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Warehouse Floor Plan: Optimizing Your Layout

warehouse floor plan

A well-designed warehouse offers greater control over your products, simplifies inventory tracking, enables you to pack and ship products from a central location and empowers your business to better meet the needs of your customers all while reducing operational costs.

Without the correct layout, important inventory items could become lost, difficult to access or damaged. This could lead to disrupted flow, delayed orders and a potentially broken operational strategy. Effective warehouse design and management improves inventory visibility, optimizes materials tracking and allows businesses to get the most use out of the space they have available.

It all hinges on the warehouse floor plan.

Here, we discuss how to create an effective warehouse layout. Let’s start by taking a look at your organization’s warehousing needs.

Defining Warehouse Requirements

Warehouse design takes more than a casual amount of planning. But before you begin creating your CAD layout drawings you need to clearly define your warehousing requirements. Here are several factors to consider:

What Picking Method Will You Be Using?

A large portion of the work performed in a warehouse is picking – identifying and retrieving specific items to fulfill orders. A commonly utilized and perhaps highly accurate picking method is ‘single order picking,’ where a picker works on one order at a time. Unfortunately, this approach is also the least efficient, particularly in larger warehouses where a picker may have to travel the same route repeatedly throughout their shift.

Depending on the warehouse size, layout, inventory levels and employee count, you may need to implement more complex picking methodologies. These may include ‘batch picking’ (pickers work on multiple orders at once), ‘zone picking’ (workers use a pick-and-pass approach, passing items between specified zones), wave-order picking (multiple zones are picked at the same time and orders are then sorted and consolidated into their proper shipments) and others.

How Much Space Do You Have?

In most cases, getting the most out of your space will not only mean taking advantage of the square footage but also thinking vertically to take advantage of the facility cube. Rack, bulk stacking and various storage bins are all options, depending on the size and amounts of your inventory.

What is most important here is that you make the best possible use of your space without negatively impacting tracking, accessibility or throughput. Your floor plan will need to take employee routes into account and allow for a design that is intuitive in terms of item locations. Additionally, when designing a warehouse layout you’ll want to optimize the warehouse space allocated to storage and inventory processing, without neglecting other considerations such as packout, value-added services or office areas.

Where Will Inventory Be Offloaded/Prepared for Shipment?

Obviously, not every square foot of the warehouse can be dedicated to inventory storage. Receiving products from vendors and loading goods into trucks for shipment requires specific areas that must be accessible to people and vehicles. Even if you decide to keep your loading and shipping areas separate from the storage space, your layout will still need to plan for how the items will be moved to and from the main warehouse floor.

Trailer docks are the standard solution for loading and unloading goods from trucks. Conveyors, ramps and automated loading and unloading mechanisms can also help facilitate the transport of difficult-to-move products.

How Will Employees Navigate the Warehouse?

An efficient warehouse is one through which goods, equipment and people can flow uninterrupted. This may be a minor consideration for smaller warehouses with fewer employees, but the larger a warehouse is the more attention will need to be paid to traffic flow.

Visualizing workflow through the warehouse will allow you to get ahead of many potential problems before they arise. Take into account the activities your people will need to perform and how those activities relate to storage spaces and each other; sequential activities can be grouped together (such as planning for the sorting area to be near the packing area) to improve efficiency and productivity.

What Elements Must Be Redesigned?

Creating a warehouse floor plan from the ground up may give you more control over flow and layout, but it’s not always an option. If you’re working to redesign an existing warehouse, you’ll need to determine what is currently working and what should be reevaluated.

Never rely on your memory when drafting a new warehouse floor plan. Instead, use a CAD layout drawing to give yourself an accurate idea of the space you have to work with and how the various functional areas relate to one another.

Planning for Warehouse Equipment and Processes

Inventory storage may be a major consideration when creating a warehouse floor plan, but the equipment and associated processes also significantly impact space within the facility. These design elements are often specific to the industry and the company and thus demand a customized approach to warehouse planning.

Start by identifying your design elements, as these must be accounted for in your plan along with all other considerations. This may include everything from automation and robotics to equipment used for storage, packing and more. The position of your equipment and the associated processes will in part determine remaining space available for storage and secondary areas.

Some equipment will be naturally stationary while other types may require movement. Plan your layout so there is enough space around stationary equipment for your employees to perform their processes safely and ensure that any mobile equipment likewise has the space to navigate the warehouse efficiently. Aisle width, equipment accessibility and related storage types are all factors in this portion of the design.

Creating Flow Strategies

The more movement your resources make within the warehouse, the more time and money it will cost your business to fulfill warehouse tasks. Your strategy will need to streamline workflow through your warehouse to ensure that people and items are not traveling further than they need to. To do this, it must take each of these three elements into account:

  • Employees
    How much time will employees spend in specific parts of the warehouse? How many employees will be on hand at any given time? What kinds of aisle patterns will give employees the most direct routes to the areas they use most?
  • Products
    Which items need to be selected most regularly? Are there items that are more difficult to move that should be in closer proximity to receiving, packing and shipping areas? Are the aisles wide enough to allow larger products to move through?
  • Equipment
    How do the equipment and processes relate to specific types of products? Is the stationary equipment positioned in such a way that it allows for easy use and access to relevant products? Is equipment storage accounted for in the warehouse floor plan?


Each of these strategies must address how your resources will move through shipping and receiving, work areas, storage and picking and secondary areas. To do this, you will need clear visualization of your available space. CAD layout drawings and basic analysis can help ensure that you are planning for the correct dimensions and flow.

Correctly implemented, flow strategies can drastically reduce your warehouse process times, improving your efficiency and allowing you and your people to accomplish more.

Testing Your Processes

Even if everything looks perfect and makes complete sense on paper, your warehouse floor plan isn’t complete until it passes the testing phase. Testing allows you to apply the theoretical design of the warehouse floor plan to the kinds of real situations will encounter, uncovering possible flaws or opportunities for improvement before you fully commit.

Simulation software can enable you to test workflows in a virtual environment, but the testing phase doesn’t always need to be overly complex or technical. Something as simple as practicing work functions within the warehouse or asking employees to act out the work processes while being observed can give you substantial insight into the effectiveness of your floor plan.

Just be sure that you are running enough tests to be confident. Some areas (such as those that include heavy equipment) will be difficult to adjust once the warehouse is up and running. Triple-check these areas and processes so that you can be sure they are optimally arranged to support your goals.

Conclusion

A lot goes into creating a warehouse floor plan, and every business will have different layout needs. Understanding those needs is the key to creating a custom floor plan capable of driving your success. Defining your requirements, taking into account vital equipment and processes, building effective flow strategies and finally putting your design to the test will give you the insights to create a warehouse design perfectly tailored to your business.

Unlock the full potential of your layout and floor plan with experienced warehouse design consultants. Learn the right ways to proceed with a warehouse design, avoid common mistakes and discover the key data profiles to collect prior to design. enVista’s comprehensive solutions encompass equipment, layout, Lean processes, systems evaluations, labor analysis and more.

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