10 Warehouse Problems | 10 Innovative Solutions

Running a warehouse at maximum efficiency is an extremely challenging goal. You may not always have the best tool for every task, but you’re getting the job done with your current equipment and systems. Meanwhile, warehouse problems — great and small — don’t always get the attention they deserve because the work needs to get done. Right now.

But sometimes it helps to slow things down for just a moment, step back and take a closer look at the big picture. Often, it turns out there is a relatively simple solution to some of those recurring warehouse problems and materials handling headaches.

Here, we’ll examine a range of common warehouse challenges and discuss potential solutions — some that may sound obvious and others you may not have thought of.

Common Warehouse Problems – and Solutions

Problem

You need more vertical reach when it comes to picking orders.

Solution

Most order-picking equipment works quite well for low-level needs, but may lack the ability to reach higher positions to access needed items. By utilizing a mid-level or high-level order picker, your operator can move about the warehouse just as easily while gaining the ability to reach upper-level racks.

 


Problem

Your warehouse has narrow aisles, making it tough to navigate, slowing down operations and causing occasional damage from bumping into things. It’s a scenario that is all too common.

Solution

Nowadays, there is an incredible variety of narrow aisle forklifts specifically designed to operate in tight spaces, including at least one model that is so compact it’s capable of driving through a standard-sized doorway. Nowadays, narrow aisle forklifts (and very narrow aisle forklifts, an industry term describing equipment capable of operating in the very tightest spaces) allow the operator to stand up instead of sitting down, yielding a better view of the material they are picking or stocking. Most can be equipped with a variety of hydraulic attachments to further enhance their versatility.

(Bonus Problem/Solution: Utilizing narrow aisle forklifts can also be a way to maximize your space if you’re designing a new warehouse or overhauling an existing space, enabling you to add more racking to your warehouse configuration and store more in the same footprint.)

 


Problem

Many warehouses and outdoor jobs require workers to perform hands-on work at high elevations. Such tasks often require a stable, portable work platform to get access to high, hard-to-reach spaces.

Solution

Personnel lifts come in a range of different styles, each offering unique abilities to get work done in high places. Telescoping boom lifts, for example, dramatically extend your vertical reach and can be maneuvered by the operator from atop the work platform. Articulating boom lifts, drivable at full elevation, can be capable of reaching elevated positions not easily accessed by a straight telescopic lift. Scissor lifts can be an excellent option when you need more workspace and more lifting capacity, because they generally feature larger work platforms on top and can handle heavier loads than boom lifts. Additional options include mast boom lifts, vertical personal lifts and a handy, portable device called the LiftPod.

 


Problem

Employees are counted on to constantly carry items from Point A to Point B, taking up time that could be spent doing more important tasks.

Solution

Have you considered equipping your warehouse with a Weasel? An innovative product from SSI Schaefer, the Weasel is a conveying system in which automated carts navigate along an easy-to-install optical tracking system to efficiently transport goods throughout your facility.

 


Problem

Your operation has been running smoothly, but you’re concerned that you may not be taking full advantage of opportunities to increase efficiency through automation.

Solution

Say hello to Balyo, a Paris-based company now partnering with Hyster-Yale to produce cutting-edge robotic self-guided vehicles. The system uses laser mapping to create a map of your facility. Advanced software then enables the self-guided trucks to perform a full spectrum of materials handling functions while working collaboratively with employees. Balyo’s devices can be programmed to know when and where to pick up an item, then move it to the correct location and even analyze the rack to determine the best possible position for placement. 

 


Problem

You run a busy warehouse, but the ongoing need to charge and maintain the batteries on your electric forklifts and other materials handling equipment can be a major headache.

Solution

There are several game-changing developments on the horizon when it comes to power sources. Lithium ion batteries, for example, charge much faster then lead-acid batteries, are safer and require little to no maintenance — meaning no more watering, acid, spills or fumes. Though they are more expensive, they deliver significant savings in annual maintenance costs. Plus, they come with an extended warranty compared to a standard lead-acid battery.

Lithium ion batteries do not hold a charge for as long, but can be fully recharged in as little as an hour and a half. In addition, installing one in a pallet jack can potentially shorten its chassis length by several inches, which can be helpful when it comes to maneuverability.

 


Problem

You run a fleet of more than 60 trucks, but are concerned that you are spending way too much time and money just keeping your vehicles charged and fueled.

Solution

Hydrogen. Powering your fleet with hydrogen gives you the ability to create your own fuel right at your own facility. Currently, the ROI calculations favor larger companies, but advancing technology means it will soon be possible for even modest-sized operations to efficiently produce hydrogen fuel, commonly made from natural gas and water through a process called steam methane reforming. In addition to instant refueling that practically eliminates downtime, you’ll also be able to reclaim any space currently taken up by battery charging and maintenance rooms.

This report examines how materials handling industry leader NITCO is working with hydrogen fuel cell innovator Nuvera to chart the future of emissions-free hydrogen fuel technology.

 


Problem

Your operation is growing and you need more trained forklift operators to handle your ever-increasing workload.

Solution

At NITCO, we help you comply with OSHA training regulations by offering the highest quality truck-specific and location-specific training. Our experienced professional instructors have trained thousands of forklift operators on all types of lift trucks, scissor lifts and aerial lifts. We can also train your key employees to become trainers. Safety is obviously the most important consideration, but additional benefits of NITCO’s forklift training include increased productivity, reduced insurance premiums and lower equipment costs.

 


Problem

Continuing growth has your warehouse at or near full capacity and soon you will need additional space.

Solution

We have decades of experience helping customers like you maximize your existing warehouse footprint. Our cutting-edge CAD technology utilizes 3D modeling to help determine the optimal organization for your physical environment and your workflow. In addition, we can help you squeeze more storage rack capacity out of your existing space or even add mezzanine structures that can create a second or third level inside your facility.

 


Problem

You name any warehouse problem or challenge. We solve it.

Solution

We love a good challenge. Example: For one recent client we coordinated with key industry partners to devise a system capable of unloading a tractor-trailer by vacuuming each box onto a conveyor, scanning each carton and adding labels, moving them through a palletizer and shrink-wrapping station, then transporting them to their correct position in the rack.

At NITCO, we’ve been working with customers to create innovative warehouse and industrial solutions since 1969. We also love to help companies grow. Please contact us to talk about your current needs and how we can help you plan for the future.

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