Many of the warehouse assessments that F. Curtis Barry & Company performs are initiated because a client perceives that its warehouse is out of space for receiving and storing product or creating more pick locations, thus limiting the growth of the business. Our approach to interacting with the client is to provide an experienced, fresh set of eyes to view the current layout and to envision potential revisions with the intent of gaining two to five more years in the existing facility.
Here are the top 15 elements we review when assessing a current warehouse layout.
1. Thoroughly understand the flow and utilization of the current layout, including rack configuration, slotting/pick philosophy, receiving, putaway, replenishment, inventory management, and packing and shipping. Include peak seasonal trends and a thorough volume analysis of inbound and outbound product flow.
2. Identify the dimensions of the footprint as well as the clear height. Are there physical impediments to change? What are the characteristics of the building? How does the building dictate or impair the process flow from receiving through shipping?
3. How do you utilize the available space? Look for storage racks that do not utilize the clear height; pick areas used as flow rack without overhead storage above them; conveyor located on the floor that inhibits the use of high cube area or the flow of product; or offices or work areas located in potential high cube areas.
4. How does the current design and practice of product storage configuration and pick location configuration lend itself to efficient utilization? Example: It’s great to use flow rack for high-volume picking, but underutilized depth of flow rack potential space is wasted and lost.
5. In addition to pick, pack, and ship, does the warehouse incorporate processes such as kitting, value-added processes, imprinting on demand, or manufacturing? Do you store raw material and finished goods?
6. Does product move efficiently from the receiving area, or are there delays—either vendor-created or client-created?
7. Does the current material handling equipment operate effectively in the current environment? Will it function efficiently in the revised layout?
8. What are the capabilities and restrictions of the warehouse management system used today? What will be required to advance the system’s capability to support new flow processes? For instance, systems must be capable of supporting barcode scanning.
9. How many dock doors are there? Do you use the same door/s for both shipping and receiving? What is the schedule of activity for both functions?
10. Consider the work schedule. How many employees can function effectively during a shift? How many shifts are required to complete the various activities? The goal is to achieve maximum utilization of the material handling equipment and fixed assets.
11. Does the operation require off-site storage and related processes?
12. Do you apply performance metrics and manage a performance reporting program to assure maximum utilization of your most valuable asset—the employees?
14. Analyze how effectively the inventory management program maintains accuracy to eliminate wasted and lost time in order fulfillment and returns processing. Does the product line present shelf life concerns?
15. Once you have decided to initiate changes, identify what changes should be initiated immediately and completed within three to six months and which changes require longer to implement and complete. It’s equally important to determine which action items are capital-intensive. These may be either necessary or secondary but will be required in the long term.