Lis Cuneo, Contributing Writer
Warehouse management encompasses everything within day-to-day operations in a warehouse, including shipping, receiving, various equipment handling and even parts organization. Perhaps an overlooked aspect of that is maintaining optimal storage for small parts and supplies. Because these items must be readily available when the time comes to retrieve them, each part must be stored properly. Plus, an organized storage system means you know when it’s time to order more of a certain part or supply.
Consider that a disorganized warehouse can lead to increased downtime; a loss in production; and can ultimately affect your bottom line. A cluttered storage area can lead to frustrated employees that waste time searching for the right part. What’s more: A disorganized storage system can lead to worker injury.
As you consider storage needs for the small parts and supplies within your warehouse, you’ll want to explore the best bins and baskets for the job.
Different Bins Offer Different Features
The right bin for your needs is determined upon the type of product you are storing; the environment the bins and baskets will be kept in; and the features of these storage units that are important to your company. The main materials used for bins and baskets are plastic, cardboard, mesh (or wire) or a combination of materials. As you determine what’s important for your warehousing needs, keep in mind four factors: cost, convenience, cleanliness and safety.
If you are trying to keep costs down, cardboard works well in many applications. Especially in dry, clean environments, cardboard is a great option that is easily customizable. Wire and mesh, as well as plastic bins, will come with a higher price tag, but offer some features that cardboard lacks.
For convenience, plastic bins and baskets can stack and be hung from a louvered panel. Also, plastic is durable and reusable; it also is easily cleaned. Many manufacturers, including Quantum Storage Solutions, create heavy-duty clear plastic bins that allow workers to see the contents inside and enjoy all the benefits of plastic.
If you need ultimate durability and strength, wire mesh may be the way to go. It is resistant to moisture and offers visibility of the parts inside, which can come in handy when trying to determine which bin is storing which part. Also, mesh can be collapsible, so it is easily stored when not in use. Bins made from a mix of plastic and corrugated can be folded multiple times, for easy transport and storage.
If using storage bins and baskets in an environment with moisture, know that cardboard does not hold up well in that environment. The cardboard can get wet and weaken the structure, and even transfer moisture onto the stored parts. And, while wire (mesh) baskets are very durable, since they are not one solid piece, water and moisture can get inside, possibly compromising the stored parts. Plastic may be best in wet conditions, since it is water-resistant and can be easily cleaned.
The fourth thing to consider just may be the most important: safety. Consider ergonomics and worker injury when deciding on the right bins and baskets. The right bin and basket style, as well as rack and shelving units, can play a big part in employee safety and comfort.
While accessing and picking small parts throughout the day, workers can quickly fatigue from bending and reaching and are even subject to injury to the back and shoulders. Manufacturers like Akro-Mils offers pick racks with high-density storage options with angled shelves that keep supplies at the front of the bins (as opposed to stuck in the back), for easier picking.
Another aspect of worker safety when talking about storage solutions lies on the warehouse floor. Proper safety (not to mention organization) means keeping the floor area free of clutter. If parts are spilled out or stored loose on the floor, workers can easily slip and fall and injure themselves on the job. Keep parts and supplies up and out of the way in the right bin material for your application.
Having access to small parts and supplies in a timely and efficient way will reduce injury, reduce downtime and increase productivity. And, it will mean a proper inventory system is in place that will make it easy to determine when it’s time to order more of a specific part.
As you determine the best materials, remember to consider the environmental conditions, like presence of moisture and other convenience features important for your business. So, while bins and baskets may seem like a small focus in comparison to your warehousing needs overall, consider how they will help you run a smoother, more productive operation, every single day.