Optimizing warehouse storage practices helps businesses maximize their efficiency, reduce their costs, and ensure products move swiftly from shelves to consumers. But what exactly should you do to improve your warehouse operations?
Adopting industry best practices can help you get the most out of your warehouse storage solutions. Here are the top six.
1. Utilize Vertical Space Effectively
Vertical space is often unused in warehouses. One way to take advantage of it is by building mezzanine floors. These freestanding elevated platforms create additional floor space between the ceiling and your existing ground level.
If mezzanine floors are not a viable warehouse storage solution for you, consider tall shelving units. They allow you to store items upward, increasing storage density without expanding your warehouse footprint.
Another way to utilize vertical space is by leveraging stackable containers and pallets. They let you store items on top of one another, optimizing space usage in the warehouse. However, be careful with these vertical storage solutions. Stackable pallets have load capacity and height limits. Exceeding these limits can cause items to fall, which poses the risk of product damage and safety concerns for warehouse workers.
2. Implement Strategic Zoning
Strategic zoning divides your warehouse into sections (zones) based on product type, size, and how quickly particular items are stocked and sold. When you group items with the same characteristics together in designated zones, pickers can navigate the warehouse more efficiently.
Additionally, zoning facilitates better inventory control by creating dedicated areas for high-value items, hazardous materials, or products with specific storage conditions. Also, efficient zoning ensures that high-demand goods are placed in easily accessible locations in the warehouse.
Strategic zoning is one of the most effective warehouse optimization best practices you can implement. This approach ensures different types of goods are where they should be, reducing unnecessary handling time and minimizing the risk of errors in warehouse operations.
Follow these steps to implement strategic zoning:
- Analyze inventory data: The goal is to categorize items based on product type, size, velocity (demand frequency), and storage requirements.
- Define zoning criteria: Determine the zoning criteria you'll use to divide the warehouse. You can create zones based on the type of product, item size, storage requirements, and safety considerations.
- Create zone map: Develop a detailed zone map that clearly outlines the boundaries of low- and high-density storage zones. After that, assign storage locations to different product categories.
- Implement signage and labeling: This makes identifying the storage locations of particular products easy.
- Review and adapt: Regularly update your zoning plan based on changing inventory patterns or business needs.
3. Employ Efficient Racking and Shelving Systems
Warehouse racks and shelves allow you to store items in an organized manner, maximize your space usage, and ensure easy access to your inventory. These warehouse solutions are available in different types:
- Cantilever racking: In this warehouse storage system, wooden or metallic arms extend horizontally from vertical columns. The design makes it suitable for storing long, bulky, or irregularly shaped items like pipes and wood.
- Selective pallet racking: Pallet racks are the most common type of racking system as they allow you to store goods on pallets. You can access each pallet directly without having to move others.
- Drive-in and drive-through racking: These are high-density commercial storage solutions for warehouses that want to optimize their space usage. The two share common features, but their warehouse applications are different.
- Warehouse shelving: This is one of the most effective warehouse storage solutions for small items. It optimizes vertical warehouse space and lets you arrange items neatly for easy access.
4. Optimize Aisle Width and Traffic Flow
Aisle width refers to the clear, unobstructed space between warehouse racks, shelves, or other structures within a storage facility.
Although it's often overlooked, aisle width can significantly impact efficiency. You need to find the right balance to maximize your storage capacity while ensuring material-handling equipment can seamlessly navigate the aisles in your warehouse.
If aisles are too narrow, it can be difficult for workers (or warehouse equipment) to move around and pick items. On the other hand, you waste valuable warehouse space if your aisles are too wide.
5. Implement a Barcode Inventory Tracking System
Implementing a barcode inventory management system brings accuracy and speed to your stock-movement tracking. Here’s how it works:
- Create and assign a unique identifier (barcode) for your inventory using a barcode generator. The barcode contains specific product information, such as name, description, quantity, and any other relevant details.
- Use a barcode scanner to read and record the unique identifier’s details inside an inventory database.
- When fulfilling customer orders, warehouse staff use handheld scanners to quickly and accurately identify products to be picked.
This tracking system reduces the need for manual labor and minimizes human errors during inventory audits and cycle counts. This reduces labor costs and allows your staff to focus on more value-adding activities in the warehouse.
6. Utilize Warehouse Management Software
A warehouse management system is a modern way to streamline operations in your storage facility. It provides a centralized platform for monitoring all warehouse activities and delivers multiple benefits, including:
- Improving warehouse efficiency using radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and handheld scanners to minimize manual tasks
- Real-time inventory tracking to improve asset management and reduce the risk of stock-outs and overstocking
- Avoiding the costs of storing excess inventory
- Reducing picking and shipping errors that lead to costly customer returns
It’s time to say goodbye to legacy systems and inflexible resource planning technologies. Warehouse management software like Surgere is customizable — you can tailor it to meet your own warehousing strategy's requirements.
Additionally, it comes with cloud-based localization tools that help you divide your storage space and optimize its usage. Surgere also provides insights into better warehouse redesign ideas, ways to streamline operations, and how to maximize safety in your facility.
Optimize Your Warehouse Operations Today
Create a complete map of your inventory with Surgere’s Interius software. This warehouse management technology uses RFID tags and IoT-based solutions to show you exactly where your goods are, whether they're inside, outside, or between your storage facilities. The software gives you transportation visibility, allowing you to track containers, racks, pallets, and other items in transit from point A to point B.
Optimize your warehouse activities and gain real-time supply chain intelligence today with Interius.