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What’s The Best Storage Solution for Food Distribution Warehouses?

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

Food distribution warehouses have very specific needs in regard to their storage solution design, due to the potential need for temperature control and a management of expiration dates. This means that food distribution warehouses have a high focus on efficiency and organisation.

Some challenges that might be faced by a food distribution warehouse when trying to find an effective storage solution include; the need to reduce cost while maximising productivity, dealing with SKU proliferation, maximising storage, FIFO requirements, and food sanitation requirements. The most popular storage systems within a food distribution warehouse can be used in either ambient or cold storage environments. The separation comes where as an environment gets colder, racking needs to be reinforced or galvanised to improve its durability. A new factor businesses are having to consider is whether or not they move toward using automation and robotics within their warehouses, in order to further increase speed and efficiency.

High density racking systems are most prevalent within this industry, with configurations depending on whether a system is required to have been configured as first in first out (FIFO) or last in first out (LIFO), based on the lifespan and turnover of the product.

Adjustable pallet racking is the most used storage system generally, but also within food distribution centres because it offers a versatile, durable, and high density storage system. It can be installed in both FIFO and LIFO configurations. Adjustable Pallet Racking is a great solution for businesses with diverse or ever-changing storage needs. Adjustable Pallet Racking allows for quick and efficient access and adapts to any type of unit load and forklift, saving you time and money by minimising the time needed to access and move goods. This is particularly significant in the food distribution industry which is fast moving and constantly evolving. Adjustable pallet racking is a selective storage solution designed to store palletized goods using forklift trucks. We recommend this system particularly for: high turnover storage spaces, storage where direct, quick access is needed to each unit, warehouses that require a combination of pallet and picking racks, storage spaces with a diverse range of unit sizes and weight requirements, and storage of non-standard unit size items such as drums and containers. This is largely because the easy adaptability of the racking makes supporting products of various sizes and volume much easier whilst ensuring capacity remains optimal at all times.

If a company is relying more heavily on LIFO inventory practices for homogeneous goods, drive in racking offers a commonly used solution. This is because it provides a more dense storage option than selective pallet rack configurations, it can use up to 85% of available space as storage, hitting a warehouse’s maximum technical capacity. Drive-In Racking requires only one access aisle, reducing forklift traffic and eliminating the need for multiple aisles. Due to its accessibility for forklifts, it is a system that utilises both cubic and floor space, making the most of warehouse height. Racking can be loaded 6-8 pallets deep. The dense storage system provided by drive-in racking is ideal for cold-storage systems as the compact nature of the racking is more efficient to keep cool and requires less energy. This is a particularly significant advantage under the current energy crisis.

For a more specific FIFO approach, pallet or gravity flow racking offers an effective solution. It offers an increase in storage density, and a decrease in labour output. It consists of back to back selective racking with lightly graded conveyor wheels that allows for pallets loaded at the back to flow toward the picking side without having to be manually shifted. This ensures picking aisles are always stocked, and with the oldest pallet facing out, enabling faster pick and load times for a facility, as well as maintenance of food distribution standards in regard to expiration dates etc. It can accommodate up to fifteen pallet racks and is therefore very efficient. It is also common in the food & beverage industry to see a pallet flow on the ground level of the pallet rack combined with pushback racking on the upper levels. This configuration allows for alternating pick aisles & replenishment aisles throughout the facility to maximise throughput.

The type of storage solution best suited for your food distribution warehouse is dependent on numerous factors, but here at DC Space and Storage Solutions, we’re always on hand to answer your questions and offer bespoke warehouse design consultations. Get in touch today to find out how best to optimise your warehouse, call 01392 927 096, or email

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