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Warehouse layout and design

How to Create a Better Warehouse Layout

Marvin Logan | 20 August 2014


It is important that a warehouse has enough space to operate efficiently. However, it may be even more important that the space is laid out in a way that optimizes the warehouse’s abilities. Generally, multiple factors must be considered to maximize efficiencies when laying out an area. Because of this, a systematic procedure can be highly useful.

At Bastian Solutions, we utilize a warehouse layout planning process that usually consists of four phases, with each subsequent phase building on and incorporating more detail than the previous. This type of flow ensures that the project is fully understood before the team delves into layout specifics.

Phase 1: Location

The goal of the initial phase of the planning process is to establish and understand the targets, opportunities, constraints, and scope of the project. Whether a new or existing space, it is imperative to fully understand the problem that is to be solved. Although a seemingly simple step, proper execution of this phase is of upmost importance for the success of the layout planning process.

Phase 2: Overall Layout

Once the project is clearly defined, the 2nd phase of the process aims to develop an overall plan to layout the areas of the warehouse. In this step, very specific details of the layout are purposefully ignored. However, other aspects of the layout are closely evaluated. The most logical way to initiate this phase is to determine spatial relationships between areas of the warehouse. There are many aspects that need to be taken into consideration when drawing relationships between areas. Overstating or understating the importance and impact of any one factor may prove detrimental to the flow of the warehouse. Our consulting team uses a logical rating system to resolve this issue. The next step of this phase is to determine the amount of space each area requires. There are several ways to accomplish this task. Certain methods may work better than others in a given situation. For example, in some cases, facilities might not have any historical information for the areas to be laid out while others may have established space standards. After the space requirements are set, adjustments can be made to account for limitations and specific needs of each area. For example, some areas may require an exit door, and it might make sense to give more aisle space to other areas.

Phase 3: Detailed Layout

More detail is introduced to the layout during the 3rd phase. This includes the layout of any material handling equipment to maximize system flow and available floor space within each area. The proper slotting of all SKUs is also reviewed to ensure products are in the best picking locations to reduce employee travel time. Other sub-area particulars are also integrated during this phase. The layout of each area can rival the importance of the overall warehouse layout in some cases. If desired, each area can even go through its own mini-layout planning process.

Phase 4: Installation:

At this point, the space should be ready for procurement and installation. Some rearranging may occur, but the goal is to have accomplished most of the problem-solving theoretically during the previous 3 phases.

Although this article has laid out four distinct phases of systematic layout planning, it is paramount to note that the process can and should go through some back-and-forth between phases. While moving to the next phase in the process shouldn’t occur until a certain level of comfort is met, there is no reason why one could not go back to a previous level if deemed necessary for the success of the project. For certain projects, three or more oscillations between phases may occur before moving on.

When followed correctly, this layout planning process is extremely effective. Bastian Solutions has had much success with this project outline and continues to find new ways to adjust the process to make it even more useful. If you have questions about your warehouse layout or would like additional information, visit our Warehouse Layout and Design section, send us your questions, or leave your comments below.

Author: Marvin Logan

Marvin Logan is the Vice President of Consulting and Integration at Bastian Solutions. After graduating from Purdue University, Marvin started his career as an industrial engineer and quickly moved into management. He has had roles as a distribution system manager, operations manager, director of engineering, director of distribution, and vice president of distribution for several leading companies. 


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