When it comes to designing a successful warehouse, what are the elements you have to consider? It’s a huge project to undertake, so it requires careful planning to minimise costs while ensuring safety and efficiency measures are maintained. Below we describe the key factors for successful warehouse interior design to give you a foundation to build on.
What are you using the warehouse for?
Before any changes can be implemented this is the first place to start. What will the warehouse be used for and how does that meet the requirements of your business? Once you answer this it should form the foundation for everything else that follows.
The interior design will be heavily influenced by the type of storage you need, whether it is boxes, pallets, packaged items or large pieces of equipment. This will dictate how stock will be accessed by staff for picking and packing, as well as the movement of goods from one location to another.
Most sectors have different requirements, depending on the type of stock they are working with. For example, if you are dealing with customer returns you will need a dedicated area to process these items, while another business dealing with larger, bulker household items like washing machines and dishwashers will need to ensure they have adequate space available. Businesses operating in the food sector may also need climate-controlled sections to ensure perishable items are stored safely at the right temperature.
Inbound logistics also have to be taken into account. This will impact the next point about layout and flow within the warehouse, as you need to identify where deliveries can be accepted and processed before they enter the main warehouse floor.
Layout and Flow
Warehouse flow is important as this dictates how easily staff and products are moved around either for storage or picking and packing. Mapping out a clear product flow will allow you to track the journey of both staff and product as items are transported to and from their location. This requires you to plan the various sections of the space, including any administrative and reception areas, so you have a clear idea of the various zones you have to work with.
Another key element of this stage is to account for how goods are accepted, stored and distributed within the warehouse. How goods enter the facility may be different to how they leave (in as bulk, out individually), so the flow needs to be able to accommodate this. Once this has been clarified you can plan requirements for loading bays and overall space where goods are handled upon entrance and exit.
In order for throughput to be maximised, a logical flow needs to be established that enables goods to travel seamlessly from unloading areas through to the loading area via storage and picking and packing. The equipment and storage systems you have to use all have to be accounted for to ensure the most efficient layout and flow can be put together.
Depending on your business, a dedicated section for customer returns may have to be taken into account. How people flow through the space is also something you should think about, including those who work in the offices. Think about how they get to and from their workspaces and any movement they need to make within the warehouse during the day.
Use of equipment
Once you have a solid idea of how the warehouse layout and the flow, you should give thought to the type of equipment that will be used on a daily basis. Some equipment will have to be installed, so the space this will take up will also have to be considered. Whether it is automated systems or equipment such as forklifts or pallet trucks, think about how they are operated and the space needed for them to manoeuvre around safely, as well as the areas where they will ‘rest’ when not in use.
As always, safety should be a top priority and your planning should include where this kind of equipment will go. General first aid cabinets and stations have to be identified, as well as specific safety tools that are related to any particular kind of work carried out in the warehouse. In order to meet fire safety standards, firefighting equipment will also have to be installed. Storage systems stored on a mezzanine may need to be fire-rated, regardless of whether or not it is being used to store goods. Staircases and walkways will atake up a certain amount of room, and the design will be influenced by the position of the lifts and fire exists.
Different levels of security will be needed depending on what you are storing inside the warehouse, but it remains an important consideration nonetheless.
It is likely there will be some high value stock stored in the warehouse and mesh security cages are a good way to increase security. With the addition of CCTV systems in the area it will allow you to closely monitor and control incomings and outgoings.
Where possible try to minimise blind spots and consider installing entry systems on exits and entry points. Utilising the latest warehouse technology will also enable you to track the movement of stock so losses are greatly reduced.
The implementation of technology has become the norm in warehouse environments and it allows for a more efficient and controllable facility. Automation is increasingly common place, with automated retrieval and storage systems and automated vehicles often in operation, and the space this tech will take up has to be accounted for in the planning stage.
There is a wide variety of technology available for use in the warehouse and it is something that should be weighed up while thinking about the activities that will take place in the facility. The earlier you take this into account, the easier it will be to implement.
The cables and pipes needed to install heating, lighting, water, electricity and gas will take up a certain amount of room, which will affect the interior design planning. During working hours staff need to be in a comfortable environment that will support their safety and productivity, and special utility systems may have to be installed to support specific storage units or sections.
Automation can help with some of these, particularly with heating and lighting, which will typically produce some of the highest costs during the working day. Using efficient lighting and heating systems can minimise costs without affecting the health and safety of the people working there.