11 Dos and Don’ts When Maximizing Your Warehouse Design and Layout


warehouse design and layoutIt can be difficult to assess how to maximize your warehouse space, let alone determine if you need to upgrade to a larger space or not. In some cases, companies will continue using the same picking strategy and product retrieval method simply because it is what has been done.

Needless to say, there may be a chance that, over the years, it some strategies that have worked in the past may have run their course now.

While we do not want to discount tried and true methods, knowing when to make some changes can be difficult. Let’s face it; in the last 5, 10 years, you may have had an increase in product, hired more employees, and are picking more items per day than you ever have. Even if this is not the case, we can bet some change has occurred.

To ensure you have the most up-to-date and functional space that reflects that read on to learn 10 dos and don’ts when maximizing your warehouse design and layout. Because even the smallest warehouse adjustment can make a difference in shipping times and customer service.

1. Don’t Lease a Bigger Space Until You Have Thoroughly Assessed Your Current Space

While we often lump bigger with better, this is not always the case. It is easy to make the assumption because you can’t fit any more product in your space, it is time to shop around for “an upgrade.”

And, you may be right. Still, it is worth seeing if your space is up to its most functional capability. At the worst, you will know for certain you need to move to a larger space. At its best, you could save hundreds, if not thousands in rent and time by realizing you can make your current space more functional.

2. Do Assess Your Picking Strategy

This goes along with #1. You want to incorporate a picking technique that will best benefit your warehouse design and layout.

For instance, if your operation is relatively large, with several SKUs and at least 50 orders being filled per day, zone picking, wave picking, or a combination may be your best bet.

To learn more about how picking affects your business and which strategy would work well with your organization, read one of our latest articles, How to Improve Warehouse Operations with the Right picking Technique.

3. Don’t Have Too Much Space

While the ideal warehouse space should have some empty space to make way for future business growth, several empty aisles may be a sign to re-evaluate your warehouse and possibly consider downsizing.

That or it could mean your product is not spread out properly—one aisle could be cluttered while another is sparse.

To best determine if this is the case with you, consider hiring a professional who knows what to look for to see if this is a viable option for you.

4. Don’t Leave Your Warehouse Design and Layout Up to Chance

Even if you are not much of a numbers person, consider taking a look at warehouse studies and figures. That or hire someone to do it for you. Think of it as someone already did the work for you.

What you don’t want to do is have extremely narrow aisles that make it harder for retrieval vehicles to access product. Or not consider installing a mezzanine office or modular inplant office until your ground floor is cluttered, posing a fire hazard.

#5. Do Leave Some Buffer Space When You Store Product

This not only decreases the chances of product getting damaged but makes it easier for vehicles to retrieve it. As we mentioned in our article, The Affect of Product Size on Warehouse Configuration, it is best to go with four inches of buffer space, at the very minimum.

6. Do Question How You Store Product

Do you store it alphabetically? Or by category? Most picked to least picked? Perhaps you realize you don’t have a specific way you store product; this could very well be the case if you are a new startup, in transition, or have a small operation.

in which case, it is best to incorporate one now. If you find yourself in this situation, consider clumping product into “families” to maximize your picking. Also, assign the fastest-moving items closest towards the loading dock, with the slowest-moving-items farthest away.

That way, you minimize the travel time it takes employees to retrieve items and load them. Cutting down on load time will speed up shipping times, meaning consumers receive their products happier, overall providing a more satisfactory customer experience.

7. Do Keep “Liftoff” Space in Mind

“Liftoff” space is the space needed for retrieval vehicles to easily and efficiently retrieve product from each slot. In general, we recommend that you leave at least 6 inches of “liftoff” space. When you do measure product to determine the “liftoff space,” measure in its “retrieval form.”

In other words, measure the product in its packaging or container it would be stored in when retrieved, which will increase the weight and height.

8. Don’t Only Think About Your Current Business Growth

Right now, your warehouse team is picking 50 orders per day. How many orders will they pick in a year, five, or even ten?

Chances are, your business will change over time; more product will be coming in and out; you may hire more employees; you may install that mezzanine office or modular inplant office. Either way, you need a space that is fluid enough to work with these types of changes.

Part of this entails predicting and factoring your future business growth. In other words, having some empty space, not to mention routinely checking logs to see if the fastest-moving-product has changed and product needs to be reconfigured.

9. Do Use the 80/20 Rule

Speaking of reconfiguring fastest-moving product, it is a safe bet to use the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule means that you store your fastest-moving items closest to the loading dock (as mentioned)—the 20%. And the 80% in the appropriate proximity.

10. Do Read Up on OSHA Regulations and Local Business Codes

Doing this and complying with OSHA regulations and local business codes ensures you have and promote a safe working environment for your employees. And, you reduce the chances of being hit with a hefty fine.

Or, at the very worst, resulting in a lawsuit or permanent disability. By having a safe warehouse design and layout, you don’t just save the company money on worker’s compensation but you support your employees’ quality of life.

Since OSHA and warehouse building codes can be tedious and overwhelming, perhaps contact an experienced professional who deals with fire and building hazards on a daily basis.

11. Do Consider Hiring Professionals

While it may be (and hopefully is) easy to incorporate some (if not all) of these adjustments to your warehouse, hiring a professional makes the job get done faster, not to mention they have their expertise to go off of. Because, let’s face it, like every business, every warehouse is unique and requires a customized design and layout that best adheres to it.

Final Thoughts: Maximizing Your Warehouse Design and Layout to Its Fullest Potential

Evaluating your warehouse design and layout does take some time but it is worth the effort. By figuring out how you can make it more efficient and functional will not only affect the warehouse environment for the better but will strengthen the customer experience.

Do you have questions or comment? Let us know your input and how you best have evaluated your space by leaving a comment.

Summary:

  • Make sure you (or a professional) assesses your current warehouse design and layout before you start looking for larger spaces. Instead of making the move and paying more in rent, you might just need to make a few adjustments to what you have now
  • Assess your picking strategy to make sure you have the best for your business organization
  • For example, in general, larger organizations with more employees and at least 50 orders (if not more) per day do well with zone picking, wave picking, or a combination of both
  • While you want to ensure you have some empty space for future business growth, you want to make sure you don’t have too much
  • Downsizing could be a viable option or it may be a sign the product is not distributed across your space
  • While you may not be a numbers person, it is worth looking at stats and studies to see what warehouse solutions have worked for others; if you’d rather not, consider hiring professionals who would happily do that for you
  • Have buffer and “liftoff” space to make it easier for retrieval vehicles to access the product
  • Factor in future business growth to determine if you need to reconfigure your space now
  • Use the 80/20 rule to help distribute product appropriately, with the fastest-moving product (20%) closest to the loading dock and the rest stored further back (80%)
  • Read up on OSHA regulations and local business codes to ensure that you comply with them, promoting a safe workplace for warehouse employees
  • Consider hiring professionals to make this process more time-friendly and efficient

Interested in learning more about how you can maximize your warehouse design and layout to its fullest potential? Want cost-effective warehouse solutions to boost production and increase profit? Contact Specialized Storage Solutions to learn how this is possible.