February 23, 2021

Guide to Optimising Your Warehouse Racking Layout Design

How do you effectively optimise your warehouse racking layout design? It may be that currently, your organisation is at its max capacity with growth available. But the bottleneck could be in your operations department in the inability to keep up with the demand.

The design or in some cases redesign of the existing warehouse plan is no small task. When you create an effective and efficient warehouse racking layout design it means that your warehouse is optimised and has a high level of productivity.

Where To Begin On A Warehouse Racking Layout Design

You may be wondering where do you start in the design or redesign of a warehouse and racking layout. It would probably appear to be a significant task that hardly seems possible to coordinate. It is a significant project, the undertaking of the design and then implementation - often while operations are still running. The designing of a warehouse plan comes under the following stages:

Commencement
Planning
Application
Review

It is a project and it will require a project mindset to reach completion, it will take some time for the end goal of a design or redesign to reached so be patient. In most cases each design or redesign will pass through each of the stages listed above, it is a method to keeping on track of the project timeline against what you are up to vs where you should be in those stages.
With a project of this scale, it may be a good option to utilise a project management program to keep up with tasks and assigning roles. Some examples to project management tasks include; ProofHub, Workzone and ActiveCollab to name a few.

Before beginning any work you can engage with a warehouse design consultant, who will work with you to create a racking plan and design based on the needs of the organisation currently and in the future. At Abbott, we provide complimentary warehouse design consultation sessions.
Warehouse Floor Plan

Commencement

In the first stage, you recognise the issues within the warehouse currently and plan to solve the pain points. It is not a matter of just shifting some of the storage areas and tidying the zone. You will need to identify the primary issues occurring in the warehouse. Some examples include:

Arrangement of inventory in bad locations
Are the locations in which your inventory difficult for your staff to get to? If this is the case then it is wasting time in the storing, picking and packing of an order, particularly the fast-moving items of the warehouse.

Disorientation of warehouse flow
With the constant flow of machinery and personnel through the warehouse, it can become a large issue if there are regular congestions or hold-ups. It is an important consideration to look at the planned warehouse flow and implement a traffic management plan.
Ineffective arrangement of tools
In situations where tools are being utilised in sequential order, it is not ideal to have a large distance between them. It creates an inefficiency in the warehouse, in wasted employee time.

It can be a challenge to pinpoint the issues within the warehouse, so there are two methods for determining them.
Technology Advancement
In today's world, a lot of organisations use a Warehouse Management System (WMS) which involves the use of technology in providing data on the warehouse flow. It is a program that can allow a better understanding of the fast-moving stock, high traffic zones in the warehouse and the picking time. It can give a great understanding of the efficiencies or deficiencies of the runnings of your warehouse, it will give a good base of data to work off in the planning of a new warehouse racking layout design.

Warehouse Staff Input
The workers in the warehouse know the pain points and inefficiencies. There may be a lot of areas that are an unseen problem to the warehouse staff. These issues must be addressed in a new layout plan. It is worth including worthy staff plans and ideas into the design since they will be the ones actually working in the warehouse.
Warehouse Staff Discusssion - Warehouse Racking Layout Design Planning

Planning

In the planning stage, it is the point at which you determine the work to go into the completion of the new warehouse racking layout design. A project management program can be utilised to set out the roles of individuals and a timeline of completion. Once this stage is completed the following will have been achieved; a project task list with assignees, timelines and deadlines, and a projection of the cost involved in the project.

Warehouse Racking Layout Design Plan

A plan of the projected warehouse layout will need to be established. Existing maps of the warehouse can be utilised or you can start from scratch.

The map will clearly need to outline the following zones of the warehouse; docks and doors, height allowances, supports or columns, installed machinery and the reception area. The following areas will need to be designated; picking and packing, racking and storage structure, receiving and quality control and the dispatch zone.

Accounting For The Warehouse Needs

Every warehouse has its own needs, so a tailored design will be required to establish the best fitting warehouse layout for your requirements. Some key points to consider are:

Racking and Storage Structure
The racking layout design will entirely depend on the inventory that is being stored on the racking. If it is palletised goods and it will require a forklift to put the goods into the storage structure and the best option is a racking system. On the other hand, if it is smaller items that are not heavy then a shelving system can be utilised. A storage system will require a lot of warehouse space to accommodate the aisle widths.

Warehouse Workflow
To get the most efficiency from the storage structure, it will need to have the beam levels tailored to the stock being stored within it. The stock should be easily accessible for warehouse staff and the aisles should be simple to navigate and manoeuvre through. The packing zone will need a designated location in the warehouse.

Creating the Flow of Operations Through the Warehouse

The flow of operations through the warehouse will make or break an efficient and productive warehouse. To construct a plan of the flow, the main operations activities will need to be set out, with them in mind then add the flow of these activities to the plan of the warehouse layout. A good idea here is to work with an assortment of colours for the different activities and machinery paths.

At this point use the data and details obtained in the commencement stage of the technology and staff input, to create a customised workflow.
Warehouse Flow Path - Conveyors
The following points should be accounted for in your workflow planning:

Picking paths,
Machinery paths - eg. conveyors, forklifts, pallet jacks etc,
The flow of receiving orders,
The flow of shipping picked orders, and
Process for returned items.

Seeking Opportunities to Maximise Efficiency of the Warehouse Plan

Study the information on the inventory locations, picking, packing and assembly areas, receiving and dispatch zones on the warehouse map that has been put together. Each inventory line or SKU will need a unique space in the racking structure so that it is received and put away correctly.

Labelling the aisles and the racks of the racking structure are a methodical way of creating inventory locations. It will ensure that finding the correct location in either receiving or packing process can be done with ease and efficiency. Ensure that all areas of the warehouse have been assessed as an error in one section can cause hindrances in the whole warehouse flow.

As a basic checklist ensure the following points have been addressed:

1. Set out the major workflow paths,
2. Ensure machinery has enough room to manoeuvre,
3. Where it is a possibility separate between the receiving and dispatch zone,
4. Show every movement of the warehouse,
5. For loose and small inventory lines consider Parts Trays or Parts Bins in a Shelving System, and
6. Include a section for returned items and damaged stock.

When the high priority areas have been established that will need optimising, you can then create a list and budget for the new warehouse layout.

Put Together a Record of the Necessary Tools and Budget Requirements

Depending on whether it is a new warehouse racking layout design or a redesign of the current warehouse structure, will impact the requirements of tools and costs involved. It may just be a matter of moving what is already being used to an optimised location and possibly buying some new equipment.

With a list of the necessary equipment, a budget can then be constructed and the items can be prioritised in terms of purchasing order.
Warehouse Housekeeping

Break Down the Project Into Steps

If the project is just the creating of a new warehouse racking design then it is just a matter of planning out the work involved and then keeping to it. On the other hand, if it is a restructure of what you have currently it may require a phased approach to minimise the downtime and disruption to operations, it may not be possible to do it all at once.

Although the new layout is designed to improve warehouse performance and efficiency you will still need to bear in mind that it will take some time for employees to adapt to the new layout and equipment. New equipment may involve training.

Application

If the project is just the creating of a new warehouse racking design then it is just a matter of planning out the work involved and then keeping to it. On the other hand, if it is a restructure of what you have currently it may require a phased approach to minimise the downtime and disruption to operations, it may not be possible to do it all at once.

Although the new layout is designed to improve warehouse performance and efficiency you will still need to bear in mind that it will take some time for employees to adapt to the new layout and equipment. New equipment may involve training.

Review

The work of the project is not complete once the new warehouse racking layout design has been implemented. You will need to constantly assess any further pain points and how the project turned out - what worked well and what didn't. There will be some learnings from the project that will assist in future warehouse racking layout designs.

Wrapping it up - Improving the Efficiency of your Warehouse Racking Layout Design

Although the project of creating or redesigning a warehouse racking layout design may seem like a monstrous task, it only requires a project mindset. With the inclusion of project management programs and technology it can be an effective means in which your warehouse can run efficiently once implemented. Every warehouse has its own unique requirements and will be based on a variety of factors. In summary if you create clear goals, project timeline, costing allocations and following best practises then you are on the way to creating a successful warehouse racking layout design.

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