When it comes to storage, less is more. Maximizing storage space can lead to increased efficiency and cost savings, and having systems that meet the needs of specific products mean less hassle, manufacturers say.
"Over the past couple years, the market [trend] has been to make the most of the space you have," says Dawayne Edwards, inside sales manager for Steel King.
The economic downturn has forced some dealers to consolidate storage from multiple yards into one yard, says Mark Ritz, president of Auto-Stak Systems. This makes space-saving strategies even more important.
"Consolidation of storage to one location allows you to be more efficient with employees and space," says Jill Wheeler, director of marketing for Stanley Vidmar. "If it's all in one spot, you are using your space more efficiently, and you can serve your customers better."
To make the most of limited space, manufacturers recommend products that increase storage capacity within the same footprint, reduce aisle space, or let products be stored more efficiently.
Edwards recommends his company's ClereSpan Mezzanine product line of work platforms. It lets users add another level to an existing space, creating more room for product without increasing the size of a warehouse. The line includes variations of framing and nesting floor panels. Those are placed on top of columns that have no cross-bracing, which leaves the floor area below the platform free for use.
Reducing aisle space also increases storage space in existing areas. Clint Darnell, vice president of sales for Sunbelt, sees his customers trying to expand storage capacity without increasing real estate.
"What we're doing on some of our buildings now is making storage retrofittable, where you can come back to it and convert it to a narrow aisle," he says.
Wheeler says her company's Stak shelving system also slims down aisles. The system includes an automated picker, so no forklift is needed to retrieve stacked products, resulting in narrower aisles than conventional forklifts require.
In addition to pinching aisle space, improved systems can help decrease labor time.
Rick Hogue, vice president of marketing for Krauter Solutions, highlights Krauter's cantilever products that store engineered wood products used for decking. Instead of just keeping the products on the ground, users can store the products on racks, which feature a cradle to help keep large wood stable. The system lets wood sit separately and makes it easier to handle.
"The way they were trying to handle it in conventional systems would be just stacking it on the ground, and that was hard to pick from," he says.
Auto-Stak designed a storage system for PVC trim and composite decking that eliminates the need for slave pallets. The product features rollers placed two feet on-center to support the trim as it is stored, which keeps it from deflecting.
While storage may not be the first place dealers look to save money, it provides solutions for businesses to streamline material handling, make the most out of less space, and get products to customers faster.
"Right now, the biggest challenge dealers have is to get themselves operating as efficiently as possible to ride out the economy," Ritz says. Consolidating space or better organizing existing space can help dealers meet this goal.