Mistakes made in warehouse layout, and how to avoid them

There are many ways to design an efficient warehouse layout, but there are also many ways to get it wrong. Designing a layout for a warehouse is complex, and many factors must be considered.

A warehouse layout needs to maximise the available space, have products easily located and be suitable for a picking and packing system that is both accurate and speedy. Being aware of the common mistakes made in warehouse layouts means they can be avoided.

Excess inventory

One of the most common mistakes is holding too much inventory. A balance needs to be made between having enough stock to fulfil orders and avoiding overstocking.

If there is too much stock of an item, restock less often or order smaller volumes. Sometimes, stock is available at a discount if ordered in bulk. If possible, ask suppliers to deliver large orders in smaller batches.

Inefficient picking paths

The picking route is the journey of picking order items and taking them to the packing station. For single item orders, there is usually only one route from the warehouse racks to the packing station. It is more complicated for multi-item orders, where the optimal picking path needs to be calculated. Warehouse management software can plan picking routes and direct pickers along them.

Many warehouses design their storage areas with frequently picked, high-demand items placed near the packing stations. This reduces the length and time of picking routes.

Untidy areas

Attention is needed to keep the warehouse clean and tidy. Messy loading docks, overfilled pallets and aisles littered with packing materials are the sign of an inefficient warehouse, as well as posing a health and safety hazard.

Eliminate the causes of a messy warehouse. An optimal layout has areas where rubbish can be stored ready for recycling or disposal.

Poorly organised goods-in areas

There is pressure on a busy warehouse to prioritise order processing to get goods delivered to customers as quickly as possible. However, with this comes the danger that the goods-in area is neglected. A number of workers will need training in receiving goods and placing them on the correct shelf or rack locations.

It can be useful to train other workers in the goods-in procedures. By doing so, if the goods-in area becomes overloaded, workers can be moved from other job areas to clear the backlog.

Ignoring staff training

Staff training may not appear to have a direct relationship with creating an effective warehouse layout, but badly trained staff impact how well employees work with the warehouse. Therefore, staff training is vital and should not be neglected. Well-trained staff are engaged and motivated, and will work with the layout to make the receiving, picking and packing of goods quick and accurate.

Having an inflexible layout

An existing layout may be fine for the present level of business, but is it flexible enough to adapt to an increase in order volumes?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, warehouses had to adapt to social distancing rules. This meant implementing one-way routes and widening narrow aisles. Consequently, the equipment used in a warehouse needs to be adaptable to varying business scenarios.

Ideally, racking systems need to be modular. This means that extra sections can be added to increase the storage height. Shelving also needs to be easily adjustable to adapt to varying stock levels and different types and sizes of inventory.

Doing everything on paper

Some warehouses still have paper-based systems for processing orders. A warehouse management system is vital to get the most out of the warehouse layout. The best system is an integral part of the warehouse layout. It can organise inventory storage, working out the optimal location for each item and direct pickers to the exact bay or bin where order items are located.

Warehouse management systems monitor stock levels and can even automatically re-order stock when it is low. They can calculate order volumes for every item and order the correct amount of stock to minimise the chances of items being out of stock.

Top-quality warehouse management systems control the whole cycle, from ordering inventory, picking and packing to tracking the order to the customer’s delivery address.

Hastily designing the warehouse layout

It is a mistake to design a warehouse layout in haste. An optimal layout is complex, and needs to be based on a thorough analysis of all warehouse processes. Gather data on receiving goods, picking items, packing, dispatch and the returns process. Calculate how long each process takes, and how a well-planned warehouse layout can make each operation faster.

Also consider how the warehouse layout can help the accuracy of all processes, and make sure that the layout does not compromise worker safety.

Using the wrong warehouse equipment

A warehouse layout may be sound, but if the warehouse is equipped with badly made equipment that is not strong enough for heavy-duty requirements, it becomes a bad layout.

Always purchase the best equipment for the job. At Steely Products, we specialise in making equipment designed to fit the job required. In partnership with warehouse owners and their staff, we have developed a range of warehouse shelving, packing tables, picking trolleys and more, built from strong tubular steel by our team of inhouse skilled metalworkers.

The shelving or racking systems in a warehouse layout need to fit the available space, both horizontally and vertically. All of our shelving can be made in custom sizes so that no space is wasted.

When designing or modifying the warehouse layout, talk to us at Steely Products. We can help by suggesting the best equipment to suit your unique storage requirements and help you decide where each item of equipment fits in with the overall warehouse design.

A great warehouse layout is optimised to help the warehouse reach its full potential. You should continuously analyse how the layout is working and, if necessary, modify it.

For further help in avoiding warehouse layout mistakes, talk to us at Steely Products. Contact us via the form below or give us a call today.

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Posted by Katrina
29th September 2020
Retail & Warehousing

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