As you might imagine, storing oversized and oddly shaped products can cause a bit of a warehousing space crunch for any retailer. It was even more of a challenge for Werner Electric Supply, an Appleton, Wisconsin-based distributor of electrical, lighting, datacomm, and automation supplies. That’s because the company stores large quantities of electrical conduit and strut channels (structural supports for wiring, plumbing, or mechanical components), which tend to be unusually long and unwieldy. So when the company doubled its DC footprint to 200,000 square feet in 2016, finding a racking solution for these oversized products was critical.
For help with the project, Werner Electric turned to its long-time partner Steel King Industries. The Stevens Point, Wisconsin-based company, which specializes in storage rack systems, agreed to develop a custom solution for its client. “To [enable us to] store the amount of conduit required to support our customers’ needs, Steel King was willing to customize and build a [racking system] that was tall and allowed us to efficiently use the space in our building without having to increase the footprint,” said Lloyd Fabry, Werner Electric Supply’s regional distribution center manager, in a release.
After a consultation, the two companies agreed that a cantilever racking system would best meet Werner Electric’s needs. A cantilever rack is made up of a series of single columns with outstretched arms and durable bases that create a shelving structure that’s suitable for storing unwieldy materials that cannot be handled on pallets. Further, with this type of racking, there are no vertical posts on the front to obstruct access to the stored items, making it easier to load and unload the products with a forklift.
Since Werner Electric’s warehouse is 45 feet tall, the project required the construction and installation of an extra-large custom cantilever rack. Steel King’s engineers got to work and developed a racking system that was 35 feet tall with 25 arm levels for storing the conduit and strut. Constructed of structural steel, the heavy-duty I-beam cantilever rack features a heavy arm connector plate and bolted column-to-base connections to provide strength and reliability.
The I-beam rack offered other advantages as well. For instance, it’s configured to allow access from both sides of the structure, which saves horizontal space that is normally lost to rack structure, reduces fork truck damage, and allows for swifter loading and unloading, according to the manufacturer. In this case, Steel King designed the structure with freestanding heights of over 30 feet, eight-foot arm lengths, and arms that can adjust vertically in four-inch increments to provide Werner Electric with ample storage options.
In the interest of safety, Steel King added removable pipe stops to the rack arms. Scannable bar codes were also placed on the rack near each stored item, allowing for an immediate inventory update whenever high-reach lift drivers add or remove conduit or strut from the rack.
Once the components were manufactured, the 9,000-square-foot storage system was shipped to the facility in several pieces, which were then welded together on-site by a specialized installation crew. In total, it took about two weeks to build and install the 30 storage bays of 35-foot high cantilever rack. Werner Electric says it was able to keep its distribution operation running smoothly throughout the process.
As for the results, Werner Electric says it’s more than satisfied with the solution Steel King delivered. “I’ve been working with Steel King for over 25 years. The quality of their product, the dedication of their team, and their ingenuity help develop solutions that make racking more than just a place to store product,” Fabry said in the statement.