Whether moving to another building, reorganizing your facility, or building a new warehouse, careful planning can help you optimize your floor space and efficiency. While streamlining workflow by choosing optimal racking solutions is critical, storage operations often overlook their warehouse design. This is a mistake, as the setup and dimensions of your warehouse space play a huge role in your operation’s efficiency.
With a properly-designed warehouse, you can optimize your operation’s use of available space, maximize workflow and accessibility, and stretch your dollar further in the process. Discover why warehouse design is important and how to set your operation up for success.
Understanding Warehouse Layouts
The first step in maximizing a warehouse’s layout is understanding the components of most storage facilities. Generally, warehouses will include each of the following areas:
Loading and Unloading Area
All warehouses feature an area specifically dedicated to loading and unloading inventory. The two main components of a loading zone include a dock and a lift door, which facilitate the loading and unloading of stock.
The dock is the area where the inventory will be loaded and unloaded. When designing the dock, it is essential to consider the type of vehicle that will deliver your goods. Most trucks, including container, semi-trailer, refrigerated, and flatbed trucks, require a dock height of between 46 and 52 inches.
Dock doors are available in many configurations; however, the most common door sizes are 8, 9, and 10 feet. To minimize freight cost, you should use the largest doors possible for your building since 8-foot doors will typically not facilitate floor-to-ceiling loading (loading the shipping container to its maximum capacity).
The reception area is where the receiving, sorting, and inspection of inventory will be performed. The primary consideration for this area is size, as it should be large enough to allow employees to check all inventory as it arrives.
The facility’s storage area takes up the bulk of your floor space and is where workflow optimization will likely be implemented the most.
Although the picking zone will not be present in some operations, it is vital to those that require individual item retrieval. In inventory management systems that require shipping individual products, the picking area will be where two key tasks are performed: order picking and order fulfillment.
To maximize workflow in the picking zone, ensure all materials necessary for the picking and packing process are easily accessible. Depending on the warehouse type and the operation’s nature, this may mean items like packing tape, boxes, and bubble wrap.
Top Considerations for an Effective Warehouse Design
As you design your warehouse, it is crucial to be deliberate with each decision. Many variables are at play, and you will face many choices throughout the process. Your decisions will be pivotal in creating a fast, efficient, safe, and profitable storage operation.
The first aspect that any business must consider when designing a warehouse is how much money they plan to spend on the project. This will narrow your choices on layout styles and warehouse locations. If you are just starting out, consider purchasing used shelving to help your budget go further.
A warehouse’s flow is how it is physically arranged. This key factor will dictate how efficiently your employees can accomplish their tasks.
Since the effectiveness of your employees will largely determine how profitable your business is, this is one of the most important considerations when designing a warehouse.
As you consider the arrangement of your warehouse, strive to use your space with maximum efficiency. To do this, you must avoid unused storage space wherever possible, both vertical and horizontal.
Pallet racking systems, like Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s galvanized pallet racks, can help you use your vertical space more efficiently by allowing you to store inventory higher than you could with the floor stacking method.
It is also vital to consider how much floor space you plan to allocate to each component of the operation. As a general rule, maximize the amount of floor space used for inventory storage while minimizing the amount of floor space used on administrative areas.
Also, consider the nature of your inventory and how it will be retrieved. In some operations, employees will need to individually select each item for shipping, referred to as picking. Other operations store large amounts of the same inventory on pallets. In these operations, forklift access and speed of retrieval are the primary considerations.
Regardless of how your inventory is stored, it is important to store dynamic inventory (the most commonly-accessed items) in an easily-accessed location, with static inventory (items accessed less often) in the more difficult-to-access areas. Depending on the nature of your business, you may have to rotate your dynamic inventory seasonally.
Safety and Compliance
Another aspect to consider when designing your warehouse is safety and compliance. There are two major causes of injuries in warehouse settings: forklift accidents and falling inventory. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate both risks and keep your employees safe.
To limit forklift accidents, design your warehouse to minimize interactions between workers on foot and forklifts. This way, the risk of a forklift accident is contained to the driver, preventing collateral damage and injuries to multiple employees.
You should also ensure that any forklift employees are certified and adequately trained. OSHA offers an online certification course that can be purchased in bulk for multiple employees.
To stay in compliance, it is also essential to understand your products. If you are storing any stacked inventory, you must comply with OSHA material stacking guidelines. Staying within these standards will also protect your employees from falling merchandise.
To further protect employees from the risk of falling items, it is vital to understand the maximum load of your storage devices and stay within manufacturer specifications.
Another way to secure your products is using high-quality pallets, such as Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s aluminum pallets. These heavy-duty pallets provide a two-way entry for forklifts and the strength needed to support a variety of inventory types.
Risks of Improperly Designed Warehouses
While the benefits of improved employee productivity, increased safety, and maximizing profitability can be achieved through proper warehouse storage design, it is just as important to avoid the pitfalls of an improperly-designed warehouse. Some of the risks of a poor warehouse layout include:
Without an efficient warehouse design, operations risk poorly organizing their inventory and losing on labor costs through inefficiency. In this regard, warehouses often fail to place commonly-accessed and popular inventory items in a forward, easily-accessible area.
By failing to do this, employees must travel greater distances to retrieve products, reducing efficiency and increasing the number of labor hours required to complete tasks.
Another common pitfall is failing to organize products by likeness. This is particularly important if you will be storing many types of products; typically, items of the same SKU should be stored in the same area. This allows employees to locate inventory easily and reduces the labor hours required to complete tasks.
An unsafe layout poses a major risk to the success of a storage operation. Protecting the health and safety of employees should always be the priority.
Unsafe layouts also pose a risk to your inventory. For example, if the warehouse’s forklift access aisles are too narrow for a forklift to safely navigate in, the forklift may collide with a rack or stacked inventory and damage it. These costly accidents can be commonplace in poorly-designed warehouses, increasing shrink and decreasing profit margins.
Inability to Expand
Another mistake many supply-chain oriented businesses make when designing their warehouse is failing to plan for the expansion of their business. Often, operators choose the smallest possible warehouse that is sufficiently sized for their current operation to save on overhead costs in the early days of the business.
While this may be effective in the short-term, if your operation is successful, it will eventually be beneficial to expand its scope. When it comes time to expand, you will be left with two costly choices: pay for new construction to expand your current facility or purchase a new warehouse. By giving your business room to grow, you can allow your business to scale up organically and save on costs in the long run.
Warehouse Supplies at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.
While planning a warehouse can be complicated, taking the time to think through each of the variables involved in a storage operation can help keep your employees safe while setting your business up for long-term profitability and growth.
You will face some difficult decisions as you undergo your warehouse design process. Fortunately, you won’t have to do it alone: the experts at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. can help you determine the most efficient layout for your warehouse and help you install effective storage systems that will increase your warehouse’s productivity.
Our over-50,000-square-foot warehouse has all the equipment and tools you’ll need to launch an effective storage operation.
We also have an ISO 9001:2008 certification, so you can rest assured that our in-house, factory-trained installation crews will safely and correctly install any products you order from Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. Call Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. at (800) 589-7225 today and let us help you design a warehouse that will be efficient and profitable for years to come.