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The adoption of channel storage in your DC

As companies continuously battle to lower their operational costs by moving products more efficiently around the DC in addition to concurrently seek to increase their storage capacity, the so called dynamic systems are being considered and adopted at an ever increasing rate within the industry. One such system is the channel storage, otherwise known as the satellite system.

Channel storage basically replaces the well known drive in system to decrease storage and retrieval time, increase capacity and reduce accidents. In principal I see it as a drive in on steroids. 

Basic principles

Simply put the system comprises of racks and one or more shuttles. The shuttle's job is to move the pallet into the next available space within the channel of the rack. The step by step process is as follows:

The forklift driver places the shuttle in the desired channelThe forklift driver places the pallet onto the shuttleThe forklift driver gives the command for the shuttle to take the pallet into the racks, via use of the handheld remote controlThe forklift driver repeats steps 2 & 3 until the channel is fullThe forklift driver removes the shuttle and takes to another location to start the process again.

The retrieval process is similar but with use of a retrieval command instead

Advantages over Drive - in

No time wasted in forklift rack entry and then reversing out. This is considerable time if the system is over 5 pallets deep and 3 levels high; multiply this over a working day and that's a lot of labour costs you can regain!

No risk to impacts on racks; the forklift does not enter the racks

You can store upto 40 pallets deep unlike traditional drive ins where 8 deep renders them extremely time consuming to work with and prone to rack impacts

Very good throughput for fast moving items; with extra shuttles you can increase pick rates as the needs require you to

One SKU (stock keeping unit) per channel can be achieved rather than 1 SKU per lane in drive-in (a lane is considered all channels in height per entry point)

No need to purchase a special warehouse truck 

Advantages over flow rack

Cheaper per pallet costThere is no loss of height due to the needed incline of gravity or push back racks

Is the satellite system suitable for my business and when should I consider it?

This is always subjective and of course reliant on budget, but on the whole whenever your operation includes the storage and retrieval of large quantities (typically at least 1000 pallet locations in total) of few SKUs and you are seeking extra capacity and faster pick rates, then this is a system to strongly consider. It is always easier to factor when building a new depot, but equally so, if you are planning a reorganization project, as many companies have been doing since the financial crisis, it is still worth the investigation. The payback from labour cost savings are not to be underestimated.

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