If you manage or own a warehouse, among the most important things for you to consider is how to make sure that items flow in and out of your warehouse in an efficient manner. While there are several different pallet storage solutions you can select from, carton flow storage is a commonly used option that’s based on the first-in, first-out (FIFO) technique.
If you have large items to store and orders that need to be fulfilled, improving warehouse productivity is essential. When implemented correctly, carton flow racks offer high-density storage and facilitate better product flow. In order to improve how products flow in and out of your warehouse, you should choose a flow rack that meets your needs. This article focuses on carton flow racks and how they can help improve your warehouse operations.
What are Carton Flow Racks?
A carton flow rack is a type of storage system that’s designed to significantly improve warehouse efficiency. When this type of racking system is installed, the picking process should be simpler and more straightforward. Products will be able to move without experiencing as many bottlenecks. Even though carton flow racking isn’t the right solution for all applications, it does provide ample benefits for a wide range of different storage systems.
Carton flow racks are important when used in a distribution center or warehouse because they are versatile and cost-effective. They can also be customized to meet your exact specifications. Carton flow racks are available as standalone systems, installed in a pallet rack, or equipped with a conveyor.
Types of Carton Flow Racks
There are four types of carton flow racks that you can purchase to improve the efficiency in your warehouse. These flow racks include:
- Roller racks
- Shelf tracks
- Span-track systems
- UNEX flow cells
A roller rack is designed to optimize safety, FIFO rotation, and efficiency. These racks are easy to assemble and can be fitted into your facility without needing to perform an extensive redesign. This type of carton flow rack is outfitted with small rollers that allow items to be picked or stored without issue. The main benefits of using roller racks include:
- High speed pick rates
- Highly dense storage
- Free up a considerable amount of space
- Quick to build and install
- Improved visibility and access
These carton flow racks come with drop-in beam clips that facilitate fast installation. They also have a modular design.
Shelf tracks provide warehouses and distribution centers with a rolling shelving system that allows for more items to be stored in the same space. This type of carton flow rack incorporates shelves on sliding tracks, which makes it possible for the shelves to be moved from side to side. You can then stack the shelves into two to three rows. If you outfit your facility with shelf tracks, you’ll be able to store a wide range of items on them.
The span-track system is a type of carton flow rack that’s designed to store large boxes, totes, and crates. The rollers that this system uses come with a heavy-duty design. Along with superior flow and increased durability, this system accommodates high capacity storage. Keep in mind that the span-track system can be equipped on your existing pallet rack. All you need to do is attach it to the back or front beam of the pallet rack. No intermediate supports or shelves are required. You’ll benefit from higher capacity and better flexibility.
UNEX flow cell racks provide you with the ability to store cases, cartons, or boxes of different sizes without any fixed lanes. These systems are made with three distinct components, which include flow tracks, uprights, and beams. Even though a flow cell rack is more expensive than a span-track system, it offers more versatility.
This product provides you with an ergonomic solution that aims to accommodate lean principles. It has a modular design that makes it easier for you to enhance pick productivity, eliminate waste, and organize your existing inventory. The main benefits of this system include:
- Minimizes reaching, which reduces fatigue and energy
- Allows for first-in, first-out rotation
- Keeps your warehouse space organized
- Boosts efficiency by as much as 30%
- Improves space utilization by as much as 50%
Flow cell racks are adjustable and reconfigurable for specific applications. They also come with a heavy-duty gauge steel construction.
Other Flow Systems
Two additional types of flow systems you might want to consider for your warehouse include pallet flow systems and pushback systems. Pallet flow racks are meant to maximize warehouse space by compressing pallet storage into single-SKU lanes that are much deeper than traditional lanes. This system uses gravity to flow inventory from one side to the other. The primary advantages of using pallet flow systems include:
- Increased throughput – There’s much less travel for picking and replenishment
- Better storage capacity – You should benefit from twice the amount of storage in the same space
- Lower labor costs – Less pallet handling and forklift travel are required
- Reduced equipment costs – Since forklifts aren’t used as often, your equipment costs should drop
Pushback systems are pallet storage systems that make it possible for pallets to be positioned on either side of an aisle, which allows for more high-density storage when compared to other types of pallet rack systems. Keep in mind, however, that this is a last-in, first-out (LIFO) system, which differs from the FIFO setup that a carton flow rack has. The primary advantages of using a pushback system include:
- Increased warehouse storage density that reduces aisles by as much as 25%
- Ability to store multiple SKU’s
- Most effective in cold storage, consumer product, and grocery industries where pallet counts are high
- Front loading and unloading functionality means that labor costs should drop
Customizing Carton Flow Racks
The carton flow racks you obtain for your warehouse or distribution center can be customized to suit your facility. With heavy-duty gravity flow racks, it’s possible to store heavy parts and boxes with ease. When customizing these racks, you’ll be able to select the steel rollers in nearly any diameter. Because of how this form of shelving works, picking one box from the shelf allows the box behind it to immediately flow to the front for simple picking.
The main benefit of obtaining a heavy-duty carton flow rack is that you’ll no longer need to worry about the possibility of your existing carton flow racks being damaged. If you place heavy loads on standard flow racks, there’s a good chance that they will buckle under the weight.
Heavy-duty flow racks are designed to carry sizable loads and should withstand the weight of nearly any item you want to store on it. The more durable nature of this storage system ensures that it lasts for many years. If you already have some flow shelves in your warehouse, you likely understand that the impact of dropping a heavy box onto the shelf causes significant damage. In comparison, heavy-duty racks are capable of holding up against a high impact force.
Advantages of Carton Flow Racks
Placing carton flow racks in your warehouse is advantageous for many reasons. The main advantages of this solution include:
- Reduced labor costs
- Increased efficiency
- Improved inventory management
Once you’ve installed carton flow racking systems in your facility, you’ll notice that high-volume picking is possible since the system supports a first-in, first-out approach. As touched upon previously, you won’t need to use as many forklifts and heavy equipment as you typically do, which lowers equipment costs considerably.
Since items flow directly to the front of the rack whenever one is picked, you’ll benefit from better inventory management and higher efficiency. The main applications this racking system accommodates include:
- Split case picking
- Food and beverage
- Pick modules
- Cold storage
- Battery storage
Using Carton Flow Racks in a Lean Manufacturing Environment
Lean manufacturing is a relatively modern business model that focuses on getting rid of non-value added activities while also providing quality products in a timely, affordable, and efficient manner. Facilities that maintain a lean manufacturing environment have a competitive advantage over ones that don’t.
The streamlined nature of carton flow racks ensures that items in your warehouse can be stored in a way that reduces waste and increases efficiency in a lean manufacturing environment. Most types of carton flow racks support high-density storage that doesn’t take up much space.
The goal of any warehouse is to continuously improve efficiency by eliminating wasteful processes and adopting effective technologies and storage solutions. Carton flow racks increase efficiency in warehouse operations by speeding up the picking process and reducing labor costs.
Whether you choose a roller rack or span-track system, you can equip your warehouse with a FIFO racking system that increases productivity and helps your personnel complete their picking tasks at a faster rate. If you’re searching for ways to increase efficiency with your warehouse operations, consider using carton flow racks.