Shelving systems have constantly evolved throughout the 20th Century. Until the mid 1950s, it had been common practice for storage layouts to consist of static shelving stacks, which were arranged facing a central aisle. This meant that there was a lot of space taken up just for the aisles between shelves. Mobile shelving development aimed to reduce the aisle space, thus maximising the shelving space.
The first type of shelving which allowed aisle space to be minimised, was the “Stormor”, pioneered by Thomas Foulkes in 1936. The shelves were mounted on wheeled bases that moved along tracks. Each individual shelving stack could move laterally along tracks to enable users to access other shelves that were stored behind it. Whilst this invention certainly revolutionised storage solutions, it had its limitations. For example, it was not particularly suitable for heavy loads, and certainly was time consuming to access records that may be far removed from the accessible area, as each stack of shelves had to be moved in turn.
The modern concept of mobile shelving developed with further refinements until in 1950, a Swiss engineer, Hans Ingold, invented the “Compactus Mobile Storage System”. Compactus made a significant contribution to mobile shelving as it offered a 40% improvement on space utilisation compared with the Stormor technique. The Compactus quickly became popular with institutions such as hospitals and banks; in fact anywhere that high volume records/archives needed to be stored and frequently accessed. Compactus was also able to endure heavier loads than the less streamlined Stormor. It was a popular invention due to its ability to maximise the storage space within an office, allowing employees easy access, without taking up too much floor space.