Case study

How to plan a successful warehouse operation

Jul 14, 2022 | Pallet Racking, Uncategorized

Rather than just add a numerous rows of pallet racking and consider it job done, warehouse planning is actually an art form because every decision is strategically made. When a warehouse operation is successful and productive it indicates that specific crucial factors were considered during the planning stages.

If your new to warehouse planning, this may sound a little daunting, but there’s no need press the panic button because WSL has been planning warehouse spaces and implementing effective solutions for over thirty years. Drawing on the experience of our exert design team, this article will take you through the various factors to consider and how these can help guide your decisions, whilst this easy to grasp infograph will run you through our eight useful tips to creating a successful and efficient warehouse operation:

Infographic - 8 tips on creating a successful warehouse

 

Budget

Finalising your  budget before you begin plotting your ideas is always going to be the smart way to begin your project. Your budget will help you make informed decisions that will meet both your financial and operational needs. The purpose of a budgeting is to prevent spiralling costs which could certainly implicate what you have set out to achieve although it is worth noting that a constrained budget doesn’t necessarily mean a constrained solution, particularly when you have the expertise of the WSL design team at hand. Creating effective, bespoke solutions within budget is a daily achievement for our team whose combined experience in warehouse planning extends to over one hundred years.

Available space

What is the size of your space? When measuring your space it is crucial that you include both height and floor space to ensure the entire cubic area is maximised as part of the plan. All space is valuable and there are a number of strategic ways you can utilise overhead space including tall storage solutions such as the VNA racking system or you can incorporate additional floor levels with a mezzanine floor implementation for example. Your overhead space can work just as well for you as your ground floor space if you use it strategically. After a thorough examination of your space and a clear understanding of your operational processes, goals and budget your WSL design technician can advise you on the most optimal solutions for your height space.

Empty warehouse space to measure

Directional flow

Where are your goods-in and despatch areas and what shape is the area in-between these external doorways? This will help guide your decisions on how and where to position specific activities and departments. The aim here is to simplify the journey your inventory takes once it enters the building by ensuring it travels in accordance to the one-way route to the exit. This reduces travel time and eliminates confusion during the picking process, saving time and money whilst enhancing the ability to meet customer expectations.  The diagram below shows the most effective route for each scenario.

Inventory directional flow diagrams

 Inventory Organisation

Having finalised your budget, confirmed your available space and directional flow, your plan will now begin to take shape. The next step is to consider your inventory and how best to keep it organised by:

  • Storing items that are often picked together, closer together. This saves hugely on travel time and instead will encourage a more streamlined picking process.
  • Storing high turnover products closer to the packing and despatch areas to prevent unnecessary travel and limit delays.
  • Manage stock control with the use of labels located on the shelf or rack edge. Scanning the label as the item is picked will transfer and store the data, making stock count and management much easier.

The above suggestions will help prevent stock from becoming lost or misplaced whilst helping to streamline the picking process, resulting in customer expectations being met without hindrance.

Storage Systems

Knowing which section of the warehouse space is dedicated to storing inventory is only part of the battle. You must also consider type of storage structure you will require and this will be a decision based on:

Inventory type

Firstly, you should consider the volume of inventory you expect to be managing and its turnover. For high inventory volumes space can be utilised through dense storage with some offering assisted stock rotation such as pallet live racking or carton live shelving. If you operate within cold or frozen chambers, this can be much more expensive when compared to ambient storage; however the compact configuration of deep storage solutions can drive those costs down through its ability to store more within the same surface area. Each with their own designed in features and capabilities, other deep storage solutions include mobile racking, drive-in/drive-through and shuttle racking systems. Knowing which system is right for your operation can be difficult to figure out, particularly when your knowledge of each system is limited, although this can be simplified for you by a WSL designer who will explain all of your options during the initial site survey, provide clear recommendations and and ensure you have a good understanding of how the most optimal solution will benefit your operation.

Space

Deep storage may be ideal for limited floor and height space, but if height space is generous other configurations such as VNA racking consisting of racks that can be as high as the ceiling or a multi tier picking system consisting of tall shelves with incorporated floor levels could be ideal. Another way to utilise your overhead space could be a storage mezzanine floor which is an additional floor level with the option to incorporate pallet racking or shelving. Mezzanine floors can double your usable floor space within the same surface area or even triple it if the space allows for multiple storeys. There is no need for planning permission and there is no major construction works involved. Whilst a storage mezzanine floor can be designed to support inventory, a mezzanine can also be designed to support other activities such as offices to allow you to utilise the ground floor for storage.

Processes

Every warehouse operation has its own unique way of doing things and your particular processes need to be supported with the right storage infrastructure. The use of shelving bins to help sort smaller items or a shelving system to help manage the returns process can be used as an example; however the precise needs of your processes can be met with a solution unique to your operation and to ensure this is achieved, you can rely on the expertise of the WSL team.

Understanding the varying configurations and capabilities of a wide range of storage systems can be challenging, so it’s definitely worth checking out our guide to pallet racking solutions and guide to shelving solutions. WSL offer free site surveys and these are carried out by one of our experienced design technicians whose wealth of knowledge means you can discuss your options there and then. During a site visit, our design technicians assess the space whilst taking time to understand your requirements and inventory before going away to create your bespoke storage solution design using computer assisted design software. You will later receive the plans along with a free non-obligatory quotation.

Handling equipment

Adopting handling equipment which is compatible with your storage structures and operation is essential. The main form of handling equipment is the fork lift truck (FLT) and with a wide variety of models available, how do you know which one is right for your operation? Although the conventional FLT is suited to many systems, the side seated stacker would give the operator more visibility when using the drive-in/drive-through pallet racking systems. For tall racks, high reaching trucks are required and as the VNA racking system consists of tall racks with a very slim aisle width, specialist slim-line, and high reaching trucks are required. These are guided down the aisle in a forward and backward motion using wired transmissions or guide rails to prevent the truck from veering into the racking structure. For more information on handling equipment, please see our guide to material handling

Fork Lift Trucks

Safety

Both legally and morally, as an employer and business it is your duty to ensure the safety of those working in or visiting your warehouse. Even with the most effective warehouse design and fit-out, the absence of appropriate safety measures can seriously hinder your warehouse operation. At WSL our designers will always prioritise safety when designing your warehouse storage applications and layout. Everything from ensuring fire escapes is easily accessible to safety applications such as barriers will be incorporated into the design, ensuring your design incorporates a practical approach to warehouse safety. On an annual basis, it is advised that your storage equipment is professionally inspected for safety issues. As robust as they may be, storage structures can suffer collision or wear and tear damage which may go unnoticed, particularly as some weaknesses may be difficult to spot. A mezzanine floor inspection is just as important as a pallet racking inspection so if you have both, WSL can arrange for both to be inspected during the same visit by one of our highly experienced and professional inspectors.

And finally…..

You don’t have to go it alone. Creating a successful warehouse operation requires careful planning, so why not call on the expertise of WSL. To discuss your requirements and to arrange a free site survey call our team on 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk.

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