Every inch of floor space in a warehouse costs money. Therefore, it is essential to use the space effectively and efficiently to maximize productivity and minimize wasted time and money. Below are seven ways to optimize warehouse space utilization.
#1: Evaluate current practices and identify needs
When optimizing warehouse space, a good place to start is to look at the current layout and practices to identify gaps in the workflow caused by poor space usage. Consider factors such as inventory management, rack configuration, replenishment, work sequence, slotting methods, packing, shipping, etc. Unused space should also be noted.
It is essential to do a thorough evaluation to get a good understanding of what is working and what needs to be changed. However, this may be time-consuming and potentially costly when handled internally. It may be beneficial to hire a warehouse design consultant, like Precision Warehouse Design, for the job.
Precision Warehouse Design is a warehouse consulting group with over 225 years of combined experience in material handling and systems integration and another 20 years of experience in the manufacturing industry. The company designs and improves warehouse facilities and operations for small and medium-sized businesses. Their objective is to improve the efficiency and control of operations while saving time and money. In addition to consulting services, Precision Warehouse Design also offers equipment, software, and products to help optimize warehouse space and practices.
#2: Make use of vertical space
Vertical space is often underutilized in warehouses and distribution centers despite being a cost-effective and efficient way to add additional storage to a facility.
Expanding racking and shelving systems upward creates more space for inventory and can be done at a minimal cost by building on the current systems instead of creating new ones. However, not all vertical space is usable. When assessing vertical space, it is crucial to consider factors such as height clearance, fire code, and sprinkler systems. Vehicle capabilities and worker safety must also be considered. For example, forklifts must be able to reach the top shelving or racking levels without putting a strain on the machine or impacting the safety procedures and practices of the operator.
#3: Install a mezzanine
Mezzanines are elevated platforms that create an additional level above the warehouse floor. This new space can be used for storage, offices, inventory, production lines, etc. These systems can sometimes be expensive and permanent but are an excellent tool for optimizing warehouse space utilization.
Precision Warehouse Design offers warehouse mezzanine implementations with numerous configurations. This includes multi-level mezzanine systems with specialty add-ons such as safety gates and pick modules. These features provide flexibility and enable businesses to customize to individual needs easily.
#4: Reduce aisle widths
Aisle widths vary depending on what the area is used for. Wide aisles are often around 10 to 13 feet wide, making them well-suited for standard 48-inch pallets and larger material-handling machinery. However, if a facility is storing smaller pallets or is using smaller equipment, reducing the aisle size from five to ten feet can free up over 20 per cent of floor space.
Reducing aisle space does present some challenges that businesses must consider. First, machine handling equipment must be able to work and perform necessary maneuvers in the smaller area. Even with adequate clearance, smaller aisles can make maneuvering more challenging overall, so workers must be trained to handle that. Depending on the size, specialty reach trucks or forklifts may be necessary, which can be expensive. Smaller aisles can be a great way to create additional warehouse space, but it must be done without compromising operating efficiency.
#5: Use the correct slot sizes
Adjusting slotting solutions based on the size and sales of the item can free up space that would be otherwise wasted. For example, having a designated area with adequate space to accommodate items with high inventory levels can eliminate excess storage areas and the need for overstock storage. Correct sizing may also involve having dedicated areas for bulky or odd-shaped items, having various shaped containers available, flexible storage solutions, etc.
Cross-docking involves products being transported from the supplier to the customer. Products often make stops from the supplier to the warehouse for sorting or repackaging, but no time is spent in storage. This reduces the storage space needed to hold items at a facility. It also minimizes the time and money spent on delivery, shipping, handling, and labor.
#7: Analyze shipping and supply practices
Looking at shipping and supply practices can also provide insight into space utilization. For example, a significant factor that can impact available storage space is overstock caused by poor shipping and supply practices. One way to avoid overstocking is by looking at inventory schedules and sales. For example, if inventory levels of an item rise and fall throughout the year, ordering less inventory in a down period can avoid overstocks and the need for extra storage space. Businesses may also consider using an off-site location for inventory surplus, freeing up space for fulfillment in the main facility.
Cross-docking or dropshipping may also improve shipping and supply practices. Dropshipping is similar to cross-docking in that it eliminates the need for storage space in a warehouse. However, delivery responsibilities fall entirely on the supplier; the drop-shipping company simply facilitates the sale.