Many people still think of warehouses as old, rundown places where goods are dumped. The reality, however, is that the warehouse environment is transforming and developing every day. You’ll still see forklifts and conveyors—but these days, they’re accompanied by AI, software, and automated systems.
Technological advancements have not only helped improve warehouse processes, they’ve also made warehousing so much more cost-effective for many businesses. In aspects such as inventory management, order returns, and collaboration, technology has undoubtedly made its mark. The same is also true for warehouse design and layout planning.
Here are some of the ways technology has helped improve warehouse layouts:
- Create Virtual Models And Simulations
Design software and applications can help you create virtual models for your warehouse. Simulation modeling is a low-cost way to determine and maximize freight traffic flow, floor space, and staff level requirements. These are highly intuitive tools that can help ensure a good balance between design and performance.
For instance, Spatial’s 3D mesh software allows warehouse managers and business owners to generate precise surface meshing in 3D to reduce development time and automate workflows. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can help with creating a comprehensive and interactive layout or experimenting with changes to the existing design—without having to shut down operations to test new workflows.
- Improve Space Efficiency
A lot of warehouse managers make the mistake of stuffing as much inventory as they can into the facility’s meager square footage. Most of the time, however, this results in a significant reduction in efficiency. Remember, space efficiency is just as important as storing as much inventory as possible. Aside from the floor space, you’ll also have to consider installation capacity, shelving, and pallet design, and workstation placement.
A warehouse management software can help you optimize your layout and maximize product storage. It can also identify bottlenecks that are preventing you from meeting service requirements at a low cost. More importantly, this software can help you determine and visualize the full potential of the facility, instead of settling for changes that can only incrementally improve the existing layout.
- Boost Inventory Visibility
The layout and organization of your warehouse determines how well inventory is stored and retrieved for packaging and shipment. Ideally, your layout should meet your business’s needs and operational requirements. For example, if certain items are typically ordered and shipped together, then they must be stored close to each other. If you find it more efficient to use a numerical system, then stick to that.
Technology can reduce the number of steps your workers would take around your facility to pick orders for packaging and shipment. Barcode scanners, sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID), and mobile apps can help your workers keep track of their picklist as well as the customers’ shipping information.
- Streamline Flow Of Products, Equipment, And Personnel
Your warehouse’s layout should be strategically planned to ensure the unimpeded flow of products, equipment, and workers. Make sure each operation flows in a sequential and streamlined manner. Minimize obstacles, workflow disruptions, and inefficient routes. Workers should have easy access to all the areas and products inside the facility.
There are various tools that can help with streamlining warehouse workflows, including:
- Voice technology enables workers to assess inventory, receive shipments, and select orders through verbal instructions. This frees up their hands for other tasks and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
- Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) like driverless forklifts and drones can help with physical tasks such as picking pallets or packaging. They’re less prone to error and move faster than humans, so you can significantly reduce your labor costs.
- Automated conveyor belts can also help with limiting your labor costs. They can provide your facility with a highly flexible product handling solution, while also reducing the risks of on-site accidents.
- Automated guided vehicles can help you ramp up your warehouse’s retrieval and storage processes. They’ve been around for quite some time already and have already proven to be safer and more profitable than manual labor.
Cutting down your reliance on manpower and increasing your investment in technology also means reducing your carbon footprint. Using smart technology often leads to green processes. You’ll also spend less on lighting, HVAC systems, and other resources that are necessary to keep your workers safe and comfortable.
Improving your warehouse’s layout is now more efficient and cost-effective due to the advancements in warehousing technology. You have access to tools, equipment, and systems that can optimize warehouse design, space, flow, accessibility, and labor. Just make sure that you’re investing in the technology that addresses your business’s unique needs and processes.