Customized Pallet Rack Systems: Pick Modules Hold The Key to Expansion


If an enterprise is experiencing growth, that means goods are being sold. If goods are being sold, that means they have to be delivered. To assure future business and the reputation of the company, that delivery must occur as rapidly and as trouble-free as possible. Today’s warehouse solution, for efficient storage, item retrieval and delivery, is the modern customized pallet rack system or pick module.

Far from the static storage racks of yesterday, today’s solutions combine elements such as carton flow and pallet flow for first-in-first-out inventory rotation, pushback racks for stock replenishment of multiple pallet SKUs, narrow aisle selective racks for single pallet SKUs, multi-level pick modules for fast efficient order picking, free standing and rack supported mezzanines and much more to utilize every square inch of premium warehouse space as cost-effectively as possible.

Navarre Corporation of New Hope, Minnesota is a wholesale distributor of software, music, video, and video games, to retail outlets. They recently found their static racking solution for product storage and order fulfillment had been exceeded. “Our business and SKU count had grown very rapidly,” says David Ginsberg, Navarre’s Vice-President of Operations. “Our picking system consisted of a 2-story mezzanine, and was essentially a manual operation.”

After submitting an RFP to various vendors, Navarre decided on a solution provided by Cardinal Materials Flow of St. Paul, Minnesota, along with Steel King Industries, Inc. of Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Cardinal Materials Flow designed the floor plan, and Steel King designed the components for the new, customized pick modules utilizing pallet racking components and a customized conveyor system. Cardinal Materials and Steel King were involved very early in the project’s conception. Using their pick module design, they were able to customize where the building’s support columns were located guaranteeing they did not interfere with the module’s operation.

“These new modules allow us the room and efficiency to do the picking as well as replenishment from behind,” says Ginsberg. “We are able to get more SKU facings per square foot than we were able to obtain before. We can accomplish more work faster and in a smaller space.”

Currently Navarre has two pick modules; one is for software, and the other for music and DVDs. A third module is now being added. Once this module is installed and operational, each module will focus entirely on one product line. One for software, one for DVDs and the newest will become strictly for music. The pick modules consist of three levels each, two dynamic and one static. Each pick module consists of ten zones, with each zone containing an order picker and a particular group of products.

The new system makes the most efficient use of space and labor possible. Once orders are entered into a computer, the first step is the creation of a carton, with an applied bar code, at the front end. The carton is routed to each zone necessary for the order, and at each zone, the carton is scanned by the picker. Upon receipt of the scan, the computer then sends voice instructions to the picker, listing the items to be picked and added to the carton. Once the items have been placed in the carton, the carton is put back on the power take-away conveyor, and it is routed to the next needed zone, to the next module, or, if the order is completed, to the shipping area. If items are not needed from a particular area, the carton is not routed there.

Such exact engineering can only be obtained through the intelligent use of the pallet rack, carton flow, power conveyor and other elements, custom designed to fit the building around the system and installed by such companies as Steel King and Cardinal Materials Flow.

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