An organized warehouse streamlines the entire process of controlling inventory and doing business. There are right ways and wrong ways to organize a warehouse, though. Read on to find out about one easy-to-follow, eight-step plan for warehouse organization that produces real results.
Start With a Clean Slate
Warehouse owners who have only recently purchased or rented their spaces should try to start with a clean slate. This may mean moving industrial equipment out of the warehouse, rearranging shelves and scaffolding, or otherwise preparing the site to be repurposed. Warehouse owners who plan to convert used factory space can visit aamachinery.com to find a machinery moving and heavy rigging company that can help with everything from moving to storage, asset recovery, and more.
Create a Floor Plan
Creating a floor plan lets warehouse managers get a better understanding of their space limitations and makes it easier to visualize organizational systems and prepare to tackle any obstacles that could come up. The floor plan needs to be clear enough that employees will have no problem understanding and following it to be effective. That means grouping like items together, creating designated areas for different types of inventory.
Most warehouse managers looking to improve organization in their storage spaces follow what’s known as the 80-20 rule. This means creating a designated, easily accessible space for those items that comprise 80% of the company’s orders, or its top 20% of sales. This area will need to be able to accommodate a lot of traffic since it’s where most pickers will be working.
Select the Right Storage Solutions
Warehouse managers have a few options at their disposal when it comes to expanding storage. For most facilities, pallet racking systems are a must. These systems come in several forms, including drive-thru racking, flow-through racking, push back shelving, and cantilever racks. Choosing the right one requires taking the size and volume of products into account.
When installing shelving, consider additional requirements like safe handling for temperature-sensitive inventory, the need to store smaller inventory, and the overall floor space of the facility in comparison to the anticipated volume of goods moving through it. Make sure to space the shelving far enough apart that workers can safely maneuver forklifts and other warehouse equipment in and out. Worker safety should never be compromised for the sake of increased storage capacity.
Label everything from the racks and shelves to the warehouse docks using specialized labels that will be able to withstand wear and tear. Installing hanging warehouse signs is also a good idea for larger facilities since it will make it easier for new pickers and stockers to figure out the layout of the storage space.
Warehouse labels should always feature bar codes, SKU, or a customized numbering system to help workers figure out where they are going. Provide training on how to use the system so that all warehouse personnel is able to navigate through the racks more efficiently.
Maximizing space doesn’t just mean coming up with an efficient floor plan, and it definitely doesn’t mean creating cramped aisles that are difficult for workers to navigate. Warehouse managers working with less space than they’d like should instead optimize the use of vertical space. They can do so by installing stacked shelving or just stacking large items.
Make a point of placing the most frequently purchased items on the lower shelves in wide aisles where they are easier to reach. Less popular items can be placed in narrower aisles or higher up. Of course, managers can’t prioritize product popularity over package size and weight, but they can use it to help them inform their organizational goals.
Provide Ample Training
Once the warehouse has been organized, make sure each employee understands the new system. It may take a while for everyone to get on the same page, but the best way to encourage workers to keep the spaces clean and organized is to explain to them exactly how the system works. If warehouse managers have done a good job coming up with a floor plan and figuring out where to place different types of inventory, workers should have no problem keeping up once they understand what’s been changed.
Part of all workers’ education should involve telling them about new policies and procedures for incoming and shipping inventory. If they know where new inventory comes in, where to place products for shipping, and how these aspects of the operation will be organized, it will allow pickers and stockers to work more efficiently.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Frequent cleanings and organizational maintenance help to ensure that inventory and other items don’t wind up cluttering the aisles. Workers should be able to navigate through any part of the warehouse without worrying about encountering obstacles that are difficult to pass. No organizational system for inventory management will be effective if it isn’t maintained.
Conduct Periodic Audits
Warehouse managers should periodically review their inventory control strategies and warehouse organization systems to look for potential problems. Consider whether the storage containers and shelving are serving their intended purposes, whether like items are grouped together to make them easier to find, and whether staff members are able to develop and follow functional flow paths.
It’s also wise to run through any potential design flaws during the audit to make them easier to address if they cause problems in the future. Most importantly, though, warehouse managers should use these audits as an opportunity to guarantee that the work environment is safe and up-to-code.
The Bottom Line
A well-organized warehouse will go a long way toward optimizing the storage facility’s workflow no matter what type of inventory it handles. The specific racking and shelving solutions and the details of the floor plans will vary based on each facility’s unique space requirements, operational procedures, and equipment needs, but the benefits will be the same. Workers will be safer and more productive, warehouse managers won’t have to worry about potential safety violations, and customers will get their goods faster, so in the end, everybody wins.