Realising that your business has a need for increased warehouse space can be an encouraging sign of growth but can it also throw up concerns.
How much will it cost to move to a bigger warehouse? How much disruption will it cause?
If these questions are concerns for you, you’ll be happy to know that there is a way to increase your warehouse space with less expense and upheaval than moving involves.
The key is to make more use of the warehouse space that you have already have. There are plenty of ways to assess and reconfigure your warehouse space, so that you can get the most value out of every square foot.
In this handy guide we describe the ways in which you can maximise the space of your existing warehouse facilities, and look at the essential factors to consider when starting your reconfiguration.
With careful assessment and planning, you could avoid the disruption of moving to new premises – and potentially save thousands of pounds.
1. Assess Your Current Space Utilisation
Carry out an assessment of your current warehouse to see if you are utilising its space and facilities fully. Start by measuring your warehouse space and creating a plan of your footprint. Record the current measurements and positions of your aisle widths, walls, doors and goods in and out areas.
Your warehouse space should have all possible uses factored in when assessing its potential for optimisation. These may include:
- Storage (pallet racking and shelving) areas
- Office and administrative functions
- Canteens and toilets/washrooms
- Receiving and shipping areas
- Picking and packing areas
Remember to think upwards when assessing your potential for extra space.
Take a walk around your warehouse looking for ways to exploit unused space above your existing facilities. Typically, the space above dispatch areas, picking areas and loading docks can be utilised to yield surprising amounts of extra space.
Depending on your current rack usage, warehouse space gains of between 20% and 50% can be created by simply moving a few beams and adding decking.
You can also look at decking between your back-to-back racks to utilise the empty space over the aisles.
2. Evaluate your storage means and methods
If your materials include goods of varying size, bulk or weight, assess whether they are being stored using the most space-effective methods and areas available. Alternative methods that save space whilst retaining picking requirements and flow patterns often become apparent after an in-depth evaluation of your current warehouse layout.
If sales demand and flow-through patterns are shifting over time it may be that the shape and working method of the inventory you are holding also needs to evolve accordingly. Whilst retaining your original storage plan may be tempting, revisiting and adjusting your inventory can be a rewarding process that saves you time, space and expense.
Narrow aisles and double deep racking, as well as an improved inventory management plan and goods flow systems, are all further ways in which additional percentage gains can be made in space utilisation.
3. Install a Mezzanine Floor
One solution for warehouses with low clearance operations, or where racking is unlikely to extend to the full warehouse footprint, is to add a mezzanine structure. Mezzanine installation can easily double the available floor space. This could provide you with vital extra room for areas such as hand packing, storage, administrative offices, or specialist services.
Conveyors, stairs and lifts can easily be installed to link the mezzanine space with floor space, creating a highly functional and efficient answer that can add years of life to a warehouse otherwise considered too small to meet the growing space needs of your business.
4. Factor in your current vs future warehouse space requirements
Future-proofing is an essential factor when assessing your warehouse’s potential for reconfiguration. Detailed forecasting that considers your expected future growth, stock profiles, economic growth and access requirements are key factors to consider before any re-planning of your warehouse space can begin.
For long term value, your warehouse space should be readily adaptable for future developments and changes.
Whether your future needs may include new server rooms, computerised systems and office space, or just extra storage areas, loading facilities and accommodation for vans/lorries – all possibilities should be considered carefully.
5. Determine the functional layout of your warehouse
Your warehouse layout needs to make the best use of available space, while also allowing for practical and safe access for warehouse personnel and forklift trucks.
With any expansion or redesign, the height and depth of storage bays should be appropriately planned with existing roof height and a mezzanine requirement in mind – although most mezzanine floor suppliers should be adaptable enough to work around your existing space.
6. Plan your warehouse process flow
Your warehouse operations should flow smoothly from the goods in area through storage, processing, packing, despatch and palletising to the shipping out area.
Receiving and shipping operations should ideally be kept separate and integrated into the internal process flow of goods through the warehouse. Aisle widths (bays and internal), other office / storage areas and external spaces close to the receiving and shipping areas must allow for vehicles to be manoeuvred easily and safely without hindrance from internal structures.
It’s important to realise that any physical space saving is going to be limited by the efficiency level of the warehouse/inventory management systems, storage plans and logistical review systems that you have in place.
Constant joined-up thinking between the ‘front-end’ of the business – such as the sales and marketing teams’ forecasting of sales levels – and future product demand profiles are all vital in ensuring that your warehouse functions at full capacity.
7. Include the comfort factor
Warehouse staff working in an appropriately lit, temperature-regulated environment that has been designed with their needs in mind are likely to be productive and efficient workers.
Plan your lighting, heating, ventilation and noise protection around your budget and functional requirements, but make sure that comfortable and pleasant working conditions – as well as ensuring that comfortable staff canteens and toilets – are worked into the design where possible.
8. Factor in sustainability and environmental considerations
Increasingly, energy efficiency is high on the agenda of environmentally-aware companies and this is reflected in the choice of roof and wall materials, combinations of natural and electric light and temperature control.
Installing renewable energy can not only boost your company’s environmental credentials but is increasingly proving to be a financially astute move to consider for your business.
9. Essential warehouse Health & Safety issues
All your warehouse design or refitting plans must comply with Health & Safety legislation. If you are unsure about your Health and Safety legislation compliance, consulting with appropriately qualified professionals will ensure that this legislation is met.
10. Get help!
Warehouse redesign can be made simple when delivered by experienced, reputable professionals with a proven record in their field. A specialist warehouse design or consulting firm can help you visualise your ideal warehouse plan and ensure you get the most value out of your existing space.
Acorn Warehouse Solutions
Acorn Warehouse Solutions can assist with all your warehouse redesign, repurposing and refit requirements, including designing, planning and installing your solution to include a new mezzanine floor.
Contact Acorn on 01799 588549 for an initial discussion about your warehouse redesign requirements.