Distribution warehouses often get cramped due to rapid growth, seasonal peaks or even a slow sales period. As a result, they are often riddled with too much product, too much wrong inventory, and on top of that, not utilizing their warehouse space effectively.

Distributors' warehouses are equipped on the basis of handling projected volumes and a set number of products. However, not everything goes as planned. When an increase in service requirements occurs, distributors often jostle to open up space in their warehouses to store product. Instead of taking the path of restructuring their racking and aisle width, which can get pricey, distributors can alleviate their space constraints by performing low-cost facility alterations to their warehouses that are more apt to fit in their budget.

To increase storage density, David Holtz, branch manager for Dade Paper's Capitol Heights, Md., facility, says distributors should first ensure that the facility's entire vertical cube is being utilized effectively. This includes space above cross aisles and space above the docking area.

Docks often poorly utilize vertical cubes as the majority of activity occurs on the floor level. However, a good opportunity exists by placing racking over the dock doors for storage of pallets and other packaging material, says Holtz.

Another often under utilized rack space is the area over cross aisles. This area can be converted to storage space as well. For example, in a warehouse with 20- to 24-foot clearance with four levels of storage, generally the top two levels of rack may be used as storage, while the bottom two would be tunneled. This can improve storage capacity by 5 percent to 10 percent, depending on the number of cross aisles a facility has.

When tunneling over aisles, however, it should be noted that pallet decking or netting should be added to prevent cases from falling. Plus, additional forklift training is also needed to ensure operators are moving with the fork mast down to avoid serious injury or damage.