Part 1 – How can you change your warehouse layout and design to maximise warehouse space?

Efficient warehouse design is a key element to maximise warehouse space and of ensuring that material flow through the supply chain is achieved as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. Gone are the days of ‘stores’ that simply had stock, and lots of it, piled high with limited thought to its expense.

Modern warehouses need to be super-efficient machines, handling the material throughput with speed and accuracy. To achieve this, detailed consideration needs to be given to every aspect of warehouse design.

Warehouses should:

  • Be designed based on current and future needs.
  • Maximise utilisation of space while providing adequate circulation paths for personnel and material handling equipment such as forklift trucks.
  • Use higher bays to take advantage of height allowances in the space.
  • Optimise layout and configuration for the warehouse operation, including efficient circulation and material handling and storage processes.
  • Relate interior and exterior receiving and shipping operations to the process flow of goods through the warehouse.
  • Receiving and shipping are best separated to avoid congestion at the loading dock areas in the building, and in the truck manoeuvring areas.
  • Alternative material handling methods will determine other building aspects, such as aisle widths, lighting design, need for mezzanine space, fire protection, and egress design. Businesses will often use different methods of storage handling simultaneously for different products.

While warehouse operators work hard every day to make sure products flow efficiently in and out of their facilities, some warehouse operations are more productive than others. We will be sharing our top tips over the next two weeks for optimising your warehouse design, warehouse storage, and maximise warehouse space to achieve peak performance at your facility.

TIP 1: Learn More about Your Warehouse Operations by Engaging Outside Experts to Assess Your Warehouse Layout

Be open to the idea of getting expert advice. Warehouse design has changed a lot in recent years, as large distribution centres (DCs) have moved away from single channel to multichannel inventories and even smaller warehouses have begun to automate many operations.

An experienced set of eyes can quickly scan your warehouse layout and spot signs of trouble, which can range from visible dust settled on products in storage (indicating obsolete inventory) to inefficient use of use of dock space (such as when put-away areas aren’t cleared out quickly enough).

TIP 2: Use the 5S Process to Improve Efficiency and Reclaim Non-Productive Warehouse Storage Space

If your warehouse has been in operation for many years, “stuff” has a way of accumulating in places that should be used for valuable inventory and stock.

We recommend the 5S process popularised by “The Toyota Way” to reclaim floor space and maximise warehouse space. Once you reclaim your floor space, go vertical for increased storage density.

TIP 3: Implement a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to Collect and Analyse Measurable Historical Data

In today’s competitive business environment, data collection is imperative. Today’s Warehouse Management Systems (WMS), not only track inventory, they collect critical operational data. Often, WMS can make radical recommendations, such as changing your product slotting philosophy away from conventional product value-based ABC categorisation toward often counter-intuitive yet highly-efficient approaches, such as floating inventory warehouse layouts.

We recommend implementing automated asset tracking data collection methods to avoid downstream errors — manual entry is a no no. Go a step further and assign unique tracking numbers to assets, don’t rely on serial numbers (which are often not unique). And don’t just track movable assets, track your fixed assets as well.

Armed with accurate data, you’ll be able to improve forecasting.  For example, you can use asset tracking to find out how often inventory is picked throughout the year — use drop shipping directly from the manufacturer for SKUs with low seasonal demand.

TIP 4: Identify Warehouse Best Practices and Make Realistic Goals for Improving Your Warehouse Design and maximise warehouse space

Many consultants use the acronym FAST (which stands for Flow, Accessibility, Space, and Throughput) when making recommendations to help you achieve warehouse design best practices. The FAST acronym is also useful for communicating upward to senior management (KPIs can be associated with each category).

Acronyms aside, it’s important to find current information on best practices in the warehousing industry that can apply to your individual circumstances (e.g. an apples-to-apples comparison). Trade associations and other industry information sources can help.

Armed with a sense of industry best practices (such as product order cycle times), you can establish your own set of measurable metrics to track and improve upon.

Here are some key areas to work on:

Establish a logical, repeatable, efficient returns process. This will improve warehouse overall efficiency.

Consider implementing a “lean” warehouse philosophy, focusing on reducing material handling time, reducing loading and unloading times, reducing time locating lost inventory, improving communication to customers, and increasing your supply chain.

Use your improved inventory analysis to identify where to invest next to maximise ROI. For example, investments in automation may make sense for some inventory, or (as IKEA has done) you might build a second warehouse solely dedicated to your highest volume, fastest turnover inventory.

TIP 5: Communicate Up-to-the-Minute Warehouse Operations across the Organisation

Sharing is caring. By sharing real-time warehouse information with key staff throughout the organisation, you can realise significant improvements in cycle times while avoiding the need to field distracting “where is my stuff” calls from the rest of the organisation. (The visibility to executive management doesn’t hurt either.)

In Summary

Logistical efficiency is defined as how smoothly an enterprise conducts its operations. Typically logistics is all about the movement of physical goods and vital information. From raw material to warehouse management, supply chain to labour administration, product shipment to information management, everything comes under logistics management.

Last but not least – Keep your facilities and vehicles in top shape.

Ensure that your warehouses, offices and even vehicles are always clean, organised and in top shape. This can help prevent pests from ransacking items in your warehouses; it can help you keep your office(s) pleasing in the eyes of clients, and it can also help you prevent delays on pick up and deliveries.

By following the above recommendations and investing in the latest WMS systems will ensure you improve your logistics performance and increase profitability and will maximise warehouse space.

Don’t miss part two next week on further tips on how to maximise your warehouse space.

About us:

Speak to one of our team to understand how Clarus’ WMS system can cost effectively support best practice warehouse management processes, better customer service and highly efficient working for a range of warehouse operations with pay per month options and no IT infrastructure needed.

Our platform can scale from a one user, small depot system to a 100’s of user distribution centre operation. The ClarusWMS platform will cost effectively scale with your business based on demand.

ClarusWMS is a UK based supplier of warehouse management solutions with a wealth of industry experience in third party logistics, wholesale / retail distribution, online fulfillment and manufacturing warehousing.