Warehouse operations have changed significantly in the last two years, and that’s not only because of the Pandemic. Disruptions in supply chains, Brexit and the advances in digital technologies have all impacted warehouse design and layout. Warehouses that are well-designed and have an efficient flow minimise risk and keep employees safe.
Whether designing a new warehouse facility or redesigning an existing one, the basics are similar. There are four main areas to consider:
1. Flow of people and equipment
The design and layout should promote the smooth and effective movement of people and goods. The result is increased throughput and better productivity. Work areas must make the best use of available space and be fit-for-purpose.
Space must be allocated for unloading, receiving, storage, picking, packing and dispatch.
More square feet per person may be required now to allow for social distancing and to avoid congestion. The optimum use of space can improve your process efficiency and reduce your costs.
3. Employee productivity
The planned layout should arrange the processes in a logical sequence that can help streamline operations to boost productivity. Unnecessary travelling by walking from one point to another wastes time. A well-planned layout reduces distances between activities and the stress on workers.
Digital technology tools are becoming commonplace in warehouses to speed up communication, automate processes and reduce paperwork. The growth in the number and type of solutions available is rapid and the selection of the right one(s) for your business is critical. The wrong choice means time and money wasted.
Post-COVID-19, there are some specific aspects to consider. The UK Government has provided updated guidance that businesses should follow when operating factories and warehouse facilities. They highlight key areas in warehouse design and layout that should be managed, two of these are ventilation and hygiene.
Steps to determine the best design and layout
1. Establish your objectives
Document your current situation. This includes providing answers to these questions:
•What is the current storage space required for each of your inventory items?
•How can your current warehouse operations be made more efficient?
•Are you achieving the desired speed of throughput?
•What are your seasonal peaks?
2. What do you need for the medium-term?
Forecast your future capacity and resource needs for the next 3 – 5 years. This includes current and new facilities, both internal and external. A clear strategy will define what is required for the future functioning of your warehouse facilities. This will determine your broad design and layout and how to make the best use of the available space. Businesses are dynamic, flexibility and extra space will be required as the business evolves.
3. Layout and workspaces
The most space should be allocated for operations, storage and throughput activities. The least space should be given up for administrative functions such as offices, rest areas, pallets storage, vehicle parking, battery charging, etc. Clearly defined work areas maximise efficiency, minimize risk and safety issues.
4. Defining the flow
The chosen flow affects the design and layout of the warehouse in the planning process. A one-way flow is regarded as the most efficient and safe movement path in a warehouse. It helps to ensure safety and eliminate congestion. Pathways should be clearly labelled with signs or floor markings to show the direction of movement. Outside the premises, consider the flow of vehicles in and out of the yard, queueing and parking facilities for trucks, trailers and visitors.
As experts in warehouse layout and process design, SCCG is well placed to help figure out the best solution for you. The choice of the right warehouse management system and other technology tools is important. There are many new cloud-based software solutions available and selecting the best one for your business can be overwhelming. As well as suggesting systems and layout improvements, we can also recommend changes to shift patterns, working methods, system processes, written procedures, floor markings and signage.
For further information visit www.sccgltd.com or call our head office +44 (0)1926 430 883