NEWS & MEDIA | 28 July 2022


Every manufacturing MD has been in this sort of position at some point or another. The warehouse manager is swearing blind there is no more room in the warehouse, the financial department has lost control of the stock and production orders, or raw material stocks are shooting skywards every month.

Cold Store under construction

When a decision is eventually taken to build another warehouse, focus shifts to where it will be built, what it will cost, what it will look like and who is going to build it. From recent experience it is seldom established how many pallets must be stored before the warehouse is designed. Nor are the onerous fire regulations considered. This all happens once the building is finished, and it begins to dawn that while space is required for 1000 pallets, the new warehouse will only house 500. The usable cube is always more important than the M2 of floor space.

This sort of situation can be avoided if the warehouse is designed around the racking system rather than the other way around. It’s worth asking a materials handling person for a racking layout to superimpose on the warehouse plan. Sometimes this will mean that the building cannot be a 20-meter portal frame structure 7 meters to the truss and must be 8 or 9 meters instead. I’ve been in new warehouses where an extra 400 mms in the height would have increased storage capacity by 20%. In another instance an additional 500 mms in the width could have added 150 pallets.

Before the foundations are dug, establish how much storage space is required now and take a view on how much this will increase over the next 4 to 5 years. That’s never easy to do but adding 20% to your current requirements is a good start.  Does your stock require rotating? Is it fast moving? Do you have lots of different stock items or SKU’s? Is it easier to load from the ground or straight into the back of a truck?          

What materials handling equipment will be used in the store? Counterbalanced forklifts require wider aisles and gangways and can rarely lift above 6 Meters. Reach trucks and bendi type trucks each have their advantages but don’t suit everywhere and the racking must be designed for them.

There are also different racking types to cater for high density or individual access.  A need for case picking doesn’t necessarily mean that standard fixed or static racking is the only way to go.

Mobile racking, for example, although still not common in ambient applications, is possibly the most cost-effective way of satisfying the conflicting needs for both high density and individual access.  It can also accommodate case picking.  


An emerging trend is to design a warehouse for mobile racking and install the mobile rails when the store is built. Fixed racking is installed initially and replaced with mobiles when additional capacity is required. Even the initial racking isn’t wasted being designed   for the mobile bases.

In this way, initial costs are minimized but capacity can be doubled in the future. We’ve done this several times. In one instance a customer phoned to ask us to design a new cold store as the current one was full.  The current management didn’t realize that rails had been installed when the store was built some 10 years previously.  Installing mobile bases at operational temperatures in the existing store was a lot cheaper and quicker than building a completely new store.            

So, if you have been cornered into building a new warehouse or have three that you need to combine into one or your production department needs to steal half the existing storage space to make more widgets, call the space busters before the steel fabricators. While we probably won’t say that a new store isn’t required, we will be able to make your available space as productive as possible.