A materials handling guide to maximise warehouse space
Globally there is a trend towards larger warehouses, this has meant the average sized unit in the UK has increased from 217,000 sq ft in 2015 to 340,000 sq ft in 2020.
If you view warehouse space as a commodity then it’s a very expensive one. As warehouse professionals, you know that making the best use of your available space and managing it effectively will not only determine the efficiency of your operation but will also reduce overheads and increase productivity.
Taking time, therefore, to understand and thoroughly analyse your needs upfront to ensure that you don’t overlook important issues is vital. There are a number of areas to be addressed, from storage options and the layout of aisles to production or processing workflows and the best use of materials handling equipment.
How to use warehouse space effectively
To make the most of the warehouse area at your disposal it is important to think vertically as well as horizontally to take advantage of every available cubic foot of space.
As the average height of warehouse eaves has increased dramatically (nearly 30%) over the last five years rising from 11m to 14m, it’s all the more reason to look up and make the most of accessible height.
Where ceiling height is limited, consider the addition of a mezzanine floor; this versatile structure provides cost-effective additional storage or work processing areas.
Accurately forecast warehouse space requirements
Consider your inventory needs now and think about future growth and room for expansion. To prevent overstocking or obsolescence, accurately forecast inventory turnover by product and category, including seasonal peak trends.
There are many modern software options to help you to effectively forecast and manage your inventory.
Warehouse space optimisation
Once you are clear about the type and amount of products you will be storing it is time optimise your warehouse layout by creating a floor plan. Depending on whether you are in ecommerce, product assembly or simply product storage and retrieval, your unique business needs will dictate how you use your warehouse space.
Storage – use the right size and type of storage equipment for the products you are holding and arrange the layout of shelving and pallet racking to reduce warehouse operative travel time. Establish storage areas in strategic positions, for example, placing fast moving items closest to picking, processing and shipping whilst slower moving product or overstocks can be positioned on higher racking or shelving.
Aisle pattern and rack configuration – match the width of your aisles to the most appropriate materials handling equipment for operational efficiency and to allow the safe movement of trucks.
Processing/production – check how much processing space will be needed for the tasks that will be performed in your facility. Mock up key workflow and production processing allowing ample surrounding space in your workflow design.
Receiving and shipping – if space is particularly tight, receiving and shipping dock doors can be combined.
Prediction of traffic patterns – once you have considered appropriate areas for receiving, storage, processing and shipping it will be straightforward to accurately predict traffic flow within the warehouse.
Materials handling equipment for warehouse space utilisation
There is an abundance of automated materials handling equipment to efficiently transport stock and materials around your warehouse and help you to utilise your available space.
Introducing automation into the warehouse reduces the cost of manual handling, increases productivity and improves accuracy.
As the correct selection of materials handling equipment will be key to the efficiency of your operation, enlist professional external help to guide you in your selection. Initial advice from a reputable materials handling supplier such as Axiom GB is free and can prove to be invaluable.
Conveyors – a vital part of any warehouse operation that needs to move high volumes of product around safely and efficiently. Suitable for a wide range of applications, Axiom’s conveyors, designed and built in the UK, are reliable, energy-efficient and low maintenance.
Packing systems – in high demand due to the huge increase in internet shopping and the knock-on requirement for packaged products. Automating the pick and pack process minimises the footprint of this operation whilst reducing costs, improving sustainability and increasing service levels.
Sortation solutions – provide an accurate and speedy alternative to manually sorting and handling product. Investing in a sortation system is a proven way to increase throughput and improve accuracy. Axiom’s latest sorter has a particularly compact footprint, 75% less than most similar sorters on the market.
Automated guided vehicles – autonomous robots that can be used to move and transport goods in warehouses. Various navigation techniques can be used to guide the robots including lasers, floor markers, magnets or wires in the warehouse floor.
Industrial trucks – powered trucks including dollies, forklift and narrow aisle trucks are essential for moving heavy goods around the warehouse.
Maximise warehouse capacity
It doesn’t matter whether your warehouse is a large or a small facility, to keep costs down and productivity up it is essential to maximise warehouse capacity.
Taking sufficient time to accurately plan your warehouse design, space utilisation and materials handling options will result in an efficient and productive space.