Looking at Warehouse Layout Best Practises are key for optimal productivity and profitability.

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. Why is this? Are your enforcing Warehouse Layout Best Practises in your business? This could be the answer.

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 big 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.

Before planning and redesigning your warehouse, take time to review the following other key factors that could impact on the optimum Warehouse Layout Best Practises required to meet your warehousing or storage requirements.

Stock: What kind of goods will your warehouse hold?

Warehouses are primarily used for  storage purpose, it is essential that we clearly understand all the characteristics of the goods you plan to hold within the warehouse. For instance, characteristics like no. of units to be stored, unit weight, unit dimensions and so on. Since it’s all about the product/goods, we should make sure to categorise the goods and make a place for the same in the warehouse design as per the requirement.

Flow: How will your stock move its way through your warehouse?

What we’re looking for here is a logical sequence of operations within the warehouse where each activities are located as close as possible to that which precedes it and also the function that follows it. We are concerned with the controlled and uninterrupted movement of materials, people and traffic with, if possible, no cross flow clashes or areas of high traffic or work density. The aim is to site and position the various warehouse activities within your warehouse design in order to contribute to a smooth flow of operations with a minimum amount of movement and disruption.

Equipment: What will you be using and where?

In many cases, basic warehouse design not only includes vacant space but elements like racks, lifts or transport equipment need to be considered. These components really influence the design proposal. Having a clear understanding, makes it possible to evaluate which design best adapts to your project needs, any limitations present and/or the need to integrate new equipment in the future as per capacity expansion.

Accessibility – How easy is it to get to your stock and equipment?

We are not only talking about whether or not we can get to the product. But can we get to the required level of pack? Take the example of bottled water for instance, from major FMC distribution centre we’ll be looking at being able to receive and issue product by the pallet load possibly even by the truck load. So you only need to access full pallets and since it is very fast moving with a fairly long shelf life, strict first in first out by row to individual pallet level need not be followed. At the wholesaler or distributor level, you might be accessing down to case level and then in the convenience store stock room individual bottles.

The requirements of levels of accessibility must be achieved especially in the pick base and fast moving stock holding areas with a minimum compromise to the next factor, which is the use of space.

Space – How much do you have and is it being used effectively?

When considering how to use the available space the maximum should be allocated to operational storage and stock processing purposes. And the minimum space given up for associated functions such as offices, working areas, empty pallets storage, battery charging, etc. Today’s wide range of storage media available on the market allows us to make optimum use of a cubic capacity of the available space, not just the floor area.

But remember, you still have to consider flow accessibility.

As most of these equipment is free standing and requires no structural support from the building itself, it means that the building can be of the simplest and cheapest big box design. It also allows us to build inflexibility to the operation by selecting the storage media to meet the current stock profile and then change it as the operation evolves to meet future requirements. This can be done without expensive and disruptive changes to the actual building.

Personnel: How many people do you need to run effectively?

The working staff within the warehouse is one of the most important assets of any company. It is important to know the required number of employees, their level of training, how they are organised, the shifts they work in and other related factors in order to refine the proposed warehouse design. They should be introduced to various automated components, warehouse management software and other IT tools which are nowadays much more specialised than before. Industry standards also demand high level commitment on the part of management to make sure health & safety standards for workforce are in place.

Throughput – Define your picking sequences and frequencies

When we look at throughput, where not only looking at the categories of product parting through the warehouse but also the nature of the product and its velocity through the flow. By nature, we mean the handling characteristics, dimensions and any other factors that will impact on how it is moved through the flow such as hazard, bulk, fragility, security requirements and compatibility with other products. The velocity of the product will consider the volumes moving through the warehouse on a daily basis. Pick period activities need to be determined as do minimum activity levels.

A high degree of availability of accurate throughput data will assist greatly in the outcome of the design or layout exercise.

The better the data and the longest spent on collecting and analysing it, the less the risk, however it is still possible to come up with an acceptable solution when one does not have the luxury of accurate data going back into history. You have to do the best with what is available.

As warehouse operations decide the supply chain efficiency to a great level, the design of your warehouse is key. How these operations will be carried out depends on the layout of warehouse as well as an efficient WMS. Thus, it is important to consider and take time to define your Warehouse Layout Best Practises as part of your supply chain process.

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.