Optimizing Warehouse Storage Space
Inventory in. Orders out. It’s the heartbeat of your business. The efficiency with which you get those products in and out affects the pulse of your operations as well as your bottom line. If your company is selling from stock on hand, the warehouse storage and handling of those products are your lifeline to streamlined operations and ultimately great customer service.
When it comes to fulfilling customer orders, the most basic information you need to know is first, do you have the items needed; and second, where are they? A warehouse storage system that is optimized to best suit your business will allow your entire team to easily answer those questions. Let’s look at a few key factors to making the most out of your storage.
The Floor Plan
A good floor plan starts with an honest assessment of your needs and restrictions. An ideal space will allow for growth or market changes without overpaying for empty space. Use your space wisely and judiciously. Elements to consider include:
- Travel time within the facility. Keep your most requested items where they are easily accessible. This helps not only with picking but also for ongoing inventory management.
- Optimize the aisle space. Make sure there is enough room for personnel, carts, lifts, or any other equipment needed to negotiate storage or picking.
- Receiving zones should provide ample room for unpacking, sorting, and quality control.
- Set up zones for similar-use items that are likely ordered together. This eliminates the need for pickers to travel throughout the warehouse for commonly paired items.
- Understand your market and consider if your inventory will experience known surges such as a holiday or seasonal inventory which would require an adjustment to the layout.
- Place your quality control station nearest to the packaging station. This allows for final inspection before items get shipped off to the customer.
You won’t find it if you can’t see it.
- Signage and visual cues such as color-coded zones will help your team navigate your storage area. This can be particularly effective when new or additional staff are integrated into the fulfillment process.
- Labels on bins and picking slots should detail exact product details so that no errors are made in picking.
- Barcode systems can follow items from the receipt of an order to picking to quality control to ensure that orders are processed correctly the first time. This eliminates the need for returns and ensures good customer service. A few extra seconds to double-check at the time of picking can save a lot of headaches down the line.
Flexibility and Growth
Like most things, change is constant. Market fluctuations, industry trends, and consumer needs all have the potential to change your business workflow. Meeting new demands may require a change to your warehouse storage, either temporary or long-term. Consider recent global changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that regularly carried a small but steady inventory of facemasks or paper products likely witnessed a critical surge in demand and certainly had to revamp their warehouse storage capacity and workflow in order to accommodate. Optimize your system by ensuring that:
- Rack and storage shelving can be revamped to take on a larger or smaller footprint, as needed
- Bin and container space is consistent with product size
The most effective warehouse storage systems allow your entire team to access inventory levels, customer order data, and shipment details through an integrated computer system. However, the human element still remains, requiring thought and consideration into planning and laying out the optimal storage for your products. As the old saying goes: A place for everything and everything in its place. But you’d better make sure everyone can find that place.