7 Key Questions to Ask Before Planning Your Warehouse Layout
If you’re designing the layout of a new warehouse – or redesigning the layout of an existing one – there are some key decisions along the way that will affect the outcome of your project.
The success or failure of most warehouse design projects comes down in a lot of cases to its layout; assessing storage requirements, the movement of goods into, around and out of the warehouse, access requirements and the siting of utility services and staff facilities.
There are lots of decisions to be made before you start work on the design, but in this article we have summarised the most important ones.
Hopefully by making these decisions at the outset you’ll avoid some of the pitfalls that can dog warehouse installation projects.
Question #1: Use a warehouse design professional or do it in-house?
This question might be a hard one for some companies that don’t like to outsource. It’s far better to call in the professionals at the outset of the project, rather than part way through it when something goes wrong.
Whatever you do, weigh up the skills that a qualified 3rd party warehouse designer might bring which your firm doesn’t have access to in-house.
Everything else in this list will follow on from this decision.
Question #2: What will your future storage requirements be?
Forecasting your stock profiles and access requirements are key factors to consider before any re-planning of your warehouse space can begin.
Even if you can’t know every detail of your future orders, you must plan around expected changes in office and warehouse space requirements.
Question #3: Adaptability
Even careful forecasting won’t account for every subtle shift in requirements throughout the life of your warehouse. In order to best prepare yourself for these changes, keep ease of adaptability in mind when designing the original layout.
As your sales volumes increase, or the design or sizing product packaging changes, may find yourself in urgent need of extra space or a different kind of storage. These changes can potentially cost a lot of time, money and resources if a major overhaul is needed. So designing your warehouse layout to easily accommodate small changes can save you a lot of hassle.
Question #4: ‘U Flow’ or ‘Through Flow’?
A major factor drastically affecting warehouse layout is the flow of goods within the facility. If your warehouse is an existing structure then the decision may already be made for you due to the current positioning of docks and loading bays. If you are building a new facility however, think about which system best suits your needs.
‘U Flow’ is often the favoured system of the two. This is when both goods in and goods out functions are located at the same end of the building, usually sharing a dock. The flow of goods follows a ‘U’ shaped pattern, with faster moving product lines being stored nearer to the doors to improve efficiency. This system provides excellent lift truck utilisation, facilitates cross-docking and improves security (as all access points are located nearby).
With Through Flow systems, goods in and out are located at opposite ends of the warehouse structure, with products travelling the full length of the warehouse. Faster moving lines are stored more centrally to reduce travel distance and therefore efficiency.
This system is only really used when there is a potential for confusion between goods in and goods out, when the transport used for each differs substantially, or if the warehouse is connected to a production plan.
Question #5: Which Type of Racking Will You Require?
Storage and pallet racking comes in many different sizes, shapes and formats, and the tyoe you use will depend heavily on the types of products you are storing.
Carefully consider your requirements as this will affect the amount of space you require and influence the layout of the facility as a whole. A common practice now is to effectively build your warehouse from the inside-out; this ensures you will have adequate space for racking and other facilities.
For a summary of the different forms of pallet racking see our article ‘Pallet Racking: A Buyer’s Guide’.
Question #6: What are the implications for communication and workforce efficiency?
When designing your warehouse layout it is important to consider how the various parts of the business and teams working within the warehouse/logistic function will effectively communicate with each other and work together.
Try to site co-dependant departments within a short distance of each other. This will enable easy communication between relevant personnel, and also ensure you are wasting as little time as possible with continuous walking back and forth.
It may seem like a minor consideration but over time those lost minutes can equate to a significant expense.
Question #7: What are the requirements of your staff?
An obvious point that must be taken into account is the legal requirement to provide adequate facilities for your staff.
Take into account the current size of your work-force and any planned expansions. The legal requirements are fairly basic, such as clean toilets and break areas provided with food / drink facilities.
Beyond the legal necessities if you can ensure a happy working environment with, for example, simple additions such as large windows or other forms of natural light, you should see productivity increase.
In truth, these 7 key points are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the numerous considerations that must be taken into account when designing your warehouse layout.
Hopefully, we have given you a solid foundation from which to start.
More help and advice can be found on our website.
Acorns Warehouse Solutions can help
Acorn Warehouse Solutions can assist with all your warehouse redesign, repurposing and refit requirements, including designing, planning and installing your solution to include a new mezzanine floor. Contact Acorn for an initial discussion about your warehouse redesign requirements.