Moving into a new warehouse is a huge effort. Make sure the building’s design will be right for your company, now and into the future. Here are some do’s and don’ts of warehouse design.
Know Your Inventory
Before you start your design, take a look at your current setup. How do people and products move through your warehouse? Are the movements at regular intervals, or do they happen in waves? Are traffic jams ever a problem? What aspects of the layout of your current warehouse work well, and where are things going wrong?
With this overview in hand, take the following steps:
- Carefully measure the cubic footage of your current inventory. If you’ve been using a warehouse management system (WMS), you can probably find the number there. Be sure to account for how your warehouse volume changes from season to season.
- Identify the items most in demand. You’ll want to store them in the most accessible position in the new building.
- Map out the paths employees follow to pick items from storage. Can these be simplified, so the paths cross each other less often? Painting designated paths on the floor can help you visualize them.
For companies that ship products, storage should account for 22% to 27% of the warehouse space.
Separate Different Tasks
Giving different tasks their own space makes employees’ movements safer. It also prevents items from mixing together and getting lost.
- Make storage aisles 12 to 13 feet wide. Forklifts and pallet jacks need this much space to turn without injuring employees or damaging racks and stored products.
- Choose a building shape that keeps shipping and receiving areas separate.
- Be sure to create a space between receiving and storage for verifying and logging incoming shipments.
- Between shipping and storage, make space for picking and packaging outgoing items.
Shrink wrap, cartons, and pallets tend to accumulate when things get busy and create clutter. Assign a convenient but out-of-the-way space to stash these items until your crew can dispose of them.
Know the Other Spaces You’ll Need
The building has to accommodate the people who do the receiving, shipping, and picking. Depending on the building size, the plan needs space for
- fire extinguishers
- locker rooms
- ADA (Americans Disabilities Act) accommodations, such as ramps and wider restroom stalls
Don’t discount this last point just because the building is a warehouse. For example, a disabled person might be qualified to drive a forklift. If in doubt about ADA requirements, contact the U.S. Access Board.
Keep Costs Down
Look for ways to save, but don’t skimp on the essentials. Sometimes a larger initial investment pays for itself quickly with ongoing savings.
- Choosing a metal building is a great start. Steel is lightweight, so the concrete foundation won’t cost as much. The steel for the building will typically contain a large amount of recycled steel. This is as strong and durable as new steel but at a lower price.
- Metal is great for the long term, too. It resists pests and fire. Its flexibility stands up against wind and earthquakes. Steel beams coated with red oxide spray are water resistant. Many insurers reward these features with lower rates.
- Finish the concrete floor with epoxy paint to reduce dust and cleaning costs.
- Install heat pumps, solar panels, and LED lights to reduce your monthly utility bills. Some of these items qualify for tax credits and rebates.
You can find many calculators online that will help you predict the energy savings from various products and strategies.
Plan for the Future
Don’t make the mistake one business made. Items going into its warehouse were on pallets narrow enough to fit through a regular door. But when the product mix expanded, the pallets didn’t fit anymore. Employees needed to hand-carry individual boxes into the warehouse, doubling the work involved.
Your warehouse design should meet your needs for tomorrow as well as today. As you design:
- Look ahead several years to what products and sizes you might introduce in the future.
- Is your business going to stay the same size forever? Leave yourself room to grow.
- Don’t forget your parking lot: As your company grows, you will likely need more parking spaces.
Talk to Our Design-Build Team
The Peak Steel team is happy to give you more information. Call us about the specs you need to assemble and the building options available. From day one, we’ll work with you to design and build the Georgia-based warehouse you need.
Email us at email@example.com or call us toll-free at 844-333-7325 to get started and learn more about the do’s and don’ts of warehouse design.