Ross Grassick of Lencrow Forklifts has been involved in supplying the latest materials handling equipment for more than 42 years. In this time he has seen a number of common mistakes that new warehouses fall in to from the very beginning.
When starting a warehouse you must first know how the equipment you use will work in your space. Understanding this will determine your productivity.
When choosing a warehouse, look at the access. Has the entry door easy access from the loading area? And can you unload the truck from both sides? Will this area restrict the flow of other traffic? And will it be dangerous for pedestrians?
The entry door: does it have height restrictions that will limit easy entry? Will the roof height or beams limit the racking height you have or are looking to use? Is the building of a shape that will allow full use of the space you want to use? Non-square corners or badly placed offices and services can limit and even restrict aisle use.
Is it big enough?
The first thing that must be considered during planning is how much stock needs to be stored in the area and the turnover rate of the products. You will need to account for the size and weight of your product and the rate of distribution. This will establish the size of your racking, the placement of your products and govern the workflow of daily operations.
Put simply, placing your most sourced product on the top racking or placing a pallet lot in a pedestrian pick area is going to slow your operation down.
Purchase higher racking to begin with even if you don’t think you will use it straight away. Remember that airspace is free and the cost to your business is the floor space. So if you can stack higher it is cheaper to install the extra height at the start.
Plan for the future and if your volume increases or your products change you are already set up to manage your new distribution requirements.
The aisle width between the racking is of paramount importance as this will dictate the type of equipment you can use to pick your stock.
The factors that you need to consider are: where the product will be unloaded, the type of stock you sell, its weight and how the stock is stacked.
I have frequently been contacted by newly established warehouses after the racking has been installed when their consultants find that the equipment required for the task can not negotiate the aisle space.
Usually the aisles are made too narrow and so the equipment cannot turn in the space allowed or the racking is spaced incorrectly and the unit can not pick the stock. This leads to the need to buy or rent specialised equipment that is more expensive than standard units.
The aisle widths need to be measured in two ways. One is rack to rack (ie from fixture to fixture) and the other is pallet to pallet (from the face of the pallet to the pallet on the other side). This second measurement is what you need to know when you are looking at equipment.
On the surface
The warehouse floor is very important, as this will determine the type of unit that can work in the area. Rough floors will limit you to larger tyres and excessive tyrewear and large or uneven expansion joints will make any unit unstable, slowing operation and causing damage to both machines and products.
Look out for slopes and ramps as you may be limited by the break-over angle of your machines causing them to get struck or scrape when passing over. At entry doors allowance has to be made for steps and drains as these are offer severe small steps that cause damage to products and machinery.
Lighting has to be considered: poor lighting increases the chance of accident. Warehouses with skylights provide natural light that is available at no cost, and if done well provides better coverage.
There are many choices of light sources, and the current state of the art is LED lighting, which is cheaper to run and provides cleaner light. However, the positioning of the lighting is just as important as the technology. I have seen many sites where they have installed racking without regard for the positioning of the lighting. Put simply, the lighting needs to be over the aisles.
Fire control must also be considered as you cannot allow racking to cover exit doors or fire appliances. In some cases involving high racking and depending on the product that is stored you may be required to have in rack sprinkler systems. Allowance must also be made for fire escape plans. This may stop you having closed ends to aisles or other restrictions to exit in an emergency.
Once you have stored goods you need to look to see you have allowed for staging areas for inward and outward stock as well as picking and packing areas that will allow people picking goods to be away from machine traffic.
This is just a small amount of planning that should go into a warehouse and this is before we look at what is required for stock and inventory control.
Lencrow Materials Handling
1300 536 276