Setting up a warehouse in an efficient and organized manner is beneficial for a number of reasons. Not only does it assist in inventory control and time management, but it also streamlines the entire process of doing business, from ordering and storing, to pulling and shipping.
But just what is the best way to organize a warehouse? We’ve got all the information you need to set up your very own storage space, step-by-step:
- Create a floor plan.
- Select shelving and storage solutions.
- Label racks, shelves, containers, and other warehouse organization assets.
- Maximize space utilization.
- Schedule regular maintenance.
- Conduct periodic audits and reviews.
Create a Floor Plan
The first step in organizing your warehouse is to create a floor plan. This allows you to see where you want to store items, as well as any physical space limitations of the building itself. Putting plan to paper before you put it into practice helps you visualize the system in use, and be prepared for any obstacles that may arise. It is important to make sure that your system is easy to understand and use by others, so that employees can easily be trained and have no problems putting it into practice.
When creating your floor plan, you’ll want to group like items together. This makes it easier to find items. For example, a kitchen supply warehouse may want to create an area specific for cookware and bakeware, another area for small appliances, one for knives and cutlery, and yet another for dinnerware, among others.
Within this grouping of items, you may also want to apply the 80-20 rule. This is where you create a space within your warehouse for the items that comprise the top 20% of sales for 80% of your orders, so they are more easily picked. It might take a bit of work upfront, but this warehouse within a warehouse can drastically increase picker productivity. It is important that this area is able to accommodate high levels of traffic, since it is going to see the most usage.
Select Storage and Shelving Solutions
Next, you’ll want to select shelving and storage solutions that will suit your needs. Focus on quality and quantity. You want to have enough storage space that is going to last. Pallet racking systems are the preferred choice as they are incredibly durable and safe, and allow you to make the most use of your vertical space. Warehouse racks are the go-to choice for the foundation of warehouse organization, but there are several different types of warehouse racking to choose from including:
- Drive-in or drive-thru racking
- Flow-through racking
- Push back shelving
- Cantilever racks
The best choice, of course, depends on the nature of your operation, the size and volume of products that flow through your facility, and other considerations. You’ll also want to consider shipping containers, storage bins, and even coolers and freezers if you’re handling temperature-sensitive inventory. Once your shelving is installed and organized in a way that promotes safety and a good traffic flow, label all shelves and areas according to your plan.
Label Racks, Shelves, Containers, and Other Warehouse Organization Assets
Before placing anything in the warehouse, label everything: warehouse racks, shelves, docks, everything. Warehouse label solutions are designed specifically to meet the unique needs of the warehouse, offering customized options ranging from long-range retroreflective labels to cold storage labels, hanging warehouse signs, multi-level rack labels, and outdoor dock and door signs that can withstand the elements. By choosing the right label solution, your warehouse will be easier to navigate, picking and packing will be streamlined, and organizational efficiency will get a boost overall.
Investing in a comprehensive warehouse label solution is an investment that pays off in spades through better inventory control, improved productivity, warehouse optimization, and more. It is much faster and simpler to look for a barcode, SKU, or other number system to find the right items than navigating through dozens of aisles to find the right section, the right shelf, and the right product.
Maximize Space Utilization
When stocking your warehouse, it is important to make the most of all the space you have, and this includes optimizing your use of vertical space as well. Stacking items or using stacked shelving not only maximizes the space, but also helps create a cleaner, more organized warehouse.
Putting less frequently-purchased items higher up, in narrow aisles, or in the harder-to-access areas of your warehouse can help maximize both space and productivity, making the fastest-moving items easiest to access and in close proximity to the loading dock. Product size and weight will also be a major determining factor in how you choose to organize your warehouse.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Keep your warehouse organized by scheduling frequent cleanings and by ensuring that aisles are kept clear of items. You should be able to walk through any part of the warehouse at almost any time without obstacle. Having policies and procedures in place for incoming and shipping inventory will help to ensure that your warehouse is kept organized, and that inventory is accurately accounted for.
Conduct Periodic Audits and Reviews
Finally, you’ll also want to periodically review your inventory management and warehouse organization systems for efficiency. This includes everything from the type of storage containers and shelving systems in use, to the way items are grouped together. Verify that staff members have a functional flow path, identify (and remove) any obstacles, and double check your blueprints to ensure that you are maximizing your space.
It’s also a good idea to do a run through of any potential problems that may occur with your design, so that you are better able to deal with them if they arise. Most importantly, ensure that everything is up to code and safe for anyone who enters the warehouse.
There’s no sense continuing on with a process that is unsafe or isn’t working, and by making regular check-ins a priority, you can easily see which aspects of your inventory setup and processing can be improved upon. This helps boost both productivity, and your bottom line.