It has often been said that the warehouse is the very heart of the supply chain. In order for the body of the supply chain to function well as a whole, the heart has to be in great shape, ready to pump in and out all aspects of receiving and distribution. To keep your business in optimal shape and to improve efficiency, your warehouse needs an optimal design. From pallet jacks and other forklifts to carousels and conveyers, warehouse equipment needs to be well chosen, both for present requirements and for the future. Studies show that the productivity level of a warehouse is directly linked to how well its layout facilitates daily operations, because a well laid out warehouse saves time and money. Workers need to be able to reach the equipment and inventory required for a given task in a timely manner. When the design of a warehouse is intuitive and logical, a series of tasks can be carried out smoothly. The flow of work is improved, and efforts that might have been wasted solving issues of confusion or frustration can now be aligned elsewhere. Optimizing your use of space is key.
Organizing the Goods by Type
Since the primary goal of a warehouse is to store and move goods, it is vital that you take into account the nature and characteristics of the items being handled by your warehouse. Significant factors include the number of units, volume, weight, dimensions, temperature sensitivity, sensitivity to humidity, and whether the goods are solid, liquid or gaseous.
The best strategy is to group items of similar composition and category into distinct segments of the warehouse for easy accessibility. Over time, reshuffling in the types of inventory you handle, such as liquidating certain items and acquiring new varieties of items, will cause reshuffling in the organization of your warehouse.
In choosing the right equipment and design for your warehouse, the scale and features of the necessary infrastructure are a major factor. For example, when selecting shelving, the dimensions and capacity rating of the shelves will be chosen to accommodate the various types of goods being housed. Once the shelving itself is chosen, that choice will then determine the supporting equipment required such as shelving organization, power ladders, hoists and so on.
Consider the way that these infrastructure limitations may affect your warehouse equipment choices and design: window and doors, flooring, beams and columns, HVAC system, and power lines. Keep in mind that there are strict building regulations and local codes that will directly affect your warehouse design, and do your research right the first time.
Warehouse design must take into consideration components of equipment such as racks, lifts and transportation equipment. These components will truly influence your design strategy at the ground level. It is important to evaluate which design will be best adapted to your project needs, and address any limitations present as well as the integration of new equipment in the future as expansion occurs over time.
Inventory Movement Processes
The process of inventory movement, also known as circulation, involves the movement that occurs for logistical operations such as dispatch, receipt and order preparation processes. These movements need to be accounted for during the design and equipment acquisition process. Product rotation or turnover, in terms of how often the goods are renewed and the rate of input and output, affects design because efficiency of turnover movement can save much expense in the long term. The greater the minimization in movement, the less expense to your overall operation budget. Evaluating the flow of product rotation and other inventory movements is very significant in contributing to an effective warehouse design.
It is vital to develop a spreadsheet of the required number of employees categorized by type of position and level of training, management level, and the shift schedule. This data should be analyzed to help determine the best design and equipment allocations for your warehouse. The management staff should be familiarized with warehouse management software and inventory control aids. Health and safety standards should dictate elements of equipment allocation and design as necessary.
In any warehouse, and certainly for a retail operation, over half of labour hours are typically spent on order picking. Of those hours spent on order picking, half of the time is taken up by travelling between pick and pack locations, so selecting the right picking methodology is very important. Many warehouses operate with discrete order picking, in which one picker picks a single order.
However, for higher volume operations you should consider alternate methods which may decrease distance travelled and thus decrease order cycle times and labour hours. Other methods include zone allocation, in which the picker is assigned a zone of the warehouse and picks order lines of items located in that zone only. Batch picking is a method in which a single picker picks multiple orders of a similar kind at the same time. Further variations, such as wave picking and cluster picking, have been developed to address issues of accuracy and efficiency. Whichever order picking methodology you select, the main objective should be to reduce picking time.
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, the daily operations of your warehouse are what should drive its design and equipment allocations. If the warehouse is being considered for a re-design, survey your staff to see if they have noticed issues or possible innovations you’re unaware of. The efficiency of your warehouse has a huge impact on the overall efficiency of your supply chain. How day to day operations will be carried out depends on the layout. Consider consulting a supply chain efficiency professional. Warehouses designed by supply chain experts enable organizations to achieve maximum results from their warehouse operations and enhance overall productivity. MGT can provide advice and guidance in this regard, as we’re always here to help. For more information, please call Michaels Global Trading Ltd. at 1-888-902-7531 or contact us here.