As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce boomed across the world. More and more people turned to online shopping due to store closures and lockdowns.
One of the countries facing steep warehouse shortages is Canada, where Amazon has taken over much of the free space to resume its operations. Unutilized (available) warehouse space has shrunk to just 0.5%, presenting new challenges for retailers and their respective supply chains.
Some of the largest Canadian cities, like Toronto, Victoria, Montreal, and Vancouver, are struggling to find warehouse space for businesses to store their goods. Overcrowding of products in warehouses can lead to safety issues for employees, and a lack of floor space makes it challenging to store merchandise properly.
Below are some tips that can help combat the warehousing shortage challenges resulting from the e-commerce boom.
Tips to Maximize Warehouse Space
Businesses need ample space to store their products and goods, so industry leaders should focus on space optimization and finding new areas to build warehouses.
Here are some ways warehouse employees can improve the space they do have so businesses can still rely on them for storage and supply chain operations.
1. Extend Racks Vertically
In cases where there’s a lack of floor or pallet space, it’s best to “look up” and see how much space above can be utilized. More and more companies are considering automating their business processes. This can be applied to warehousing with automated retrieval systems or forklifts to access these elevated areas. Adding storage space by extending racks vertically takes some planning and foresight.
Warehouse managers must train their employees on the best practices to follow when retrieving merchandise from elevated spaces. This will help reduce injuries to employees, which can impact efficiency and productivity.
2. Review Current Warehouse Layouts
The layout of a warehouse is a major contributing factor to overall space availability. To choose the most appropriate design for a warehouse, calculating the storage area size can be a helpful tool. Once the size is computed, it’s much easier to determine how much storage space is available, and managers can organize goods accordingly.
3. Communicate With Employees
One of the main reasons why warehouses become cluttered so quickly is because there’s confusion surrounding what spaces can and cannot be used for storage. Employees and warehouse managers should all be on the same page when it comes to space optimization.
Educating current employees and training new employees is a vital part of a successful warehouse operation. Using technology like phones and two-way radios can be helpful in improving communication between employees.
4. Use the Pareto Principle
Also referred to as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle focuses on the 20% of items that move the most within a warehouse. Storing items in accessible locations based on their popularity and how often they’re being shipped out can help improve efficiency and maximize the storage space within a warehouse.
For pickers in a warehouse, convenience is key. Picking from a convenient location allows workers to spend less time searching for the correct item and more time fulfilling their orders to completion.
5. Minimize Aisle Widths
Narrowing the width of an aisle is a standard solution in a packed warehouse. It’s crucial to make aisles wide enough to accommodate employees and keep them safe on the job. However, in some cases, corridors can be made more narrow, opening up floor space for more storage for goods.
If an aisle can be reduced to anywhere from 5 to 8 feet in width, it can free up 15% to 20% of the overall storage space. This can make a significant difference in the optimization of the space available in a warehouse.
6. Consider Installing a Mezzanine
A mezzanine storage system can be a game-changer for warehouses in Canada struggling to find ample storage space for products and merchandise. In essence, a mezzanine system uses all the vertical space available between the warehouse floor and the ceiling. Using a freestanding structure is helpful because it can be moved easily to whichever location is most efficient.
Consider using a mezzanine level in a warehouse that’s tight on space. Many of the warehouse challenges in Canada are storage-related, and finding unique ways to optimize space will help warehouses continue functioning properly.
Making the Most of Warehouse Space
The country is desperate for innovative solutions that manage these shortages and support the businesses that contribute to economic growth. The last thing businesses need is to run out of space to store their products — some type of intervention is required to prevent this from occurring, and it starts with recognizing pain points, using space thoughtfully, and knowing when to invest in new solutions.