7 Keys to Optimizing Warehouse Layout & Design

Improving warehouse layout and design is a great way to streamline operations, improve efficiencies and ultimately generate more revenue. However, many warehouse managers find themselves stuck when trying to come up with and implement new solutions.

As warehouse technologies have advanced, so too have the many tactics that can make a huge difference in workflows and storage solutions. Whether you’re in the market for a forklift, more specialized equipment like an order picker or walkie pallet truck, additional storage rack capacity or perhaps even a mezzanine to expand warehouse space, chances are there is much to be learned — and productivity to be gained — from taking a moment to examine the bigger picture.

Start by asking, “what are my pain points?” These answers will serve as the guide to finding ways to improve warehouse layout.

Taking Inventory

Keeping close track of inventory is a fact of life in the world of warehouses and distribution centers. But how often do we stop and take inventory of our processes? Making an extra effort to understand the various components that make your warehouse run (equipment, employees and processes) will uncover potential workflow efficiencies and cost savings.

But at a more basic level, the process of discovering how to do things more efficiently involves a more thorough analysis of:

  • How your product comes in,
  • How it’s handled within your warehouse, and
  • How it goes out

The details of how material moves through your warehouse or distribution center — the height of your shelves, the width of your aisles, the weight of your typical and heaviest loads – will make the biggest impact on improving your warehouse layout and workflow.

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Product Touches

It is important to calculate the number of “touches” that occur from the time materials enter your warehouse until they exit the premises, because reducing that number is one obvious way to improve warehouse efficiency.

The warehouse layout and design itself is one of the best ways to reduce the number of touches. That solution can be mechanical or made by changing the order of workflows and removing steps. One example of an automated warehouse solution is a conveyor systems that can be customized to your space to help facilitate a smoother, speedier workflow while reducing handling costs for repetitive tasks.

Aisles Sizes

When aisles are too narrow or too wide, they represent underutilized space for storage and workflow. When designing a warehouse layout, many materials handling providers are adept at making suggestions for smart warehouse storage and reorganization. There are many racking systems – double deep, push back, pallet flow, and more – that can help create a more efficient warehouse layout, maximize aisle sizes and make fetching product more efficient as well.

Vertical Space

One of the most commonly underutilized spaces in warehouse layout is vertical space. Suppose your warehouse has 20- or 30-foot-high ceilings, but your racks are only 10 – 15 feet high. Like most warehouse operations, the action happens on the ground floor, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t numerous ways to better utilize that available space.

One possibility is to build higher shelving racks, of which there are endless and customizable solutions. There are many racking systems that will help you easily fetch product, and you can also utilize lift equipment with the necessary reach and power to handle the job.

Another option to maximize your vertical space is to install a durable and versatile mezzanine that can add a second or third level inside your facility.

Warehouse mezzanines can be used to create:

  • New production or storage space
  • Stockrooms or locker rooms
  • Parts departments
  • Records storage
  • Modular in-plant offices

Professionally engineered and designed to meet all building codes, such mezzanines are backed by a lifetime structural warranty.

Equipment

Analyzing your current equipment will help you determine whether the machines you’re using are powerful enough to handle your particular workflow, and how the warehouse layout and design can be optimized to maximize efficiency. Such an analysis could also reveal that you are devoting too much power to certain applications, for example using a bigger machine when a smaller one could save energy while handling the same workload.

Personnel

Warehouse layout design must always consider one of the most important factors of warehouse operations — the people. Technologies today can ensure that workers do not suffer unnecessary wear and tear, that they have the tools they need to do the job safely and efficiently, and that they are placed primarily in value-added positions within the warehouse.

For example, lifting a substantial weight over and over isn’t a value-added task and can substantially slow down warehouse workflows and operations. In this case, a bit of mechanical assistance may boost operational efficiency. Most warehouse solutions dealers and suppliers offer a range of ergonomic and materials handling solutions that promote productivity and reduce injuries in the workplace, including lift tables, tilters and pallet positioners; hand trucks, scissor lifts and even overhead cranes. Many of these can be custom fit to whatever warehouse floor plan you need.

Automation

Automating certain functions in the picking, packing and shipping process is another way to optimize warehouse efficiency that will also impact warehouse design. In fact, in many ways new warehouse layouts should always take into consideration what automated solutions are or will be implemented. One of the most important questions you should consider is what sort of warehouse growth you project in the coming years, so the new solution can still be efficient down the road.

In terms of automated solutions, robotic automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) and vision guided vehicles (VGVs) are capable of hauling large loads throughout the warehouse with programmable navigation that includes the ability to automatically slow down or stop if they “see” someone or something in the way and then resume when the obstacle is gone.

What are your biggest warehouse layout and design challenges? The experts at NITCO care skilled at helping you boost efficiency by tailoring game-changing warehouse innovations to your current and future operations. Let us know how we can help.

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