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Q.1 What is warehouse layout plan and what’s its importance?

Warehouse layout and space design is very important for effective and efficient warehouse management. Merchandise stored in the warehouse utilizes space and it costs money to the organization. This space needs to be efficiently allocated to the received merchandise. Space should be allocated for goods receipts, order preparation, order loading and shipping, order picking and packing, order assembly, and also to the warehouse back office. Organizations also implement WMS to optimize their warehouse layout plans and space utilization.

In a well-organized warehouse merchandise can be picked up and put away quickly and easily. This is done by segregating the warehouse into different zones or bins and ranking them. This way employees can ensure that merchandise in certain zones or bins needs to be picked first and also put away first. A good warehouse layout also individually determines if a bin or slot is fixed or floating. Merchandise to be stored in fixed slots or bins is pre determined and it never changes where as in floating bins any merchandise can be stored on a need basis. A good layout also helps employees to ensure on time bin replenishment. Thus, a good warehouse layout can ensure optimum space utilization, reduce storage costs, and improve employee efficiency. This enables organizations to meet the service levels and consistently provide good customer service.

Warehouse Layout Plan
Following are the steps involved to plan warehouse layout:
I) Define objectives
II) Collect information
III) Perform analysis
IV) Create plan
V) Plan implementation
VI) Post implementation follow-up

Let us discuss these steps in detail.
I) Define Objectives
While making a plan for the warehouse layout, the objectives should be clearly defined. Objectives may vary from organization to organization.
However, some common objectives while setting up a warehouse are increase business profits, increase labor productivity, efficient space utilization, reducing storage costs, and ultimately providing better customer service. Also, the layout should be flexible enough to accommodate specified products and manage any changes in their quantity.

II) Collect Information
Collect all the information from the architecture or designer regarding the layout, space utilization, storage, and merchandise handling. Also, collection information about the space allocation for merchandise receiving put away, loading, shipping, truck yard, office etc. This information should be in the form of a physical map indicating the aisles, columns, doors, racks and slots, entry, exit, docks, and height restrictions.

III) Perform Analysis
Once all the necessary information is collected it is time to analyze the information. Analysis includes the comparison of collected data with the defined objectives. Analyze if the warehouse layout meets the set objectives. If it does not, then necessary modifications in the plan are suggested.

IV) Create Plan
After the layout design meets the set objectives, a plan is created to implement the warehouse layout. A plan utilizes the information from the analysis, collected information and set objectives. A good plan should first show the big picture of a warehouse, indicating all-important tasks to be performed. These tasks are then subdivided into sub activities to be carried out. Also, necessary resources are allocated to each activity. The plan should also indicate the estimated time to complete each sub activity and also the complete task. The plan should be signed off by the higher management to ensure the timeline correctness and availability of required resources.

V) Plan implementation
Real time implementation of the plan should match the signed off plan. Most of the time this does not match, due to incorrect or unrealistic timelines, lack of resources, and lack of necessary skills. Thus, it is important to time the implementation correctly, make necessary changes in the WMS, and try not to disturb the regular warehouse operations. Also, a physical inventory of the merchandise in the warehouse should be carried out after the plan implementation. This helps in identifying any shrinkage and maintains the correct inventory count.

VI) Post implementation follow-up
Once the layout is implemented regular audits should be carried out to ensure that the layout is as per the plan. Also, all the merchandise should be placed according the space allocated. If there are any errors or if the plan still needs little modification, the entire process is carried out again. The new plan should not have any warehouse operational problems. Finally, the results of warehouse layout are compared with the set objectives. If the set objectives are met the plan is successful.

2 Increasing warehouse space utilization
It is not an easy task to change or expand the existing warehouse. It costs time, capital, and efforts to the organization. Thus, it is imperative to efficiently use the existing space of the warehouse. Following are some basic steps for optimizing the use of available storage space.
• Office space should be kept to minimum in the warehouse. Office can be set somewhere else if possible.
• Always analyze the current layout of the warehouse and compare it with the set objectives. Make any changes if necessary.
• Return or discard any outdated, expired, damages and defective items.
• Any space over the doors can be utilized. Empty pallets, creates and boxes can be stored on the racks built over the doors. These materials can also be stored outside the warehouse if space is available.
• Do not store unnecessary material or junk in the warehouse. Instead use this space for storage of merchandise or for other tasks.
• Every centimeter in the warehouse should be effectively used. Any activities or tasks that can be performed out of the warehouse should be moved out.
• Keep the inventory levels to minimum, still achieving service levels.
• Ensure that slots are allocated as per the size, weight, and height of the merchandise. Product should correctly fit the slot, without wasting any space horizontal or vertical space.
• Consider adding mezzanines for tasks or activities that require low clearance.
• Utilize the total vertical cube of the warehouse. Vertical cube includes any space available above the doors, walls, load, aisles, space above works and pick areas, and above docks.

1 comment:

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