December 10, 2020

Optimize Warehouse Storage with the Narrow Aisle Forklift

By Flux Power

The Amazon Effect & the Rise of E-commerce

‘The Amazon effect’ describes the complete disruption of the way consumers buy goods that came about as a result of Amazon’s domination of B-to-C shopping as an e-commerce giant. 

Even before Covid-19, Amazon’s fast and cheap shipping and frictionless online shopping experience raised consumer expectations and forced retailers to make significant changes to keep up - especially with their supply chain operations. 

The e-commerce boom has forced warehouses and distribution centers to ramp up in productivity and efficiency, instigating efforts to streamline every step of the process.

Looking forward to a post-pandemic world where e-commerce is the dominant force, companies who have not yet addressed their supply chain operational efficiency are at risk of going out of business


Reshoring and the State of Industrial Real Estate

The Covid-19 pandemic was a shock to global supply chains and led to widespread supply chain disruption and product inventory shortages that many companies say will have a long-term effect on their business. 

These effects were a wake-up call for many companies and increased the focus on improving efficiency and visibility along every step of the supply chain. 

Most companies are investing in supply chain analytics to help use data for examining business continuity and business solutions such as:

  • Reduced inventory costs
  • Responsive transport logistics
  • New execution workflows in sales and operations

One emerging trend for many operations is bringing manufacturing and distribution operations back into the U.S. from overseas - also known as “reshoring”.

Widespread reshoring combined with a greater need for e-commerce fulfilment centers is driving demand in a highly competitive industrial real estate market. 

Forbes reports that e-commerce-specific warehouses requires up to three times the square footage than that of traditional brick-and-mortar stores, because online retailers offer a greater variety of products. 

All of these factors are driving up costs for warehouse managers and highlighting the need for further optimization within warehouses and distribution centers to maximize productivity. 


Simple Solution: Narrow Aisle Warehouse Layout

One of the best ways for companies to reduce expenses is with a narrow aisle warehouse layout. Traditional warehouse aisles are 12-14 feet wide, while narrow aisles are closer to 8-10 feet and very narrow aisles can be as little as six feet wide.

There are many benefits to narrow aisle pallet racking, among them the potential for increased storage capacity. 

Maximizing space allows for many cost-cutting measures, eliminating the need for offsite storage and reducing the overall cost per square foot of the existing storage space. 

A narrow aisle pallet racking system works well for businesses that need direct access to their stock at all times, and the pallet racking specifications can be customized depending on a business’ needs.

With more room for inventory, warehouses and distribution centers can increase the speed with which they move that inventory, increasing output and making an impact on the company’s bottom line.


Considerations for a Narrow Aisle Warehouse

When considering maximizing warehouse space with a narrow aisle (NA) or very narrow aisle (VNA) layout, there are a few things warehouse managers should keep in mind in order to make the transition successful. The key is finding the right balance between efficiency, storage capacity and equipment. 

Narrow aisle pallet racking requires specialized narrow aisle forklifts with a tighter turning radius to fit between the aisles. However, as forklift technology has developed in recent years, it is relatively easy to find equipment with the maneuverability and turning radius required. 

Another key consideration is safety. As the workspace gets more crowded, forklift operators will need proper training for navigating the tighter space with the new equipment.

Some narrow aisle forklifts are optimized for a specific purpose and may not be as versatile for other applications should they be needed. In order to maximize efficiency, it is crucial for warehouse managers to have visibility into all data about inventory, orders and equipment, to be able to find the right combination of equipment to meet their needs.

Where to Find Narrow Aisle Warehouse Equipment

There are a few different types of warehouse equipment to consider for narrow aisle solutions.

3-Wheel Forklift:

  •  The single wheel in the back allows for a much tighter turn radius than the traditional 4-wheel forklift.

Order Picker:

  •  Order pickers are helpful for reaching goods stored on high shelves but do not serve the purpose of stacking products. 

Electric Reach Truck:

  •  Electric reach trucks can ‘reach’ out further than a typical counterbalance truck, which helps maximize space. 

Turret Truck:

  •  A turret truck allows the driver to sit in the carriage of the truck, improving pallet visibility and operational accuracy. 

Whatever narrow aisle truck your operation may need, make sure to evaluate battery choices that power the forklift. Finding the right combination of battery and forklift can help make your narrow aisle warehouse run smoother during this holiday season and beyond.


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