In this occasional series, Steve Harris, senior vice president of Middlebury, VT-based warehouse design agency Bread Loaf Corp. answers questions about building a better distribution center.
Q: What’s the big deal about column spacing in a warehouse layout?
A. Columns are the bane of many a distribution center manager’s existence. They always seem to be in the way of forklift drivers, right where you planned to put that new bank of shelving, and smack-dab in the middle of an aisle.
If you are designing a new facility, you can manipulate column grid spacing to support, rather than impede, your operations. Ideally, you want columns that fall in the flues (the space between the stored pallets). This way, the columns are out of harm’s way and protected from collision by the stored product. But this almost always increases the cost of the structure by creating nonuniform spans with columns.
Yet facilities where columns interfere with pallet locations, circulation, door swings, and space utilization cost you money in terms of lost productivity. Let’s say you normally stack merchandise four pallets high, and you have columns in 11 locations where you would normally store pallets. That’s a loss of space for 44 pallets. If you assume a turn rate of six times a year, you are prevented from storing 264 pallets, which may need to be placed on the floor, creating further problems.
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