Fun game: How would you design your warehouse?
Figure 1. Warehouse game (Currie, 2009)
This blog gives you a chance to test your creativity and understanding of how to design a warehouse layout. As you may know, multiple activities take place in a warehouse, from receiving inbound shipments, putting away, storing, and picking to shipping outbound shipments. The key question is “In which ways could warehouse processes be stimulated to be efficient and effective?” To answer this question, let’s get started with…
First, let’s brainstorm which factors affect warehouse processes…Bingo! The most crucial factor is warehouse layout. You have an empty space, a wide variety of handling items and machines such as pallets and forklifts, many different shelves, and loads of stocks. These components allow a warehouse to function in its operations. Therefore, it’s highly important to determine which one to be placed where, at which quantity, by which means, and when. Besides, there are several kinds of products stored within your warehouse that require distinct storage conditions. For example, where would you store a lithium battery, chemical, and a leather chair? Last but not least, don’t forget that there are people working in your warehouse – how to ensure their safety and health as well as maintain productivity simultaneously?
- Tip: Before moving to the next step, you can do some more research, watch some videos, or read my other articles related to this topic 😉
#2: Creativity time
Now, have a look at our game in Figure 2 below. You are requested by your manager to design a warehouse layout with the various warehouse items and product types. How would you locate them in an empty warehouse? Please ensure that the warehouse design is compliant with safety regulations and shall optimize warehouse processes to maintain productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness. Try to answer the question above and start designing your ideal warehouse. Please complete this step before moving to the next one!
Figure 2. Warehouse game instruction (designed by author)
If you don’t know how to start designing an ideal warehouse layout yet, please check out my other articles about warehouse optimization!
Have you enjoyed the game? Was it fun and challenging? There is no right or wrong answer in this game because the aim is to let you truly experience how to build a warehouse layout. Though I would like to provide you with my results after playing the game so that we can learn together and let’s see if our warehouse designs are twins.
Figure 3. Warehouse layout example (designed by author)
As shown in Figure 3, there are 20 racks that are located with specific aisle distance/ space. The number of racks is one of the most crucial factors in designing warehouse layouts in terms of efficiency. Figure 3 shows the (suggested) outcome of the game. The wider the aisle space, the fewer racks/shelves and therefore the fewer goods you can store. However, with that kind of design, congestion will be minimized. In contrast, if the aisle space is smaller, more storage spaces can be utilized, but congestion may become a constraint. In the end, it’s all about trade-offs.
Racking: many racks can be used in a warehouse to optimize inventory storage. In the warehouse design above, multiple-leveled pallet racks were used to utilize vertical space to increase storage efficiency and density. Besides, single stacking (3 pallets on the top right in the figure) was also applied to store goods whose value is high and required special handling to prevent damage. Despite not being shown in the figure, it is important to keep in mind to stack light products on top of heavier ones.
Aisle space: there are typically three kinds of aisle space designs – wide aisle (wider than 10.5 feet), narrow aisle (between 8.5 and 10.5 feet), and very narrow aisle (below 6 feet). The narrower the aisle, the more products can be stored. However, it could result in extra special lift vehicles, congestion, and a higher likelihood of damage. My warehouse idea is intended to have a narrow aisle with a Flying-V design, which was proved by Gue et al. (2012) to reduce travel distance
Dangerous goods (DG): should be kept in a separate, ventilated storage, preferably 10 meters away from other inventories. Each DG storage area is preferred to have an authorized entrance door from outside, in case of unexpected events. It is possible to stack them on a rack, but also on a pallet. Depending on the type of DG, it can be stored in a box (e.g. electronics), a drum/ tank (e.g. chemical, liquid), or a crate (e.g., battery). Ensure all containers are sealed and properly labeled. These aspects can be clearly seen in the two separate areas for battery and chemical storage in Figure 3.
Beverages and confectionary: are categorized as food items. This kind of goods often attracts mice, and easily gets contaminated. Therefore, first food items should be kept away from chemicals, and cleaning agents. Inspections should be done to ensure no holes, cracks or leaks within the warehouse perimeter. To maintain hygiene, those goods should be sealed and labeled properly, with the possibility to be stacked as displayed in the figure. If food items require refrigerated storage, they shall be stored separately.
Personal care products: are highly recommended to be placed in cool and dark settings (e.g., humidity-controlled storage options). Several personal care goods must be kept away from the sun, otherwise, the product quality will be affected. This category is feasible for being stacked, following the rule of (1) light on top of heavy items, and (2) first-in-first-out (FIFO) to ensure the proper rotation of stock/ expiry date.
Household appliances & electronic devices: these stocks belong to the electronics group, which needs special storage conditions to avoid technical malfunctions. One of the conditions is that they should be placed in a dry, ventilated space with a preferred temperature max 25oC and a humidity max of 65%. Since they have relatively similar storage conditions with personal care goods, both can be kept in the same area.
Fragile products: are preferably stored at a lower level within easy reach. As seen in Figure 3, fragile stocks are kept in low levels of multiple racks. It can be kept on higher levels of racks if necessary, but the rack needs to have protective padding at the back to avoid being pushed off. If these fragile items are expensive, spread them around instead of storing them all together. Finally, you should ensure adequate lighting and non-slippery walkways.
Thank you for reading the blog! Please let me know how you feel about this game, so I can think of some more games in the coming blogs 😊
Image source: https://www.trendhunter.com/trends/warehouse-game