Warehouses are, in simple terms, just buildings for storing goods and have been around in some form or another for thousands of years. And while a simple building may have been enough for the Romans, it doesn’t really work in modern times. Now, we need buildings that must be efficient, flexible, often automated, and more. But how do you get the most from your warehouse? How do you create an optimal warehouse layout? In this blog post, we’ll highlight how this is possible.
- Warehouse layout
- Advantages of an optimal warehouse layout
- Warehouse layout optimization done right
- Warehouse layout optimization in a nutshell
Warehouse layout: areas and shapes to consider
Warehouse layout refers to both the physical structure of your warehouse and the many elements inside it. A well-designed warehouse layout guarantees that workers have ample room to work at maximum capacity.
The layout of any warehouse is vitally important for a business. Get the layout correct, and an efficient output will result. However, get it wrong, or even slightly wrong, and you could find yourself staring at a bottleneck.
A good warehouse layout should consist of five areas:
- The receiving area – where staff can unload incoming trucks, admit the items received, and record packages as they arrive at the warehouse.
- The staging area – is used to address any incoming or outgoing packages.
- Dynamic storage – holds all inventory that doesn’t have a fixed warehouse location.
- Static storage – holds all inventory products that have a specific location within the warehouse. Items are usually organized on racking systems.
- The shipping area – workers take completed order packages and load them onto shipping trucks to be delivered to customers or retailers.
In addition, there are three main shapes that incorporate those areas. When considering the design of a warehouse, the shape that you choose could depend on a number of different factors, such as the size of the warehouse or the nature of your product. The shapes include the U-shaped warehouse, the I-shaped warehouse, and the L-shaped warehouse, as illustrated below.
Advantages of an optimal warehouse layout
Creating a warehouse design and optimizing it using warehouse simulation software is an ideal way to improve warehouse operations and track how goods move between locations.
A good warehouse layout will improve product flows in your facility, but it can also enhance the way you operate.
By employing warehouse layout optimization in your business, you can:
- Optimize the space within your warehouse.
- Increase productivity by optimizing operations and reducing bottlenecks.
- Utilize labor effectively.
- Operate within your budget.
- Keep the space clean and safe.
- Improve the whole management of the warehouse.
Warehouse layout optimization done right
Creating an optimal warehouse layout is not a simple task. You have to consider several different factors, including the available space, the size and number of items to be stored, future expectations, material handling equipment, and so on. In addition, you also have to identify the best operational flow to increase the movement of goods into, through, and out of the warehouse.
To do this in the most effective way, you can use simulation modeling. This can be used to design and validate different solutions before implementing them in a new or existing facility. Furthermore, you can make use of digital twin technology to create a virtual replica of your warehouse to simulate performance in a "real" environment.
There are a number of different steps and practices that you can follow to develop your optimal warehouse layout, including the following:
Optimizing picking processes
It is important to choose which picking method (piece picking, cluster picking, zone picking, or wave picking, for example) best suits your warehouse. The goal is to apply one or more of these methods, as done by DHL when optimizing warehouse operations, which will reduce the amount of picking time.
If something is easier and faster to access in your warehouse, it makes sense that it will operate more efficiently. Some tips to do this include using vertical space effectively, keeping aisles open, ensuring all items have their own place, and replacing stairs with ramps. Phoenix Analytics developed a model for optimizing warehouse operations for an ice-cream manufacturer that involved several accessibility traits.
It is not the size of the warehouse that matters, but how the space and resources are used. By optimizing storage systems and warehouse racking, the amount of space required to store inventory and the amount of labor needed will decrease. One of the most important ways to optimize storage is to store vertically.
Automating your warehouse
By automating the movement of goods into, through, and out of your warehouse, you can reduce labor and operational costs, increase throughput capacity, reduce inventory loss, and much more. Symbotic, a warehouse automation solutions provider, was in a prime position to understand this and develop a warehouse automation systems model for their clients to help them.
Streamlining the shipping process
Shipping is successful if the right order is dispatched to the right customer using the right delivery mode at the right time. This is the last warehouse process, and all other steps leading up to it must be done correctly for this to be efficient. Cardinal Health understood this and created a model for a pharmaceutical distribution warehouse focusing on worker activity, which would lead to a more efficient distribution process.
Warehouse layout optimization in a nutshell
An inefficient warehouse layout can affect speed, efficiency, and productivity, which will directly impact your profits. Spending time to develop a warehouse simulation that will result in an optimal warehouse layout is worth doing. In the long run, this will produce results that you wouldn’t be able to get with a sub-optimal warehouse layout. And, as processes become more complicated and customers need products quicker and quicker, you will be in a prime position to grow and take advantage of new opportunities.
Download this white paper to learn how your business can benefit from material handling simulation. Then check out some interesting warehousing models developed in AnyLogic below: