Shelving Pick Mods for 3PL optimization in the age of E-commerce

February 1, 2023 1:00 pm

Bruce MarksWhen a global retailer saw that they were actually running a 3PL business inside of their retail enterprise, they began to examine operations from a 3PL perspective

The main issue was that they were still using inefficient pallet racking systems for their e-commerce pick and pack processes around the world. Previously, it made sense for retailers to buy in bulk and utilize pallet racking systems for order fulfillment.

New each pick economy
Yet, with the advent of e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment, a rapid evolution in commercial distribution took hold — one defined by the movement of less-than-pallet loads and each picks (individual items) through the supply chain.

Such was the case for this global retailer. The problem was that although the composition of their inventory was quickly evolving, their order fulfillment was not.

By continuing to utilize large pallet racks for the storage and retrieval of small merchandise, the retailer was seeing inefficiencies in their pick and pack processes, including order delays and errors. And as pallet racking systems can only utilize so much overhead square footage and require large aisle space for the operation of forklifts and pallet trucks, this retailer was further seeing inefficiencies in the utilization of their warehouse cube (or useable square footage).

It was thus time for this retailer to find a new order fulfillment medium, one that could enable denser safer storage of small merchandise and more efficient movement of SKUs according to throughput. Specifically, this retailer was looking to find a new pick and pack medium that could help them:

1) increase their pick-rate efficiency, 2) better utilize their cube, and 3) enhance workplace safety.

Denser, safer, optimized product storage
For this, the retailer turned to industrial shelving, increasingly used in 3PL operations. With better utilization of overhead space and more specified, compact units for product storage, industrial shelving systems can allow distribution centers to reduce material handling liabilities, obtain smaller footprints, and keep pace with the high-pick ratios that define this new e-commerce era. It thus became clear; industrial shelving was the order fulfillment medium they needed.

Western Pacific Storage Solutions (WPSS) was already in the fore of the market, with their “Shelving Pick Modules”. After viewing WPSS’ preliminary data and drawings, Western Pacific was awarded the project, kickstarting the initial stage of development.

As this warehouse was looking to store medium to slow moving products, high bays were chosen for the application. In total,190 units, 37’ in height, were built for the end-user. By making use of their overhead space, these shelving pick mods were able to expand the end-users’ “cube” by 24’ (into the air).

Doubling capacity for product storage from wide aisles
Moreover, as high bay mediums only require order pickers for pick and pack processes, the wide aisles allocated for forklifts and pallet trucks were no longer necessary. This allowed them to narrow the aisles from 15’ to 5’ and in turn, recuperate a huge amount of real estate on the ground floor.

Together, this new shelving system translated to a doubled capacity for product storage, massive increases in “cube” efficiency, and significant enhancements in picking speed and accuracy — which was all corroborated through a post-installation study. After seeing how these Shelving Pick Mods optimized their order fulfillment processes, the end-user opted to add another 60 units to their warehouse, now underway.

As order picking accounts for 55% of operational costs, Shelving Pick Mods demonstrate the benefits of making the move from pallet racking to shelving systems for pick and pack processes.


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