10 Tips to Optimize Your Warehouse Design
Warehouse design is a crucial aspect of any business that deals with inventory and logistics. A well-designed warehouse can lead to increased efficiency, improved productivity, and ultimately, increased profits. However, designing a warehouse can be a complex process, and it's important to consider a variety of factors before settling on a final design.
We know that no two warehouses are the same. Each individual warehouse should be designed to fit the floor plan, capacity, and overall purpose for holding inventory and making shipments and logistics a breeze. In this blog, we will share our top 10 tips to optimize your warehouse design to best-fit your business needs.
1. Optimize Your Space for Maximum Usage
One of the most important aspects of warehouse design is optimizing the available space for maximum usage. By optimizing your space, you can increase the capacity of your warehouse, allowing you to hold more inventory and make more shipments.
What amount of vertical space is available for inventory storage in your warehouse? It might be worthwhile to install appropriate storage systems (or even a second floor, if possible) to take advantage of this otherwise underutilized space.
We also recommend structuring your aisles to fit your equipment properly, such as forklifts and pallet trucks. This ensures optimal storage capacity, item security, labor safety, and proper use of equipment. (Sounds like a win for warehouse productivity too, right?)
2. Choose a Design Layout That Fits Your Needs
There are several warehouse design layouts to choose from, including U-shaped, I-shaped, and L-shaped designs. It's important to choose a layout that fits your specific needs, taking into account your inventory and equipment.
Keep in mind that the layout of your warehouse will depend on the size and shape of your building as well. A U-shaped layout can typically fit in warehouses of all sizes. However, there might be better layouts for your business and your unique needs.
I-shaped and L-shaped layouts offer more security, which may be a deciding factor for you. These layouts are more secure as they have their shipping and receiving areas located on opposite sides of the warehouse, whereas U-shaped layouts have receiving and shipping areas located near each other. The proximity of both receiving and shipping in this layout can make it easy for human errors to occur, such as misplaced products.
3. Be Aware of Your Local Building Codes
When designing your warehouse, it's important to be aware of your local building codes. This includes things like the necessary clearance space for sprinkler systems and fire marshal requirements. By complying with local building codes, you can ensure the safety of your employees and your inventory.
Other safety measures to consider when optimizing your warehouse design include, clear exit paths in case of a fire or emergency and specific aisles for equipment versus areas for foot traffic.
4. Invest in a Warehouse Management System
Only 21% of supply chain leaders believe they have good visibility over their supply chain from end to end. A warehouse management system (WMS) can help you optimize your warehouse design by providing real-time inventory tracking and management. If you have historical data available, you can leverage it to make data-driven logistics decisions, including:
- Inventory management and the proper location of items
- Shipping and receiving schedules
Technology is a critical enabler of supply chain modernization. And a warehouse management system is no exception to the rule. If you haven’t already, the time to adopt a WMS is now.
5. Test Your Warehouse Design Layout
Before adding shelving or other fixtures to your warehouse, it's important to do a walk-through with blue tape and your equipment to make sure there is enough space. This will help you identify any potential bottlenecks or disruptions in your workflow.
Identifying any errors or layout flaws in this stage is critical to avoid warehouse disruptions later. The last thing you want is to slow down productivity because a forklift doesn’t have enough room to move through the aisles of inventory.
6. Create a Process Map to Avoid Bottlenecks or Disruptions
How does your warehouse currently run? Is there a particular zone (or two) that encounters the most disruptions or challenges? Creating a process map for each zone can help you identify potential bottlenecks or disruptions in your facility’s workflow. This will allow you to make adjustments to your warehouse design to improve efficiency and productivity.
Once these problem areas are identified, draft a new process map with the necessary changes. For instance, if there was a disruption in the picking and packing zones (due to the packing zone being so far away from the picking), it might be best to move packing closer to picking to increase efficiency and speed.
7. Future-Proof Your Warehouse with Expansion Plans
As your business grows, it's important to have plans in place to handle future growth. This means implementing additional design options that can be easily implemented to handle increased capacity. Options here include:
- Using a building with an additional floor and/or vertical space
- Adding a mezzanine or second floor
- Installing taller pallet racks
All in all, your warehouse layout design must be flexible and scalable to expand as your production amps up. Having this flexibility enables you to scale your business with little friction.
8. Implement Technology to Keep Track of Your Inventory
Keeping track of your inventory is essential to optimizing your warehouse layout. It’s no surprise technology helps to streamline and automate inventory management processes, reducing the likelihood of human error and increasing overall warehouse efficiency.
For example, using barcode scanners and RFID tags can help:
- Accurately track inventory levels
- Identify when stock is running low
- Monitor expiration dates to prevent waste (if applicable to your business needs)
Additionally, inventory management technology can provide real-time data on inventory levels and trends, helping warehouse managers make more informed decisions about when to reorder and how much to order. Not to mention organized inventory makes it easier to carry out, order fulfillments and on-time deliveries.
9. Ensure Your Warehouse Has These Essential Spaces
There are several essential spaces that every warehouse should have, including:
- Receiving: The ideal space to separate and sort unloaded product before adding it to storage.
- Loading and unloading: Be sure there’s enough space in these areas to avoid bottlenecks.
- Storage: Only 22-27% of the warehouse space should be dedicated to storage. The rest is for other crucial areas like shipping and packing.
- Picking: (If applicable) It’s best to keep this area near storage for easy access to the product.
- Shipping and packing: It’s a good idea to keep these areas separate from other warehouse zones to keep each zone organized.
10. Review Your Warehouse Design Over Time for Continuous Improvement
Warehouse design is not a one-time process. It's important to continually review and improve your design to accommodate growth, new products, new employees, and new ideas. By being proactive in reviewing your warehouse design, you can ensure that your business is always operating at maximum efficiency.
Working with a supply chain consultant is a surefire way to optimize your layout from top to bottom. Our team can analyze your current and future inventory plan and maximize your racking design to meet the challenges of changing SKUs, quantities, and container sizes.
👉 Learn more about LynnCo’s consulting services here.
Warehouse design is a complex process. Trust and believe we understand. But by following these 10 tips, you can optimize your warehouse design to improve efficiency, productivity, and ultimately, profitability.
And if you need assistance or advice on best practices, we’d be more than happy to help you. Reach out to our team of experts to get started.