Whether you’re building a new warehouse or retrofitting an old one, you don’t want to let the opportunity pass you by when it comes to warehouse optimization. After all, there’s never a better time to increase your amount of usable space than when the warehouse is empty and you can start from scratch.
Some warehouse managers don’t spend enough time planning out their warehouse space when they begin the process. After all, they might move into a new warehouse and have more than enough space, with half of it going to pallet racks and the other half used for picking and packing or modular offices. But when the pallet racks aren’t optimized from the beginning, it doesn’t leave enough room for growth in the future. While those racks can be removed and relocated, it just makes more sense to make sure the storage racking are in the right place from the get-go to accommodate expansion in the future.
Until you contact us, we don’t know what the dimensions of your warehouse are or what other types of functions it has to perform. This article isn’t so much about telling you how to arrange your warehouse as it is to prepare you for some of the suggestions we might make when you meet with our warehouse optimization consultants. Some of these suggestions might seem counter-intuitive, but they are very helpful in many warehouse spaces. Here are a few things we might be talking with you about when you’re interested in warehouse space optimization.
The Most Obvious Layout Might Not Be The Best
One of the primary reasons to contact warehouse optimization consultants is due to one simple fact: The most obvious layout might not be the best. Whether the space is simple or complex, what might seem like the best layout seldom is.
Even looking at the blueprints isn’t enough for most people. Overhead views are nice, but just because the racking will fit doesn’t mean that it’s taking the traffic patterns into account. It’s important to consider everything your warehouse does — from receiving to storage to delivery to picking stations to shipping — to ensure that it’s all as efficient as possible. The software we use ensures that we’re helping you get the most storage out of your warehouse while also keeping necessary activity flowing as efficiently as possible.
Avoid Racking Against the Walls
Most of us have been taught from an early age that storage goes up against the wall; you only have to look to home bookcases to see where this idea comes from. Keeping items against the walls ensures that they won’t fall over, and that they’re less likely to be tripped over. When was the last time you saw a home bookcase out in the middle of the floor (unless it was a rotating bookcase, of course).
But “up against the wall” isn’t always the best options when it comes to pallet racks. This layout creates single-deep storage, and the inventory can only be reached from one side. Walls can be used for other purposes in a warehouse, while most pallet racks are better out on the floor where they can be accessed from both sides. (For a good example of this, think about bulk stores like Costco. While there might be a huge number of industrial shelving units out in the middle of the store, the walls are often used for freezers, meat stations, kiosks, or oversize-item storage.)
Keep Your Pallet Racks Oriented in One Direction
In a traditional rectangular warehouse, it’s nearly always more efficient to have all of the pallet racks going in the same direction. In nearly every case, this allows for more efficient traffic patterns for forklifts.
Are there exceptions to this? Certainly, especially if your warehouse is of an odd shape. Some warehouses have had additions constructed over the years, and the flow of traffic might simply make more sense when moving into this different space. It’s also possible that having a variety of shelving units — pallet racks and push-back racking and cantilever racking and carton flow racks — could dictate the need for a change of direction.
And speaking of the direction to orient racking systems…
Don’t Orient Racks Along Shorter Walls
This might sound strange, but it’s true: Orienting the rows along the shorter perimeter wastes space. In fact, we have maps and diagrams and math to back us up on this. While it might not be a lot of space that it wastes, this lost space can be a big deal when you have to decide whether or not to build a new warehouse. Laying out the rows along the length of your warehouse just makes more space sense in most situations.
One of the main reasons to hire warehouse optimization consultants is to ensure the safety of your employees. Yes, you want your warehouse to be as efficient as possible, but sometimes doing what’s best for the inventory might not be what’s best for forklift drivers and pedestrians.
Most warehouses don’t experience the same traffic conditions at all times. Sometimes forklift traffic dominates, other times it’s foot traffic. If you design you pallet rack layout around the traffic of a Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. but haven’t considered the rush times of Friday at 3:30, you might run into trouble…literally.
What’s the Most Efficient Pallet Layout?
Like we said at the beginning of this article, we won’t know what’s best for your warehouse until you contact us and tell us what space you’re interested in redesigning. Sometimes the rules above have to be broken in order to accommodate the space. For instance, there will be instances where a rack against the wall makes some sense, or entrance points might dictate that rows should be parallel to the shorter walls.
The only way to really make sure you’re making the best of your facility layout is to contact the warehouse optimization consultants at DAK Equipment and Engineering. We look forward to helping you get the most from your facility.