In one our previous articles, 10 Questions That Will Determine If You Need to Up Your Warehouse Solutions Strategy and Rent a larger Storage Facility, we dived into the scenarios and questions to determine if moving to a larger space was in the best interest of your company.
If you aren’t looking to move your warehouse space but want to optimize and get the most out of it, this article is for you. Nonetheless, you may be stumped on how to do this. Read on and ask yourself these 10 questions that will help you determine how to go about boosting your warehouse layout optimization.
1. What Are Your Fastest-Moving Items Stored?
If you are not sure, before going to the next step in upping your warehouse layout optimization, you need to find out what product is moving the fastest in your warehouse. To figure this out, look at inventory and shipping logs. Also, talk with warehouse workers who deal with shipping and tracking the product on a daily basis.
After identifying your fastest-moving items, notice where it is being stored. Is it at the back of the warehouse? In one of the middle aisles? Or closest to the shipping dock? Ideally, you want your fastest-moving items stored closest to the shipping dock. The reason being, warehouse workers can easily grab it and it takes less time to walk to and from the storage spot and loading dock, which will cut loading and shipping times.
So, if your fastest-moving items are not stored there, you will want to move the fastest-moving items to the ideal location. Also, know that you should be keeping track of what products are shipping out more and which product is not. Just because a product is the fastest moving right now does not mean it will always be. The reason could be a sale or time of the year (e.g. holidays, back to school, etc.). Keep this in mind to ensure that shipping and loading times stay consistent.
2. What Retrieval Vehicles Are You Using?
Are you simply using a standard pickup truck? If so, you may want to reconsider vehicles so you can create the ideal warehouse strategy for your layout. To do this, you want to consider the height and width of the aisles.
Normally, extremely narrow aisles may benefit from turret trucks while wider aisles may benefit from standard sit-down lift trucks. You may want to first determine where the product will be located and if you need to reconstruct the aisles before selecting the retrieval vehicles, as you want a positive return on investment.
3. What Picking Strategy Are You Using?
Perhaps a better question: are you using a picking strategy? The reason being is that if your facility is small enough, and you only have a few products that are shipped out, and a couple warehouse workers, basic picking may be fine. However, if that is not the case, you should consider employing other picking strategies such as batch picking, zone picking, wave picking, or a combination.
Some factors to determine which picking method would be the best fit for your warehouse includes the size of the facility, how many workers are picking the product, and how much product is shipped to and from your facility. For more information on what picking strategy may be beneficial to your operation check out one of our recent articles, How to Improve Warehouse Operations with the Right Picking Technique.
4. Do You Have a Modular Inplant Office?
Did you know you can boost your warehouse layout optimization simply by installing another office? One of the most beneficial offices to warehouse operations is the modular inplant office. It makes it easy for managers to observe warehouse operations without micromanaging warehouse workers.
It also makes it easier for managers to see what operations work and what do not. For instance, the manager can simply look from the modular inplant office and take note of improper lifting techniques. The manager can then be proactive and give warehouse workers more training and a review of OSHA requirements to ensure less injury and worker compensation claims—which both benefits the company and workers.
5. Do You Have a Mezzanine Office?
Similar to a modular inplant office, a mezzanine office can benefit your warehouse layout optimization. By having an additional level, you free up storage space. If you didn’t have extra space before, you will now. This is a must, given that you need to factor in future growth.
6. Can You Store Products Anywhere (If Need Be)?
This may sound counterproductive, but actually being able to store product anywhere in your warehouse is a sign that your warehouse layout optimization is up to par. The reason being is that as you grow, it is only natural for items that were once fast-moving be replaced by other faster-moving products.
Also, you may phase out some products while making room for others. The point is, warehouse operations and product placement will change. You need a warehouse layout optimization that is flexible enough to work with that.
If you realize you cannot do this with your current layout, it may be time to call in the professionals to help reconfigure your operations to make them more flexible.
7 Where’s the Extra Space?
First off, do you have extra space? Secondly, where is it? If you don’t have extra space, it is time to install a mezzanine office and reconfigure space to free up storage room.
Now if you do have extra space, take note where it is. Is it in the back of the warehouse? Middle? Front? Ideally, since you want your fastest-moving items closest to the loading dock, it may be a good idea to have the extra space towards the back.
Logically, this is the area where retrieval will be the slowest. Still, it depends on what the free space will be used for when you do fill it. Will it be used to store phased-out items? Will you use it for prototypes? That said, it may be beneficial to contact a professional so you have all of your options laid out.
8. Are Warehouse Managers Happy and Capable of Carrying Out Their Job Duties to the Best of Their Ability?
Have an honest conversation with warehouse managers. Are they happy? Can they do their job duties to their fullest capacity? If the warehouse is chaotic, the answer is a simple no.
While you ultimately call the shots, ignoring unhappy employees will lead to fast turnovers. Taking time out to train will decrease shipping and load times, which will impact your return on investment. The point is, keep your managers happy and you won’t have to deal with these issues.
9. Are Warehouse Workers Happy and Capable of Carrying Out Their Job Duties to the Best of Their Ability?
Have the same type of conversation with warehouse workers. Can they carry out their job duties? Are they happy to work for your company? They are the employees that deal directly with your product; leverage this by listening to their input and use it to make the most of your warehouse layout optimization—which will make their jobs easier.
10. Does Your Warehouse Equipment Help or Hinder Shipping Times?
What warehouse equipment are you using? The truth is, warehouse layout optimization is not just about the size of aisles and product placement. It encompasses everything that goes on in the warehouse, equipment included.
Take an inventory of what warehouse equipment you have. Discuss with warehouse managers and employees the equipment they frequently use. Also, look through logs and track shipping and loading times. While you can experiment with different types of warehouse equipment, it may be in your best interest to contact a professional who can go through your operation and give you equipment recommendations that will boost warehouse layout optimization.
Warehouse Layout Optimization: Final Thoughts
Your warehouse layout optimization starts and stops with your willingness to take action and evaluate what needs to be changed. Doing this will decrease shipping and loading times, increase customer satisfaction, and keep managers and workers happy, which will lead to less turnover and a positive return on investment.
- Identify your fastest-moving items and store them closest to the loading dock
- Retrieval vehicles like sit-down lift trucks are good for standard aisles while turret trucks are better for narrower aisles
- Look at the size of your facility, number of workers each shift, number of product loaded and shipped per day to determine the right picking strategy for your operation
- A mezzanine or modular inplant office will help free up space and allow managers to carry out their job duties to the best of their ability
- Get managers and workers input to determine what needs to change in order for them to work more efficiently
- Take an inventory of warehouse equipment being used in your operations
- Instead of experimenting with different layouts, contact a professional to understand what specific ways you can boost your warehouse layout optimization
For more information on maximizing space and increasing profitability, contact Specialized Storage Solutions.