People who see a vertical lift storage system for the first time, usually think something like: “Ah, interesting. But they must be complicated and expensive, so why shouldn’t we continue storing our goods in conventional shelves?”
But vertical lifts definitely have their place in modern warehouse technology. This is a strong hint that they have some very specific features making them valuable to warehouse operators. Let’s take a closer look at these characteristics.
Of course, there’s no point in comparing vertical lifts with every conceivable alternative, so we’ll focus on the most common and obvious one, which is storing small parts in conventional shelves.
Many companies used normal shelving systems for quite a while before switching to vertical lifts. Others among those opting for a vertical lift were unable to set up a static shelving system for lack of space. This brings us to the first and probably most noticeable aspect.
Vertical lifts save a lot of space and therefore also energy costs, because warehouse space is expensive, especially if it’s not used efficiently. But how much of a difference does this actually make? Of course, we should be careful with generalizing these data, but under the condition, that the goods are fully suitable for vertical lifts, you can expect to save up to 90% of warehouse space. This is realistic, because this compact way of storing small parts uses the available floor space and the clearance height most efficiently.
When you suspect your warehouse staff to spend too much time looking for and picking items from storage, a vertical lift might be the solution you are looking for. It’s important though not to confuse activity with productivity. A worker, who is walking through the warehouse, searching for an item, sure is active, but not productive.
A vertical lift uses the „goods-to-person“ principle, which is very comfortable. Compared to a conventional storage system, the worker gets the item much faster. Therefore, he or she saves time and is considerably more productive. Again, providing precise numbers is not that easy, because each warehouse is different. However, based on our experiences, it’s safe to say that a vertical lift reduces the travel times in your warehouse by 50-80%.
Your workers won’t need to bend down or climb on ladders. The service windows of modern vertical lifts are within easy reach and quite comfortable. Various other options, such as tilting the table or adjusting the height of the service window to the worker, increase the ergonomics even further. This improves the operator’s safety and is most certainly going to prevent a lot of back pain over the life span of the vertical lift. If that argument doesn’t seem valid to you, then you’re one of those lucky fellows with unbreakable backs. Consider yourself blessed!
Protection against dirt and theft
If you have been working inside a conventional warehouse for any period of time, you already know that the stored items don’t remain clean for long. There’s always a fine layer of dust settling on the shelves and the products. Depending on what you are storing, this might become a nuisance. A vertical lift is comparable to a big drawer cabinet. The amount of dust entering and contaminating the inside of the lift is significantly lower, which means that your goods stay clean much longer.
Furthermore, a vertical lift protects your goods better against theft and any other unauthorized access than placing them openly into conventional shelves. Modern vertical lifts even offer additional features to protect the staff and the stored goods. Again, whether this is relevant for your company depends on the kind of products you store.
The amount of maintenance necessary to keep vertical lifts running is an important factor to consider. Instead of the commonly used chain or belt drives, the SSI Schaefer vertical lift LogiMat for example, comes with a low-maintenance pinion. The use of these pinions does not lead to alterations such as elongations of chains and belts, therefore it does not require adjustments. Don’t forget to ask for this before purchasing a particular model.
The device itself requires a larger investment compared to buying normal shelves for the same amount of items. But considering the savings that accrue as a result of increased efficiency, this investment should break-even quickly. But to be on the safe side, ask a competent logistics consultant for some real numbers, so that you can make a well-informed decision.
Because, as advanced as vertical lifts might be, there are still many conventional shelving systems being installed every year. This means that both systems have advantages and disadvantages. As in many cases, it depends on the situation. What kinds of items are you going to store (value, size, risk potential …), what does the product structure look like (fast-moving vs. slow-moving items) and how much floor space do you have available. If you know this data, then you’re well on your way to choosing the right storage system.