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Warehouse design shifts to technology-driven flexibility




As easy as adopting a new type of forklift, companies can adapt to changing e-commerce trends. This is just one of the innovations retail and e-commerce warehouse operators are using to meet growing consumer demand.

For example, instead of a fork truck turning aisle and facing a pallet, a Toyota Core electric turret forklift runs along the aisle parallel to the rack. The fork attachment rotates 180 degrees to the left and right, allowing you to reach the racks on either side of the aisle without rotating.

This can save a lot of forklift driver backup. It also means that the corridor can be reconstructed from the standard 12-13 feet into a very narrow corridor 7 feet wide.

David Morzella, a territory manager at Toyota Material Handling, headquartered in Columbus, Indiana, said that very narrow aisle options are becoming more popular as they can add two rows for every ten rows of traditional wide aisles.

“This solution allows customers to narrow aisles, add racks, and significantly increase storage capacity and overall operational volume,” he said.

Pivot forklifts are suitable for warehouse spaces connected to factory floors to store products.

Permission by Toyota Material Handling

Evolving warehouse

Configuring a warehouse for a very narrow aisle setup is just one way for businesses to rethink how to make the most of their space.

Operators are exploring innovations to address the tight workforce and transform warehouses into more adaptable platforms to support e-commerce, as commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield’s logistics and industrial services Leader Tray Anderson said.

“With technological advances, investment in material handling equipment and automation can exceed the cost of building shells.”

Tray Anderson

Cushman & Wakefield Logistics and Industrial Services Lead, Americas

Even the basic warehouse shell has evolved in recent years as the clear ceiling height has increased from 32 feet to 90 feet. “With technological advances, investment in material handling equipment and automation can exceed the cost of building shells,” he said.

Given the rapid transition to e-commerce during a pandemic, companies are looking for solutions that give them the flexibility to do warehousing rather than installing large fixed solutions.

“Forklifts will be more agile than product interpersonal systems designed for specific product dimensions and order profiles that can change very quickly,” Anderson said.

Kenco, a third-party logistics provider based in Tennessee, employs robotic solutions that allow you to retrieve goods faster and save effort while completing value-added processes. For example, shippers want to customize their shipments with branded packaging, personalized inserts, and new product bundles, said Dan Coll, vice president of e-commerce fulfillment.

The charm and fear of automation

Automation is appearing in work every day. Boston-based Locus Robotics reports that the robot has performed more than 300 million product picks in warehouses around the world.

Rick Faulk, CEO of Locus Robotics, said the fulfillment warehouse was already tackling labor shortages amid steady e-commerce growth and aimed to increase productivity. Pandemics create a greater sense of urgency, and digital transformation faster than more warehouse operators thought to improve productivity and business insights, as well as worker safety and social distance. I urged him to follow the path to formation. .. Warehouses can no longer wait for the deployment of flexible and intelligent automation.

The Toyota Core Electric Turret Forklift runs parallel to the rack along the aisle.

Permission by Toyota Material Handling

The Holy Grail of Automation is a dark warehouse that operates without human intervention. Ocado’s Smart Platform technology, which Kroger uses for grocery fulfillment, is approaching, but that level of automation isn’t enough for most warehouse operators.

Christie Montgomery, Vice President and Head of Innovation Labs at Kenko, said: ..

After experiencing volatility during a pandemic, companies hesitate to commit to a 10-year automation plan that requires significant capital investment.

“Our customers want to tackle labor issues with automation, but they want an automated fleet that can adapt to workflow changes,” says Montgomery. “They are trying to scale up automation as needed.”

This story was first published in the weekly newsletter Supply Chain Dive: Operations. Please sign up here.

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