Whether you're a Tier-n supplier or an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), efficient warehouse operations are critical to maintaining profitability. Misplaced inventory and bottlenecks lead to costly delays in filling orders, potentially resulting in lost clients. That makes warehouse layout planning an essential part of your manufacturing operations.
Being a combination of technology, logistics, engineering, and supply chain management, effective warehouse layout planning has multiple variables to account for. From maximizing your existing space to leveraging technology to reduce human errors, optimizing your warehouse operations means carefully inspecting each element of your facility and helping them improve.
This warehouse layout planning guide will cover which important work patterns need assessment and how you can put together a workable system.
How To Use Work Patterns for Ideal Warehouse Layout Planning
Warehouses today are feats of modern logistics, accounting for storage capacity, aisle width, shipping and receiving times, and a host of other variables to get products in and out the door. To optimize each one, you'll need to take a close look at both your current operations and your business goals.
Take a Look at the Ample Space and Know How Its Used
If you already have a facility, you have a fixed amount of warehouse floor space to work with and thus optimize.
Warehouses can't devote every square inch to storing their inventory, as various other operations also require space. The average warehouse typically allocates only 22–27% of its capacity to storage space, and maximizing that number requires that you know how each component of your operation is using its given space. As you begin your warehouse layout planning, dimensions should also be factored in.
Have Clearly Defined Goals for Your Facility
Failure to plan is planning to fail. Establishing clear goals for your warehouse operations helps you achieve measurable improvement within your facility while keeping it from running into bottlenecks.
For example, an up-and-coming supplier may expect to receive a certain number of orders over a given interval. Setting realistic expectations and clearly defining how much storage capacity your warehouse will need will help you ensure that your orders are met on time, reducing delays and improving productivity.
Conduct Topic, Cohort, and Machine Learning Test Analysis
Our tech-driven world generates massive amounts of data each day in nearly every sector, and warehouse operations are no exception. Companies that fail to incorporate analytics and AI into their warehouse layout planning will likely fail to identify and resolve inefficiencies they could have caught otherwise. Some common types of analytics that can be used in planning the layout of a warehouse are:
- Topic analysis, where data is gathered according to specific subsets, like inventory levels or picking times.
- Cohort analysis, where data is grouped according to consumer behavior to prepare for future trends (seasonal purchases, supply shortages, etc.)
- Machine learning, where advanced algorithms begin to detect patterns that emerge on their own or with some training.
Whether it's reconfiguring their inventory to ensure they have sufficient space or reducing staging, shipping, and receiving times, when companies use data to inform their warehouse layout planning strategies, they can make better decisions with the available resources.
Take a Look at Your Inventory Management Practices
Implementing the proper inventory management practices is key to improving warehouse productivity, reducing bottlenecks, and eliminating excess costs. When you examine the way you operate your warehouse, be sure to follow these inventory management best practices:
- Use the ABC method and Pareto principle to prioritize inventory levels according to their value.
- Implement Six Sigma and other quality methods (lean manufacturing, just-in-time, etc.).
- Track multiple items at once with batch tracking.
- Anticipate product demand and required inventory levels with predictive analytics.
- Keep a baseline supply according to PAR levels.
- Develop a contingency plan in case supply chains get too strained.
Another essential part of inventory management is having the right tool for the job. Warehouse management software can help you maintain consistent supply levels, anticipate fluctuations in demand, and improve warehouse productivity by optimizing your operations.
Determine the Flow of Materials Within Your Warehouse Space
Another important factor to consider in your warehouse layout planning is how your inventory and personnel move within your space. Choosing the right warehouse design can significantly impact your facility's throughput and is a vital consideration within the design process. The most common warehouse layouts are:
- U-shaped warehouses
- I-shaped warehouses
- L-shaped warehouses
Each facility layout offers its own advantages and drawbacks and works best for certain industries. So, explore each model to determine the right one for you.
Determine if Safety Procedures Are Being Followed in All Spaces
Safety is of the utmost importance in any industry, and warehouse operations are no exception. Unsafe practices may result in costly fines, employee injury, worker's compensation, and downtime on the line.
Proper safety protocol depends on many factors, but a few questions to ask are:
- Are especially heavy loads being carried by the proper material handling equipment (forklifts, pallet jacks, etc.)?
- Are heavier items placed on sufficiently sturdy pallet racks to prevent a collapse? Heavy items should not be stacked on top of lighter products like empty plastic boxes that might cave in.
- Are your aisles wide enough for employees and equipment to move around safely? A safe aisle width is considered to be 12–13 ft., but it may vary according to your equipment.
Safety measures are crucial in the warehouse layout planning guide. So, be sure to implement a design that makes all employees safe.
Use Analyzed Workflow To Automate Tasks Within Your Warehouse Layout Design
Many tasks within the modern warehouse are repetitive with little need for creativity. That makes them ideally suited for automation, as robots and other forms of technology can repeat the same tasks with accuracy, drastically reducing human error. Whether you use tagging to track inventory motion and monitor supply levels or robots for faster picking, leverage automation to optimize your facility's throughput.
The Best Asset Management for Your Company
Optimizing your warehouse operations can be a complex task. It takes in-depth knowledge of your facility's current status, a clearly defined goal for its future performance, and the proper analytics to make the best possible data-driven decisions.
At Surgere, we provide the tagging, hardware, and software that you need to optimize your facility. Our warehouse modernization layout planning guide can help you create a design that works for you, and our software and hardware combine to give you the end-to-end visibility you need to make your facility run at its best. Contact us today to see what we can do for you.