Often when businesses are thinking about digitally transforming their warehouse, they are ultimately looking for ways to leverage technology with the aim of being more efficient and accurate in how they manage their inventory and the warehouse environment. Digital transformation and the leveraging of new technology also offers businesses the opportunity to optimize and rethink their warehouse layout to work with and support their technological changes.
Warehouse layouts are affected by a variety of factors from the intended use, business model, tasks performed, product types, scale, and technology employed, amongst others. While each business situation produces its own unique set of considerations there are underlying best practices that can be implemented to ensure that the warehouse layout is optimal.
The first thing that should be considered is the warehouse workflows. Understand how your current operations flow, for example the receipt, putaway, picking, shipping, and cross-docking processes. Then consider how those workflows relate to the space and how they can be optimized to maximize efficiency, improve organization, and increase productivity. Also, to take into consideration things like traffic flow, especially of heavier equipment so that your workflows remain safety conscious.
Once your warehouse workflows are defined you can then begin to map out and set up your workstations, zones, and storage layout within the warehouse. Think about your workflows and what requirements are needed to be able to allow warehouse operations to run smoothly. This may include things like unloading areas, staging locations, specified areas for long term storage versus areas for cross-docking and load consolidation activities, packing stations, and so on. Consider too things like forklift and people traffic and how they’ll move safely through the warehouse together and consider how large your workforce is so that there is ease of transit. One of the easiest ways to help with warehouse traffic is to create a one way flow. This avoids congestion, confusion, and promotes safety. Once you define these spaces you can begin to indicate and mark off these areas with industrial floor paint or tape, as well as using signage to indicate traffic flow, aisles, and so on.
Inventory storage optimization is another best practice. Warehouses will want to make sure that they choose storage systems that best fit their needs and business case. Matching your storage system to the inventory you're storing will help to maximize storage capacity as well as optimize your defined workflows like picking, putaway, shipping, and so forth. Determine if it makes sense to have storage systems dedicated to larger and heavier capacities like pallets or drums as well as storage units more suited for picking. Consider how items will be stored strategically for convenience and to save time. This will help to increase efficiency as well as productivity.
Your warehouse layout plan and activities will help determine the type of equipment you will need, and vice versa. This includes things like forklifts, pallet jacks, charging stations, computers, handle held devices, wearables, floor and laser scales, conveyor systems, and more. Be sure to consider the connectivity of your warehouse infrastructure to ensure that your Wi-Fi signals can reach all areas of the warehouse, especially in the case where mobile devices are used. Wi-Fi signal boosters are a great way to ensure that your warehouse facility is well covered.
Implementing the right technology to optimize your warehouse layout plan will help ensure that the workflows and activities are performed efficiently, accurately, and in a standardized way. The best way to do so is by implementing a WMS that will track inventory accurately, help to optimize picking, packing, and shipping, as well as aid staff in their work. A WMS will also allow you to automate tedious tasks so that your entire supply chain runs more efficiently, reduces turnaround time, and eliminates errors often associated with manual data entry and duplication of information and tasks.
A WMS will allow the business to reap the benefits of reporting on all parts of warehouse activities gaining actionable insights that can be implemented to help improve the warehouse layout plan.
Furthermore, by implementing mobile scanning technology on handheld devices you can begin to create a truly mobile operation which boosts productivity, and which lets staff be more proactive in their work.
As we’ve discussed businesses are all different and unique variables need to be taken into consideration with regard warehouse layout planning. But by adhering to some guiding principles and putting them into practice warehouse planners can better account for these variables and set up their warehouse for success.
If you’re thinking of digitally transforming the way your warehouse and inventory are managed, click the link below to get in contact and learn more about the WAM solution. We’d be happy to speak with you!