20 Different Ways to Store Inventory in 2023 (With Examples)
Inventory storage is more than just stacking boxes in a warehouse; it's about optimizing space, ensuring product quality, and facilitating easy access to items when needed. In this article, we highlight the different ways to store inventory and provide real-world examples for each to illustrate how it works.
20 Different Ways to Store Inventory
Inventory storage refers to the systematic arrangement and preservation of goods, products, or assets that a business plans to sell or use. Here are some different ways you can store your inventory:
1. Traditional Shelving and Racking Systems
Shelves and racks of various sizes and configurations hold inventory. They're common in most warehouses and can be adjusted based on needs.
Example: A local bookstore uses fixed shelving units to display and organize its collection of books. These shelves are labeled by genre and author for easy navigation.
2. Pallet Racking Systems
This large-scale storage solution is specially designed for bulk items stored on pallets. The design facilitates easy access for forklifts, ensuring a smooth process when it comes to both storing and retrieving stock.
Example: A wholesale club like Costco utilizes pallet racking to store bulk items. Shoppers often see products still on their pallets on the store floor.
3. Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (AS/RS)
The AS/RS represents the fusion of technology and storage. These automated systems can swiftly pinpoint and fetch items, ensuring quicker response times and reduced manual labor.
Example: Amazon fulfillment centers use Kiva robots (AS/RS) to pick products from shelves and bring them to workers, speeding up the order fulfillment process.
4. High-Density Storage Systems
High-density solutions like push-back racking are designed for maximum space utilization. They reduce the need for multiple aisles, enabling storage of more items in the same square footage.
Example: Beverage distribution centers often use drive-in racking to store large quantities of bottled drinks, maximizing their warehouse space.
5. Mezzanine Storage
Mezzanines make use of vertical space. By adding a raised platform or an entire second floor, you can double your storage area without moving to a larger facility.
Example: A fashion retailer, outgrowing its storage capacity, installs a mezzanine level to store off-season clothing without needing a bigger warehouse.
6. Bin Storage Systems
These are perfect for organizing small components. Using bins, items are segregated, easy to find, and protected from potential damage.
Example: Hardware stores utilize bin storage for nuts, bolts, and screws, allowing customers to pick the exact quantity they need.
7. Modular Drawer Cabinets
Think of these as enhanced, heavy-duty storage drawers. They can be tailored to fit a variety of items, ensuring every component has its designated space.
Example: Auto repair shops use modular drawer cabinets to store various car parts, ensuring mechanics can quickly find the component they need.
8. Mobile Racking/Shelving
This dynamic storage solution provides flexibility. Mounted on tracks, these units can be compacted or spread out based on current storage needs.
Example: Libraries or archives might use mobile shelving to store infrequently accessed documents or books, providing more storage in limited spaces.
9. Temperature-Controlled Storage
Certain items demand specific environmental conditions. Temperature-controlled units ensure these products remain in optimal states, preserving their quality and longevity.
Example: A chocolate manufacturer uses temperature-controlled storage rooms to ensure their products don't melt or degrade in quality.
Dropshipping is a business model where the retailer doesn't hold products in stock but instead transfers customer orders directly to a third-party supplier for fulfillment. This method allows you to eliminate the need for physical storage.
Example: An online entrepreneur sells specialty teas on their website without storing them. When an order is placed, the tea supplier packs and ships the tea directly to the customer.
11. Vertical Lift Modules (VLMs)
These are automated storage solutions that consist of two parallel columns of trays, with an extractor device in the center. The device retrieves trays and presents them to the operator at an ergonomic height. They maximize vertical space and can be custom-tailored to fit specific items.
Example: Electronics manufacturers might use VLMs to store and retrieve small electronic components quickly and efficiently.
12. Cantilever Racking Systems
Perfect for long or bulky items, these systems consist of vertical columns with arms extending outwards. The absence of front columns allows for easy storage and retrieval of items.
Example: Lumber yards or plumbing supply stores often utilize cantilever racks to store long pieces of wood or PVC pipes.
13. Flow Racks
Also known as gravity flow racks, these systems use inclined shelves where items are loaded at the higher end and picked at the lower end, taking advantage of gravity. This setup ensures FIFO (First-In-First-Out) stock rotation.
Example: Grocery stores use flow racks for perishable items like milk to ensure that older stock is sold first.
14. Secure Storage Cages
These are wire mesh cages or lockers used to secure valuable or sensitive items. They provide both security and visibility, ensuring that items are safe but can also be quickly checked or inventoried.
Example: A company might use secure storage cages in a warehouse to keep high-value electronics or equipment.
15. Outdoor Storage Yards
For items that are weather-resistant or too large to store indoors, outdoor storage yards can be an effective solution. These areas can be secured with fencing and monitored with security cameras.
Example: Construction companies might use outdoor storage yards to store heavy machinery or equipment.
Under the consignment model, products are sent to the retailer, but the supplier retains ownership until the items are sold. Retailers don't have to pay for the inventory upfront, and suppliers fill up the shelves, reducing storage costs for the retailer.
Example: An artisan might provide handmade crafts to a local boutique under consignment, where the boutique only pays for items as they sell.
17. Rotary Storage Systems
These are circular storage units that can be rotated to access items from all sides. This efficient system allows for maximum storage in a small footprint and provides quick access to items.
Example: Hospitals or clinics might use rotary storage systems to store medications or supplies, ensuring quick access during emergencies.
18. Hanging Storage Systems
For items that are best stored while hung, these systems utilize overhead space and keep items off the ground. This method is particularly useful for clothing, fabrics, or items that might get wrinkled or damaged when folded.
Example: Costume shops or theaters might employ hanging storage systems to organize and preserve costumes, ensuring they remain in pristine condition.
19. Inflatable Temporary Warehouses
These are essentially large-scale inflatable structures that can be set up quickly to provide extra storage space. They can be particularly useful for seasonal demands or unexpected storage needs.
Example: A retailer anticipating a surge in inventory during the holiday season might use an inflatable temporary warehouse to accommodate the increased stock.
20. Underground Storage
This method involves using subterranean space for storing items. Underground storage facilities benefit from stable temperatures, security, and the efficient use of space without expanding horizontally.
Example: Wine producers often use underground cellars or caves to store wine barrels, taking advantage of the consistent temperature and humidity levels that help in the aging process.
5 Helpful Tips for Inventory Storage
For effective inventory management, consider these five essential tips to streamline your operations and maximize efficiency:
1. Implement a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) System: Selling older stock first minimizes the risk of spoilage and obsolescence, especially vital for perishable items.
2. Use Technology: Adopt inventory management software or systems. These tools offer real-time stock updates, facilitate tracking, and help identify inefficiencies in storage practices.
3. Optimize Warehouse Layout: Design the layout for a logical flow, placing high-frequency and high-priority items closer to packing or shipment areas to reduce pick and restock times.
4. Categorize Inventory: Group similar items together and use prioritization methods, like ABC categorization, to streamline access and management based on the importance and turnover rate of items.
5. Maintain Cleanliness and Organization: A well-organized and clean warehouse reduces the likelihood of misplaced or damaged items and ensures safer and more efficient operations.
We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the different ways to store inventory and how they work.