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How to organise your warehouse for optimal performance

By: Grant King - IndustrySearch writer
20 July, 2015

You might have the most popular products in town, but they won't stay popular for long if your warehouse is a circus.

Warehouses are necessary for inventory storage and customer distribution, and when timelines and customers are involved, the last thing you want to be doing is spending hours trying to find a specific product.

A poorly organised and run warehouse leads to slow order delivery, wrong order delivery and a bad reputation before you can say, 'Anyone seen the packing slips?'

So here are a few ways to get things running smoothly.

Plan your warehouse like a wardrobe

Just like socks, shirts, shoes and overcoats, your warehouse inventory will come in all shapes and sizes. Your racking system should cater accordingly.

While a long line of identical racks with beautifully aligned, symmetric shelves might look impressive, it's neither practical or space efficient. Plan rack configurations according to what you have and don't waste large storage space on small items.

Supersize your sellers

Your biggest sellers might require two areas – a bulk storage area and a regularly replenished rack shelf for order picking. Plan your rack space to be directly proportional to each product's sales record.

Give all your biggest sellers the biggest picking area in your racks to avoid delays when rack stock runs out.

Sit your favourites at the front

A properly planned warehouse is all about time in motion. If badly positioned, a top seller can cost you hours in travel time every day as your staff cut a trail from racks to the packing area and back again.

All your most regularly picked items need to be as close to the packing area as possible and at about waist height. Base all your inventory storage on sales figures, not on the nearest empty rack.

The time it takes to shunt a slow seller to the back and replace it with a top seller is nothing compared to the time you'll lose with a lazy storage system.

Categorise with numbers and colours

Colour coding areas according to product type is a good way to get pickers in the general vicinity of the products they're looking for, but you can and should go a lot further.

Imagine the aisles of a supermarket and a shopper wandering aimlessly with a list. A sign may point them to the canned fruit aisle, but once there, they still have the task of finding tins of crushed pineapple amongst the pear halves and fruit salad mix.

If every item on their shopping list had a number leading to sequentially numbered products on shelves, how much faster would they be back at the boot of their car with a full trolley?

Computerise your storage and picking system with a proper numbering system and the time savings will be immense.

Limit ladder use

How much time do your workers spend climbing up and down ladders? Any time spent on a ladder is time badly spent, as they are notoriously dangerous things accounting for a disproportionate number of accidents.
Analyse ladder time carefully. What's up there that could be down here? What's up there that can't come down here, but could be more safely accessed with a scissor lift?

Police your parking

Forklifts and picking trolleys left any old place around your warehouse are an accident waiting to happen. They're also an unnecessary obstacle course that can only impede smooth operations. Assign a designated parking area and regiment its use.

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