Designing your distribution center is just like shopping for your perfect home. When you shop for a house or are looking to build a new one, you take into account many things.
Planning is a crucial first step, you consider cost, needs, and location of the house. You determine the amount of work that will be done both before you move, as well as the day-to-day tasks associated. You also consider the available space to you and your family as well as how the flow of the house accents your personality. Potential home owners also look at all the amenities (automation) in the space and how that stacks up to other homes in the area.
All these things are synonymous to how you should approach your distribution center, and here is why:
Planning – Enough can’t be said about how important the planning and information stage is in a large distribution system design. Your business is unique and therefore so is your system design and concept. The amount of data that can accurately show the day-to-day outputs and operations of your business as well as potential growth patterns will save a design in the first few weeks. Garbage in will give you garbage out, in other words, poor information yields poor results.
Work – The most efficient system is one that can do its job with the least amount of work. Your operators and employees are your workforce and need to be given the best opportunity to succeed at their job. Cutting down on the amount of travel time, picking/putting complexity, and simply making a task more ergonomical on an operator will go a long way in efficiency and accuracy.
Space Utilization – Space is a premium and should be utilized in the most effective way. Being able to store densely or elevate operations in the vertical space of your DC are both great solutions to utilizing your space well. A well utilized distribution center is more effective as a whole and easily adaptable to future expansions and projects.
System Flow – The system is one large, fine-tuned machine. Your DC should be fully integrated to encompass all aspects of your operations from receiving, storage, production, assembly, order selection and packaging, and eventually ending with your product out the door being shipped to your customers. Your flow is a fluid concept that allows the system to minimize inventory levels and variability while maximizing your outbound product.
Amenities (Automation) – This is the glue that holds your fine-tuned machine together. Determining the right amount of material handling automation that suits your needs is a complex task. More so when you have many forms of automation working together. Automation, regardless of the type, is intended to increase operation cycle times, predictability, and efficiency as well as decrease operating costs, repetitive labor, and human error. A well-automated warehouse will have a healthy mix of mechanical automation and electrical/software control.
Buying the perfect home is not easy, and neither is designing an efficient distribution center, but by keeping the attributes above in mind, you should be well on your way to a successful project.