Designing the Perfect Warehouse

14 June 2017

WAREHOUSE DESIGN BENEFITS

Once you have found the perfect place for your warehouse, the nitty-gritty planning begins. The layout, and flexibility, of the warehouse can be the make-or-break of a business.

By getting the design right, you can:

  • Save money
  • Improve efficiency
  • Improve productivity
  • Provide reliability and timely deliveries to customers
  • Reduce errors and mistakes
  • Reduce stock or processes

 

VISUALISE AND DRAW YOUR SPACE

Visualising the space makes it easier to work out what will fit, where the paths need to lead to and, importantly, making the most of the nooks and crannies.

Remember to use height to your advantage, and add flexibility into your design for future requirements – e.g. increase in people, process volume, inbound deliveries.

Draw the space and mark out:

  • entrances and exits, including docking areas
  • where equipment will sit
  • Process related areas such as heated, chilled, humid or packing
  • where the movement paths will be
  • Storage areas
  • Office and toilet areas (minimise this area!)

Use past production data for the warehouse – incoming volumes, types of deliveries (and types of dock), inventory levels required (and therefore storage space) and frequency of deliveries. The amount of storage needed is usually the driving factor in the size of facility.

 

PROCESS FLOW ROUTES

Make sure you add in good ‘process flow routes’ in logical places, with no cross-overs, dense work areas or bottlenecks:

  • Machinery laid out in a logical order of use to improve flow
  • pedestrian routes (including fire escape routes)
  • zones for incoming and outgoing goods (including quality check areas, docks and loading/unloading zones)
  • routes for vehicles like forklifts and trucks
  • space for storage and racking, which uses the most space (except in cross-docking warehouses)

Remember to space out shelving to leave room for vehicles to pass through and turn around, and if there is any static or very heavy machinery that the floor has the required load capacity.

If you have an upper or mezzanine floor that requires access, you also need to leave space for a goods lift which can improve movement and flow within a building very easily and allow you to make use of upper floors, as well as send items to or past floors with restricted or no pedestrian access. Gartec provide different sized goods lifts, tailored for goods from pallets and crates, to trays and trolleys. Remember to think about whether you need one with an attendant, or just a lift to call and sen, as this changes cost and features required.

 

PLAN AUTOMATION AND MACHINERY

Consider what you will need for:

  • Picking and replenishing stock
  • Sorting or conveying
  • Packaging or wrapping
  • Temperature or humidity control
  • Any general mobile equipment for loading, unloading and movement (e.g. forklifts)

If there are likely to be changes due to growth or different processes then using modular or knock through panels in the walls allows for easier future flexibility.

 

STORAGE

Storage in warehouses is the most important area to get right. The amount of storage needed should be calculated based on what you need – over or underestimating can cause big problems or wasted space later.

Storage is generally in the form of racking. Racking comes in many forms – work out your needs based on requirements for:

  • load capacity
  • size
  • depth (e.g. double depths for long forklifts)
  • height
  • damage resistance
  • durability
  • price (remember cheap isn’t necessarily good value)

Any storage needs to be secured properly to the floor and walls, and must be safe for employee use.#

 

STOCK CONTROL

Think about what materials and stock you will need to access –pallets? Packs? Individual items or batch numbers? Making sure your warehouse makes accessing stock quick, easy and logical is vital to efficient and productive work – and prevents frustration in staff.

  • Use of automated systems like a conveyor belt with a barcode scanner attached reduces labour time and chance of error.
  •  An AS-RS system (automated storage and retrieval system) reduces requirements like staffing, temperature and lighting across your warehouse, and are ideal in a taller facility.
  • Use of a goods lift to transport between floors will reduce manual handling

Space for stock needs to be carefully calculated – 25% less space than you need will impact operations during peak times.

 

ECO-FRIENDLY ADDITIONS

‘Going green’ is increasingly popular and is a key driver for many companies looking at their supply chain. There are some simple ideas for making your warehouse more eco-friendly – our top 5 are:

  • Installing large skylights to use instead of electric lighting
  • Use of solar panels or green energy sources
  • Positioning the warehouse somewhere accessible via public transport, or providing car sharing/cycling incentives
  • Allowing natural air to flow through the building instead of using air conditioning
  • Installing a green roof (grass cover), or white roof that reduces heat in the building

 

YOUR PERFECT WAREHOUSE

By keeping in mind all these factors, and carefully planning your design alongside data and figures calculated for use, storage and requirements, your design will be well underway.

There are many companies offering data analysis software to aid design – if you are spending a lot on your warehouse, or have very complicated or changing processes, it may be worth considering this to utilise the space fully.

The main thing to remember is to build flexibility into your design so any future changes can be accommodated. Although all warehouses are different, by being logical and using common sense alongside a good understanding of your business requirements, you will succeed.