An efficient warehousing system that meets your business needs while at the same time reducing operational costs is invaluable. However, most design and layout aspects of a warehousing system are neglected.
In the supply chain, every inch matters. If there is a lack of proper layout and design, the result is wasted space and therefore wasted money. When space isn’t properly utilized in warehousing, it can deceive management into believing that more space is needed, rather than re-purposing the existing layout and design to help optimize every square foot of the building.
In order to maximize storage utilization, a level of redesign is needed to reassess the layout and overall design and structure of the warehouse. Below are some of the fundamentals of reconfiguring warehousing to maximize every space in sight.
Efficient ways of optimizing warehouse layout
As a manager or business owner, it is your main role to see the warehouse grow. The overall productivity of your warehouse depends on the product flow. You see, the faster your customers are able to get the goods, pack and ship them, the higher the likelihood that they will be satisfied and willing to come for your services again. But how will you be able to deliver this?
The answer lies with a well-studied and fully optimized layout. However, there are key factors to consider before deciding on the type of layout design to work with. Based on factors such as available space, available resources and underlying throughput needs, your warehouse can adopt any of these three types of layout.
The most popular layout plans to consider include: the U-shaped product flow, I-shaped product flow, and L-shaped product flow.
U-flow, the most common layout pattern, occurs when the receipt and dispatch functions of the warehouse are located at the same end of the building. Thus, new products flow in at the reception, moves to the storage at the back of the warehouse and finally to the shipping, located near the receiving end.
This flow pattern is ideal for maximum utilization of docking resources while at the same time encouraging cross-docking.
Through flow (I-shaped warehouse product flow and L-shaped warehouse product flow) is where the shipping and the receiving ends are located at different points, opposite to each other. This type of warehouse product flow is ideal for products that require heightened security and bulky products that need proper assortments. Through flow pattern is recommendable where the warehouse is a long and relatively narrow building.
Warehouse layout design fundamentals
Designing a layout may be easy on paper. However, in reality when it comes to implementing that plan it may be a daunting task. Before choosing any of the layouts to adopt, you need to delve deeper in every factor that can necessitate any change just after the move more so when it comes to assignment of space. You should understand whether you will need to extend existing facilities, reorganize the current operating system or expand to a new warehouse.
The design chosen should reduce handling of goods while providing ease of access of the goods. It should also ensure top-notch flexibility when it comes to storage of goods, and make most of the available space. With these factors in mind you will be able to control the amount of good stored while at the same time maintaining high ration ratio.
However, there are usually key areas to work in when designing your warehouse layout. These places include; reception, storage, picking, dispatch, loading, and unloading area.
- Inbound / Outbound Loading Areas
Depending on the type of goods being handle, loading and off-loading areas can be located at different points, in or out of the warehouse. Some products require a lot of inspection and monitoring, while others, with a slight mistake, they can easily spill. Depending on the conditioning required, you will need to adopt either in our outside loading and off-loading systems.
Second, is the trucks heights vis-à-vis the entrance height level. Some trailers’ heights will bar you from loading or off-loading the goods inside your warehouse since they won’t fit the entrance door. On the other hand, if the trailers or trucks belong to a third party, chances are that you may only be permitted to offload or load in specific points after which you will be needed to carry the goods to your stores.
However, for independent loading and off-loading, you can integrate lifts and ramps to uplift and move the goods from one place to another, whether in or out of warehouse loading and off-loading.
- Packing Stations
Once you have received the goods, you will need to rebrand, sort and ascertain whether they of the required units. Meaning you will need a spacious, independent and secure place where you can monitor every item received. Nowadays most of the products come with barcodes for easy identification of the units. Meaning, you will be required to automate your reception area. And, install CCTV cameras to keep all your receptionists on watch.
Warehouses are mainly built for storing goods. However now that you want to keep a layout that ensures optimized storage, you will be forced to devise methods of storage that do not use up a lot of space while at the same time marinating the safety of the product.
Depending on the quality and the heights of storage equipment such as cartons, you can use shelves, pallets or racks for storage. Pallets are the most popular when it comes to efficient storage space management.
- Outbound/ Dispatch Area
A good dispatch area should be that which ensures faster movement of the goods that are leaving the warehouse. Differentiating and automating this place will not only help you in faster retrieving of goods but also ensure safety when dispatching the goods from the warehouse. You can either create a dispatch area at different point with the reception area or at the same point with it depending on the type of the layout chosen
- The Service Area
Your workers will need to charge their cell phones, change the clothing and go to bathrooms. Therefore, you should carefully take note of the most appropriate locations of these different types of rooms. It is recommendable to locate the management office between the dispatch and the reception area.
As you can see, meeting all the above prerequisites is not something that you can just wake up and partake of. You will need to make a good plan first through proper evaluation, calculation, and creation of a clearly set out long short and long term objectives.
With proper warehouse layout, you will make use of any space available while at reducing the handling times and distances for easy accessibility. Such warehouses have clearly defined operational zones with no area at risk congestion.
What next after an efficient layout design?
Having created a well-organized warehouse, the next thing that should ring in your mind is what you need to implement for more advanced design. And, the fact that you have created a good layout for your warehouse doesn’t mean that you are done. You need to stick to your warehouse layout goals.
Ensure the flow is not interrupted while identifying and implementing different types of modern racking system, only those that are worth. You also need to keep a fast but safer track while using every cubic capacity that is available.
Don’t forget your inventory
Keeping accurate data is another core factor in realizing your design layout goals. It affects your storage capacity, throughput level and method of storage and retrieval of goods. Accurate data gives insight son the available space, the currently needed storage space and SKU characteristics and storage needs.
Automate Systems where Possible
The last in the list is integration of current software and automated systems in the overall warehousing processes. You can use picking equipment such as pallet shuttles and stacker cranes and conveyor systems for product handling. When it comes to data management, system software such as spreadsheets will help you track and streamline matters relating to logistics and help you keep record of the real-time data. The last in automaton is the mobile racks. Mobile space automation will enable you to clear spaces occupied by multiple aisles. By creating a single aisle, you will easily access the goods in different shelves and racks.
Properly designed warehouse layout eliminates the guesswork out of warehousing and enhance the use every individual cubic space. It ensures efficient material handling and economical storage while keeping the employees safety at the center. However, an efficient layout should be flexible enough to meet future needs that can cause major expense and disruptions.