Fulfillment is an important part of many businesses’ operations—especially if your business is a wholesaler or operating mostly online. Even if your business is a customer-facing brick and mortar store, warehouses are sometimes necessary for keeping overstock. In this guide, we’re going to cover the absolute basics of warehouse setup that anyone who’s just acquired (or is looking at acquiring) a warehouse will need to know. First things first:
How Much Space Do You Need?
Generally when we think of warehouses, we think of massive buildings with high ceilings and concrete floors, but that isn’t always the case. A warehouse is just somewhere you can store product and move it in and out of. How much space you need for your warehouse is going depend on a few factors:
- Amount of product you need to hold
- Size of your products/boxes
- Size of shipments coming in
- Number of staff required
- Building code requirements
The main thing to worry about is maximizing whatever space you have. In an article for Canada Post, fulfillment expert David Kang put it this way: “You’re not paying for the parking lot, so put the garbage and recycling outside…use the space to house inventory that creates value.”
Planning For The Space
Whether you hire a designer or do it yourself (DIY), either way you’ll want to get some of the ideas you have on paper. Once you know how big you need your warehouse to be (i.e. how many square feet) use graph or design paper and pick a dimension (e.g. one square = one square foot) to abide by. This will help you sketch the objects you need on the paper proportionally and give you a good idea of how your warehouse will look in real life.
Layout & Productivity
While your first thought might just be to organize your overstock space or fill your warehouse full of products—the way you plan your warehouse layout can directly affect productivity and needs to be taken into account.
For example, if you place shelves too close to one another to make it difficult or unsafe for employees to move in and out, or if you stack your most popular products furthest from the shipping bay, you’re likely going to notice some inefficiencies. Try and keep this in mind when drawing up your plans.
There are two main types of warehouse layouts: static and mobile, and either could be right for your business depending on what you are shipping and receiving or how you ship and receive products. Let’s go ahead and look at the differences between these two types of plans.
Static Warehouse Layout
A static layout is essentially where nothing in your warehouse moves; which means having permanent (fixed) shelving as opposed to mobile.
Mobile Warehouse Layout
A mobile warehouse layout allows for movement. Your shelves in this case would be on wheels, allowing them to be rolled anywhere and locked in place or else easily disassembled and moved. A mobile layout gives you the ability to expand or contract the space between shelves or even completely rearrange your warehouse should the need arise.
What Is A Staging Area?
Staging is a space where you can offload items temporarily onto the floor before sorting them out into your shelving units. Every warehouse’s staging area is going to be different, based on the amount of shipping and receiving that takes place and the general size of the items being processed by the warehouse, but the key thing to remember when you are making your warehouse plan is not to stuff the entire place with shelving, but to keep a large enough area clear near the doors for staging.
Do I Need A Warehouse Office?
An office may not always be critical for your warehouse depending on the size of your operation and perhaps the number of people working there. In general, however, a warehouse office is a good idea to plan for. This gives whoever is managing the operations of the warehouse somewhere to work. You’ll likely need a computer and someone to operate it for managing inventory, employee schedules and the like.
A warehouse office doesn’t need to be extravagant or large, and you want to keep as much space as possible for activities associated with your product. Generally, a small 10’ x 10’ or 12’ x 12’ office should suffice. Now, you might want to make your office as small as possible, but you’ll want to ensure you are at least meeting the minimum square footage required by law.
With these few tips, we believe you’ll be able to thoughtfully consider your warehouse layout before committing to a design on paper. Just remember to consider the purpose of the building when planning every aspect of your layout and prioritize your space based on your company’s needs. Now all that’s left to do is design your floor plan and go for it—you’ll have an efficient warehouse up and running in no time.