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Material handling is the name of the game in warehousing, but it can be more difficult to create a material handling strategy than you might expect – and even more difficult to improve it.

As warehouses are continually tasked with managing inventory of all shapes and sizes, the techniques needed to manage this shifting inventory can be tough to keep up with. Much of the focus, understandably, is on the ‘handling’ aspect of material handling, but this means the other half of the formula tends to go overlooked – the storage.

Warehouses these days need to be as versatile as possible with their storage solutions and shelving options to accommodate a wider range of goods than ever before, but it can be tough to know where to start – or what shelves you even need to begin with.


Solving Material Handling Problems With Shelving


Process reviews

The first thing you need to do when trying to improve your material handling process is to review your current material handling process. A lot of warehouses tend to stick with the same processes no matter how well-staffed they are, or no matter what changes have come to the goods they stock and carry. Making sure your processes are up to date with the shelving you offer, and the goods you carry, will help solve a lot of potential headaches before they can even occur.

Does your warehouse now carry longer, bulkier goods than it used to? Did you undergo a major floor plan overall that may affect how some products are carried or stored? Did you just move warehouses during the last year? Make sure your handling processes are up to date with whatever your warehouse does now to help cut off potential issues before they can get worse.


Inventory reviews

From there, start to check your inventory. Keep an eye out for any goods that can’t be stored easily with traditional pallet racks, such as:

  • Longer items, like lumber, piping, and manufacturing components
  • Heavier items, like goods that have been bulk-packaged or bulk-shipped
  • Irregularly-shaped items, or anything that can’t safely lie down on a rack like a pallet would be able to 

Understanding what specific item-based challenges your warehouse faces can go a long way towards finding the right shelving for the job – and then creating the right processes to get everything put away. 


Shelving reviews

Here comes the tricky part – determining if you’re using the right shelves for the material you need to handle, and figuring out what shelves you need to get the job done.

There’s a few clear signals any warehouse can look for to determine if their items aren’t being stored effectively:

  • Increased numbers of damaged goods
  • Certain items repeatedly being reported as lost
  • Specific items taking longer to pick and fulfill 
  • Increased mispicks of a given item

If your inventory has been experiencing any combination of these issues, identify the items that have been impacted and see where they’re being stored.

Damaged items are typically due to shelves being used that aren’t designed to store those goods – consider bringing in cantilever racking to give longer or more cumbersome items a safer place to live until the time comes to send them to their destination. Items that are frequently reported as lost need to be given a more high-priority area until visibility can be improved, especially if they’re kept on bulk storage racks among other heavy/bulky goods. Where able, the use of gravity flow racks and gravity conveyors can help improve picking time and reduce the risk of mispicks, as well.


Staffing reviews

Since 2020, staffing levels have been down drastically for all industries, and warehouses are continuing to feel the pinch.

As able, take a look at your current staffing levels to identify any potential gaps in coverage, experience, or skill level. Are your larger goods being damaged due to a lack of familiarity with the tools needed, or the goods being handled? Staffing up where you can, and doubling down on the training needed by the rest of your staff, can go a long way towards avoiding similar issues.


Forecast reviews

Finally, keeping an eye on your sales and inventory forecasts can help you cut a lot of issues off before they can develop. If you’re constantly selling through an item that’s harder to store, bringing in additional shelving can make it easier to keep greater on-hand quantities when able. Additionally, knowing when these items will arrive can help make sure your team is aware of the challenges faced with storing larger objects like lumber, no matter how much of it they have – or haven’t – already handled.


And, as always, if you need help finding the right shelves for your needs, contact today.


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