Making the Switch to Narrow Aisles

Warehouse owners are constantly under pressure to increase efficiency and reduce costs without sacrificing safety, potential productivity or incurring too many additional costs while upgrading and improving systems. Switching a warehouse over to a Narrow Aisle or Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) configuration can be very tempting, and is often a good move for the business owner. These configurations allow you to store more goods and materials per square foot. However, it is possible to take it too far and end up hurting your company. We hope to help you find a balance that works.

The biggest advantage of converting your warehouse to a Narrow Aisle or VNA setup is the increased density. You are able to store more goods per square foot and your employees don’t have to travel as far to get to where they need to go.

However, having a high-density warehouse can be very limiting in some ways. Turret-style lifts are needed in VNA configurations, potentially rendering some of your fleet unusable. While turret-style lifts are great in narrow pathways (when properly deployed, turret-style lifts can double productivity while cutting down on staffing needs), they don’t work as well as their traditional brethren in most other situations, making it somewhat of a specialty piece of equipment. Also, if the lift or lifts you use in VNA or Narrow Aisle configurations breaks, it is likely that you will be unable to access them or transport goods through them until they are repaired.

So how do you get the best of both worlds? It’s simple! Most warehouses will benefit most from a mix of normal, Narrow Aisle and VNA configurations. To find out the best mix for your business it’s important to collect data on inventory, order profiles and movement to assess how your warehouse is functioning. Data will help you understand and quantify how your business functions and inform decisions about warehouse layout, vehicles and storage media that can save you money in the short and long-term. Once you figure out where you could benefit from condensing your aisles and where it could hurt you, it’s a matter of putting in the work to get the conversion done.

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