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SMA - Storage Manufacturers Association


Used for short- or long-term holding of materials, products and loads in a manufacturing or distribution facility, industrial storage equipment holds positioned or placed items in an organized area set aside for them. Choosing the right type of static storage system depends on the physical size and weight of the items to be stored as well as the frequency of use. Designing the configuration of the storage system also depends on the items’ quantities and characteristics, as well as the types of equipment that will be needed to move them to and from storage. Typically, stored items in a warehouse are cartons, packages or individual units. Storage systems are often used for buffering, or holding, of reserved stock to ensure that enough components or products are on hand to meet anticipated demands.

What is a Storage System?

There are several types of storage systems that can be employed in a warehouse. These include:

  • Shelving: Convenient and cost-effective, this type of storage system is comprised of more than one shelf for storage of non-palletized loads, typically hand-loaded, light loads. Open type shelving is comprised of upright posts, formed steel sheet panels that attach horizontally to the posts to support the loads, and end and back braces. Sheet steel back and side panels may be substituted for bracing to form closed shelving units.
  • Commercial shelving is made from lighter gauge materials and carries a 350-pound load limit per shelf (the loading is typically understood to be applied uniformly across the entire surface of the shelf). Industrial shelving is made from heavier gauge materials and accommodates weights of 750 pounds per shelf or more. For internal organization, formed steel partitions, or shelf dividers subdivide the shelf openings to form smaller compartments.
  • Systems can be in single, double or multiple rows, with single or double face shelving. All are accessed by personnel from a shelving service aisle for stock picking or placing.

Other types of shelving include:

  • Two level - Two shelf levels are tiered one on top of each other with each tier serviced from a separate level. Similarly, multi level shelving has three or more shelf levels tiered one on top of the other with each tier serviced from a separate level. Typically each level is 8 to 10 feet high. Reaching heights in excess of 30 feet, the tallest version of these stacked shelves is high rise shelving, which is serviced by rolling ladders.
  • Gondola or library shelving – This is a floor mounted system utilizing cantilevered, easily repositioned shelves extending from one or both sides of a rigid vertical back.
  • Ledge type shelving - A unit that holds two different depths of shelves, with larger shelves on the bottom, and smaller, stepped-back shelves on the top.
  • Mobile shelving - A self-contained system mounted on a floor rolling system or suspended from overhead tracks that allows each unit within to move apart or nest against each other for enhanced space savings and accessibility.
  • Record shelving or archive shelving - A system to store files and records that is usually closed on three sides and may have retractable or swing up and down opening covers for security, protection and cleanliness.
  • Mezzanines or work platforms: A structure built within an existing facility that is designed to maximize clear space under and above it. Accessed by steps or integrated personnel or load lifts, a mezzanine’s construction depends on the amount of load, the clear distance it is required to span and types of activities it will support. There are three types:
  • Free standing - A standalone structure that incorporates wide column spacing and high load carrying capacity (typically stated in pounds per square foot capacity).
  • Integrated – Constructed as an integral part of a building’s structure, this type of mezzanine can incorporate wider span distances between support columns while still maintaining a high load carrying capacity (typically stated in pounds per square foot).
  • Modular – Standardized and pre-fabricated, these structures come in pre-packaged, off-the-shelf sizes for quick delivery and installation, but have lighter load carrying capacities (also typically stated in pounds per square foot).
  • Decking: Generally made from welded wire, decking is placed on shelves, walkways or mezzanines to act as the load bearing surface. Decking sections are completely fabricated, ready-to-install decking assemblies with reinforcing members such as channels, tubes or rods that increase the rigidity and capacity rating of the assembly.
  • Flooring: Used on the surface of a mezzanine to support personnel and equipment, flooring can be made of several different types of materials depending upon the requirements, features and capacity of the mezzanine. Options may include bar grating, plank grating, wood planking, plywood, composite materials and concrete.
  • Compartmentalized storage: A variety of small-scale systems can be used—either alone or in conjunction with racks, shelving and mezzanines—for secure storage of small items. These include:
  • Bin storage – This special type of storage holds multiple small bins of parts. Shelves are close together to maximize density, while a horizontal lip or bar across the front of each shelf keeps the bins from falling out of the storage unit.
  • Cabinets – Essentially closed shelving with lockable doors to prevent access. Cabinets include storage lockers for materials or employee’s personal belongings while on the job.
  • Drawer storage – For applications where volume of inventory turnover is low and where smaller items are being stored, drawers can be used. Variations include modular drawers that can be partitioned to organize contents. The drawers can be integrated into a wheeled or stationary cabinet, in shelving, or as a component of modular office furniture used in the workspaces of a facility.

How is Storage used?

Storage systems are used in one or more areas of a facility to hold and secure materials for future use as needed:

  • Assembly: Storing work-in-process for later production steps
  • Kitting: Providing an area for items that are commonly used together to be stored together
  • Production: Holding reserves of components or tools for delivery to the production line as needed
  • Staging: Holding items for further processing, packaging or shipping
  • Warehousing: Storing slow-, medium- and fast-moving products or materials for use when needed
  • Order picking: Holding active or reserve inventory for selection upon order

What Are the Benefits?

Storage systems provide a variety of benefits:

  • Cubing – Because they maximize the use of a facility’s space, storage systems improve the cube—or usable volume—of a building
  • Process flow – Storage systems can be used to hold components or work-in-process as an element of an assembly or manufacturing process
  • Right-sizing – Because so many forms of storage systems exist, it is possible to select the most appropriate options to accommodate multiple sizes of products
  • Security - Lockable storage solutions keep contents safe from unauthorized access

Where is Storage Used?

Storage systems provide organized holding areas for products and material at facilities in nearly every industry, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Appliance
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Food
  • Hardware
  • Hospital
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials processing
  • Paper
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution
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