You’ve been working hard, making the right decisions, and it shows—you’re outgrowing your facility. Ouch, growing pains! Before sounding the alarm and worrying about having to invest in a whole other facility, you may want to take a step back and consider a facility redesign instead. In Brian Carlson’s experience, Cornerstone Edge’s Founder and CEO, thought-out facility planning and design can often increase the longevity of your space and more often than not, it’s not the most expensive option. If you’ve been missing deadlines, losing track of inventory, paying ever-rising shipping costs, or are dealing with regular complaints from clients, it may be time to get some help with your facility planning and design.
What is Facility Planning and Design?
Simply put, facility planning and design is the process of strategically planning a facility layout designed to use the entire space effectively to enable the smooth functioning of operations, thereby increasing overall efficiency.
Designing the layout of a warehouse or storage facility requires extensive knowledge in a variety of specialty areas, from different rack configurations and software, to SKU distribution and material handling equipment. As a facility owner, you know the ins and outs of your warehouse best, but you’ve got your hands full running a warehouse, which is why hiring a professional consultant is key to your success.
Planning and Design—the Cornerstone Edge Method
Every warehouse will have different needs, but a thorough facility plan and design will always involve:
- Space planning and review
When designing your warehouse layout, you need to put aside the maximum amount of space to properly store inventory as well as for processing purposes, while simultaneously minimizing space for office areas, empty pallets, charging stations, etc. You also want to consider how those decisions will impact shelving designs, installation capacity, and the placement of goods inside your facility. Effectively utilizing the warehouse space available can help improve inventory visibility, reduce travel time, and increase overall operational efficiency.
- Facility design
Ensuring the uninterrupted flow of goods, personnel, and equipment is vital. You can avoid inefficient routes and disruptions by strategically planning your warehouse layout design in a way that allows you to move through each operation in sequence. For example, you want to make sure there’s easy access to all warehouse areas, especially the high-touch ones. The layout should be designed in a way that makes it easy for personnel to move throughout the facility while conveniently locating and picking items without having to move other products. Though that may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how challenging it is to get that design just right. However, by taking the time to do so, productivity can be enhanced and orders fulfilled at a faster rate.
- Materials handling equipment design
Every warehouse will have different needs, which means the types of equipment needed, like lifting & packing tools, pallet racks, or conveyors, will influence the layout design. Once the requisite equipment has been determined, you can then design the most suitable layout according to your requirements, thus boosting the productivity of your facility.
- Storage system design
We all know that warehouse storage is the process of placing goods in their appropriate location, but it’s actually easier said than done. A well thought out storage plan is essential because it ensures you’re utilizing the space you have as best as possible, with no waste or added work. The right storage method will be different for every warehouse, and will depend on the size of your facility, what products you have on hand (refrigerated, frozen, dry, etc.), and how you manage your warehouse.
- Warehouse automation systems development
Data is always valuable, and when it comes to automating part of your warehouse, it’s essential. At Cornerstone Edge, we will look at your warehouse data to help guide us in deciding what automation and particular systems are right for your needs. This process involves:
1. Real-time data gathering
2. Warehouse mobility considerations
3. Autonomous guided vehicle research
4. Data analytics and machine learning to interpret data trends to anticipate stock needs and to optimize warehouse capacity and asset utilization.
5. Real-time inventory management: Automatic identification systems such as smart sensors, like RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), GPS, etc..
We will also look into what software suits your needs best. We work with all major supply chain vendors and have vetted over 80 solutions. And because we don’t have any formal partnerships, we will always recommend the best solution for your specific needs.
- Pick, pack, and ship operations design
How a warehouse picks, packs, and ships their items will vary by distribution center, but its design is vital for its success. For example, the kind of warehouse picking cart you choose can help expedite picking, stocking, and the transporting of items. This matters since order picking can deplete resources if it’s not used with the most efficient picking cart for your operations. In terms of packing, even the equipment used can impact efficiency, as it can reduce labor costs while improving consistency in the overall wrapping process. In fact, depending on the packing equipment used, it can help inventory control by eliminating the chance of product separation. Both picking and packing have a direct impact on the last step, shipping, and the customer experience largely depends on how shipping is conducted. This process needs to be designed holistically to ensure all the moving parts work in unison.
It’s a lot to consider, and this is but a sampling of what is taken into account when designing a facility layout. Designing a practical warehouse layout has a direct impact on the efficiency and productivity of your warehouse. In the end, your new facility design should leave you with a planned layout that:
- Organizes processes in a logical order
- Streamlines operations
- Improves productivity
- Reduces expenses
- Provides easy access to stored goods
- Minimizes travel time
- Increases order fulfillment rates
You’ve got your hands full running a warehouse, especially during the supply chain capacity constraints we’ve been facing these past 18 months. That’s why Cornerstone Edge can help with your facility layout design, from site selection to software options, and everything in between. If you’re looking to address your growing pains, we can help. We’re your supply chain partner dedicated to building trust and delivering value. Give us a call today, and let’s see if we’re a match.