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Solutions to fit exactly

02 November 2021

Innovative design details often make the difference for successful storage and order picking, says Edward Hutchison.

ORDER VOLUMES, SKU numbers and sizes, order lead times, the temperature of the goods being stored and available space are just some of the variables that can pose specific challenges on a project. Often it will be the small, innovative design details that make the critical difference for designing a truly successful storage and order picking solution.

While new warehouses offer easy to use space, many operations have to make the best of the compromises inherent in older buildings, with their typically inconveniently located obstructions as well as irregular footprints and ceiling heights. Squeezing sufficient storage into these areas can be a real test of ingenuity. Even newer warehouses can come with obstructions – a cold store, for example, may have fans at the top of a wall where the company may want to put racking. 

Faced with the challenge of fitting a required number of locations in a given volume, while also successfully negotiating obstacles, needs careful calculations to devise the right combination of beams and uprights. It may entail profiling the ceiling areas above top level bays to plot where full or half pallet positions will fit. Sometimes the maths refuses to add up as desired – and that’s when innovation is required.

A major online retailer wanted a shelving product of certain dimensions, which didn’t actually exist, and wanted dividers to be spaced to suit a robotic picking system.

The performance of racking and shelving in any storage and order picking application will very much depend upon the quality of the components and their manufacture. However, the performance of the solution will depend on the experience and the expertise of the supplier to produce a bespoke system that will overcome any compromises and ultimately lead to an improvement in productivity and operational costs.

Pallet racking may be at the core of a project, yet having the capability to engineer solutions for other key aspects such as shelving, picking carts and packing tables will allow a more holistic system. On one occasion, supplying bespoke racking led to BITO also designing special order picking carts equipped with detachable steps. The pallet racking was configured with a single pallet bay level, with shelving above to provide locations for unpalletised ‘returned to stock’ items. Operatives pick orders into the carts and the steps allow staff to reach the shelves above the pallet bay. The carts can be picked up and moved by an AGV as if it were a pallet. 

Ecommerce operations often require a large number of pick spaces to hold a broad range of SKUs. The perennial challenge is fitting all the locations in the limited amount of space that can be allocated to storage. One novel solution devised by BITO was a shelving system that would work in a similar way to a sliding wardrobe. Using boltless shelving formed the basis of the ‘Smart Slide’ system, which combines fixed shelving at the rear and a slideable shelving system at the front, giving pickers access to the full width of each bay at the rear.

Companies know their business best and often have their own great ideas for solutions to their particular issues – so sometimes it is a case of turning a client’s ideas into reality. Such was the case when a major online retailer wanted a shelving product of certain dimensions, which didn’t actually exist, and wanted dividers to be spaced to suit a robotic picking system. BITO manufactured a bespoke design to suit these specific requirements. The client was able to bring its own staff to test it and adjust it, to make sure it worked exactly as required and that its investment was maximised.

A supplier that can contribute expertise and experience to the solution and offers a complete range of storage equipment, which can be seen in a showroom and tried out in a test facility, will help to contribute to a seamlessly integrated system.

Edward Hutchison, managing director, BITO Storage Systems

For more information, visit www.bito.com