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How the Coronavirus Changed Warehouse Management and Design

COVID-19 seemed to have come out of nowhere. In fact, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, warehouses were pressed to keep workers safe. They needed to stay open, but they needed to do it safely. In the beginning, no one knew how hard this pandemic would hit, but there was time to learn what worked and what didn’t work and warehouses are now better able to design a system that keeps inventory flowing and workers safe.

Warehouses across the country, including KACO Warehouse in Arizona, have had to rethink their business models to stop COVID-19 from spreading in the workplace. For example, warehouses have altered their design to accommodate social distancing. Without these measures, warehouses would not be able to stay open. Other ways warehouses are staying safe is by mask-wearing, temperature checks, and taking a fresh look at sick leave policies. This safety issue has been going on since March and since then, warehouses have implemented a number of safety precautions, one of which is rigorously cleaning tractors and forklifts, something that will likely continue once the pandemic is gone.

When it comes to redesigning warehouse space, it is all about how the workers navigate the warehouse and maintain six feet of social distancing while they’re working or on break and technology is helping. There are algorithms that know when employees are maintaining social distancing in warehouse aisles, along with cameras that are linked to a central hub. This technology is not there to spy on workers but to use algorithms to create safe routes for workers to follow when storing or accessing inventory. This technology goes so far to know when an employee is not working up to their capacity, which could be a sign they’re sick.

All of this came at a time when e-commerce began to skyrocket and that’s even before the holidays hit. With people in lockdown and not out shopping, we saw a huge spike in demand in 2020. In order to keep up with this demand, warehouses needed to implement safety measures and quickly. E-commerce sales before 2020 even ended jumped from 80 million to over 200 million. And the trend is not slowly down. Purchasing online is now the first option for many people locked down and needing supplies.

With no sign of the pandemic slowing down, the new safety measures implemented in warehouses across the country will remain for the unforeseeable future. There’s no reason to scrap them anytime soon. For most warehouses across the country, these new business models have worked. Consumers have no idea what has had to go on behind the scenes to make sure they received their delivery. Warehouses have had to make a lot of changes to stay in business, but it has certainly been worth it both for the companies and or consumers.

 

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Dynamic vs. Static Storage

When planning the warehouse design of your facility, it’s important to take the time to determine the best layout. The warehouse design plays a critical role in operations. It can mean the difference between profit and loss. You want the design to be conducive to improving productivity and efficiency. You may even want to consider using a professional to assist you in the planning of your warehouse design. Distribution and warehouse center layouts include four elements: static storage, dynamic storage, receiving and shipping. Typically, these elements are laid out according to the space of the facility. Handling equipment and product are also considered in the layout of a warehouse.

The static storage space in a warehouse is where products are stored. And products are generally stored on pallets. The dynamic storage area is called the “forward pick.” That’s because this is the area where products are picked for fulfillment. Once items in the dynamic storage area are selected, they are quickly replenished.  Several factors of the dynamic storage area often include different types of racking to lessen overall pick time. It’s also called the pick module. The pick module is designed o the material handling equipment. For example, first-out pallet storage may be accessed by forklifts. Within this configuration, a selective rack may be included.

Also known as the reserve storage area, the static area is used to reserve palletized storage. For products that need higher selectivity, a drive-through rack may be a good option.

It’s important to take into consideration both static storage and dynamic storage when planning the layout of your warehouse. And the through-flow needs to also be considered. U-shaped warehouses are very common/ In this layout, receiving and shipping docks are right next to each other. I-shaped and L-shaped warehouse product flow layouts provide larger sorting and storage areas for both receiving and shipping docks.

Racking System Types for Dynamic and Static Storage Areas

The types of racking systems that you choose for the dynamic and static storage areas will be dependent on the needs for product flow. These systems come in two groups, “first-in, first-out” and “last-in, first-out.” The racking types that you use for both the dynamic and static storage areas of the warehouse or distribution center should be chosen for your product operations. Racking systems can be separated into two groups: “first-in, first-out (FIFO)” and “last-in, first-out (LIFO)”. The FIFO rack system works well when rapid stock rotation, high turnover rate and products with an expiration date are used. For example, food storage would require FIFO racking systems. Options of this racking system include pallet flow, drive-through, carton flow and selective. LIFO racking systems work well for an inventory that has a long shelf life. It also works well for items stored in large quantities. Options of this racking system include push back, double-deep selective and drive-in.

image of designed warehouse

The Reasons to Hire a Professional Warehouse Designer

Even though you may think you can design your own warehouse, there are many good reasons to use a professional warehouse designer instead. It’s unusual for anyone to who’s not a professional to have all the skills and knowledge to do this. Let’s take a look at the reasons why using a professional warehouse designer is a better option.

Maxing Efficiency

Efficiency is a critical factor in warehouse design. The better the efficiency of your warehouse design, the better the revenue. Designing a warehouse is not a one-size-fits-all task. No two facilities are the same. The layout of a warehouse design will affect efficiency. Everything from equipment to type of storage systems plays a role in warehouse design. A design professional can analyze the unique and specific needs of your warehouse to develop the best storage system for both vertical and horizontal space that is available in your warehouse. Plus, a warehouse designer professional will determine the best rack systems and equipment to use in your warehouse. The end result is that you get the best plan to maximize space for efficiency.

The Latest Technology

Professional warehouse designers use the latest technology to yield efficient handling, operational flexibility and maximum product storage. In addition, they can advise you of the latest software and technologies to optimize loading, reduce handling, ramp up communication, streamline picking processes and optimize shipping.

A Current Operational Assessment

There’s more to warehouse design than just planning for space. It entails a deep analysis of your current operations along with a plan for future growth. An experienced warehouse designer will consider the current growth rate of your facility and plan for expansion and overstock storage.

Sustainable Design Initiative

With a professional warehouse designer, you’ll get an environmentally sustainable design. This will help the environment and also save you money in the long run. Design professionals can help you select eco-friendly options to conserve water, reduce waste, minimize energy usage and optimize the facility for eco-friendliness.

The Right Permits

Professional warehouse designers have experience with all the permits that your facility will need. They also know how to get the job done quickly to avoid costly delays.

All around, a professional warehouse designer can make all the difference in developing a system to meet your operational challenges. With all the benefits of a professional warehouse designer, you can’t ignore the fact that it’s better to hire one than to try and do it yourself.

 

image of designed warehouse

Key Factors in Warehouse Design

When it comes to warehouse design, there are a few key factors to think about. You’ve got to think about outbound logistics, what happens in the warehouse and outbound logistics. Whether your company has one warehouse or multiple warehouses, the choice of location will influence costs, efficiency and service. If fast service is a part of your service, you’ll want to have the warehouse located close facilities of your carriers or close to where your customers are located. In addition to lead time and supply chain velocity, you’ll also need to think about the processes in the warehouse, storage, receiving and dispatch volumes. The goal is to focus on network optimization. How quick are your inventory returns? What’s the strategy for the best customer service. Also, there are physical requirements. Is your process manual or automated? And when it comes to inbound logistics, you’ve got to consider these questions. What are the lead times for incoming deliveries? Where are your supplier located? How reliable are your suppliers?

All About the FAST Concept

The FAST concept is the acronym for flow, accessibility, space and throughout. You can apply this concept to the layout of your warehouse design. The objective of FAST is to enable smooth workflows with an emphasis on warehouse location and service. It’s a tried and proven concept that you can use when designing a warehouse.

Once you know how many warehouses and their locations, then think about structural design and capacity. In order to focus on structural design and capacity, as yourself these questions.

  • What takes place in the warehouse? What are the daily operations? What areas do you need for intake, storage, packing, picking and dispatch? Where will you locate any value-added services?
  • What are the characteristics of the products? What types of products are stored? Are these products fragile or hazardous? Will you be using cartons or full pallets for storage? Are there rules and regulations for the storage of the products? Is any type of control needed in the environment, such as temperature control for frozen goods?
  • Does the season affect the storage? If volumes vary depending on the season, you’ll have to allow the proper capacity for this. Does your warehouse handle returns from customers? If it does, you’ll likely need extra space for this processing and storage.

Applying the FAST Concept to Warehouse Layout Design

Let’s begin with F for flow. Here, the concern is the uninterrupted flow of movement, including people, products and traffic. The goal here is to ensure there are no cross-flow clashes in the operations of the warehouse. There should be a logical sequence of operations inside the warehouse. A smooth flow of operations includes no disruption and a limited amount of movement. Time is money. With uninterrupted flow, you’ll be maximizing revenue.

Accessibility not only includes being able to get to the product, but to the packaging unit. Can the product be assessed via a truckload or a pallet load? How do the products in your facility get from one place to another? You’ll need to think about whether or not the strict policy of first-in-first-out (FIFO) applies to your product, since you’ve got to be certain that you’re in compliance.  In the case of bottled water, you may have to access inventory in a store stock room. For example, with pharmaceuticals, access may be needed to fast-moving stock area, and that takes space.

Let’s move on to space. Warehouse space should always be maximized for stock processing reasons and for operational storage. All space should be planned and utilized wisely. Keep in mind that you’ll need space for offices and working areas. Be sure to make optimal use of the cubic capacity of the space and not just the floor area. Build flexibility into the operation by using the best storage media that can evolve. This way, when your operations grow, you’re in place strategies can grow with it.

Throughout entails the nature of the product and its velocity. Characteristics like size, dimensions and shape have to be taken into consideration. The velocity of the product will depend on the volume of what’s moving in the warehouse. Use data media to assist in the layout of the design, and get the facts.  The better the data; the less the risk.

Without a doubt, there’s a lot to think about in warehouse design. It’s not an easy or simple task. Planning and designing is an important undertaking that requires a lot of thought. The main point is to understand that flow, accessibility, space and throughout must be in place for maximum efficiency. If you’re not certain on how to do this, consider consulting a specialist with plenty of experience in warehouse design. A specialist will be able to ensure that your warehouse design and operations work for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Innovations To Make Your Warehouse More Efficient

An effective warehouse is the core of your business. But how to make sure it runs as efficiently as possible? The truth is that technology, storage, and safety methods are rapidly changing, and it’s important to keep up. Follow these innovative tips, and you’ll ensure your warehouse not only reaches peak efficiency, but also remains effective and relevant long into the future.

1. Go Smarter, Not Bigger

When storage space feels tight, a lot of people start to think that the solution is to invest in additional storage space or even relocate to a new warehouse. However, you can save money and moving time by going smarter with the space you already have.

Examine how much aisle space you actually need and go smaller when possible. Consider taller shelving and racking pallets in higher densities. Make sure items that you use / need access to often are in lower, easy-to-access areas while more long-term items are stored higher up (or further back) and in greater densities.

2. Offer Specialized Training

A major problem a lot of warehouses have is not just employee error, but also poor employee retention. However, both can be curbed when the right training programs are offered. All employees should receive regular training on the latest safety and efficiency procedures, for example. Some outside companies even offer highly specialized training programs just for warehouse workers, and these can be very useful in increasing production.

Good employees are also more likely to stay when you offer such training, as it will increase their skills and give them a brighter future.

3. Update Forklifts

The forklift has long been a warehouse staple, but it’s important to make sure that you’re only using the most current ones that have less room for error. For example, telescopic forklifts involve a telescopic forward reach boom, which allow for more flexibility (with precision!) and can both place and retrieve objects more efficiently. Always make sure your forklift operators are fully licensed and experienced with each kind of forklift you utilize.

4. Connect Employee Phones

Most businesses these days rely on mobile communication platforms, and warehouses are no exception. Make sure employees have updated phones and apps that connect well with each other. It’s also important to consider the future of tech in this area. For example, windows programs are projected to become outdated on mobile devices in the next few years, so switching over to newer platforms in a good idea. Always run tests before programs are actually implemented during workdays.

5. Go for Automation

As far as new storage technology goes, one innovative solution you will want to consider is automated storage. Involving the use of robotics and computerized organization, automated storage helps to cut organizational costs in the long run and increases accuracy and productivity. For example, a robotic arm can be used to retrieve precise items as needed, allowing for tighter storage spaces and decreased need for human intervention. And thanks to the rapid speed of orders being received and carried out, the amount of orders being fulfilled in a day will increase.

It’s also worth noting that automated warehouse storage helps to lower warehouse accidents and increase safety. By relying on precise computerized settings, there is less room for human error. In fact, the key human workers you will need present at the warehouse will be there simply to oversee operations and carry out the few tasks that computer and robotic automation cannot.