Can mobile racking work in FMCG stores?

There is a commonly held belief that the mobile racking concept will not work in general warehousing situations, such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), since it is not ‘fast enough’… This is often a misconception.

Storax mobile racking has long established itself as a popular option for high-density storage efficiency, with well over 250 installations in the past 20 years in South Africa alone, according to Barpro Storage.

Ranger Shuttle 300x225Most of these have been in cold and freezer store applications – quite logically since this is the most expensive type of facility to both build, maintain, and run, meaning that maximum usage of volume is vital.

However, it is a common belief that the concept will not work in general warehousing situations, such as fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), since it is not ‘fast enough’. Unfortunately, this is a view held by many leading consultants. This is often – though obviously not always – a misconception.

Admittedly, the average FMCG warehouse moves product in and out at a far greater pace than the normal freezer store, but the argument is also used that mobile racks do not lend themselves to simultaneous order picking.

This second contention should not even be a consideration, since although many operators have pallet handling and picking happening in the same access aisle, this is not simply bad practice but, in most countries, strictly illegal in terms of safety legislation.

The contention that the racks will not move fast enough to create the aisles where needed is very simply overcome by intelligent warehouse management whereby WM communicates with the RT operator to inform him of his route, and using his cab-mounted RF remote control he is able to ensure the correct aisle is open by the time he gets there.

As far as pallet load handling is concerned, consider this: the product throughput speed (in and out) of the warehouse is governed by many issues, but is ultimately limited by the number of reach-trucks in operation. Accordingly, the warehouse operator will use the number of RTs that his throughput demands. If he needs two machines working constantly, why have more than two aisles? All others are just wasted space that could be used for additional capacity.

Imagine a typical warehouse with palletised goods on racking six or seven pallets high, with 12 runs of racking. It needs only two machines to handle the throughput, but has 11 aisles permanently open. If this racking was mobile, split up as two banks of six with only two movable aisles opening as and where needed for access, he would reduce the space needed for racking by up to 50%.

Alternatively, you could store nearly double the quantity of product in the same area. Say two banks of 12 runs with two moving aisles. If you need 3 RTs, the layout will be designed accordingly with perhaps three banks of eight runs with three aisles; or for four machines four banks of six with four aisles. Obviously, this is an over-simplification, and there are definite limits to this argument, but the principle holds.

Systems such as Storax mobiles enable full selective access to any pallet in the whole system at any time.



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