Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Warehouse automation for the holidays starts with optimized flexible space utilization

By Frank Charles Cozza, founder and CEO of Gondola Skate

More square footage is not the only solution to maximizing space utilization; nor are second-level mezzanines. Even C-Suite executives, inclined to expand the DCs and warehouse footprint, quickly discover there is so little space availability.

According to Jennifer Smith, the logistics reporter for the Wall Street Journal, the hunt for warehouse space in the US and abroad will not get any easier in the coming years.

Smith reported that the availability of warehouse space fell to 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, the lowest point since 2000, and real-estate brokerage CBRE Group said the tight capacity that has driven up the costs of warehousing in recent years will remain a challenge for companies for the remainder of 2019.

CBRE reported that demand for distribution center and warehouse space exceeded supply by six million square feet by the end of 2018. That shortage of square footage warehouse space is expected to exceed 30 million square feet by the holiday season in 2019. Whether 3PLs or new regional DCs (to accommodate the Amazon effect), there simply is not the space available.

B2C changing market dynamics, increased technical complexity, and the unyielding pressure to do more with less, requires that warehouse and DC managers look to innovative solutions to make the most of the space they have (especially since adding square footage, if available, is prohibitively expensive).

The final scheduling window to prepare for the upcoming holiday picking, packing, and shipping deadline is August 2019.

The notion of a fixed warehouse is false

All the warehouses and distribution centers (DCs) designed several years ago operated with the accounting principle that racks, bolted to the ground were a fixed asset.

Now the ability to mobilize pallet racks of any type safely and easily, improves warehousing efficiency by as much as 70 percent.

A customer-centric standard operating process ensures that productivity is maximized by customers such as Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon and leaders across the globe who are reconfiguring racks within an existing space.

In the distribution center, the capacity to move and re-arrange the layout to accommodate seasonality, results in space, time, and money saved. Portable distribution center racks can be easily moved to allow warehouse, DC, and 3PL operation managers to reconfigure storage and picking space when a change is needed. This usually occurs in the summer to prepare for holiday picking, packing, and shipping, and then again in January.

For seasonal merchandise that needs to be stored for a few months, the ability to fill an area with racks stacked up to five racks high and with few (or no) aisles means that a tremendous amount of product can be stored in a small amount of space.

Another advantage is the ability to load incoming product directly on the stack racks. This saves labor costs and handling time, and often reduces the need for wooden pallets in the operation.

The current demand for flexible and dynamic warehousing solutions is greater than ever. The demand for reorganizing fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) to accommodate seasonality is substantial. The ability to move pallet racking units of any type in as little as fifteen minutes with as few as four employees, is the new definition of an “automated warehouse”.

This rapid capacity and dynamic space utilization approach achieves the most significant cost savings and avoids disruption of warehouse productivity. The reconceived warehouse happens in a day, which literally defines the markets’ need for speed, savings, and safety in mobilization programs.

Author Profile: Frank Charles Cozza, Founder & CEO of Gondola Skate, created innovative products, awarded a US Patent for a dolly system designed for moving large, loaded display cases.

Gondola Skate is a leading manufacturer of fixture mobilization equipment. The company enables retailers and warehousing professionals to achieve significant cost savings by moving gondola shelves and pallet racks more safely and easily.

Empowered to remodel their 1,100 new stores within a lean budget, Rite Aid saved thousands of labor hours and more than $100,000 per week, every week, during their remodeling program. Gondola Skate’s team analyzes each customer’s fixture moving needs, the location and surfaces, streamline labor, budget and timing to create an optimized application specifically for the customer to enjoy the ultimate results.

This attention to detail has not only lead to our industry-leading, patented equipment designs, most importantly, but it has also uncovered hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for customers.