Dangerous and Money-Guzzling Mistakes You’re Making with a Bad Warehouse Design and Layout

Your warehouse design and layout could be costing you money and posing a risk to your workers. Whether you already have a warehouse or are planning one out, it’s a good idea to consider the common pitfalls so you can improve your systems and avoid common mistakes.  The most important considerations when designing an excellent warehouse space are safety and efficiency.  Below, we provide what experts acknowledge to be five of the most common dangerous and money-guzzling mistakes people make in their warehouses. We also provide solutions that will save you money, effort and energy, all while making your warehouse space safe and efficient.

Mistake 1: Improperly Organized Inventory

Perhaps the most frequently quoted problem that slows down warehouse operations is using an inefficient organization model. Nate Masterson, the marketing manager of Maple Holistics, explains that people fail to “designate what’s known as a ‘forward space.’ These are areas that are assigned to hold a selection of the more popular items in the warehouse and make them easier to reach in a hurry.”

SOLUTION: Organize Inventory by Velocity!

By positioning the most active items in the easiest to reach places, retrieving, packaging and shipping them becomes easier and quicker. As Adam Watson, director of Hollywood Mirrors, suggests “place items that sell well together regularly next to each other so they are quick to pick. Also place your bestsellers near the packing bay as this also saves time.”  The 80/20 rule applies to every business and should be employed to store your most active items closest to the shipping/packing area, which minimizes travel time, walking, searching, and dwell-time functions.

Masterson also mentions that using a system based on forward space will help you keep track of your sales trends—an added plus for general organization and management of your warehouse.

At Specialized Storage, we can provide you with an Operational Efficiency Analysis in which we help you figure out how to arrange (or rearrange!) your warehouse to make sure you have an intuitive warehouse design and layout that is easy to navigate. A big part of creating an efficient and easy flow is to block the most used items together at the front (or closest to the dock).

Mistake 2: Failing to Organize Based on Product Size

Another basic organizing principle that slows down warehouse operations is a failure to organize based on product size. Think about it: would you store your ribbons and bows next to your tool box? Probably not, simply because it doesn’t make sense—and for a number of reasons. One reason is that a tool box is heavy and needs to be placed on the ground or on sturdy shelving, while ribbons and bows, which weigh next to nothing, can be stored high up on less substantial shelves.

Dayna Hairston is the owner and operator of Dayziner LLC and provides both residential and commercial interior design. She explains that it is crucial to consider what you are storing in order to zone your space effectively. For instance, large items can all be stored together, as they will all need extra big aisle space for safety and ease of maneuverability. Likewise, heavy items should also be stored together, since they need more heavy duty shelving than other lighter inventory.

She goes on: “Certain items may need to have refrigeration or specific heating or cooling needs. Understanding your product inventory will help with site selection when purchasing a pre-existing warehouse facility to ensure the building functions properly to maintain the integrity of the product while keeping operation costs low.”

SOLUTION: Organize by Likeness

With our Materials Handling System Design, we take into consideration every aspect of your warehouse, including the available space, size and shape of your product. We then come up with a design and will assign the proper product based on the application needed. For example, our High Density Storage allows you to store things that are heavy and not frequently needed.

With our organizing expertise and understanding of the systems available, we’ll be sure to apply the best option based on your space and product.

Mistake 3: Unsafe Warehouse Design and Layout

In addition to maintaining high and ethical standards for the safety of your employees, skimping on safety lowers efficiency and can increase costs.  Both your workers and your product are at risk of damage in an unsafe environment, which will slow down movement and diminish morale.

Rachel Hardcsatle, the Managing Director of Universal Pallets®, explains, “A safe warehouse will run smoothly, and everyone will benefit from the high standards. For example, don’t try and save money by installing cheap and rickety racking beams, especially when combined with poor quality/under-spec pallets; no one wants to walk under a ton of goods badly loaded onto a poor quality/under-spec pallet stored on unsafe beams.”

Safety standards usually make practical sense when it comes to quick movement of goods across the warehouse as well. For example, Katie Martinelli, a Learning and Development Analyst at High Speed Training, says: “The width of your aisles must allow all machinery used on the warehouse floor to move and turn without the risk of colliding with racking or stacks. Collisions can be dangerous to your workers and costly if you have to repair or replace damaged storage facilities or products.”

Tom Wilkerson, CEO of Certifyme.net, an online forklift certification company, also offers some practical advice on maintaining safety (and thus efficiency) in the warehouse space. He says “To avoid accidents, injuries, or damages to a warehouse, it’s important to install column protectors on structural columns that can get in the way of traffic flow. It also helps to use high visibility paint and mirrors so that workers can see columns, beams, exits, and so on, even when these items are not in their direct line of vision.”

SOLUTION:  Don’t Skimp on Safety!

Create an overall safer and less stressful work environment for your employees. It will also help with smoother operations, leading to higher efficiency and cost savings.

To help you ascertain potentially unsafe designs and practices in your warehouse, we provide a Safety Audit that takes an in depth look at your entire operation.  Our Safety Audit will help to protect your product by minimizing damage, keep your employees safe, and reduce liability insurance. It will optimize warehouse design and layout while reducing both OSHA violations and workers compensation violations.

Mistake 4 Poor Flow and No Focal Point

Taking the time to come up with quality initial planning will help to create a space that flows intuitively.  Margaret Groves, an engineering consultant, explains, “A warehouse is so open that there’s no socially programmed traffic flow for people to follow, so you have to create one. If your customers (or guests) wander around, looking uncomfortable, then you don’t have a focal point and they don’t know where to go.”

Begin a project with an excellent warehouse design and layout that includes a focal point and takes into account the flow of traffic to save a lot of headaches in the future.

Toby Baran, general manager of Action Wholesale Products, agrees. She says “When you start with bad measurements, even if they are off by just a foot or two, it can throw off your entire installation. Also, drawings often lack other things like roll-up doors, entry doors, ladders to the roof, fire hoses, and fire risers. Without these items noted on the drawings any layout will be incorrect.”

SOLUTION: Plan in Advance with Top Notch Visualization Software

Our experienced staff will come up with a realistic design based on your specific product, space and needs. To help us create a detailed visual we use Configura, a design tool that allows us to design a 3D workspace for you. It will include every detail, taking into account the most effective use of space while creating a focal point, easy flow and ensuring accurate measurements.

Mistake 5: No Room for Expansion

One of the most often quoted money guzzling mistakes made when planning your warehouse is failing to plan for future growth. Steve Wright, of Whirlwind Steel, says “You can avoid outgrowing your new facility by factoring empty spaces into your warehouse design. Although your warehouse may not be at full capacity at first, it is better to have the option to expand your facility if and when your business grows.”

By factoring in space for the expansion from the get-go, you’ll save yourself time and money in the future. Lisa Chu, founder of Black N Bianco, recommends “try to plan ahead three to five years out to avoid bottlenecking your warehouse. Inefficiency and inaccuracy of warehouse space is one of the most common errors. Designing a layout for future expansion will help lower your overhead cost and execute the most profitable path for your business.”

SOLUTION: Plan for Future Growth & Seek Professional Guidance on How to Optimize Available Space

At Specialized Storage Solutions, making space is our job. We will help you come up with a warehouse design and layout that factors in future growth. However, even if you already have a warehouse and are now facing space constraint, we can help you come up with solutions to optimize the space you already have. For example, with our mezzanines (double layer platforms), we can double your capacity by utilizing overhead space. We can also utilize material lifts to move materials vertically and Modular Walls to create more effectual zones.


With just a little bit of consideration and proper planning, you can make sure your warehouse is both a safe environment and saving you money. Feel free to call us and set up a consultation.  We will customize an optimal warehouse design and layout based on your specific needs.