Tale of the Tape: Drawer Storage Cabinets vs Traditional Shelving

Opening arguments: The time has come to make a decision about your storage equipment. You have many options, but one over-riding important decision you need to make is whether to go with drawer storage cabinets or traditional shelving. Certainly there are items that are well served by the old stand-by, industrial shelves. But drawer storage cabinets work well in storing small-to-medium size items.

A case for full cubic space. It’s likely that there are limitations to the amount of space you can devote to storage at your facility, so you certainly want to make the most of the space you have. The fact is, drawer storage cabinets are better at making full use of your available cubic space than shelves, particularly if you are storing small-to-medium size items of irregular shape and size.

Shelving is fine for big, bulky, regularly-shaped items — items larger than a shoebox. For example, stackable rectangular boxes can often be a nice fit for shelf space. But irregularly-shaped boxes, or items with irregular surfaces such as most instruments, usually cannot be easily stacked. Even if they are stacked, cubic space is almost always wasted, because even if they could use the full cubic air space available with shelving, most people simply don’t. Moreover, people typically store popular items along the front edge of the shelf, hiding and inhibiting access to items at the back of the shelf.

Drawer cabinets, on the other hand, allow storage in right-height drawers which can be filled to the top, using all available cubic space. Be sure to look for drawers which feature full-height sidewalls. This, in conjunction with drawers having full-extension capabilities, means that the entire three-dimensional drawer space can be utilized — front-to-back, side-to-side, and top-to-bottom. Because of this, with small to medium items, one eye-level modular drawer cabinet can hold as much as three to four sections of shelving.

The upshot of the full use of cubic space with high-density modular drawer storage is a maximized use of overall available floor space. Consider what your company is paying for every square foot of storage space. Since three to four shelf units have about the same storage capacity as one cabinet, a switch to drawer cabinet storage can reduce needed square footage by as much as 100% – 400%. And space equals money.

John Alfieri is vice president, sales and marketing for Holliston, MA-based Lista International Corp. a producer of productivity-enhancing storage and workspace systems.

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