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Top tips for optimising warehouse space
Logistics firms, fulfilment houses and businesses operating their own facilities should be continually studying warehouse capacity to assess how space can be best utilised. Optimising the flow of goods in and out, while at the same time making the best use of rack space, is essential for profitability and success.
Everything from stacking height, column spacing, and aisle widths to building impediments, rack configuration and pallet sizes are studied to assess warehouse space and optimise process flow. Every fine detail is considered so that goods can be checked in, stored, and shipped out safely and efficiently while tightly managing inventory control for optimum capacity.
Optimising warehouse space is a fine art and a significant factor in business profitability. Here we share our top tips for warehouse space optimisation, as well as discussing the benefits of nestable plastic pallets and folding containers within the supply chain.
Why should you keep a warehouse organised?
A tidy warehouse has many benefits. It’s safer, but also, a well-ordered warehouse saves time and money and boosts productivity. On the other hand, a cluttered and disorganised warehouse hinders the efficiency of workers and poses safety risks.
Organised warehouse storage offers four key advantages:
Warehouses are naturally dangerous environments. With heavy loads constantly being moved around, a lot could go wrong. Slips, trips and falls are common in warehouses, and hazards, such as spills, discarded boxes and broken pallets, frequently cause injury. In a cluttered and disorganised warehouse, accident risk increases significantly.
2. Space optimisation and capacity planning
Optimising warehouse space brings more value to the business and prevents unnecessary overflow costs like using third-party storage, additional trailers, or renting space in another warehouse.
The capacity conundrum in warehousing is often a difficult one to get right. How do you ensure a warehouse has space for growth? You don’t want to outgrow it too fast, but neither do you want to underutilise it and end up paying for more than you need.
Logistics experts constantly try to predict future pain points in warehouse capacity using past data, but the unexpected sometimes happens. With a highly organised warehouse, you can keep closer tabs on space, to help you plan better for unpredictable situations, such as staff shortages or extreme weather events.
3. Staff satisfaction and productivity
Managing inventory in a cluttered and disorganised warehouse is a logistical nightmare and frustrating for staff who face additional duties to get through everyday tasks. A tidy and well-organised warehouse makes the best use of space and ensures the checking-in and shipping-out of goods runs much more smoothly. Staff are more productive and happier when navigating and accomplishing tasks is quicker and easier.
4. Save time and money
Accuracy and efficiency are central to the smooth flow of goods in and out of a warehouse. With everything neat and in its proper place, keeping tabs on stock is much easier and saves heaps of staff time on laborious inventory checks. In a properly structured warehouse, employees can work smarter, and space blocking with excess stock or unwanted duplicate orders is avoided. Your business is much more efficient and profitable when you know where everything is.
How to organise a warehouse
One of the most significant considerations for logistics firms and fulfilment houses is optimising warehouse space. Just like the cogs of a well-oiled machine, the warehouse organisation structure must be fine-tuned for logistics to run like a dream.
Follow these crucial steps on layout, inventory management and maintenance to improve organisation and space utilisation.
Step 1. Create a floor plan
The most organised warehouse starts with a detailed floor plan. This will help you to plot flow and spot bottlenecks. For example, you may see from your floor plan that staff must walk back and forth a lot. Once you know this, you can reorganise stock to improve workflow and save staff time. Flow should be set up in order of operations and considered carefully to create a safe environment. For more information on health and safety in the warehouse, read our detailed blog.
Step 2. Create a master warehouse organisational structure
Building on the floor plan, you need to determine what to do with warehouse space and decide how to organise each item category. Placement should be carefully planned to ensure everything gets checked in, put away, picked, shipped out and replenished optimally.
Step 3. Plan vertically
As well as considering the horizontal spacing of your warehouse, you need to plan vertically, as how you stack items matters. You need to determine the most efficient way to organise inventory for replenishment and picking. A pallet racking system maximises the use of the vertical space available. Pallet racks can be adjusted to fit your warehouse heights, the types of products you stock and even the types of pallets you use.
Step 4: Review the types of pallets and packing boxes you use
Pallets and packing boxes play an essential role in warehouses, so choosing the right type of pallet is important. Several factors must be considered, including size, weight capacity, material, equipment compatibility, price, and sustainability.
Plastic pallets are becoming the most sought-after option. They come in various types and sizes, including (just a few!) heavy duty pallets, full perimeter pallets, display pallets, hygienic pallets and nestable pallets. Many are available in both recycled and virgin materials.
Step 5: Provide maps and keep labels and signage up to date
Signage and labels must be reviewed frequently to ensure employees know where to find things. This includes inventory, work zones, potential hazards, ceiling restrictions etc. It is an essential aspect of safety and will help prevent merchandise misplacing. In addition, maps are handy for new employees.
Step 6. Inventory management
Inventory management is critical for keeping a warehouse organised. Inventory should be categorised and compartmentalised where necessary, using bins or dividers. Be clear on limitations based on what you need to store and your storage methods. For example, classify inventory on whether items are fast, medium or slow movers. Ensure your receiving process is efficient so that pallets and boxes don’t pile up. Avoid overstocking.
Step 7: Clean regularly
Whether your employees perform some cleaning tasks or you have a specialist cleaning firm, keeping your warehouse clean from dust, dirt, and rubbish prevents accidents and damage to your inventory, and keeps aisles clear. A stack of broken pallets, for example, takes up valuable space.
Step 8. Regularly review capacity and plan for future needs
It would help to consider your company’s future needs when managing warehouse space. While it’s impossible to predict the future, consider recent growth trends to determine how much vertical storage you may need in two to five years.
How to calculate warehouse space utilisation
Calculating warehouse storage space requirements needn’t be a headache, especially if the stock can be boxed and stored on stackable pallets.
Your starting point is to calculate total storage capacity:
• First, take the entire square footage of your facility.
• Then work out the square footage used for non-storage facilities, such as loading areas, bathrooms and office space.
• Subtract the non-storage space from the overall footage.
• Next, determine your storage facility’s clear height (the distance from the ground floor to an overhead object, such as lighting).
• Multiply the usable square footage by clear height to determine the facility’s total storage space.
How plastic pallets can help with warehouse organisation
The type of pallets used in a warehouse has a surprisingly significant impact on warehouse organisation and the use of space. Let’s consider an example where plastic pallets can save space compared to wooden pallets.
When racking wooden pallets, you often have to “slave” them (i.e. use two pallets – one on top of the other) to withstand the weight of the products on them. This wastes valuable space.
Slave layering isn’t necessary with plastic pallets. Plastic pallets are stronger, more resilient, can’t be chipped, and are less likely to bend, making them a more robust option in automated systems. Plastic pallets also come in various sizes, enabling you to be clever with your space organisation.
You can also improve supply chain efficiency by using nestable plastic pallets. This solution saves space on return truck journeys, as well as in the warehouse ahead of transportation. Meanwhile, using foldable pallet boxes can help to save space. For example, the CabCube 1612 can be stacked four high in a standard 40 ft curtain-side trailer, allowing a load of 64 units. Once emptied, the pallet boxes fold flat to a height of just 251mm, enabling 192 units to be transported on the return leg.
Folding large containers and sleeve packs can also save space in warehouses when not in use, but the main benefit is getting more of them on trucks for the return journey. This saves on the number of trips and is better for the environment regarding emissions.
Do you want to learn more about our range of plastic pallets and boxes? Why not book a virtual visit to our demo room! A member of our team will assist you from the comfort of your office. Alternatively, call our sales team on 01323 744057 or email us at [email protected].