REPORT: Storage & Racking in retail - Multi-tier

There are seven main racking solutions used by warehouse operators across the industry, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but multi-tier is the best fit for retail.
Multi-tier racking is the best fit for retailers with products of different shapes and sizes, as it enables the best compromise between volume utilisation and speed of picking.
Multi-tier racking is the best fit for retailers with products of different shapes and sizes, as it enables the best compromise between volume utilisation and speed of picking.


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There are a wide range of storage solutions available for your warehouse and they’re the key part of the warehouse that make it economically viable in terms of volume and through flow.

The basic concept of a warehouse was pioneered by the Roman Empire and in the centuries since, the base model has remained unchanged. It is still a large rectangular building filled with goods that cater to the needs of a particular product.

They’ve gotten bigger yes, and a lot more goods can be stored on a per cubic metre basis, and that’s principally because of the advancements made in racking design in the 20th century.

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Warehouse volume utilisation has increased exponentially over the last several decades because of it. “There are various racking designs to provide the optimum space utilisation and the greatest number of pallet positions. Space is money, especially in the UAE, so optimal design is extremely important,” says Kannan Chandrasekaran, divisional sales manager, UAE, Kanoo Machinery, which provides complete warehouse operations packages.

Space is money, that is the most important issue for any warehouse operator and it has to be matched to the needs of the warehouse (an e-com platform for example will need storage bins rather than pallets, an FMCG 3PL will need selective racking for palletised goods etc). It’s in the grey area between the need to maximise volume, while enabling efficient through flow of goods, that the right racking solution comes into its own because it minimises the degree to which operators have to compromise.

“The main challenge for every project is to provide an efficient design that not only maximizes the storage capacity of the available space but also offers the best operational flow. The storage compartments must be a good fit for the products’ size, weight and quantity,” explains Chandrasekaran.

SPAN recently completed the racking installation for Home Centre’s new Distribution Centre in Dubai South, a major project that will make the home retail giant’s GCC logistics network more dynamic. Home Centre opted for a multi-tier racking solution. “In the case of Home Centre DWC, there are a lot of mid-sized and heavy SKUs.

Thus, the racking system is scaled and tailored to Home Centre's exact requirements,” Chandrasekaran says. “The sizes of the compartments are designed to fit Home Centre’s products. The mezzanine floors, aisle directions and aisle sizes are designed to increase efficiency and throughput considering Home Centre’s operational requirements.”

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Multi-tier racking then gave Home Centre the best possible balance between making use of volume, while still enabling efficient operation of the warehouse. “Multi-tier mezzanines are designed to maximize the use of available height in non-palletized goods storage operations, which are generally labour intensive and have a high rate of piece-picking. Unlike conventional steel structures, multi-tier mezzanines can be easily modified, extended or relocated,” Chandrasekaran adds.

The surge in e-commerce and omni-channel distribution is also driving the need for better space utilization and organization in warehouses and DCs in the region. For Ulugbek Yuldashev, the founder and CEO of the UAE e-commerce platform, the focus in the design of his fulfilment centre has been on finding a way to reconcile these two contradictory needs.

“We’ve gone higher to maximise volume in the fulfilment centre, we’re using multi-level racking because we want to use as much of the space as possible,” he says. But, we’ve also designed the racking so that every level is walkable using a PDA, with each item being picked manually. We do this because each order contains multiple products from different locations within the centre.”

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