Whilst there are plenty of theoretical ideas about high bay warehouses, there is a shortage of genuine, relevant knowledge. TM Insight is Australia’s leading high bay warehouse consultancy. Here, our team shares some insights gleaned from practical experience developing high bay warehouse projects for local clients.
High bay warehouse myth busting
Myth 1: High bay warehouses are all about minimising land use
Firstly, let’s break the biggest myth of high bay warehousing – that it specifically relates to land usage. Whilst one benefit of a high bay warehouse is that there will be a reduction in land area, this is not necessarily the key driver from our experience. Factors such as operational costs, property costs, people, and risk to operations are all part of the decision.
Myth 2: High bay warehouses suit every business
It should also be noted that high bays don’t suit every business. Product profile and type need to form part of a robust and detailed business case analysis.
What are some characteristics of a high bay warehouse?
A traditional warehouse in Australia is a single storey with a roof height typically limited by fire regulations to a maximum of 13.7 metres. In contrast, a high bay warehouse lifts the roof to heights of 20m, 30m and even 40 + m, allowing far more storage units (pallets or similar) on a single square metre of floor area.
Whilst conventional-height warehouses rely on forklift-type equipment to move storage units, high-bay warehouses use cranes running on mono rails. These cranes deliver significant productivity improvements compared to the traditional forklift equipment. Using infeed/outfeed conveyors, cranes can typically move 30 units an hour. Moreover, cranes can carry multiple pallets at a time and place these up to three-deep in racks using telescopic forks or to further depth using satellite carts.
Most high bay warehouses are used to store pallets, but can store other materials. Mini high bay warehouses store smaller storage units such as totes, cartons or other units.
Why are high bay warehouses so popular?
Two of the greatest advantages of high bay warehouses are reducing labour and increasing storage density.
The main area where labour may be reduced are storage and retrieval of product from racks. This benefit is compounded when combined with warehouse automation solutions, for example transferring product to/ from trucks, transferring product to pick zones (either free standing or attached to the high bay warehouse), sorting, grouping, load preparation, case buffering and automated case palletisation.
In addition to driving significant cost savings, a further advantage of labour-reduction and automation is that throughput rates are likely to increase, resulting in better response times and improved customer outcomes.
In circumstances where land is scarce, such as a landlocked facility, high bay warehouses allow you to store more products in a limited space. Improving storage density is also important for temperature-controlled facilities, as thermal mass can be improved by moving to a high bay warehouse, which in turn reduces the energy cost of cooling.
What are the pros and cons?
A high bay warehouse is likely to be more cost effective than a conventional warehouse when larger amounts of labour are replaced and where:
- Large scale (> 20,000 pallets)
- High inventory turnover (> 8)
- Storage units are uniform (height, weight etc.)
- Response speed needs to be fast
The cons with high bay warehouses include:
- High & weight of structure/product per square metre compared to conventional warehousing
- Experienced trades to construct these can be in high demand
- Planning constraints due to the height of the structure
As labour costs increase, the cost of high bay warehouses is trending ever downwards and 2019 is an inflection point where many large-scale warehouse facilities are now better off moving to high bay warehouses.
High bay warehouse technology is rapidly evolving to improve the speed and cost of new installations. Current innovations that are being developed include magnetic drives to replace mechanical drives, and two separate cranes operating within the same aisle.
High bay warehouses are now a fixture of the Australian warehousing scene and will rapidly expand in the grocery, FMCG, large scale industrial, food & beverage, and temperature-controlled sectors.
Check out our article “Is a high bay warehouse right for us? Top five considerations” or contact us.