A well-planned warehouse layout strikes a balance between maximising space utilisation and accommodating ample space for an efficient workflow. The best use of space within the warehouse also allows companies to make improvements within their operations.
There is more to space management in a warehouse than meets the eye. Besides accommodating as many items within the warehouse itself, the warehouse should be laid out in an organised manner to facilitate the movement of freight efficiently.
Planning an efficient warehouse layout would require an understanding of the nature of the inventory. This analysis can typically be done over a spreadsheet and be based on a general overview of a typical day, with some leeway for weekly variation.
An efficient warehouse plan should be dynamic and have room to apply new solutions as they become available. The plan should also accommodate further changes down the line address inefficiencies in the plan as they are identified and incorporate more effective alternate solutions.
The types of items within the inventory play a crucial role in determining the arrangement of rows of racks would be needed inside the warehouse. A warehouse meant to store a large volume of a few types stock-keeping units (SKUs), for instance, would need to have several deep rows of standard pallet racking, whereas keeping multiple SKUs at once requires shallow rows with many faces.
The arrangement of the rows for storage would also depend heavily on the warehouse’s primary function. A warehouse strictly dedicated for storage and shipping will have much storage shelves, and pallet racks comprise the majority of its floor area, with a portion of the facility laid out for additional handling. A light assembly facility, meanwhile, would have a large part of the production floor dedicated to assembly stations and other types of light manufacturing equipment with storage spaces as a secondary (yet still important) consideration.
The layout of the aisles between the warehouse’s storage units should strike a fair balance between maximising the number of racks and facilitating the safe and convenient movement of personnel and machinery. Made too wide, and the aisles may not be the most efficient use of space; meanwhile, narrower aisles may impede the mobility and efficiency of workers and increase the likelihood of damage on site.
The aisles should be wide enough to at least give ample room for hauling equipment to manoeuvre safely. The minimum width of the aisles is dependent on the size of the vehicles to be used within the facility and should allow the trucks to a single turn in a row. Cross aisles occupy a larger amount of space but would allow faster operations by letting trucks and equipment manoeuvre more freely.
Packaging facilities—especially those that handle a constant rush of SKUs coming in and out of the warehouses—would often require additional hardware to sort and carry stored items into their respective destinations.
For some companies, conveyors can be a convenient investment despite their initial capital expense with a quick alternative to most types of workers and freight movers for most smaller types of SKUs and can be an excellent means of transporting goods from the manufacturing floor to the storage facilities. Whether the expense of installing and maintaining a conveyor system is justifiable depends largely on the volume of material carried, the distance the products have to be moved, and the chief composition of the company’s inventory.