Adapting to change has become routine since the Covid19 pandemic began, with world leaders, countries, businesses and people working and living as never before to protect lives.
The need to socially distance has caused a sudden and drastic change in consumer behaviour bringing new challenges to the retail industry. A trip out to shops to make an unnecessary purchase has moved down in our list of priorities, however the ability to still make purchases safely and easily through online shopping is reigniting our desire to shop but in a different way. Presenting minimal risk of spreading the virus the rising appetite for online shopping goes far beyond convenience, it is now the safest route to buying goods. Even vital items such as food and medicinal items have embraced the trend of online purchasing.
As the unruliness of Covid19 continues, the shift from in-store to online sales is the only route to survival for many high street retailers and for many this new path could become permanent.
The ecommerce warehouse
Moving your retail business online means you’ll be switching the limelight from a physical store to warehouse distribution with job roles focussing on order fulfilment rather than assisting customers face to face. A streamlined process through effective warehouse management will ensure that every stage of a customer order is carried out promptly, accurately and effectively. The drawback of digital trading is the inability to try the product prior to purchase so if it doesn’t suit, the online buyer looks to purchase if returning the item is easy. The entire process of goods in, storage, sorting, picking, packing, despatch and returns takes place in a fulfilment warehouse or distribution centre; the focal point of customer service. So whether you’re opening a new facility or adapting your current here is some useful ecommerce warehouse planning tips:
Space analysis: Calculate your expected inventory and measure this against the full cubic area of your space. Utilisation of height space as well as floor space will drastically increase your ability to store more within the same footprint area. Assess the location of goods in and goods out to confirm inventory directional flow which will influence the internal layout. The layout will include the position and size of various departments so it’s important to consider departmental activities to plan space required for each.
Storage needs: The characteristics of your inventory will be a controlling factor when choosing your storage systems. This is because your inventory should be stored and handled according to its own specifics so speed, time-sensitivity, temperature and delicacy should be considered when going through your options:
Sourcing the right racking for pallets
Pallets hold inventory in bulk which is then stored as one unit on racking shelves located in a pallet racking structure. The network of steel components forms a long and tall structure to enable the storage of pallets in high volumes both in horizontal rows and vertical stacks. Using a forklift truck, heavy loaded pallets can be placed in the racks and retrieved safely. Pallet racking makes use of space that would otherwise be redundant whilst supporting your inventory requirements which is why it’s available in a variety of configurations so be sure to explore all pallet racking types prior to choosing.
What are your storage priorities?
Reducing the cost of temperature control – Temperature controlled inventory produces additional warehouse running costs as energy consumption is higher. There’s a real need to keep these costs as low as possible which is why cold store warehouses look to increase storage capacity within a limited cold zone area by implementing high compact pallet racking solutions. Push back and Mobile racking storage systems are both suited cold or freezing temperatures and offer energy efficient storage thanks to their high compact configuration. Push back only has one fixed working aisle so most of the area is utilised for storage. As a new pallet is loaded it pushes the already sitting pallet further into the slightly sloped, deep lanes that are fitted with integrated rollers to assist the movement. Mobile racking consists of pallet racks mounted into a mobile base which move to open one single aisle and when access is required. This solution wastes no space through the elimination of unnecessary fixed working aisles so more pallets can be stored in the same footprint area.
For more hints and tips on how to economise cold storage operations please see Keep your cool with temperature controlled storage solutions by WSL
If stock rotation is another priority as well as temperature control, bellow there are more high compact storage solutions that offer assisted stock rotation:
Perishable stock control – If your stock is time-sensitive, the risk of spoilage resulting in waste increases. Using the assisted stock rotation methods some pallet racking systems work on will save you time and money. By using the first-in first-out (FIFO) method which means the first pallet loaded is the first to be picked, the need to use manual labour for stock rotation is eliminated reducing costs and minimising waste. Pallet live racking provides deep storage with one working aisle at either side running parallel to each other. New pallets are loaded on one side from where it travels along the inclined running lanes on rollers which use gravity to assist, then stops as it reaches the picking face. Shuttle racking is another option which can adopt the FIFO method at the flick of a button. Offering deep storage shuttle racking uses automation in the form of radio controlled shuttles which transport pallets through the long running lanes once loaded. Drive-in drive-through pallet racking offers high density storage but instead of deep running lanes, the fork lift truck enters the structure and pallets are stored back to back, bottom to top. The drive through option works on a FIFO basis by enabling access from both sides so one can replenish whilst the other picks.
Discover more here: How to achieve fail-safe stock rotation in your warehouse
Direct access to various product types – If your inventory varies in type and you store multiple types at the same time, then you may be looking for more diversity. Wide aisle pallet racking is the simplest form of pallet racking and offers both efficiency and accessibility. Not only is it suited to a varied product range, wide aisle racking, also known as standard adjustable pallet racking (APR) can be flexible to your needs. Configured with operational aisles between the racks, pallets can be clearly seen and accessed yet the structure can be adjusted should your needs change. The beams can be repositioned or the racks extended and if you’re looking to increase storage capacity the system can be configured to form double deep pallet racking simply by placing the racks back to back with access on one side of each row.
Storing high inventory volumes with limited floor space -If you’re concerned your space doesn’t have the capacity to accommodate your storage needs, you may be surprised to learn that narrow aisle pallet racking utilises height and floor space at the same time by implementing very narrow aisles and very tall racks. Aisle width can be reduced by up to 50% of that of standard aisle size and the racks can be built as tall as the ceiling allows with 100% accessibility to every pallet. Although specialist high reaching, slim line trucks are required the investment will see a high return through increased productivity.
Please see: The last pallet racking guide you’ll ever need for a detailed insight to pallet racking.
Sourcing the right shelving system
Warehouse shelving offers numerous options for small parts and individual items and in ecommerce these solutions are invaluable. Optimisation can result from a shelving system that serves your processes in a way that supports your entire operation resulting in high productivity. All of the bellow shelving systems are commonly used in ecommerce and can be diligently designed to suit your space including height space with the integration of ancillaries such as upper level walkways, stairs and lifts.
Long span shelving – Whether in addition to your current storage systems or on its own, long span shelving is an inexpensive yet highly diverse solution for hand loaded, heavy, bulky, singular units. Configured using beams, panels and uprights long span shelving is quick and easy to assemble and once in place it can be used immediately with high visibility and direct access. If needs change, long span shelving can be adjusted very quickly and easily and can be moved should you relocate.
Short span shelving – This is an affordable, simple and versatile storage solution that provides high visibility and can maximise your floor space with the introduction of narrow aisles positioning. Ideal for very small, even tiny inventory types as these can be grouped or separated into compartments using bins and dividers and kept safe by adding back and side cladding.
Carton live shelving– Enforcing speed and accuracy through assisted stock rotation this is a live system that uses the same methodology as pallet live racking in that inventory enters the shelves from one side and picked at the other. Not only does it save space through a bespoke space saving design, but it saves time and money too. Carton live is well suited to food, medicinal and cosmetic items.
Alternative rack storage systems– If your inventory is unsuitable for pallet racking or warehouse shelving storage, what are your options?
Textiles and hanging garments – Boxed storage can be damaging for certain inventory materials however your delicate soft fabric cloth items can be kept in pristine condition thanks to the garment hanging system. This can consist of a simple set of rails or can be a vastly sophisticated hanging solution that meets more complex needs. Ideal for fashion retailers trying to keep up with demand as seasonal stock and new trends enter the market, a garment hanging system promotes organisation, accuracy and speed and can be integrated with shelving or mezzanine floors to create a combined solution.
Long, heavy loads – When you consider the size, shape and weight of particular items such as pipes, timber and white goods, it’s clear that both shelving and pallet racking are unsuitable storage options. Cantilever racking on the other hand can meet your storage needs, whatever the size, weight and shape of your goods. This heavy duty racking system is made up of a robust central base from which steel cantilever arms extend out to support the items stored on them. The highly robust structure can be designed to take any weight with the option to galvanize for extra durability if used for external storage. The absence of end frames makes way for clear visibility and direct access using a fork lift truck. Cantilever racking is ideal for hardware and white goods retailers due to the variations in inventory types, shapes, sizes and weight.
Increase usable floor space with a mezzanine floor
The e-fulfilment or distribution centre that has sufficient over head space can gain more usable floor space by implementing a mezzanine floor. A warehouse mezzanine floor opens many opportunities to use space effectively, whether to house storage, offices or staff facilities. Access between levels is achieved with the incorporation of staircases, lifts, pallet gates or chutes and depending on how generous the height space is, a mezzanine floor can be multi tiered creating more space to separate departments. This semi permanent steel structure is a favourable option for warehouses who are looking to create more workspace without extending the building or relocating the business.
WSL can help
Whether you’re a small independent retailer or a large organisation WSL is here to help as you take your business to the prospering next level. Whatever the size of you premises we can find the most optimum solution for your business, preparing you for a new successful chapter whether that’s growing your existing online presence or entering the digital world of trading for the first time. The retail sector is a large proportion of our client base and WSL has been supporting our clients over many years through the changes online shopping had made to their business.
After initial contact a visit with one of our highly experienced design technicians will be arranged on site where a free site survey will be carried out and your requirements discussed in detail. Our design team combined carry over 100 years experience in warehouse planning and design. They know every product in detail and will use this extensive experience and knowledge alongside their understanding of your business operations to draw up a detailed plan for your ecommerce facility. Your design will include bespoke storage solutions, configured to suit your space, inventory, fire safety, health and safety, all drawn up in the most effective layout.
Operating from our in house Leeds factory WSL is a highly accredited manufacturer of mezzanine floors with Full SEMA Membership and CE Marking BS EN: 1090. This means quality and safety is guaranteed when sourcing through WSL who can offer flexibility and a bespoke design to match your exact needs. Our growing manufactured product range includes staircases, handrails, protection barriers, pallet gates and cantilever racking.
Precision Project Management
Once plans are agreed, you will be introduced to your designated Project Manager who will manage and over see the scheme until complete. Your Project Manager will ensure the stages are effectively scheduled and will be in contact with you throughout the project and will be present on site during the construction stage.
Our project managers are proficient in regulations of CDM 2015 so you can be sure the project will be constructed whilst protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of all involved.
To discuss your project, call WSL today on 0113 2045350 or email email@example.com