5 Ways to Optimize Your Warehouse Layout
Despite the capacity warehouses and distribution centers are built with, they almost always run out of space over time. Nearly every brown field facility eventually faces increased inventory needs, growing SKU counts, acquisitions, mergers, enhanced customer service requirements and more, requiring floor space they weren’t designed for. Many floor plans don’t consider factors such as vertical space or high-density storage.
While green field projects are able to incorporate these factors into a warehouse design, previously established facilities (brown fields) don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch. In these cases, trying to keep up with advances in technology means optimizing a current warehouse layout.
The good news is, while this task can be challenging, optimizing your warehouse floor plan is feasible with the right combination of automation and space utilization. Here are six tips to help you optimize your facility’s layout, as well as how a systems integrator, like Conveyco, can help.
5 Warehouse Layout Optimization Tips
1. Utilize Your Vertical Space
One of the first things you should evaluate when optimizing your facility is how well you’re currently using your vertical space. The area above warehouse operations is often wasted, but has the potential to improve efficiency.
For example, consider implementing an overhead trolley conveyor system. This conveyor operates above heavy traffic areas, robotic cells, and other areas. It can transport corrugate, totes, parts, heavy pieces, and more. Likewise, GOH (garments on hanger) systems and pocket sorters utilize otherwise wasted overhead space. It’s important to remember that a warehouse is much more than just a floor, so be sure and make the most of all the space available to you.
2. Resolve Labor-Consuming Applications
Unfortunately, the warehouse industry is consistently experiencing huge labor shortages everywhere. Facilities aren’t able to find the staffing numbers they need to meet their business service levels. As a result, so much time is wasted in a warehouse setting by the following labor-consuming activities:
- Order Picking: Picking consumes approximately 55% of a facility’s total labor. Eliminating the need to manually walk and search for items by leveraging automation can reduce order picking labor requirements by approximately 66%.
- Case cutting and decanting: Comprising 25% of a facility’s total labor, case cutting and decanting aren’t just arduous processes, they also run the risk of injuring warehouse employees. Automation can save nearly 80% of labor related delays in this process.
- Packing: Packing accounts for 20% of a warehouse’s labor, and runs the risk of human error if automation isn’t properly leveraged. It’s easy to accidentally slip the wrong document into the wrong container. An automated shipping process can reduce this time-consuming labor by up to 55%.
Nowadays, optimizing your warehouse requires some use of automation. With the current labor shortages, automation isn’t just a convenience, but a business enabler as well. It minimizes travel time and drastically reduces labor-consuming applications.
Conveyco’s LaboRxFIT™ process is a response to these labor-consuming applications and helps facilities evaluate how to leverage automation to address labor-consuming applications.
3. Leverage WES software
Warehouse execution system (WES) software is incredibly valuable for any business operation. Horizon WES orchestrates your facility and its multiple zones to balance and allocate labor and improve equipment performance to improve efficiencies. The WES will eliminate islands of automation and create one coherent and efficient system.
To ensure successful integration, try to find software that’s built by experts with experience in logistics and dedicated to building a WES from the ground up rather than modifying existing WCS and WMS code. For example, Horizon WES generates clean bug-free code for every application rather than repurposing a past installation’s code.
Integrated emulators, drag and drop design studio, true modular design, hardware agnostic integration and other features make this WES a logical choice to improve a facility’s operating performance.
4. Optimize Your Storage
You’d be surprised at the amount of space you can save by optimizing your storage space. Incorporating an AS/RS system in your warehouse can remove the need for a human worker to operate a forklift or other machinery to retrieve storage items manually. Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs), shuttles and other forms of AS/RS require less warehouse floor space while providing high density storage and retrieval. These goods-to-person AS/RS systems can save up to 85% of your floor space while decreasing labor by 2/3.
5. Automate Your Warehouse
Automation is a must for modern warehouses to become profit centers and their companies to succeed. It truly comes down to meeting an organization’s business and return on investment (ROI) requirements. By following the RightFIT methodology, you can be assured that the correct level of automation is planned and implemented. In addition to saving time, warehouse automation can greatly improve efficiencies and helps build up, instead of out.
Many tasks historically accomplished manually can be done quicker and more accurately through automation. Furthermore, humans aren’t suited for completing repetitive tasks that require a lot of attention—this leaves room for human error. Automation speeds up these processes and streamlines them to ensure the process is error-proof.
Automation can also minimize walking time for your associates. Robots and conveyors bring goods to the workers rather than workers retrieving these items manually. This saves time in picking, put-away, and retrievals from the pick and reserve storage locations. It also helps reduce the required labor in your facility.
If automating your entire facility seems impossible, consider automating a specific zone or application within your operations. Identify the areas that are the biggest bottleneck and determine how to automate this process. Approaching automation on a zone-by-zone, long-term basis can make a difficult transition to automation far more manageable.
Warehouse Optimization Challenges
The challenge of optimizing a warehouse is largely dependent on the nature of the facility. While green field projects that optimize before construction typically have an easier time as compared to existing facilities, this isn’t a luxury most managers have. Therefore, it’s important that you’re prepared for the obstacles in changing an existing floor plan.
One of the major challenges warehouses encounter when trying to apply changes is tribal knowledge, or unwritten information that’s known only by a few people. The problem arises when these individuals leave the company, taking their knowledge with them. A benefit of WES software is that instead of being contained to a few individuals, this knowledge is built into the system itself. This means that regardless of turnover, the business won’t lose operational knowledge when employees leave the company.
Why You Should Consider a Systems Integrator
When optimizing your facility, internal barriers and mental roadblocks are incredibly difficult to overcome. This is where a trusted systems integrator like Conveyco can be incredibly valuable to your facility.
In addition to the knowledge and over 40 years of expertise we bring, we’re also able to provide new, modern ideas to your warehouse floor plans. Our team of experts can help you generate a warehouse layout design that makes the most out of your horizontal and vertical space, as well as optimize your warehouse processes.
While there are many optimization methods that work for multiple facilities, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to approaching a warehouse layout redesign. Every warehouse has unique needs based on its size and industry that must be taken into account, and our RightFIT methodology ensures that the final solution is tailored to your facility’s specific needs.
If you’re interested in finding out how we can help you find solutions to optimize your unique facility, schedule a consultation to speak with a member of our team.