04 Aug Designing Your Warehouse Layout for Peak Efficiency
You know the ins and outs of your product line. You’ve researched your customer base and feel confident about your pricing. Your marketing plan is ready to go. However, none of these preparations will matter much if you have a disorganized warehouse. The right warehouse layout streamlines your operation, allowing increased productivity and reduced expenses.
Whether you have a new warehouse or are looking to optimize an existing one, this article can help you improve your warehouse design, thereby boosting your workflow. Here are seven steps for enhancing your warehouse layout.
7 Steps to a Perfect Warehouse Layout
1. Create a map of your space.
Your first step is to create a scaled map of the warehouse space that allows for an efficient workflow. You can draw your map using pen and paper, or you can use warehouse layout design software. It’s up to you.
Ideally, your map should look something like the graphic below, with your product moving in a clockwise direction from your loading and unloading dock and back again.
Here are key factors to keep in mind as you consider your warehouse design:
- Making most of the available space
- Reducing the handling of goods to a minimum
- Providing easy access to the stored product
- Having the highest rotation ratio possible
- Offering maximum flexibility in the positioning of products
- Controlling the number of products stored
Be sure to use accurate measurements for all your spaces, including ceiling heights, doorways, and walking paths.
2. Optimize the warehouse layout for each main section
Now that you have a map as a starting point, it’s time to look at each station of your diagram with a critical eye for efficiency.
- Loading and unloading. A clearly designated area for the inflow and outflow of goods is crucial to an organized warehouse. This area is the entrance and exit for most of the materials that come into your warehouse. You can locate your loading and unloading area inside or outside the warehouse building, depending on your space.
- Receiving. This area should be entirely separate in location and operation from your loading and unloading center. Here is where your team members inspect and count goods received, monitor quality control, and sort items before sending them on their way to their proper place in the warehouse.
- Storage. Your storage area will take up the most space in your warehouse, so it’s the section that requires the most time and thought. Here are some questions to consider: what are the products that need to be stored, what is their expected turnover rate, and what are the weight, size, and other storage requirements of these products?
How do you know how much storage space you need? One rule of thumb is to dedicate about 25 percent of your total warehouse space to product storage. Be sure to keep both vertical and horizontal space in mind when you figure out your overall storage capacity. Also, if your facility is at 85 percent capacity, you should consider your storage area to be out of space.
- Picking. If your company fills orders using items from different spots inside the warehouse, you will need a picking area. The complexity of this station depends on the size of your operation and the products you sell. In some cases, employees can manually pick items, and, in others, a warehouse might utilize an automated picking system. Or perhaps your operation uses both methods. Either way, the right warehouse layout can help make this step more efficient.
- Dispatch. This area is where your employees pack and prepare items for distribution and shipping. The dispatch area also is where your team members will determine what items need to be restocked. Additionally, you can use this area as another quality control section of your warehouse and move items full circle to the loading/unloading area.
3. Select the right equipment.
Now that you have the different areas of your warehouse clarified, the next step in the warehouse layout process is to choose the appropriate equipment for your operation.
Once again, your decisions will depend on the space you have and the materials you handle. Forklifts are useful got transporting heavy, bulky items and pallets around the warehouse. Pallet jacks, which come in manual and electric designs, can transport small loads across shorter distances in your warehouse.
Keep in mind that forklifts require a minimum aisle width of 12 feet to maneuver safely. Workers also need proper training to operate warehouse equipment safely.
4. Optimize Your Warehouse Layout for Support Services.
Your warehouse layout also should include a central area that is devoted to employee services. This area is vital to the overall success of your operation. Support services include:
- Modular Offices
- Employee lounges and break rooms
- Equipment storage
When these services are located in one centralized location, it maximizes your space and makes things easier and safer for employees to navigate.
5. Test your warehouse design
You know the saying about the “best laid plans,” right? They still can go awry. That’s why it’s essential to run a test of your new warehouse design. Involve your employees and all your equipment in this test run.
Take note of how things go during the test run and what needs to be altered to make things go more smoothly.
6. Consider other factors for your warehouse layout.
Now that you have a basic structure set, it’s time to consider some of the extra steps for a versatile and efficient warehouse layout.
- Forklifts need a substantial turning radius.
- OSHA requirements and local codes require clearance around (usually a three-foot minimum) around electrical panels.
- Use accurate ceiling height measurements for warehouse racking.
- Include ceiling-mounted sprinkler systems when determining the placement of your racks.
- Plan exits and entrances in a manner that allows for safety and seamless workflow.
- Consider tunnel bays (cutouts in the racking) instead of aisles to create more space.
7. Learn about your racking options.
Finally, a successful warehouse layout is dependent on its racking.
To determine the best racking systems for your warehouse, consider the size, shape, and weight of your products, how long they will be stored, and how they will be packaged and shipped.
The most common type of racking is your basic pallet rack systems, while longer items are best stored on cantilever rack.
For LIFO (last in, first out) storage, push back racking is your best option. For FIFO (first in, first out) storage, pallet flow racking will allow higher density storage. Additionally, placing your high-turnover items closer to the picking and shipping areas will reduce your time spent retrieving high movement items.
Talk to a Warehouse Layout Expert
Do you have further questions about your warehouse layout? The experts at Speedrack West are ready to help you put together a plan that is safe, efficient, and profitable. Contact us today for a free consultation!