and picked safely and easily. Standard pallet racking is formed by rows of racking with access aisle between each row. This is known as wide aisle racking or standard APR and because the rows consist of multiple levels, space is utilised and storage capacity is increased. These aisles can be narrowed down and the racks built taller creating the narrow aisle racking system, ideal if there’s a need to further increase storage capacity and height space is generous. Navigating the narrow aisle and accessing the high racks is easy to achieve using a specialist slim line, high reaching fork lift truck.  Pallet racking can also be extended or beams can be adjusted to support varied pallet sizes or there’s the option to install decking to ensure smaller loads are stored safely and without risk of falling.

Some pallet racking systems are of a more compact configuration offering deep storage that optimises floors space by eliminating multiple aisles. Some of these offer stock rotation assistance by working on the First-in First-out (FIFO) method making it easy to organise perishable stock and minimise waste. Compact pallet racking is ideal for those whose floor space has become limited and because it stores more within the same cubic area, the cost per pallet is reduced. This is particularly beneficial to those operating cold and frozen chambers as energy consumption can be greatly reduced.

Compact Drive in Drive through racking


Other warehouse racking systems

Not all inventories can be stored on pallets but that doesn’t mean your none-palletised goods can’t be kept safe and organised. The built to last cantilever racking system for example is an effective storage system that accommodates items that may be oddly shaped or particularly large and heavy. The steel robust structure which is suited to both internal and external use, incorporates cantilever arms on which the goods are rested and when circumstances change the detachable arms can be adjusted to suit. The structure can also be extended by adding more bays and storage capacity can be doubled without a huge impact on space by positioning two structures back to back or along a wall. Cantilever racking provides clear visibility and can be accessed directly with the use of a fork lift truck to reach heights or lift heavy loads. D-divider racking can also help solve your warehouse storage problems if your items are long and light enough in weight to handle manually. This could be long length pipe or timber for example. The D-divider racks enable the items to stand tall between the D shaped brackets safely reducing the risk of accidental damage or even injury.

Cantilever racking used to store timber


Made up of rails and hanging hooks, the garment hanging system is an incredibly effective space saving solution for apparel storage facilities. If boxed storage is taking up too much space and leaving your items creased then hanging them instead can greatly improve the quality standard of your products. The hung garments are easy to locate and access resulting in customer expectations being met in terms of timing, accuracy and quality.

A large garment hanging system

Warehouse Shelving

There’s more to warehouse shelving than just safe secure storage for hand loaded goods because with the right shelving type and through bespoke design, warehouse shelving can drastically improve space optimisation resulting in a de-cluttered and much safer warehouse.  If your shelves are always full leaving you with loose items or boxes with nowhere to go your shelving system could be extended and not just lengthways. By increasing the height of the shelves you can utilise over head space which is currently unused. Walkways can be fitted to create multiple floor levels to gain access with associated staircases so in effect you are multiplying your usable floor surface area without there being any effect on the building itself. A multi tier shelving system can even incorporate lifts or chutes to help transport items in large quantities or at speed.

long span shelving


If manual stock rotation is proving to be time consuming and costly, the slight tilt as well as rollers incorporated by the carton live shelving system provides assisted stock rotation and works at speed. Using gravity the items placed in the shelf from the loading point are transported to the picking face without the need for manual interaction. The last item loaded will position itself behind the items already on the shelf and move forward as the queue for picking goes down. This is known as the FIFO method which reduces the risk of error and labour costs.

Carton live shelving system

Mezzanine floor

The warehouse mezzanine floor has lots to offer when looking to maximise cubic space with the aim of increasing productivity and improving safety at the same time. A mezzanine floor provides a completely new workspace within the warehouse and this can be used in any way you choose. The structure creates an upper level platform and can incorporate multiple storeys if the ceiling is particularly high. It could provide office space, storage space, production space or staff facilities with the upper level accessed via a staircase with the added option of lifts, pallet gates, chutes or conveyors. The mezzanine floor enables departments to spread out more giving them enough space to operate whilst the original ground floor is utilised more effectively. In comparison to relocating or extending, the semi permanent, yet sustainable mezzanine floor solution is without doubt the most cost effective solution.

Warehouse mezzanine with staircase and pallet gate

Warehouse health and safety

Warehouse safety is essential and should be a priority for any warehouse facility at all times. A safe warehouse can be demonstrated by:

Ensuring cleanliness and tidiness: A clean and tidy warehouse poses a much lower risk of illness or accidents. The entire warehouse team can play a role in helping your facility to achieve this simply by following procedures such as using a wet floor sign, regular cleaning on a rotor basis, using bins appropriately and picking up any loose packaging or boxes.

Implementing safety signage: Safety signage will essentially enable staff and visitors to themselves keep out of harms way. By following the safety guidance on the signage, the risk of injury as they travel through the warehouse is minimised as safe routes can be taken any potential danger is signalled through warning signs. Safety signs also prevent storage structures from becoming overloaded with the use of weight load notices that clearly illustrate the maximum weight load capacity.

Pallet racking weight load notice


Keeping safety checks and maintenance up to date: Regular racking inspections are advised every twelve to eighteen months and should be carried out by an experienced and qualified rack inspector. These detailed and thorough inspections will highlight any potential danger posed by your racking system so you can take action before an accident

Providing staff training: As an employer it’s your responsibility to ensure your employees are adequately trained to operate or use equipment. This includes any material handling equipment including a fork lift truck for which training results in a license to operate the vehicle. Refresher training should always be completed in order to keep the licence continually in date. Where training hasn’t been carried out, the risk of an accident is extremely high and could result in injury as well as high costs to the business.

Installing adequate protection ancillaries: The most effective way to prevent the collapse of storage structures is to protect the areas they are likely to take repeat hits because a weakened structure can eventually give way. In most cases it’s the base and edges that are likely to suffer the most knocks and bumps, mainly from moving handling equipment, so protection including end of aisle racking barriers, upright protectors and mezzanine floor column guards are essential. Barriers can also be used to create segregated walkways which helps manage traffic and enable safe movement. Mezzanine edge protection and safe staircase design are a crucial element under the UK Building Regulations and this is to ensure safety as the mezzanine is being accessed and used. Taking steps to safeguard your warehouse will protect employees and visitors alike and will also save money.

End of aisle protection barrier

Visitor safety

Unlike your employees a visitor is new to your facility and is therefore unfamiliar with your daily operation and the potential dangers and hazards as a result. It’s the responsibility of the warehouse management team and the business owner to ensure the safety of visitors to the premises. Here’s how to prepare for a visitor:

Inform your team

If the visit is planned, it’s important to inform the team who can play their part in keeping visitors safe. With the visitors inexperience of your operation in mind your team will likely take more care as they carry out their duties.

Appoint a chaperone

Choose a member of your team to escort the visitor through the warehouse so they don’t become lost or accidentally put themselves in danger. In the event of an unexpected visitor be sure to have registered volunteers so that someone is available to assist the visitor.

Keep visitor PPE in stock

Like employees, a visitor should be visible whilst travelling through the warehouse so high vis jackets should be given to visitors before they enter as well as head and ear protection where applicable.

Conduct a pre entry safety brief

Before the visitor enters the warehouse they should be advised of safety measures including fire exits and procedures. They should also be made aware of potential dangers such as moving equipment, machinery and danger zone locations.

Log all visits and provide a badge

A visitor should sign in before entering and be provided with a visitor badge so all staff are aware the person is a visitor a new to the site.

For advise on changes you could make in your warehouse to improve you operation and visitor experience call our expert team today on 0113 2045350 or email to arrange a free site survey.

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