5 Factors That Affect Your Warehouse Layout

Blog Post by Claire Kerr

In terms of warehouse layout, your goal is to achieve optimal efficiency and maximise use of the available space so that your warehouse operation functions as effectively and productively as possible. If you get it wrong, orders go out slowly and it can have a damaging effect on the profitability of your supply chain operation.

So what is the ideal warehouse layout? And how can you be sure you’re making the most of your warehouse space? Here are some of the factors of warehouse layout that influence productivity and efficiency.

1. Access all areas

Long rows look great for company brochure photos and for demonstrating your stockholding, but they don’t help much with access around the warehouse. Think of your warehouse as a mini city that your operatives need to navigate. To get around it as quickly as possible, they need to traverse it in all directions. So it’s paramount that you have some criss-crossing aisles that form a grid network of paths. This speeds up access and ensures there is always a short route to the required goods.

2. Order characteristics

It’s important that you analyse your orders so that you can spot patterns that may shape how your warehouse is best laid out. If seasonality is a factor with some goods, then consider temporary warehouse space for those, as otherwise they will occupy space in your warehouse even when they’re not being ordered.

If some items are often ordered together, then place them next to or near each other, to reduce travelling time for your pickers.

3. Goods in

You probably want to devote as much space as possible to the storage of the goods you’re actually selling, and so areas like goods in are often squeezed for space. But it’s counter-intuitive to do this. The receiving process needs to be handled quickly and proficiently, so that errors are avoided and the goods can be logged and put away as quickly as possible. So sufficient space is required for this to be achieved effectively.

You will need an area that is adequate for your largest truckloads, along with space for the goods to be unloaded and for warehouse handlers to sort, stack, and process before the put away process. Having enough space eliminates the chaos that often comes with deliveries into the warehouse.

4. Storage needs

Determining how you will arrange your storage and what combinations of racking, palleting or bins you will use affects the movement of staff and the picking process. You need to choose storage that maximises productivity and throughput and minimises congestion and does not interrupt traffic flow.

Of course, your storage needs will be determined by your products, but there are always space savings to be made. If you store products of differing heights, for example, just reworking their locations and storing products in different combinations can avoid wasted space.

5. Packing area

The size and location of your packing area will depend on the goods you distribute and your packing methods. It will be dictated by the quantity of packing material you need to store and access. Consider how quickly you need to get goods out, how they will be packed and the size of the team doing the packing. You will require an area that is adequate to meet the required speed of despatch and the methods of working.

Site your packing adjacent to your shipping area, as packed goods will move directly from packing to despatch.

So ... what’s the best layout?

There are many aspects to consider when determining warehouse layout, and each distribution business will have to carefully weigh up often conflicting requirements. A careful analysis of previous sales and inventory data to assess is always the starting point, along with consideration of the requirements for receipt, storage, packing and dispatch.

It’s widely acknowledged that picking represents more than 50% of a warehouse’s costs, so optimising your warehouse layout so that you utilise the space in the most efficient way will reduce operating costs and drive profitability. Read more on the best practices for your warehouse layout here.

To maximise your own warehouse layout speak to one of our warehouse design experts.