Getting your hands on the right warehouse space for your business is not easy. There are a lot of factors that come into consideration when finding a site that suits your operations and industry. The most important thing to consider is whether your chosen location will work for your particular business. This includes looking at the space to determine whether it has all of the available areas you need. A storage facility for example will have significantly different needs to a commercial site which needs to incorporate storage, production and office space all on one site. Location is also an important factor. Depending on your requirement for special skills, you need to have access to a good workforce. If the warehouse is to be used as a logistics facility, strong transport links are a necessity. So it is no surprise that when businesses start to reach capacity on their existing commercial premises, they feel a certain sense of dread.
Warehouse improvement tips:
There are a number of things you can look at doing within your current warehouse space if you are running out of usage space. These include:
- Switch to double-deep racks: This is a widely-used method for adding more storage space in your warehouse. Double deep racks are pallet racks which are installed in a double-deep configuration This provides access to two pallets from the same side of the aisle.The space saving comes as fewer aisles are required to access the loads. However, this can cause issues in terms of pallet access. As you can only access the front pallet, to reach the second pallet, the first either has to be moved to its destination or an empty space. This creates further logistical issues. Forklift tricks with telescopic forks can be used if available.
- Install half-pallet locations: Another valuable method of increasing space in your warehouse is to allocate aisles for half-pallets. Many raw materials, equipment, and intermediate accessories that come in small sizes are loaded and stored on full-sized pallets. This is a significant waste of space as half of the pallet is empty, and nothing else can be placed on it. Therefore, it is essential to have a pre-determined location for half pallets as it will save half of the space that can be used for other purposes.
- Minimise aisle width: Aisle width is the horizontal measurement of the floor between the racks. As the racking system is exceptionally long, lift equipment is used to reach the upper shelves for stock taking. As far as the width is concerned, it is essentially used for walking between the racks and the placement of a chair lift. If you consider that a standard aisle can be upwards of 3m, there is some significantly under-utilised space. However, this can only be achieved if the space doesn’t require storage of bulky items or access with a forklift.
- Use Warehouse Management Systems (WMS): WMS are designed to optimise the functionality warehouses and save space. Pallets are often “dumped in warehouses” in the areas which have the most space as soon as they are delivered. This causes crowded and messy warehouses and can also pose health and safety risks to people moving around the warehouse. WMS specifically designates a spot for every incoming pallet. Doing this reduces the clutter, keeps the warehouse well-organised and makes it easier to know where to access particular pallets. WMS are particularly useful when combined with a double deep rack system.
However, while all of these methods are designed to make the most of the existing space, it is possible that you may have just run out of floor space entirely. But, to avoid the disruption, often, businesses will look to expand their existing space rather than look to move. And, there is more that one way to skin a cat here. Most commercial spaces benefit from high ceilings and are also placed on open industrial areas. This gives expansion of the existing site two different options.
Expanding warehouse square footage
- Extend your existing premises
Option one is to extend your existing premises. This can be done by acquiring industrial space adjacent to your existing property. You can also apply for planning permission to extend the footprint of the existing site – if time will allow. However, both of these options are both costly and time consuming. And if your expansion needs are urgent, they are unlikely to offer any immediate benefit.
2. Build vertically
The other option is to look up. With high ceilings, industrial units and warehouses are ideal spaces to install a mezzanine floor. Originating from the Italian word “Mezzano,” which means ‘middle’, mezzanine refers to an intermediate floor primarily designed and constructed to increase space. These floors are not only used in industrial areas but also in residential buildings and some retail spaces. Mezzanine floors are quick to install, cost effective to build and also do not require any planning permission. Depending on what the mezzanine is to store, there are considerations in terms of building regulations, health and safety and fire safety, but these are small issues compared to an entirely new property acquisition for example.
Installing a mezzanine floor in your warehouse
Mezzanine flooring is most commonly used in industries to increase space for storage, efficient packaging, and manufacturing. However, it is also used in retail shops to increase the shelf space for products as well as in commercial premises to add an additional floor for offices, meeting rooms or staff breakout areas.
Mezzanine floors have the benefit of being extremely flexible. Depending on each individual business’ requirements, the mezzanine can be configured to their specific needs. for example, for a warehouse that has run our of space, the warehouse mezzanine flooring may include pallet gates, lifts, conveyors, and ample racking and shelving. As a versatile installation, mezzanine flooring can optimise and almost double the available space.
There are a number of benefits to installing a mezzanine floor, however, the most obvious and appealing reasons most warehouses choose to use a mezzanine floor to increase their available space are:
Cost of installation
Commercial expansion projects are not cheap and because of the significant expense, businesses will often expand more than they need to initially to make it worthwhile. This not only leaves them with additional space, but it also has an impact on their overheads on terms of heating, lighting and business rates. Mezzanine flooring, however, is comparatively very cost-effective. Building a mezzanine floor is cheaper than a full extension in the first place. However, as it is within the footprint of the existing building, if the space is used for warehouse and storage purposes, there is no increase to your business rates. Apart from the cost savings, there is often an impact on monetary returns too as the production volume, storage capacity, or sales of the firm increase.
Timescales for expansion
Significant expansion projects take time. If you are acquiring a new site you first need to find somewhere appropriate and then go through the process of acquisition or lease negotiation. It is not unusual for businesses in this position to be planning for a site move 5 years in advance. If you are looking to extend the existing site, there is the time involved with planning permission and agreeing what is indeed feasible and allowed. Again, this process can take many months before they even break ground. A mezzanine floor however can be built in a matter of days, offering an almost immediate solution.
Before installing a mezzanine floor, you will need to consider a few things. A good mezzanine floor contractor will be able to talk you through these questions before offering their input on the best solution for you and your business.
The questions to consider are:
- How much extra space do you need?
- If you are going to require significantly more space than a mezzanine can provide then it may not be the right solution for you. However, good mezzanine floor contractors will also offer space planning services. Often, a reconfiguration of the existing space with the addition of a mezzanine floor will create significantly more space than you may initially think.
- Is your need for additional space temporary?
- If the additional space is not going to be used longer term, there may be a quicker and cheaper option than increasing the space within your warehouse. Again, a space plan might help to plan the use of existing space better. However, mezzanine floors are not technically permanent structures either and, while it is unusual to remove them once installed, it can be done.
- What do you want to use this extra space for?
- A mezzanine floor installer will need to know this information so that they can plan the space accordingly. This will determine what is included in the project plan and quote in terms of partitioning, staircases, ceilings, electricity, pallet gates, etc.
The final word
Mezzanines are typically made of steel or aluminium and are free-standing. As mentioned, while unusual, they can be relocated and repurposed according to your requirements. However, whether the need for a mezzanine is temporary or for the long term, this should be taken into consideration.
To discuss your own project needs, why not speak with one of our experienced mezzanine designers today and let them help you figure out what will work best for you in your business. Contact us via email or phone today to find out how we can help.