Despite the cost-of-living crisis, demand for good quality storage space continues to outpace supply across the UK. Driven to a large extent by the growth of ecommerce, the chronic shortage of suitable logistics property has contributed to a 61 per cent hike in warehouse rent charges since 2011, according to the UK Warehousing Association.
While developers are striving to bring new space to the market as quickly as possible, the continued expansion of the digital economy together with the need for supply chains to undergo further reconfiguration in the aftermath of Brexit and Covid, means future demand for logistics units is only likely to go one way.
But, with the rush for warehouse space at unprecedented levels, many logisticians and intralogistics system planners have little choice but to make maximum use of the buildings they have.
Opting for a VNA forklift trucks is one option businesses are looking at, these trucks (depending on the size of the load) work in aisleways as narrow as 1.6 metres wide. As a result, VNA solutions offer a higher density of storage than conventional wide-aisle warehouse layouts. Indeed, it is not unusual for a VNA pallet racking system to occupy as little as 50 per cent of the space taken up by traditional pallet racking. This ability to literally double the number of pallets a warehouse can store brings obvious financial benefits.
Furthermore, ongoing developments in VNA forklift truck technology mean that trucks can now operate at lifting heights that, in the fairly recent past, only stacker cranes could reach, while the speed at which VNA machines can safely travel between picking locations within the aisles continues to increase which means efficiency is optimised.
However, a switch to VNA trucks, although great for operations in very narrow aisles, is not right for everyone, each application must be analysed individually.
There are many factors to consider - not just the materials handling equipment to be employed. For instance, reconfiguring the racking into narrow aisles may impact on a site’s sprinklers or other forms of fire protection, lighting, heating and so on.
When it comes to assessing the return on investment that VNA trucks offer, it is essential that calculations are based on the whole life cost of the equipment. While initially more expensive than some alternative options, VNA trucks bring a host of cost savings, including reduced product and equipment damage and longer life expectancy than other equipment types.
It is also important to consider the productivity gains that come with opting for VNA.
The introduction of high-density pallet storage systems will also boost a site’s capacity. Configured in a way that allows more pallets or items to be stored in a smaller area, high density pallet racking may sound like it’s only for bigger warehouses, but systems can be designed for any size of storage unit.
High-density pallet racking options include: double deep racking, drive-in pallet racking and pallet shuttle racking. Double deep racks store pallets two or four deep between aisles and deliver increased storage density when compared to conventional wide aisle racking.
Meanwhile, as its name hints, drive-in pallet racking allows forklifts to move into alcoves within the racking to place and retrieve pallets, while pallet shuttle racking uses motor-assisted shuttles to transfer pallets to different locations within the racking cube.
Toyota’s semi-automated RadioShuttle technology automatically places or retrieves palletised loads within a racking system. This permits loads to be put away within and picked from the storage cube by trucks operating in the aisleways in a first-in, first-out (FIFO) pattern. For optimum flexibility each shuttle can be moved between lanes within the racking as required.
Modern warehousing is all about maximising whatever space you have available and the growing pressure to make the most of every square foot of storage capacity means considering the use of VNA trucks or storage solutions such as RadioShuttle are a highly attractive intralogistics option for companies across a range of sectors.