Did you know that today's warehouses have almost trebled in size over the last two decades? It is supply chain disruption and e-commerce that is driving this change. Of course, the criteria for design, layout and site selection for warehouses have changed over time. This article will discuss in detail what a correct warehouse building design is.
Designing the warehouse layout
Designing the layout of a warehouse facility requires expertise in various disciplines. Here are some rules to follow when doing this:
1. Dimensions are key
Consider the dimensions of material handling equipment such as hand trucks and forklifts, as well as SKUs. Older buildings did not have high roofs, so when you create a new one, make sure you have stock for goods to be stored in a larger number of upper racks. Modern automation systems also include conveyor belts and robots. If you intend to install these technologies or plan to do so in the future, include them in the main layout. To this end, maintenance is also an important factor. The layout must include provisions for packing stations and dispatch stations. However, space allocation for intermediate picking stations is an important but overlooked part, so remember to take this into account. Ensuring the free movement of material handling equipment through corridor mapping is an excellent way to guard against bottlenecks. It is also advisable to provide enough space so that many pieces of equipment work concurrently with members of staff.
2. Principles of maximum use
Storage utilisation is generally measured with the amount of storage space available per cubic foot. While open spaces are important for usability, try to keep them at an optimum level. Consider the accumulation of SKUs relative to storage space. Install dock doors in the right way, as they are inexpensive and when missing, a big portion of your productivity is wasted. You can ensure cross-docking compatibility by placing sufficient storage racks close to the loading area together with the packing stations. The efficiency of use is a subjective factor, but these principles help to create a required flexibility.
3. Product volume considerations
Ideally, the layout must consider product volume as a major design consideration. Place your racks so as to accommodate fast-moving SKUs near the door and heavier ones near ground level. Aisles also need to vary according to the movement and weight of products. You don't have to maintain pathways of the same width as with material handling equipment, and the frequency of trips will not be the same in all zones. This principle is extremely helpful for product distribution. It enables rapid identification based on the most relevant and expensive inventory. This results in increased productivity during operations, as unnecessary movements are reduced.
4. Minimise the movement of redundant staff
One of the most common problems employees face due to faulty deployment planning is the need to move over long distances. Furthermore, the random placement of SKUs is another bottleneck. I recommend mapping the aisles in parallel with product placement. ‘Chiselling’ is the process of allocating items within a warehouse. This is done in two ways. The first way is to follow static slotting, in which a material is assigned a specific area once and for all. In the dynamic slotting method, the positions of all items are changed to facilitate free movement and greater efficiency.
How to check if a warehouse design is efficient?
Checking whether the warehouse design is efficient or not can be done by assessing the existing infrastructure against the design objectives. This is a relatively simple check list that will help you assess the performance of your project without any meaningful analysis. Check out these four things to get an immediate answer to all your questions:
- How your current work flow meets your storage needs
This usually depends on the purpose of the storage. Some storage facilities are handling-oriented to meet their business requirements. Can you assess whether the work flow at your site is smooth or is it constantly facing obstacles? Are your employees overwhelmed by repeated movements? Such questions help establish the need to reconsider the approach to layout design.
- Does accessibility meet your objectives?
The aim of every project is to accomplish the desired goal as easily as possible. Pay attention to accessibility issues, as these may indicate wider problems. Using the wrong type of equipment, miscalculating the spacing between two racks and even incorrect visibility result in reduced accessibility. Consequently, these issues make it difficult to achieve the goals of running a warehouse. Your being unable to achieve your goals is a clear indicator that something is wrong.
- Are you allocating SKUs in all available spaces without delay?
Employees who are trying to find free space to place incoming goods are indicators of serious problems in operations. This is a serious problem because it disrupts the operation of several departments and the company ultimately suffers an irreparable loss of time. Chaos and time delays are bound to reduce your productivity as the issues are being rectified only for a time being. When a new shipment arrives, the haste to reshuffle resumes. If you are not allocating shipments in a way as intended, it is high time to consider fundamental changes in your approach.
You can also check that you are able to complete operations within the budgets set and achieve the desired profitability. These are the major criteria for assessing the effectiveness of warehouse design. All the problems are reflected in the balance sheets because they either over-consume resources or reduce profitability.
Designing a warehouse with the focus on efficiency
The design of the warehouse is based on its location and the many relationships between the working conditions. The combination of operations management and computational models has become a breakthrough for companies. Today, with the help of a warehouse management system, we can build projects that are realistic and adequately meet future requirements. The following issues are considered in the design process:
- Distance from demand centres and available transport mode,
- Analysis of storage capacity vs. material handling capacity,
- Expected stock turnover,
- Process mapping,
- Analysis of manpower and freight traffic,
- Safety considerations and simulations,
- SOP development and mathematical modelling of the supply chain,
- Statistical analysis of order fulfilment capacity vs. production capacity vs. sales forecasts,
- Identification of bottlenecks and provisions for an auxiliary support mechanism.