Emerging Technologies that Warehouse Design Consultants are Leaning On
Warehouse design is a complicated process: That’s why a lot of facility owners decide to work with a warehouse design consultant or systems integrator to bring the project to fruition. From Discovery & Analysis to Design to Implementation to ongoing Lifecycle Support, there are a lot of steps and moving parts that need to be coordinated if a system is going to be brought online successfully, on time, and on budget.
Traditionally, much of the benefit that integrators can bring to the table has come from them leveraging years or decades of experience working on design builds and implementations across industries and verticals where they have performed the work of warehouse design consultants for their clients. By reflecting on past projects and fully understanding your unique needs and challenges, a warehouse design consultant is able to envision and create a system unique to your needs.
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The importance of this experience can not be understated. That being said, new technologies are entering the market that are really changing the way that systems integrators and warehouse design consultants work—in many cases allowing for more sophisticated understanding and planning before a project takes off, ensuring success before the first conveyor is put in place.
Below are two emerging technologies that warehouse design consultants are already leaning on, and which will only become more important as time goes on.
Before any project can begin, it is crucial for a warehouse design consultant to understand the space that will be required for your operation to run effectively. Whether you are building a brand new DC or facility or are upgrading an existing facility with new systems, you must have a firm grasp of space requirements.
In the case of building a brand new facility, accurately forecasting the amount of space that will be required for your operation will allow you to purchase just enough land to accommodate your current and future needs.
This means that you will not purchase more land than is necessary, or build a larger facility than is necessary, which will reduce your upfront costs (the actual costs of buying the property and building the facility). Having a smaller—but more efficient—facility will also reduce your long-term costs in terms of overhead such as property taxes and the cost of heating, cooling, lighting, and ventilating a larger facility.
Similarly, if you are retrofitting an existing facility, accurately modeling what the existing space can support will be key to squeezing the most efficiency out of your operation.
More and more often, warehouse design consultants and systems integrators are relying on modeling softwares to get an accurate picture before beginning work. As these software tools continue to get better and more accurate with time, consultants will be able to further increase efficiency and reduce wasted space in facilities.
Once a warehouse design consultant has a firm understanding of the space requirements for your facility, their primary goal will be to make your space as efficient as possible. This is largely accomplished by indicating where certain inventory is placed within the facility itself.
Why is this important? Where inventory is placed, and how it is organized, can go a long way in either hindering or propelling your workflow.
Really, this boils down to a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, inventory storage must be logical, so that it is easy for a worker to find a SKU while he is picking an order. If product storage is not logical, then your employees will waste time each and every time they pick an order. Even if the confusion adds only a minute’s worth of time to each order picked, that could translate into hundreds of hours of wasted efficiency over the course of a year. It’s easy to understand why proper organization is critical.
Beyond simply applying a logic to storage, though, a skilled warehouse design consultant will look at a number of factors—such as demand, the amount of inventory on hand, how fast that inventory turns, and other variables such as SKU affinity, among other considerations when determining the best way for inventory to be stored in your facility.
Product affinity, for example, describes the likelihood that certain items will be shipped together. If you have a range of SKUs with high product affinity (say, for example, toothbrushes and toothpaste) then it makes sense to store them near each other, as 9 times out of 10, when one is ordered, the other will be as well. Understanding the relationship between various items and SKUs in this way will allow you to lay out your facility on a way that increases efficiency, allowing your workforce to pick more orders faster, and boosting your bottom line.
Just as with modeling software, warehouse design consultants use simulation tools to run simulations of your facility. In doing this, they can understand how the placement of certain SKUs in certain locations around your facility impact the overall workflow, ultimately allowing for a setup that will enable your workforce and facility to operate at its highest efficiency. Additionally, throughput constraints can be uncovered before implementing the system so that necessary changes can be made prior to the implementation of the system.
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Though it might sound as if these software tools are doing all of the work, the reality of the situation is that it still takes a lot of skill to understand the different inputs and outputs so that outcomes can be adjusted to meet your operational goals.
These new technologies are game changers in that they allow your warehouse design consultant to be more efficient themselves while modeling your facility. This ultimately allows your integrator to spend their time where it is most valuable: Leveraging their experience and expertise crafting world-class solutions for you, instead of running calculations.