How big is the average party rental warehouse? Not big enough, most rental operators agree. Finding creative ways to use space efficiently pays off big, and three rental experts shared their techniques for doing so at ARA's Rental Show, held in Las Vegas in February.
The first rule for efficient use of warehouse space: Use it all. “You pay for the floor space — the first space to go — but everything above it is free,” said Don Peterman, operations manager with Carrollton, Texas-based Ducky-Bob's. In his warehouse, a mezzanine level holds off-season items, and chiavaris are neatly bagged and stacked.
Matt Gershaw, general manager with All Seasons Rent-All in Greenwood Village, Colo., agreed. “‘Up’ is the easiest way to go,” he said. He has installed hooks to hold ladders and post-hole diggers on the walls of his warehouse and stores big serving trays vertically to make more room.
In the Diamond Rental warehouse in Orem, Utah, white wood folding chairs are neatly stacked on plywood chair skids. The technique is not only an effective way to reduce damage caused by dollies but also makes it easier to slide dollies under the chairs, noted store manager Mark Hiles.
I CAN SEE IT …
Though it's tempting to cram in inventory, it's vital that staff can get to it, the panelists said. “You've got to keep the flow going,” Peterman advised. “Labor is one of the most expensive parts of the rental business. When you spend three hours looking for a silver creamer to go out on a job, you aren't making money.”
It's also important to accept your facility's limitations, the panelists said. Diamond Rental is able to stack its shrink-wrapped, palleted chiavaris with ease thanks to its forklift. But All Seasons doesn't have a forklift. “So we store our tables on their edges rather than stacking them,” Gershaw noted. “Having a forklift makes a big difference in what you can and can't do.”
Effective storage also keeps inventory quality high. “You must be able to rotate inventory so that it is uti-lized evenly,” Gershaw noted. If you are sending out only the chairs stored in the front but not those in the back, “Half your chairs will look old and half will look new,” he said.
Hiles is a big believer in investing in custom storage units for delicate items such as lights. “Store it safely,” he said. “Everything is breakable, and drivers will find a way to break it!”
Using space effectively means being creative, the panelists said. Although Diamond Rental has a designated maintenance area for its tool inventory, for other tasks — such as chair washing — workers just wait until the trucks are out on deliveries and then use the parking lot, Hiles said.
One reason that Diamond Rental makes the most of its warehouse space is that his company used the same CAD software it uses to set up events — PartyCAD — to plot out storage options, Hiles noted. But the panelists also recommended taking advantage of your own in-house experts — your warehouse staff.
“I talk to the people who are back there working” in the warehouse, Peterman noted. “They tell you, ‘It would be great if you moved this or that 6 feet.’ And why not? Listen to them.”
The panelists also recommended visiting other rental warehouses. “If you can visit a facility the same size as yours, you might think, ‘Wow, I can do this!’” Peterman said.
Also important: Stay flexible. Gershaw pointed out that in the Ducky-Bob's warehouse, the linen racks aren't bolted to the floor. “Always leave some extra room for additional inventory,” he said. “As your business grows, so will your inventory.” His marketplace is evolving into a higher end customer base. “Don't underestimate the amount of space you will need, and don't assume your customers' needs won't change,” he said. “Being able to change is key.”
Hiles stressed the importance of demanding professionalism and accountability from warehouse staff. “Without qualified warehouse staff, it can take weeks to recover from a busy weekend,” he noted. “Creative storage and innovative ideas are pointless if you don't have the right staff.”
All Seasons Rent-All
American Rental Association
Ducky-Bob's Event Specialists: A Classic Party Rentals Co.
- Utilize all space available: vertical, horizontal, overhead, stacking, etc.
- Put chairs on dollies or pallets for rotation, ease of movement and ease of transportation.
- Items such as ladders, post-hole diggers, etc., can be mounted on empty wall space.
- Heavy or often-rented items should be stored near doors.
- Store lighter and infrequently used items away from doors and higher up on vertical storage.
- Use stretch wrap for chairs and canopy poles/stakes.
- Optional manufacturers' storage units can be pricey, but because they can optimize storage space and protect and transport your assets, they are often worth the expense.