A combination of the UK’s apparent shortage of available warehouse stock and the potential impact of a hard-Brexit on inventory holding requirements, has led many in the industry to understandably believe that we are currently in the midst of a ‘space-crisis’.

However, in my experience, this belief is commonly based upon the overly simplified view that ‘occupied square footage’ is equivalent to ‘being full’.

Traditionally, we consider two potential methods to increase capacity: store less, or take on more space. However, there is a third option – that as an industry, we do not do enough of – which is to utilise better the volume we have. In the five tips below, we provide some advice on how you can achieve this in your warehouse.

Tip #1: Warehouses are not 2-D – Start by ensuring you have maximised your utilisation of the height of the building. Profile to the roofline, introduce additional pedestrian levels and use unreachable space as mini-bulk locations, to increase both volumetric capacity and selectivity.

However, don’t stop at three dimensions. The most common mistake in warehouse design is to fail to consider how SKUs perform in relation to time. More than any other factor, throughput over time should be the driver of how, and even if, products are stored.

Tip #2: Ditch Dead Stock – Storage space is not free! Every location has an inherent value, and online marketplaces mean spare capacity can be easily sold. However, the real cost of harbouring unvisited pick-locations is the decreased SKU density, longer pick-walks and associated expenses. By establishing ‘cost per location’ metrics and creating clearly defined performance indicators, you’ll be in a stronger position to periodically purge dead stock!

Tip #3: Think outside the box – Always consider whether your external space could work harder. Temporary buildings and rack-clad extensions can provide additional warehouse space with forcing you to move, and many external storage solutions, such as Vertical-Lift-Modules, can increase overall capacity within relatively small, non-invasive footprints.

Tip #4: Employ Intelligent Solutions – There are a myriad of space saving solutions available, such as shuttle/satellite systems, artificially intelligent robotics and dynamic solutions that can significantly increase storage density without sacrificing performance and employed correctly, provide rapid return-on-investment.

Tip #5: Fit storage solution to your products – In an optimal warehouse, the selection of storage media should always balance four key factors: the overall inventory holding, unit-size, hit-rate, and volumetric throughput. In simple terms, SKUs that move in small volumes should be stored in small spaces, and lines that run in large amounts should be stored in large spaces… regardless of whether the product is fast or slow-moving by other metrics!

Remember, volumetric capacity is only theoretical… it’s your ability to effectively utilise space that matters. Volumetric data is the best way of driving space utilisation, so record it, analyse it and report against it, and let it drive your warehouse design.