Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) Racking: Should You Consider It for Your Warehouse?

Javier Ramirez
May 29, 2018

It’s a familiar scenario recently. Business is good, perhaps a little too good as the increasing number of orders push your warehouse capacity to the limit. The amount of available space continues to shrink and demand grows. Options for handling this challenge appear easy. Move or build sound like the most logical choices, but perhaps it is time to narrow your options. No, not by deciding on one of those two choices. Another viable option worth investigating is very narrow aisle racking.

Very narrow aisle racking or VNA racking for short offers an excellent alternative for many companies. VNA racking is not a new concept as the need to find more space has always been a warehousing challenge. However, improvements to the forklift products used with VNA racks has allowed for the racking segment to grow in the last 20 years.

True to its name, VNA racks have a design that maximizes floor and vertical space. The aisles are five to seven feet wide depending on the application. Traditional forklifts are too large to maneuver in these aisles so a special lift is used. These lift trucks often are connected to rails or tracks. This prevents the truck from getting to close to the racks, keeping products and employees safe.

VNA Rack Benefits

VNA racks offer many benefits when used in the correct setting. These racks use selective racking, providing flexibility in design, set up and pallet storage. Pallets are also very easy to access. The most common settings for VNA racks are in manufacturing, general warehousing, retail and of course, locations where floor space is a concern.

Space and efficient picking are major considerations for investing in VNA racks. Companies in need of more space without the ability to add more floor space through construction or relocation should consider VNA racks. Most users of VNA racks realize an increase between 30% and 50%, but every application is different.

Many consider the use of VNA racks important for increasing efficiency, particularly in applications where picking is done by the pallet load or there is single SKU picking. The racks allow the special lift trucks the ability to pick products in the aisles and deliver to the main aisle where another forklift accepts and takes to the main collection point or loading dock. Installing VNA racking may force you to rethink your picking process, however.

Traditional racks in warehouses allow multiple picking methods to function simultaneously. There may be times when pickers on foot move through the aisles. Other instances allow for two or more traditional forklifts work in the same aisle. The aisle width of VNA racking does not permit for picking by more than one method at any given time.

The investment for VNA racks must also include purchase of VNA lift trucks. These trucks often come with a higher cost and because of its specialized purpose, have limited use outside of the VNA aisles.

VNA racks are very attractive for companies with limited space. The racks create more room on the warehouse floor and allow you to maximize vertical storage. These are excellent products for pallet load and single SKU picking. However, the racks are not a fit for every application, particularly those in high volume, multiple SKU settings.

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