Moving to a new premises is a wonderful opportunity to improve the efficiency of your warehouse operation. Obviously, if the warehouse is a new, purpose-built one, then you can design it to your exact specifications. However, even if this is not the case and you inherit an existing warehouse, there are still key things you can implement to achieve the most effective and efficient distribution center possible.
Well-executed storage, receiving and shipping improves efficiency, and by doing so, makes the company more profitable. At the same time, warehouse staff, who are your most important asset, become more motivated if they can locate products and stock easily, are working in a safe environment, and generally feel that their welfare is valued and recognized.
Here are some basic guidelines when designing a new warehouse:
- Your floor plan or layout, needless to say, should incorporate areas for receiving, despatch/shipping and storage. Do not overlook your biggest asset, the warehouse staff—allocate a recreational area with comfy furnishings (but not too comfortable!), a small fridge and a coffee/tea maker.
- Assess the type of racking, shelving and storage you need for the products to be kept in your warehouse. Purchase robust racking/shelving to allow for the maximum lifespan, and wear and tear possible. Make sure it is securely attached to walls and floors to prevent injury to staff and damage to products. Finally, ensure that there is plenty of space between the units so that all stock is easily accessible.
- Create a separate storage area or storeroom for items that are regularly used, such as cartons, boxes, packing filler or packing tape.
- Ensure the area around the loading dock or bay is unobstructed and free of racking and shelving. It’s important that there is plenty of space around the loading bay/dock for forklift trucks and warehouse staff to operate unimpeded.
- Allocate clearly defined, separate areas for shipping and receiving. Make sure there are expansive work surfaces in these areas.
- Allocate office space that occupies a self-contained area within the warehouse.
- Make sure warning and safety signs and notices are in the correct places in compliance with the health and safety regulations.
- Make sure there are skips in close proximity to the warehouse, so that trash doesn't clutter the workspace.
- Provide mats in areas where employees are standing in one place for long periods of time, packing stations, for example.
- If you are employing five or more warehouse operatives, consider installing warehouse management system software. It can streamline and speed up all areas of warehouse life, making the receiving, picking, packing and despatch processes much more efficient, thereby improving company profits and making work life easier for warehouse operatives. It also can lead to greater transparency and accuracy, thereby reducing waste and returned orders.
Investigate a no-capital expenditure (capex) software as a service (SaaS) warehouse management system, whereby there are no upfront costs and the managed service payments are made on a monthly basis, but only once the warehouse management system goes live. This can improve your company’s cash flow and ensure that warehouse staff have system support 24/7.
Simon Sterland is a marketing executive at Synergy Logistics.