If your warehouse is out of space for your smaller items, such as parts, vendor boxes, and totes, here are three relatively inexpensive vertical storage solutions.
1) A stock picker.
Normally the least expensive solutions is to store your loose items higher up off the floor. You may be doing this already and using a ladder for access. A stock picker can do the job of a ladder in a much faster and safer manner, and you can use it to both pick and replenish items located in the air. I normally recommend that you select only medium- and slow-moving items with a stock picker. If you are really out space and don’t want to invest in a more costly automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS), a stock picker will work, at some cost in picking speed.
2) A vertical storage tower.
If you’d rather keep your people on the floor, consider a vertical storage tower. This device is an enclosed box with storage shelves that can extend as high as 40 feet from the floor. An elevator inside the device goes up and retrieves a shelf or a tote and brings it down to a pick window located at a perfect ergonomic height.
3) A vertical carousel.
A vertical carousel has a series of rotating shelves that move around an oval path from floor to ceiling. The advantage of a vertical carousel is that many picks can be batched together and then the items selected in sequence as the carousel rotates, much in the same way that a Ferris wheel can be loaded and unloaded. Like the vertical storage tower, the vertical carousel again can deliver all the picks at a perfect ergonomic height. These systems are great for small parts, jewelry, or electronics.
Sam Flanders is president of Durham, NH-based operations consultancy Warehouse Management Consultants.