Warehouse Design: Laying It All Out in the Distribution Center

Author: Melissa Dowling,Mulitichannel Merchant
Your warehouse design plays a huge part in the effectiveness of your operation, says Curt Barry, president of operations consultancy F. Curtis Barry & Co., At a session during the NCOF show in Las Vegas in March, Barry detailed some of the steps to reviewing a distribution center layout.

It's important to understand the utilization of the current warehouse layout, and use what is available, he said. You have to determine how the building dictates process flow.
READ: 27 Warehouse Layout, Design and Efficiency Principles
Oftentimes you can't see any space in a warehouse, Barry said. This can be a big problem when your goal should be to reduce the number of times you touch product. "How many times to you have to move product around" because of inefficient layout? Barry asked.

You also need to look at effective space and cube utilization and pick and storage design, as well as the number of dock doors, how materials handling equipment operates, and system capabilities and restrictions.

What happens when you don't have enough warehouse space, and moving or expanding isn't a near-term option? There are a few things you can do, Barry said.

For one, you could narrow the aisles in the facility to make room for more products. Or you could add a mezzanine if you have room to expand vertically. You might also consider a second work shift so that warehouse staff isn't running in to each other.

But the main thing is getting management to act on slow-moving merchandise, Barry said, which is typically 80% of the inventory in any warehouse. "Distribution centers are crammed with stuff that doesn't sell," he noted.