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Guest Column - February 2006

Where Do I Store That?

Organization and Storage Space

By Allen F. Weitzel


Everyone struggles with it. What should be saved? Where to store it? Every recreational facility needs to order and maintain supplies, archive documents, and store parts and equipment. The logical approach is to devote as much space and property to income-producing and guest entertainment activities, which leaves precious little space to organize and store support supplies.

What to do right

The one of the most significant mistakes made in the area of storage is that the purchasing department never talks to the employee who receives the product and has to put it away. Advance planning plays a big part in solving storage problems. The company purchasers frequently should walk the facility and see what is stored where, how much space is available and note which items can be discarded to make room for vital supplies. The purchaser should chat with the staff that handles the daily supplies to find out how the purchaser can be smarter when ordering (smaller packaging, different products to perform the same function, and so on). The receiving department should search for every nook and cranny that can be converted safely into usable storage space. Every company has an employee who has an eye for efficient use of space. Use that person's expertise for storage suggestions.

One big step in the right direction is to order only what is needed. Just because a price break is offered for purchasing large quantities of goods, such a purchase may not always be the best action. Purchasing "as needed" inventory will provide additional storage space. Not only can goods deteriorate in storage before they get used, but tying up company cash on stored items can make the facility less able to purchase important items when needed.

Use what you have

Evaluate all current storage space. This is especially important in food-service areas. If the facility has more freezers than refrigerators, then purchases should lean toward frozen foods rather than fresher foods. Understand that fresh foods need more frequent food rotation and could spoil sooner. In refrigerators, fresh food boxes cannot be stacked on top of each other as high as those in frozen storage. Fresh-food containers break down and collapse easier than frozen foods.

In dry storage, boxes can be stacked atop each other to conserve space, but there are some pitfalls. Fire regulations require that products not be stored closer than 18 inches from a sprinkler head, on a level plane throughout the room (Figure 1). Flammable products must be stored in a self-closing inflammable cabinet (Figure 2). NEC code has requirements about how close to electrical panels or breaker boxes items can be stored. Supplies or equipment must never block exits (Figure 3). While some recreational facilities create storage space under rides and attractions, it is not a wise procedure, as the areas often get cluttered, are seldom inspected and could become a fire hazard in little time. Stored goods could get shoved up against mechanical components, causing damage or a fire.

Some solutions include: A turntable or pallet positioner can be used on storage shelves that are filled with heavy pads and accessed often. A vacuum hoist can be used to lift loads up to 150 pounds. If a supervisor's desk is a storeroom requirement, consider a wall-mounted or stand-up mobile shop desk to make room for more storage. Gas or electrical utility carts could be used as mobile tool cribs or equipment storage, negating the need for storage in buildings.

Office tricks

Back rooms are not the only storage areas that can become a problem. Office space is always at a premium. The use of office nooks and crannies for storage should not be overlooked. Reputable office-supply companies employ office-space consultants to provide space-saving ideas.

Be sure that fire hazards are not created, when making effective use of storage spaces. Some offices do not have room for cabinets and credenzas. An alternative solution is to use bookshelves instead of file cabinets, filing documents in binders, turning walls into storage spaces. Sheet protectors inside binders can store a great amount of documents. Magazine holders can be used to store magazines, videos and DVDs. Computers allow documents to be saved and stored on CDs or DVDs. Going paperless will create storage space for those hard goods that cannot be downsized. Backup computer drives and important documents and then store those backups off-site. Replace older equipment with newer, smaller pieces of equipment. New multipurpose machines can copy, fax, scan and print, eliminating the need for several pieces of equipment. Don't overlook the shredder to save wastepaper space.

The big one

Every once in a while, the purchasing department will order an oversized item, and the staff will wonder, "Now where are we gonna store that?"

If the facility does not have a large warehouse or maintenance shop that can accommodate the monster delivery until it can be used, then a few tricks can be applied. If weather is not a problem, a large, securable tarp can be wrapped around the shipment, and a 24-hour security watch can be assigned to protect the item. Off-site storage always should be an option. Cargo or sea containers can be purchased or rented and placed in the corner of the parking lot to secure large-volume deliveries until they are used. When the shipping agency calls to confirm a delivery date ask if they can hold the shipment at their warehouse for a few days, until a location to store and protect the shipment is prepared. There may be an added charge for this service, but it could be worth it.

Look up

Many storage options become available when the upper half of a room is considered for storage space. Loft space may be built in tall rooms for storage of less-often used or lightweight supplies. Make sure the proper ladders or equipment are provided to easily access supplies and that proper building codes are met during construction.

"Pick Sticks" or "Bo Peep" hooks can be purchased to pull small, lightweight products closer to employees for easier access and lifting. Check the regional enforcement jurisdiction to determine the proper weight and storage-height regulations. OSHA requirements dictate that heavy objects over a specific weight cannot be stored over shoulder height.

Look around

Do not permit contractors, purveyors or lessees to store unnecessary products, supplies, equipment or documents on the facility property. Require those companies to provide their own off-site storage. Employees, too, can take up more space than realized. Inspect employee work areas and look for space the employees might have taken up with personal radios, handbags, bikes, skateboards or personal projects they are working on during their break periods. Review operational procedures annually. Many times, the crew might have purchased or built containers to store unneeded items. By changing storage procedures, equipment or storage cabinets may be eliminated. If lack of space is still a concern after implementing the tricks provided here, then consider retaining the services of an efficiency consultant.

Keeping it simple

Remember: Purchase only what is needed. Check the available storage space before ordering goods or equipment. Do not permit employees or suppliers to store personal or unneeded items on the property. Store products off-site as needed. Downsize and consolidate office equipment. Network with other recreational companies and ask about storage ideas. Learn what tricks your counterparts use to consolidate space. Use the expertise of others to spot and suggest storage improvements. Keep storage space organized by marking areas where products must remain. In addition, toss out unneeded or outdated stuff. Avoid becoming a packrat. The goal should be to keep as much space as possible dedicated to income-producing activities.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allen F. Weitzel has 40 years of recreation industry experience. In addition to consulting for the industry, he currently holds a management position at a California park, overseeing risk management and training. He can be reached at weitzel@blueneptune.com.