From picking processes to fulfillment systems and everything in between, your warehouse operations have a major impact on your bottom line. Ever-increasing consumer demand and global supply shortages have made it difficult for warehouses to keep up with market needs and ensure performance standards are being met. So naturally, businesses are seeking out innovative ways to modernize by optimizing their warehouses for peak efficiency.
On its own, ‘modernize’ can sound somewhat daunting. In today’s world, you may think modernizing means implementing advanced robotics and fully automated storage and picking solutions. But in reality, you don’t need to be a high-tech warehouse in order to be modern.
Instead, success hinges on your warehouse’s ability to adapt to today’s market and shifting consumer demands. If there is more SKU proliferation or increased pressure for shortened timelines, warehousing professionals need to focus on solving current challenges and preparing for future ones.
Let’s dive into some warehouse optimization tips that can help you make the most of your existing space and prepare your facility for the road ahead. You’ll see that optimizing for modern storage, shipping, picking, and order fulfillment procedures can be done without compromising existing workflows.
Gauge Your Warehouse Layout
As your business evolves, your warehouse will need to accommodate new products and an increasing variety of SKUs.
Before optimizing your warehouse for peak performance, you need to assess where there's room for improvement. If you’re running out of warehouse space, evaluating your warehouse's current layout is a must. Even if you feel like things are running relatively smoothly, it’s never a bad idea to proactively work to increase your space utilization.
Aisle placement, rack systems, and lift equipment affect your warehouse's efficiency. But more than anything, you should be gauging whether your warehouse layout is flexible to accommodate fluctuating market needs.
Work to implement tools and effective storage equipment that will enable you to adjust your warehouse layout as needed. You’ll thank yourself down the road for doing so.
Consider Your Storage Mediums
Ensuring your products are stored in racks or shelving that are appropriate for their throughput is essential. This can be achieved with basic static shelving, dynamic storage solutions, or fully automated systems. But no matter which type of storage medium works for you and your budget, the key is ensuring you are getting the most out of every square inch of your space. If your warehouse is relying on static storage alone, you can quickly run into space utilization challenges.
A complete replacement of outdated or basic storage equipment may sound like a costly endeavor, but a total overhaul isn’t always necessary. Start by looking for ways you can make small improvements to your storage equipment. This could be as simple as converting some of your static storage into dynamic storage using systems like:
- Carton flow: Turns less efficient static storage in standard pallet racking into dynamic storage that increases space utilization and creates efficient FIFO systems.
- Pallet flow: Converts static pallet positions into dynamic storage, creating 2-deep pallet storage lanes, increasing your space utilization for pallet storage.
- Flow racks: Allows for ultimate flexibility to create flow-through workstations for order fulfillment from picking to staging, packing, shipping, and more.
- High-density storage: Dynamic shelving systems create very dense storage that significantly increases overall capacity, leaving no wasted space behind.
You’ll find that you have many options for modernizing your space and enhancing your warehouse storage, so take some time to consider the types of dynamic storage equipment your facility would benefit from the most.
Automate As Needed
Automation. Sounds expensive, right? The truth is you can seamlessly integrate manual and automated solutions that leverage robotic warehouse systems and static or dynamic storage, all without spending a fortune. The elements of your warehouse you automate will ultimately depend on your future goals.
Are you looking to reduce labor costs by minimizing back-office warehouse operations? Or do you need to expand your warehouse footprint to accommodate increased demand? Understanding your business goals and consumer demands will help point you in the right direction when it comes to the automated tools that will serve your warehouse well.
Creating a hybrid or semi-automated picking environment is one way your warehouse can benefit from advanced technologies that work alongside your staff instead of replacing them. Collaborative robots, laser-guided vehicles, sensors, and machine learning are all tools your business should consider to enhance worker experiences and maximize operational efficiency.
Optimize Your Existing Space
Perhaps the most affordable way to modernize your warehouse is by considering how your current space can be better utilized. Maximizing space utilization makes it easier to meet the challenges you face in the industry today.
Not only does optimizing your existing space streamline operations and increase productivity, but it also results in major cost and time savings that can pay off in dividends for your business.
With the rise and expansion of eCommerce and omnichannel fulfillment, not to mention a pandemic that just won’t quit, it’s never been more important for warehouse operations to innovate and improve their processes. Optimizing your existing warehouse without completely changing the base layout or investing in costly technologies will ensure a more productive and prosperous future that can accommodate varying market demands.
Avoid the ripple effect of inefficient use of space and consider how you can increase space utilization while reducing your overall footprint in order to accommodate increasing inventory and consumer demand. There’s no shortage of ways to free up additional space when you know what to look for.
Related Reading: 3 Solutions for Omnichannel Resilience in 2022
Be Prepared for Anything
However you decide to undertake warehouse space optimization, make sure the changes you make take into consideration the particular goals and challenges of your warehouse. Modernization will look different for every warehouse, so making the right business decisions will hinge on your ability to identify areas for improvement and act swiftly to drive improved performance.
At UNEX, we know it can feel overwhelming to look at your warehouse and pinpoint the exact areas in need of improvement. If you're not sure where to start, don't hesitate to give us a call or shoot us a message. We'll help you craft engineered-to-order solutions that maximize your existing warehouse space and increase operational efficiency across the board.