Most of us in the fulfillment and distribution world have rarely had the luxury of designing a warehouse from the ground up. What a pleasure to work alongside architects to make sure that the physical characteristics of the facility take into account department locations and required size, column spacing, ceiling heights, lighting plan, and overall material flow.
It is more common to find ourselves in buildings which were not specifically designed for the business we have decided to locate there. They often consist of separate rooms with connecting hallways, retail and warehouse space, spread out offices, etc.
Below are a few things we identify for our clients during our warehouse assessments when helping with layouts or redesigning their floor plan in these types of buildings.
- Are you maximizing the cubic storage relative to the ceiling height? Try not to locate “single story” functions, like picking and packing, in high ceiling areas which could be efficiently racked for pallet and carton storage.
- If pick and pack needs to be located in a high bay area, consider installing a mezzanine for a second level pick line or additional carton and pallet storage. Offices can also be efficiently “stacked” in high bay areas using a mezzanine approach.
- If using carton flow rack for picking locations; have you installed pallet rack above it? Usually 2 levels of pallet storage is possible, and it is a great place to store the reserve of what is being picked below.
- Dock doors determine where Receiving and Shipping can be located, and they are often in high bay areas. Ideally you have doors at opposite ends of the facility so Inbound and Outbound are physically separated. Often we see companies having to share dock doors for both functions. This makes material flow difficult and leaves opportunity for inbound and outbound cartons to get mixed up, misplaced, or even reshipped in error. If this is your situation, define the 2 departments with tape or paint on the floor, and develop tight processes to keep material where it belongs.
- Install pallet racking over your dock doors. This is often overlooked storage space. Since dock areas are usually busy, high traffic areas, access to this racking may be limited to off hours. We recommend using those locations for storing slow moving product, packing supplies, fixtures, and other items which you do not need to access frequently.
- Make sure that you have a variety of location sizes in your pallet racking. We see facilities where every pallet location is the same size. The result is many locations with only 30-50% of the space being used. Our rule of thumb is “if you can shoot a bullet through your racking without hitting any cartons you need to reconfigure your location sizes”. We assist companies in reaching a minimum capacity of 80% full within their storage media. At the same time keeping 10% storage buffer available can help absorb unexpected shipments and anomalies in received orders.
- Lighting layout and lumens is a critical aspect of a good layout. Do not let existing light fixture locations determine where aisles between shelving and racking are located. Poor lighting not only reduces morale but can contribute significantly to human errors. High personnel areas, like picking, packing, shipping, and pre-pack require a minimum of 50 – 75 foot candles of light. Bulk storage areas require 30-15 foot candles for equipment operators. Do not skimp on lighting, as both accuracy and safety are at stake.
- Bury building columns inside of racking and shelving whenever possible. Columns left in aisles result in wider aisle widths which reduce storage positions.