Understanding compact shelving
In its essence, movable compact shelving is shelving that is mounted to a wheeled platform (carriage) that rides on tracks placed on or in a floor. Being moveable, ranges of shelving can be massed or “compacted” in order to utilize space normally consumed by aisles. Ranges are moved to create an aisle only where one is needed. This gain in space efficiency is the purpose of movable compact shelving.
Carriage operation may be 1. manual; 2. mechanically assisted manual; or 3. electrical. Shelving may be cantilever-type (library-type) or case-type(four-post), and may be of steel, wood, or a combination of the two materials. The specific way these basic systems are executed differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but these are the basic options available to the prospective buyer.
We hope the information that follows will contribute to your understanding of movable compact shelving, so you may better judge the appropriateness of this relatively new concept in your deliberations about solutions to space problems.

The economics of movable compact shelving
Since shelving that moves is more expensive that non-moveable shelving, one makes a decision to buy movable compact shelving on savings to be realized from costs associated with space: building costs associated with space: building costs, lease expenses, heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning, and staffing.

The cost of movable compact shelving
In estimating the cost of movable shelving, one can apply a useful rule of thumb; If X amount of shelving would cost the buyer USD1000 as freestanding shelving that same amount would cost USD3000 to USD4000 as compact shelving, depending on the sophistication of the control and safety systems. But, prospective users are cautioned to consult manufacturers about their particular systems, since each project is essentially custom and there are many factors that must be considered.
Installation costs are also important, and where special construction is required to produce a floor flush with the tracks, these costs can be substantial.
It is less expensive to compact shelving than it is to build or lease space.

The benefits of movable compact shelving
As stated in introduction, the purpose of movable compact shelving is to achieve a gain in space efficiency. A given amount of shelving takes less space, or a given amount of space accommodates more shelving.
It should be noted, however, that the objective may be to use space in a more desirable fashion. For example, it may be possible to provide a staff or user area where none had been possible before the collection was “compacted”.
It may be that compacting will itself create the need for a user area by increasing the use of a collection. A major university found this to be true when it consolidated a collection formerly spread over several locations with a resultant increase in circulation.
In short, the costs of moveable compact shelving require more that a simple dollar and cents reckoning, and the benefits may be more than simple saving in space.