Case study

How to prepare your warehouse for an eco friendly future

The greenhouse gas emissions that come from your warehouse may have so far gone unnoticed however the UK Government wants us all to look at our carbon footprint and take action to reduce it. Our aim as a country to reduce our emissions to net zero by 2050 and by 2030 UK businesses operating from commercial buildings will be required to operate with significantly improved energy performance. The good news is that businesses with lower emissions should see a significant drop in energy consumption costs and because being climate conscious is favourable to the public a green approach can enhance the business reputation helping you build a stronger client base.

The year 2030 will be here before we know it, so now is a good time to start looking ways to make your warehouse a little greener.

So what’s behind the high greenhouse emissions in your warehouse and how can you reduce it?

Carbon neutral warehouses have already begun to make an appearance around the world and these operate successfully using renewable energy through wind, solar panelled roofs and rain water utilisation. These energy efficient facilities have been purposely designed and built to operate this way, so what can the existing warehouse do to improve its own energy performance? Well you may not have solar panels on your roof just yet but there are things you can do within the four walls of your facility that can make a real difference and save you money as a result:

Implement LED Lighting

A warehouse requires adequate lighting, but is your lighting system adequate whilst being energy efficient? LED lights are the most energy efficient option as they provide efficient lighting whilst only using a fraction of the energy of that used by non LED lighting and this can reduce your energy costs by up to 90%. This can make a significant improvement to your energy performance and you save money at the same time. Another great advantage is that LED lighting lasts much longer in comparison to none LED lights, with some offering up to 50,000 hours of light which means less maintenance and replacements are less frequently needed so that’s another great save for your business! Some LED lights have the ability to only light up areas as and when needed such as the aisle between the pallet racking so operators can see clearly in the area they need to.

Warehouse with LED lighting

Introduce warehouse temperature control

Inconsistent temperatures within the warehouse can affect staff and inventory, however keeping a warehouse which has multiple doors and openings to the right temperature at all times can be challenging. You could use your walls and doors to help keep the warehouse at the right temperature with insulation and implement automatic doors which close when not in use. If certain parts of the warehouse need be kept at different temperatures to others, these areas can be segregated with room dividers such as wall partitioning. For areas that only need a certain temperature at certain times such as the staff area which is only used during working hours a timer controlled thermostat will automatically turn on and off at the times you set.

Reconfigure chilled or frozen chambers

Frozen or chilled products are normally consumables and such items can spoil and become waste if they are not kept to the required low temperature. Because the areas in which these items are kept require a continuation of very cold or freezing temperatures they require a vast amount of energy in comparison to ambient storage. For such warehouses almost 50% of their overall energy consumption is used to keep these temperatures so that’s almost half of their energy bills solely on chilled or frozen storage area temperature control.  One way to help reduce energy consumption in these areas is to condense them using compact storage systems which take up less floor space whilst storing the same amount of products. Certain pallet racking and warehouse shelving systems can help you achieve this. These are specifically designed to utilise cubic space so rather than the standard pallet racking configuration which consists of a rows of racking with an aisle sitting between them, these systems eliminate the aisle per row and use almost the entire area for storage. Here’s how they work:

Pallet live racking

This is a compact system consisting multiple of deep running lanes and an aisle on one side of the structure to load pallets and an aisle on the opposite side to retrieve them. There are no aisles between each row of racks. Pallet live racking is a slightly tilted structure and incorporates rollers along the lanes to enable the loaded pallets to travel assisted by gravity through the lane towards the picking face at the opposite end. The inbuilt breaking system prevents the pallet from travelling past the stopping point at the picking face. The advantage for warehouses storing perishable goods is that this system works on the first-in first-out (FIFO) basis and this enables assisted stock rotation which can save even more time and money.

There’s also the push back racking configuration to consider. This utilises even more space for storage as it only requires one access aisle from which goods are both picked and retrieved. For every pallet loaded the rest are pushed deeper into the lane. The first pallet loaded will be the last one out as it gets pushed further back as new pallets enter the structure. This is known as the first-in Last-out(FILO) method and doesn’t provide assisted stock rotation. By using these configurations you can utilise between 80% and 90% of your floor space.

Push back Racking being loaded using fork lift truck

Mobile racking

This is a cleverly designed pallet racking configuration consisting of standard pallet racking mounted on a mobile base. This purposely eliminates the need for fixed aisle between the racks which means with mobile racking you can utilise up to 90% of your floor space. To access a pallet a temporary aisle is created by moving the racks either manually or electronically. Only one aisle at a time can be opened to ensure safety, however if your inventory turnover is low, fragile or valuable this is an ideal solution for keeping them securely stored.

Powered Mobile Racking

Radio shuttle racking

Fully automated the electric powered shuttle racking system reduces the need for as much manual labour and can work on either the FIFO or FILO methods. It’s a deep lane configuration, similar to that of the pallet live racking system however the pallets are loaded onto the radio shuttle which sits on the rack opening. Once the pallet has been placed on the shuttle it’s then transported by the shuttle deeper into the lane to its destination.  The elimination of aisle space between rows mean storage capacity is increased and an added benefit is that the shuttle device ensures your pallets do not have contact with each other. This eliminates bumps and knocks between the pallets, ideal if goods are fragile or high in value.

compact shuttle racking system

Drive-in Drive-through racking

This is a compact storage system that allows the fork lift truck to enter the structure to gain access. Providing optimal use of space, the pallets are densely stored back to front, bottom to top and each lane is fully accessible. Drive-in drive-through pallet racking can be configured to enable either the FILO or FIFO method. The Drive-in configuration is accessed from one side so this works in the FILO method whereas the drive-through configuration allows access from both sides from which one side loads and the other picks and this enables the FIFO method. Because less aisle space is required, drive-in racking offers a little more storage capacity than drive-through making it perfect for non perishable goods, yet drive-through can optimise space and stock rotation at the same time, so is drive-in or drive-through your ideal solution?

Drive-in-Drive-through racking

Mobile shelving

This is ideal for the storage of temperature controlled individual items and small boxes. Mobile shelving  consists of shelves sitting on a mobile base which allows the shelves to open to create an access aisle as and when needed. Like the mobile racking system, there are no fixed aisles and up to 90% of the space can be optimised for storage use.

Mobile Shelving system

Utilise your overhead space

If like many businesses, your operation is experiencing growth your probably looking at ways to increase usable floor space. If you extend your property or move to larger premises, this will result in a larger footprint that will only increase your greenhouse emissions further. Here are a few ways you can extend usable floor space without increasing your carbon footprint and for a much lower cost too:

Install a mezzanine floor

Rather than extend outwards you can extend upwards! A mezzanine floor is a structure built within your exiting four walls to create usable floor space above ground and all you need is sufficient height space. This can be used to create more office space, storage areas, production space or staff facilities and it’s only a fraction of the cost of moving or extending. The mezzanine floor can even be multi tiered so you can gain numerous floor levels and still not affect your original footprint. A mezzanine floor is accessed by staircases with the option to add lifts, pallet gates, chutes and conveyors depending on how the mezzanine will be used.

multi tier warehouse storage mezzanine floor

Introduce a multi tiered shelving system

If product turnover has increased and your looking to extend your shelving system, there’s no need to compromise your floor space if you have height space. A multi tier shelving system is simply tall shelving with incorporated floor levels and staircases to enable easy access to the highest shelves. You can even add lifts to help transport multiple items to and from the upper levels or chutes to move items to lower ground quickly.  This solution provides increased storage capacity using height with the added benefit of multiplying usable floor space within the same surface area.

Warehouse multi tier shelving system

Implement a tall racking configuration

The entire space in your facility is valuable including height space so why not use it? A tall racking configuration such as the very narrow aisle racking system (VNA) can be as tall as your building allows. This in conjunction with narrowed down aisles means a significant increase in storage capacity. To access the pallets a specialist tall reaching and very slim fork lift truck is used. These are guided down the aisle using electrical transmissions from a guide wire fitted central to the access aisle.

Narrow-Aisle racking

Consider how equipment is powered

Fork lift trucks are an essential part of a warehouse operation. These lifting machines have been a common sight in warehouses since the Second World War and have continually evolved. Forklift trucks are fuelled in various ways including gas, diesel and electricity. The fuel which has the highest impact on the environment is Diesel which is why demand for gas and electric powered trucks is on the rise. If the facility is powered by solar panels the electric fork lift truck is even more the eco-friendly choice, however gas powered trucks can still cut your emissions by up to 50%.  A note on electric trucks – Lithium-ion batteries have begun to find there way to the electric powered fork lift truck and these have been found to be much more environmentally friendly that the lead-acid batteries so its likely we will see a rise in lithium-ion battery powered fork lift trucks.

pallet racking with fork lift truck

Adopt a joint effort to limit energy wastage

A team effort can be really beneficial and can make a real difference to your company’s carbon footprint. To help get your team on board raise awareness by sending out information “electronically of course” about the companies carbon emissions and it’s ambition to reduce it. Highlight ways they can help with little effort simply by turning off equipment such as computers once they have finished using them. Go paperless by sending files electronically rather then printing them. Boil the kettle with the right amount of water, turn off lights in rooms on leaving and close doors to keep in the heat.

WSL is here to help you find new creative ways to reduce your carbon footprint through eco friendly storage configurations, including compact storage systems, space utilisation and increasing usable floor space without increasing your physical or carbon footprint with a mezzanine floor.  Contact WSL today on 0113 2045350 or email to arrange a free site survey where you can discuss solution options with our designer that will save money, time and carbon emissions.

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