When it comes to optimising warehouse space, choosing the right aisle widths is crucial. The width of your aisles can impact everything from storage capacity to productivity and safety in your warehouse operations.
The evolution of the warehouse industry has resulted in a significant shift from a high-density storage approach to a more flexible, spacious solution that emphasises efficiency in loading, unloading, storing, and shipping. Therefore, the layout of the warehouse, particularly the aisles, will be instrumental in determining the functionality, convenience, organisation, and utilisation of space within the warehouse. Generally, there are three types of warehouse aisle widths: wide aisles, narrow aisles, and very narrow aisles, each with pros and cons.
Narrow aisles, for example, can maximise storage space but require specialised equipment and pose a higher risk of accidents. Wide aisles, on the other hand, are easier to maneuver but offer less storage space. In this article, we’ll look closer at warehouse aisle widths, their pros and cons, and how to choose the right one for your business needs.
Definition of warehouse aisle widths:
Warehouse aisle widths refer to the distance between storage racks or shelves that allows for the movement of equipment, such as forklifts, pallet jacks, and order pickers.
The aisle’s width impacts the equipment’s manoeuvrability and the amount of space available for storing goods.
Different warehouse aisle widths include narrow aisles, wide aisles, and very narrow ones.
Importance of optimising storage space:
Optimising storage space is crucial for maximising efficiency and minimising costs in any warehouse, and this article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of warehouse aisle widths, including the types available, their advantages and disadvantages, and how to choose the right one for your specific business needs.
Types of Warehouse Aisle Widths
- Narrow aisle widths are typically between 2.4 and 3 metres wide.
- They allow for more dense storage by reducing the amount of wasted space taken up by aisles.
- Narrow aisles require specialised equipment, such as turret trucks and order pickers, that can access the narrow spaces in between the racks or shelves.
- They can increase productivity by reducing the time it takes to move between aisles but also pose a higher risk of accidents due to their limited manoeuvrability.
- Wide aisle widths are typically between 3 and 4 metres wide.
- They allow for easy movement of standard equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks.
- Wide aisles offer less storage space than narrow aisles because they take up more floor space but can often still provide sufficient capacity.
- They can be less expensive to set up since no specialised equipment is required and offer a lower risk of accidents.
Very narrow aisle
- Very narrow aisle (VNA) widths are typically between 1.5 and 2 metres wide.
- VNA systems use guided rail or wire systems and automated technology for inventory management.
- They can maximise storage space while requiring minimal floor space and labour.
- VNA systems require specialised equipment, such as high-reach lift and turret trucks, and can have a longer startup process.
- They can increase productivity while reducing operating costs but pose a higher risk of accidents due to their limited maneuverability.
Pros and Cons of Each Type of Warehouse Width
Pros: maximise storage space, increase productivity, reduces operating costs
Cons: require specialised equipment, limited maneuverability, higher risk of accidents
Pros: easy to maneuver, less expensive equipment, lower risk of accidents
Cons: less storage space, lower productivity
Very Narrow Aisle
Pros: maximise storage space, increase productivity, reduce operating costs
Cons: require specialised equipment, higher risk of accidents, longer startup process
Choosing the Right Aisle Widths
Factors to consider when choosing an aisle width in your warehouse:
- Consider the Type of equipment needed:
Different types of equipment require different aisle widths. For example, narrow aisles require specialised equipment such as turret trucks and order pickers, while wide aisles can accommodate standard equipment such as forklifts and pallet jacks.
- Analyse product size and weight:
If you store large or heavy products, you may need wider aisles to accommodate the larger equipment required to move them. On the other hand, if you store smaller items, narrow aisle widths may be more suitable.
- Assess the layout of the warehouse:
The layout of your warehouse can impact your aisle width decision. For instance, if your warehouse has many turns or corners, narrow aisles may not be ideal due to the increased risk of accidents.
- Consider your budget:
Narrow aisles require more specialised equipment, which can be more costly than standard equipment for wider aisles. As such, your budget may influence your final decision.
- Review safety requirements:
Safety should always be a top priority in any warehouse. Depending on your warehouse’s safety requirements, you may need to opt for wider aisles to accommodate safer equipment or movement space.
Narrow aisles may be best for those with high-density storage needs, while wide aisles may be more practical for businesses with less storage but more need for easy movement of standard equipment. Very narrow aisle systems may be best suited for businesses that require maximum storage and cost reduction and are willing to invest in automated technology and specialised equipment.
Ultimately, the choice of aisle width should be based on carefully analysing your business needs, considering factors such as equipment needs, product type and size, layout, budget, and safety requirements. By considering these factors, you can select the optimal aisle width for your warehouse operations and maximise the efficiency, productivity, and safety of your warehouse operations.