Designing the Perfect Warehouse
For companies fortunate enough to own their own warehouse facilities, choosing the right warehouse design will help them obtain the best value for their facilities investment. Companies considering building a warehouse need to think about the nature of their business, the storage needs of their inventory, and the efficiency, safety, and productivity issues involved in designing an optimized facility.
Warehouse spaces need to be easy-to-navigate and well-organized, and provide a safe environment for workers. Pallet racking and other warehouse management techniques can assist this process. With these parameters met, warehouse managers will be able to keep costs low and productivity high, fostering strong customer service and efficiency.
What to Consider When Designing a Warehouse
Designers of warehouses have seven basic concerns: purpose, efficiency, health and safety, durability, energy efficiency, future growth, and compliance with regulations and law.
Warehouses need to be designed with the business they are serving in mind. For warehouses storing food products, adequate electrical infrastructure for refrigeration equipment may be needed. For companies with large volumes coming in and out of the warehouse, large loading docks or multiple loading docks may be necessary. When working with architects, facility managers should have a clear idea of their warehouse’s purpose and be able to communicate this information to the architect.
Efficiency is the key concern for warehouse designers and managers. Warehouses should be designed to accommodate quick picking and materials handling technologies. Automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) are one of the hottest trends in warehouse design. These systems allow for better inventorying, scheduling, and tracking, making operations more efficient. The model AS/RS warehouse also works to maximize space and minimize the personnel needed to operate the facility.
Health and safety are of paramount concern for warehouse designers. Good worker safety yields increased productivity and reduced costs, both important ways companies can improve profitability. Warehouses designers can contribute to worker safety by providing adequate lighting, using buffers to reduce noise, providing ample ventilation and ensuring adequate space for personnel and forklifts to navigate by using pallet racking systems. Good fire suppression equipment also is a key factor in good warehouse design.
Durability is an important concern for warehouse design. Warehouses will see a lot of foot and vehicle traffic over their lifespan, and will also need to be strong enough to safely store heavy or potentially hazardous materials. Most warehouses should use a concrete slab floor capable of carrying heavy loads and withstand abrasion caused by forklift traffic. Warehouses also need to be sufficiently strong to withstand severe weather events such as storms or snowfall.
Energy efficiency has become an important issue for many companies, as costs and environmental concerns make reducing consumption important. Warehouses can cut energy costs by incorporating some sustainable architecture concepts, such as:
- Passive solar concepts to use available sunlight for lighting during the day
- Light color roofs to reflect sunlight, thus making the buildings cooler in the summer and reducing HVAC loads
- Use of energy efficient devices and appliances such as timed lighting and climate control systems
Future growth is also a key concern for companies designing warehouses. A modern warehouse should be designed with the ability to accommodate growth and changes. Warehouse space should be readily changeable to new functions such as offices, light industrial work, and computer centers. By staying nimble, warehouse facilities can stay ahead of the game.
Lastly, warehouses must be compliant with federal and state safety regulations. A variety of warehouse features will be governed by federal and state rules, such as dock heights, the need for safety railing, etc. Non-compliance can lead to penalties and can potentially be the cause of lawsuits. Careful research into applicable safety and other rules is an important part of the design process.
How Pallet Racks Optimize Space
Warehouses often have significant amounts of vertical space, as they are designed to store large items and for possible remodeling and expansion. Often, all of the available vertical space is not utilized. By using a pallet racking system, facilities managers can maximize their use of space.
Pallet racks are tall vertical racks, often made of steel, which store pallets of inventory. The pallets are usually placed and removed by forklifts.
Benefits of a pallet racking system:
- Warehouse facilities are leased per square foot, so utilizing vertical space helps facilities managers get the maximum value for their dollar. Even companies that own their warehouses benefit by getting the maximum use of each square foot in the facility; optimizing use will keep them from having to build a larger warehouse or expand an existing facility.
- Using pallets and racks is much safer than stacking boxes and crates on top of one another. Stacked boxes and crates can easily fall or cave-in, creating a hazard to workers and products alike.
- Pallet racking systems improve warehouse organization and productivity. Items stored on pallets are easier to group together, making quick picking convenient. Also, facilities managers will be able to increase warehouse floor space for their employees and forklifts by making use of vertical space, allowing them to safely move faster.
- Pallet racking systems are quite robust and can withstand impacts from forklifts and other forms of damage. Even if badly damaged, industry experts estimate the racks can be repaired up to 90 percent of their original strength.
New warehouses should be designed with pallet racking needs in mind and renovations of existing facilities should also be made to better accommodate pallet racking systems. In many cases, new warehouses and distribution centers are designed “inside out,” meaning that designers choose a pallet racking, commercial shelving, or other storage system first and then design the rest of the warehouse around that system.
With careful planning and pallet racks from Ziglift, warehouses can operate at peak efficiency and safety, helping their owners stays lean and competitive.Sources: