What is Flow Rack?
A Flow Rack is a storage aid system that uses gravity rollers or wheels to facilitate the movement of inventory. It’s designed to enable efficient stock rotation using the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) approach.
Operational Mechanics of Flow Rack:
Items are loaded from the back and picked from the front, ensuring automatic stock rotation.
The inclined racks use gravity to move stock forward as items are removed.
Advantages in Warehouse Management:
Helps in maximizing storage space and keeping aisles clear.
Reduces the time and effort required for staff to retrieve items.
Particularly beneficial in high-volume picking environments and for items with expiration dates.
Considerations for Implementation:
- Product Suitability: Best suited for uniform products that can easily roll down the racks.
- Warehouse Layout: Requires careful planning of warehouse layout to incorporate flow racks efficiently.
How Does the Flow Rack System Work?
1. Inclined Racks
The racks are slightly inclined towards the picking aisle. Goods are loaded from the higher end at the back and slide down towards the lower front end due to gravity.
2. Loading and Unloading Points
The rear of the rack is the loading area where new inventory is added. The front, facing the picking aisles, is where workers pick items for orders. This design supports a First-In, First-Out (FIFO) inventory management approach.
3. Roller Tracks
The shelves consist of rollers or wheels that allow goods, usually placed in bins or boxes, to glide smoothly from the loading end to the picking end.
4. Automatic Stock Rotation
As an item is removed from the picking end, the item behind it automatically slides forward to take its place, ensuring that the oldest stock is always at the front for picking.
5. Restock and Pick Simultaneously
Workers can restock items from the back without disrupting the picking process at the front, increasing efficiency.
6. Reduced Worker Movement
Since items come to the picker, there's less need for workers to move up and down aisles, reducing picking time and physical strain.
Flow Rack Systems are particularly effective in high-volume picking environments and are commonly used for small parts storage, retail backrooms, and distribution centers. They enhance efficiency, reduce labor costs, and improve inventory turnover by keeping older items at the front for easy access.