Are you staring at an empty warehouse? Planning the layout of your small business warehouse from scratch isn’t extremely difficult with the right planning. However, it’s not that hard to screw up either. What’s worse, is that screw-ups usually don’t present themselves until you’ve put everything neatly on the shelf, moved in all your equipment and basically have a full, ready to play, warehouse. Let’s just say that a simple error in design layout, is a larger than life problem to correct after the fact. You’ll know something isn’t right when your workflow feels clunky and chaos breaks out in your warehouse. Well it may not be that dramatic, but you get the idea.
Things to Consider:
You should have a good idea of the following features before you begin this process. These will all factor in to the layout at some point.
- The type of workflow and equipment that will be occupying the space. (production equipment)
- Additional designated areas for fulfillment, offices, break room etc, and the equipment you will be placing in the space.
- How much product you will need to store and the size and measurements of that product,
- Where orders are received and shipped
Lay it out on Paper
Assuming you are setting up your own warehouse and workflow for the first time, obtaining a blueprint of your new space will save you the hassle of drawing up your own schematic and give you an idea of the general layout of the space. You should still do your own measurements of the space with careful accuracy. Being off an inch here or there will cause much larger inconsistencies down the road. Make considerations for assembly areas you may need or, in the case of manufacturing, any equipment that will be placed in a designated location. Safety should be at the forefront of your mind and your diagram. And, as mentioned previously, make sure to account for the location of the receiving area/doors, or other entry and exit areas. Lastly, remember to subtract space to account for any obstructions like columns or offices that take up sections of the warehouse.
Other Spatial Considerations
Ensuring access to shelving and products without disrupting any manufacturing workflow, is critical. You will need to know how much floor space is available, the size of the shelving units it will take and how many you can fit in the space. Be sure to leave enough room to walk thru each aisle and to negotiate product from and onto the shelving space. If you have space planning software, this will be ideal for testing different configurations and playing with a variety of layouts. Once you have it all layed out accurately on paper, pat yourself on the back. Believe it or not, the hard part is over.
Sourcing your shelving units these days can be a fairly quick process. With your goals in mind purchase enough storage shelving to hold your products and have at least one shelving unit (depending on the size) that will be used for overflow. If your products are heavy be sure to buy storage racks that are sturdy enough to hold multiple units without wobbling or feeling unsteady. It won’t be long before unsteady shelving turns into a catastrophe.
Where Products Will Be Stored
High volume items, that move in and out of the warehouse more frequently, should be stored as close to the shipping and fulfillment area as possible. This creates the least amount of warehouse waste. While this isn’t always feasible, placing them as close as possible, and/or easily accessible, is mandatory.
Visualize Your Workflow
Getting a feel for your workflow can make spatial planning much easier. Knowing how people will move into product aisles or around assembly stations will provide good insight into how you need to arrange it. Using your inventory management software as a guide, run thru the order process if possible. This way you can be sure that you’re not forgetting an important part. Be sure to see the order all the way thru and play out different scenarios with that order in case production or assembly are involved. Playing out every possible order scenario will help you to visualize the flow of the warehouse. In turn, you will learn the best arrangement for it.
Assembly and Fulfillment
When laying out your warehouse, add in an area for your assembly and fulfillment operations. A designated fulfillment area should be large enough to account for the volume you intend to achieve. This may consist of a long table or other flat surface for your employees to prep picked orders for shipment. Be sure to budget for quality rubber mats to place around the area. Standing on concrete for long periods of time is a source of multiple health problems. You can greatly increase the health and happiness of your employees just by remembering to incorporate mats.
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