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The Fast Flow or Flow Thru concept of storage offers several advantages over static storage concepts when properly applied. Since this equipment is more costly initially than static storage equipment is, it needs to provide better efficiency to be cost justifiable. Some of the ways that this concept contributes to improved efficiency is by separating the stocking function from picking, by automatically providing First In, First Out (FIFO) inventory rotation, and by providing a larger variety of different pick/storage faces per linear foot of aisle than other storage methods.
Separating the stocking function from the picking function results in stocking the rack from one aisle while picking it from a separate aisle. Fast flow racks are stocked from the rear while they are picked from the front. This obviously prevents conflict which speeds both functions.
In order for fast flow to be efficient, there must be a high percentage of hits or picks per order and per Stock Keeping Unit (SKU). Since flow racks are frequently facing a picking conveyor system, they present a linear path for picking to follow. If during the pick cycle the picker skips most of the SKU's, more walking will be introduced and efficiency will suffer.
A higher per face foot density of SKU's is achieved by stocking the parts or pallets magazine fashion, i.e. one behind the other, rather than side by side or on top of each other.
The inventory in a flow rack generally sits on inclined rollers or wheels which allow product fed from the rear to automatically flow to the front. When a unit is removed from the front, the following units flow forward to take its place.
Fast flow is available as both Carton Flow and Pallet Flow.
Carton Flow Rack
Carton Flow Rack is for broken case or full case picking of medium and small parts. A 5 foot wide by 8 foot high carton flow rack can have as many as 25 different SKU's in it depending on the size and velocity of the SKU's. Each SKU is in its own lane.
Carton flow rack units can vary from 4 feet deep to 20 feet deep. The depth of the unit is determined by the amount of inventory of each SKU that must be stored. More than one lane can be allocated to the same SKU if it is much more active than the other SKU's.
The picking side of the carton flow rack shelves can have the front tilted down or straight. The front tilt shelves make it more convenient for broken case picking while the straight shelf is generally used for full case picking.
Pallet Flow Rack
Pallet Flow Rack is commonly used for picking medium and large cases directly from the pallet to a take-away conveyor system. Generally, these are only one pallet high. Unless the pallets are very short, the top of a second level pallet cannot be safely reached. As one pallet is picked dry and the empty pallet is removed, the following pallet(s) flow forward to take the removed pallet's place. Picking is therefore not interrupted for replenishment.
Only SKU's that go through one or more pallets per day should be considered for this type of storage because of the cost.
Periodically an area needs to be provided for accumulating the removed empty pallets prior to them being reused.
Pallet flow rack is frequently double decked or cat walked to increase the cube use of the building.
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