ManufacturingOctober 10, 2019

Quick Ways You Can Optimize Your Warehouse Layout

Your productivity is directly related to your warehouse layout.
Avatar Megan Ray Nichols

Your productivity is directly related to your warehouse layout. With just a few changes, you’ll get more organized storage, faster order processing and safer working grounds. The best way to boost your productivity is through rethinking your warehouse.

Evaluate Storage

There are always products in every warehouse that seem to sit on the shelves gathering layers of dust. These dust-bunny magnets don’t need to take up prime real estate in your warehouse. Arrange your storage so lesser-picked products are in far corners or higher up on shelving. Use the easy-to-reach spaces for storing products you frequently pull.

One way to quickly evaluate your storage is to walk through the warehouse at the end of a shift daily for a week. As you do, look for which products are typically pulled, and which remain on the shelves. This will help you reorganize the products in your warehouse. Once you’ve reorganized your warehouse, produce a guide for the locations of the items inside. This will make it easier for your employees to find the products they need to retrieve or store.

If you’re interested in higher-tech solutions for streamlining and overhauling your storage for efficiency, look into pick-to-light and put-to-light bin labeling systems and corresponding software. A setup like this guides warehouse employees to the right bin the first time, reducing or eliminating mis-picks and mis-stows. You’ll also have a more accurate impression of which products are moving the fastest and where they might be better located in your warehouse.

Plan a Staging Area

The CEO of ShipHero, Aaron Rubin, says the biggest mistake warehouses make is not having enough staging area. A staging area allows you to accommodate the unexpected. Use this area for large loads that are either incoming or outgoing. This designated spot will keep products from accumulating between the aisles until they can be sent to their destinations.

Another means of using a staging area is for frequently pulled products. This zone could hold smaller quantities of the products you use the most. Doing so cuts down on the travel time to pull these items from the shelves. This strategy is especially useful when you anticipate large orders.

Make Safety Paramount

The safety of your employees should be the most important thing in your warehouse. In most warehouses, foot traffic and vehicles use the same aisles. When optimizing warehouse space, you might be tempted to shrink the size of the aisles to allow for more shelves. This could be dangerous for your employees, though.

Keep your aisles wide enough to allow for pedestrians and vehicles to travel abreast down them. To keep your workers safe, paint 1- to 4-inch-wide lines in high-traffic areas to designate areas for workers. These lines are also useful if you intend to automate your warehouse vehicles. Many of these vehicles require painted lines on the floor, which they follow in their duties. Lanes for your workers and vehicles will help reduce accidents and make it safer for everyone.

Warehouses of the very near future might come standard with wearable technologies for employees that keep an eye on things like working height, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen and more.

By applying consumer-level technologies like these — which employees already know intuitively how to use — warehouse managers can gain better insight into environmental and working conditions, as well as how they affect employees. It could be a great way to raise the bar for safety for everybody involved.

Cut Walking Time

Foot traffic in inevitable in warehouses. The facility design directly relates to how much time employees waste walking around the facility to do their jobs. It’s possible, depending on your warehouse size, for your workers to spend more than 50 percent of their time walking from place to place.

If possible, employ conveyors or automation to decrease the walking time. Proper organization of the warehouse will also help workers walk less. Post maps of the locations of products clearly so all employees know where everything is stored. This will reduce workers getting lost finding products.

One more thing that often goes overlooked is the placement of badge scanners and time clocks. In a warehouse setting — during breaks, lunches and shift changes — it’s common for high-traffic areas to become crowded and difficult to navigate.

Look into switching to or adding connected time clock terminals — which nowadays install using wireless rather than wired connections — and reevaluate your layout overall to avoid backtracking and traffic jams and ease your employees’ movements.

Make Paths One-Way

Whether paths are for vehicular or pedestrian traffic, they should be for one direction only. This keeps traffic flowing properly. It also makes it safer for all workers, both those on foot and forklift operators. When turning a forklift, the vehicle may cut into pedestrian lanes. This puts those on foot nearby in danger. Additionally, workers who turn to go backward in a lane may run into another worker or forklift.

When creating lines to split aisles into lanes for vehicles and people, also add directional arrows. You will need to educate your employees and their supervisors to follow and enforce these guidelines, respectively.

Plan for Growth

Your warehouse should be optimized not only for today but also for tomorrow. Anticipate your growth and plan additional space in your warehouse accordingly. Having enough space for expansion will allow your business to painlessly grow over time. Lisa Chu, founder of online company Black N Bianco, suggests planning for the next three to five years. She says this planning will decrease your overhead as your warehouse grows.

Improvements Optimize Warehouse Design

Making your warehouse more efficient will improve your workers’ productivity and safety. The key to your operations lies in the layout of your facility. A well-designed warehouse contributes to the functioning of the people working inside. Optimize your warehouse through better designs.

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