If your business stores raw materials inventory, chances are that many of those items have specific, essential storage instructions. Because raw materials can be especially vulnerable to damage or erosion, highly valuable, or rather cumbersome, effectively storing and organizing this type of inventory can be a real challenge.
This article will dive into how to store raw materials, helping your business create a raw material storage system that works for you and your team.
How to store raw materials
In theory, raw materials should be stored in your business’s safest, most convenient location. But in practice, most businesses need to balance their optimal raw material storage strategy with the realities of their everyday operations. Everything from cash concerns to changes in weather to an unreliable supply chain can affect where and how you organize your raw materials.
These guidelines can help you determine how to best store different raw materials. While never wavering on safely, you’ll need to balance these best practices with the nuances and constraints of your own business.
Most metals are corrosive, so you’ll need to think carefully about how to best protect whatever metals your business needs to store. For starters, ensure any storage area is clean. Try to keep relative humidity as low as possible. Keep similar metals together, and keep all metals away from windows, air vents, doors, and heating elements. You’ll also want to ensure you have adequate air circulation.
Remember that specific metals—including aluminum, copper, and silver—have their own handling and storage instructions. And some metals, especially copper, are so valuable you’ll also need to consider securing and surveilling the storage area where such items are stored.
If your business stocks oils, you’ll want to talk to your supplier directly about how to store these items. There will be specific requirements regarding exposure to heat, cold, light, and other elements. Keep in mind that typically, the container oil arrives in is the best place for it remain. You should discuss any alternative storage strategies with your suppliers.
Wood is hygroscopic, meaning how much moisture it holds depends on the local environment’s humidity levels. Unless you are actively acclimating wood, you’ll want to prioritize a humidity-controlled storage area.
Unseasoned lumber should be stored horizontally with enough airflow to prevent warping or decay. You’ll need to carefully place support boards every 18 inches or so to prevent most wood from bowing.
Plastic should be stored out of direct sunlight and in a humidity-controlled environment. Keep your storage facility at room temperature, and talk to your supplier about the best way to protect your plastic raw materials.
Keep in mind that at high temperatures, just about every plastic will weaken and become more vulnerable to cracks, chips, and breaks. The longer plastics are exposed to heat, the more likely they are to warp or damage.
These are just a few of the raw materials you may need to consider storing properly. You should carefully review all storage guidelines for the raw materials your business keeps in stock, especially if those items pose a danger to others if mishandled.
Related: How to Store Construction Materials
How to set up an optimal raw material storage system
Once you’re clear about how to safely and effectively store your raw materials inventory, it’s time to design a storage system that supports your efforts.
First, you’ll need to physically ensure your storage space is equipped to handle the raw materials you need. You may need to invest in proper lighting, air conditioning, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, refrigerators, and freezers. You may also need to seek out air-tight storage spaces with no windows or outside light.
Once your storage area is as optimal as possible, you’ll need to invest in the physical storage systems that will keep your raw materials protected and organized. For example, you may need to buy vertical shelves, separators, plastic bins, cages, cribs, and other structures and materials to outfit your storage space properly.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, turn to your suppliers. These vendors have ample experience protecting, storing, and transporting the very raw materials you purchase from them, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Standardizing your raw material storage system
Once you are confident about how you wish to store your raw materials inventory, you’ll want to sit down and create a standard operating procedure (SOP) that details exactly how each item in your inventory should be handled, stored, and even discarded.
This SOP will guide everyone from veteran employees to new hires through every step in your raw materials inventory management process, from the moment inventory is received to when it’s finally used to manufacture a finished good.
Managing raw material inventory
Your SOP should not only detail how to store raw materials but also how to track raw material inventory. There are three common ways to track inventory: a document, a spreadsheet, or inventory software.
Keep in mind that a document is rarely robust enough to adequately track raw material inventory, mainly because raw material inventory tends to require a fair amount of special documentation. The same goes for a spreadsheet, which struggles to properly display attachments and photos and can be especially vulnerable to human error.
Inventory software, including inventory apps that work on smartphones and tablets, allows users to visualize all inventory in one place while offering a host of key features particularly helpful for raw materials. This includes low stock alerts, expiry alerts, and the ability to attach critical documentation like disposal guidelines and handling instructions.
Related: How to Track Raw Materials
Sortly is a top-rated inventory app that helps businesses track raw materials, even across multiple locations. Whether you handle steel or plastic, or lumber, Sortly can help your business keep track of every last item you have on hand. Plus, with stress-reducing features like customizable alerts, data-rich reports, and barcode and QR code scanning, it’s much easier to understand what you have on hand and how to keep it in perfect shape.
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