Planning Your Warehouse Layout: 5 Steps to Cost-efficient Warehouse Floor Plans

Cody Cromwell
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What to Know Before Creating Your Warehouse Layout

Designed for distribution, warehouses must be designed for effective distribution of products. Warehouses must be built with warehouse floor plans that clearly define all spaces and aisles, while also being constructed to manage employee productivity and security. Although many warehouses are equipped to handle all transport modes, just because an indoor location has both air and ground access does not mean that the warehouse floor plan design should reflect it.

To effectively manage inventory throughout the distribution process, warehouse floor plans must be designed without wasted space. To achieve this, warehouse layout design should be able to efficiently manage all transport modes. The warehouse layout should not only consider the warehouse floor space, but consider as well the space for receiving, storage and loading and unloading processes.

To effectively manage inventory throughout the distribution process, warehouse floor plans must be designed without wasted space.

Here is a straightforward approach to planning your warehouse layout:

Step 1: Create a Warehouse Floor Plan Layout

{1}. Add the Internal Delivery Routes and Receiving aisles
{2}. Use the Warehouse Floor Plan Layout to Create Your Floor Plan

Create a Warehouse Layout Schematic

The first step to planning the layout of a warehouse is to develop a warehouse floor plan that outlines your basic storage needs and outlines areas for larger storage solutions. The size of the warehouse will dictate the proper floor plan for the building. If you want your business to run smoothly, it’s important to plan accordingly.

The furniture in your warehouse will depend on the products that you are going to store and where your products will be stored. For logistics companies, there is no chance of you separating your products on warehouse shelves. In this kind of business, warehouses are normally designed for products to be distributed from one pallet to another. I’m sure that shelves aren’t created for the items to be stored vertically in a warehouse.

A common issue that plague warehouses is the case of a warehouse that are too big for the business as it will cause additional costs for the business. For a warehousing firm, the warehouse is usually designed for a space of 50,000 square feet with a 50,000 square feet basement for retail or logistic company. But for a wholesale business, they require a minimum warehouse size of 35,000 square feet.

If you store salvaged materials in your warehouse, you should consider the items that are too cumbersome to be stored on pallets and sorted out by forklifts. The number of forklifts and the amount of products should be reduced.

Plan Your Warehouse for Efficient Space Utilization

Before you start building or even planning your warehouse facilities, the most obvious step is to understand the potential components of the warehouse and how these components can be utilized efficiently. Here are the steps you need to take in order to improve efficiency –

Define Your Needs

Before you start working on the floor plan, you need to figure out how much space you have and how much space you need. Don’t trust the measurements or projections you may get from the architect or builder. Always keep in mind what the size of the truck you’ll be hauling in will be and whether you’ll need a forklift or not. Also, check the floor plan to see if there are any servers and whether you’ll need to install an air conditioning system.

Determine the Suitable Warehouse Floor Plan

Plan Space for Warehouse Equipment & Surrounding Workspace

Although your warehouse’s main function is to store your inventory, the workspace around the machinery and in the back room is just as important. If your warehouse is more than 500 square feet, you definitely want to spend some time organizing this space into a workable workspace.

If you don’t have enough space to create some private work areas, you can always limit the warehouse to only need to be used for storage and purchase storage space in a single location.

In our post on warehouse floor plans, we go over this topic in more detail. Be sure to check out the information there.

Below is just a short introduction to the importance of work areas and how to pitch a space specifically for use by employees.

Today, you can store a lot of equipment in warehouses. Your employees will no doubt be using the computers, fax machines, copy machines, and printers located in the workspace. These machines are usually located right next to the work areas where employees can use them.

But what if your employees don’t have a privacy fence or doors to hang them on? In this situation, it could mean that your employees will have to sit and read documents while doing their work. While this situation is not very comfortable, you can always do something about it. You can create a secluded break room surrounding the workspace to give your employees the privacy they need to conduct their business.

Create Warehouse Production Zones & Workflow Areas

Warehouse layout planning begins with identifying the different areas within the warehouse that will be used for production tasks and storage. That process will also help you to develop an overall production-focused layout.

Although you may want to create highly specialized work areas, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to do that in a small warehouse floor plan.

You should expect to see at least two different areas for warehousing and production tasks. These working areas are often referred to as warehouse production areas and workflow areas.

The layout of these production zones and workflow areas will likely change depending on the type of warehouse.

Some warehouse floor plans have specific warehouse work areas and warehouse production areas, while others have general warehouse areas that may or may not have a production work area.

Regardless of the layout, the dual production areas need to be easy to access from each other. Ideally, they should be in separate, easy to identify parts of the warehouse.

Ideally, production areas should be close to each other to encourage space efficiency and minimize the number of movements required to move between the two areas.

These production areas and workflow areas could be located all over the warehouse floor. The ideal locations to locate these work areas can differ depending on your warehouse needs and the type of warehouse layout you have. Here are five steps to help you find the ideal way to layout production areas and workflow areas.

Establish Warehouse Storage Areas

If you know you need space for a warehouse to store your products, the next step is to establish your storage areas and layout. The only way to do this completely is to build a plan, and there’s one very important thing you must leave out.

There’s no use confusing yourself with complex factors such as square footage, heights, and other technical details. Your first plan should be a simple layout, and you’ll have to go back to refine it after which you will need to design a model.

The most important step you can take here is to establish your area first. For example, –define your warehouse on a piece of paper as a boxed area and note down the dimensions of your office, the size of the warehouse doors, and the height of the shelves and counters.” Then, fill in the area with all your products and see how many of them fit within the space. If you have any islands or markets, draw them in their location.

Once you’re done, you can create a layout plan that will have the same dimensions as your plan. Here’s a short video demonstration by warehouse managers, showing you how to draw a layout plan.

Choose Your Warehouse Storage & Work Area Equipment

As soon as you`re ready to choose your warehouse storage solutions and floor plan, you`ll need to start drawing. Planning your warehouse layout will also require you to come to grips with the constraints of the building you`re using.

This is where you’ll need to make a crucial decision.

Do you have the room to store your goods? In most cases, warehouse and storage solutions come with their own specifications, but these may change from retailer to retailer. Prepaid warehouses like Prime Space use standardized warehouse floor plate sizes.

Whether you’re in the market for a storage solution or looking to create a new space for your warehouse, it`s crucial to know what your room restrictions are so that you can plan your warehouse floor plan accordingly.

Should you build a concrete floor, a concrete and wood floor, or a wood floor all the way to the ceiling?

These are the types of decisions you need to think about before you know exactly how much warehouse floor space and storage space you`ll need. From there, you can plan your layout accordingly.

Other considerations you`ll need to make when planning your warehouse layout include the size of your dock doors, forklift access, and space for forklifts and other warehouse equipment.

Popular Warehouse Storage & Shelving Options

Rack : Racking means using shelving and racks to create a stable and functional storage arrangement.

Racks are used to store all types of inventory. Typically, you’ll find small- and large-sized racks, rack world, and power racks.

Small racks are used for storing small items such as:

Paints: These come in flat boxes and are designed to allow users to pour the paint right out of the box. By clipping the lid to the box (and leaving a few inches open), it’s easy to receive material as it comes from the shipping container, and you can also put the box back on its pallet. Another advantage of using small racks is that there’s far less likelihood that the paint will spill all over the floor, because less aisle space is needed.

Laboratory Supplies: Scientific equipment, chemicals and other science lab supplies can be stored on these kinds of racks.

Large racks are used for storing large items, including:

Computer materials: Computers are shipped in large boxes with spares and brackets, which leave a lot of empty space within the shipping carton. Large racks provide a perfect solution to store and group together all the components and spare parts.

Popular Workspace Equipment Options for Warehouses

In today’s warehouse, floor plans are starting to get a lot more sophisticated to help accommodate the increasing demand of businesses. With the invention of various new technologies, it has become possible for organizations to spatialize their processes and introduce innovative technology into their warehouses to help do so.

Among the technology-centric options available today in warehouses is the adoption of the robotic warehouse by organizations. The adoption of this equipment is the current standard due to the significant advantages that it provides to businesses.

The robotic warehouse devices are also known as automatic guided vehicles, or AGVs, or mobile robots. These devices are highly beneficial to modern warehouses due to their ability to move around and perform various roles. Some of the things that are done by AGVs in warehouses include the transportation of materials from one area to another, the automation of the entire process of moving materials, and the automation of warehouse operations as a whole.

Below is a list of the benefits that are associated with the adoption of the robotic warehouse devices, as well as some of the equipment options available in warehouses.

Highly Reliable

The main reason why businesses have begun to gravitate towards these devices in warehouses is due to their reliability. The devices are designed with numerous features which include the protection of the people and of the devices, and the protection of the workplace. The devices also feature the capability to mitigate possible damages to the surroundings as well as to the surrounding objects.

Use Efficient Warehouse Design Traffic Flow Strategies

The most effective use of space in warehouse designs is to get items from shipping docks, storage racks, and stockrooms through move-in and move-out processes.

One of the most important factors in placing product displays is the effectiveness of the warehouse movement flow prior to product location.

Managing movement flow starts in a warehouse design traffic flow strategy. When doing so, there are several aspects of storage and workplace that must considered.

{1}. StorageÑ Floor location and the product size positioning;
{2}. Product flows Ñ number of products that flow through the warehouse daily, hourly, and on a per-order depending on how the items are bought;
{3}. Number of pickers and shelf stocks;
{4}. Product planning Ñ the inventory of the items on the shelf or storage racks.

Follow these 5 step warehouse layout planning process to make your warehouse flow come to life.

Step 1: Establish motion patterns

Warehouse design depends on the storage and movement of products. After completing the warehouse design, it is important to identify how the goods are moved from the front to the back of the warehouse in terms of walking, riding a forklift, and using a pallet jack. How does the goods move back and forth? What are the distances and times required for each process?

In the same way, each step requires different kinds of action to identify the movements of goods.

Ecommerce Warehouse Floor Plan Example: Aisle Pattern

Now for a real world example. We’ve created this aisle pattern for you to see how a simple aisle system can work in a warehouse. Let’s look at the physical layout of this warehouse.

In the diagram, we have both fixed and movable storage ways. Each movable storage way has multiple aisles. The aisles should be wide enough to accommodate forklifts, pallet trucks, hand trucks and conveyor systems, but not wider than those vehicles. For example, a forklift should be able to maneuver through this aisle easily, but not wider than 2.3 meters. The fixed storage spaces are arranged to maximize aisle widths based on materials that can easily be stacked and moved in that particular aisle. This is another good example of the practical nature of this layout.

Note: Piles of cases don’t have to fit exactly into the spaces between aisles. They just need to be visible through the aisles to the workers as they walk the aisles.

In a well-planned warehousing and distribution center, space is at a premium. To make the best use of space, warehouse floor plans must be built with the least amount of storage space required to effectively handle a materials’ flow and have no wasted space. Warehouse builders must also think about ease of use, product placement, and ancillary equipment.

Ecommerce Warehouse Floor Plan Example: Packing & Shipping Workspace

In this post, we’ll be looking at a physical warehouse layout and physical inventory layout, taking a look from the warehouse floor plan perspective of the average ecommerce business. With a focus on minimum square footage, we’ll design a workspace where the physical product is stored, sorted and packed individually before being packed into boxes for shipping. So how much space will your business need to store its products, how much space will be required for packaging and shipping?

Step 4: Shipping & Packaging Layout

From the warehouse floor plan perspective, the next step is to plan the packing and shipping floor layout. During this step, we’ll consider the needed space for labeling, packaging and sorting the returned products, if applicable.

Step 3: Inventory Layout

Based on the number of products kept in stock, the next step is to calculate the square footage required. The inventory layout will take the shipping and packaging layout into account, so the total will include the square footage of the shipping floor and the square footage required for the packing floor.

Step 2: Warehouse Floor Plan

Ecommerce Warehouse Floor Plan Example: Generous Receiving & Shipping Areas

With Amazon producing such high volumes to manage, your ecommerce warehouse has to be organized too. This is the case whether or not you’re managing large numbers of items, as network teams need to determine where to locate the product to ensure the item can be identified quickly.

If you run a web-based ecommerce business, you must plan the floor layout in a manner that’s optimized for above ground or ground based transportation. To manage this efficiently, you need to pay attention to the rows of shelves and how ecommerce trailers are used. As a result, you’ll need to plan one reception area for local delivery and large amounts of goods, and another for ecommerce traffic.

Also, you may note that the receiving end is placed near the exit to help with efficiency. In essence, the inventory doesn’t have to travel very far between the warehouse and the receiving bay, as it’s moved via foot.

If you run a multi-tier business, it’s inevitable that you’re going to maintain a few distinct receiving areas. However, by letting the warehouse manager determine the location, you’ll be able to manage distribution objectives and building space more effectively.

Ecommerce Warehouse Floor Plan Example: Warehouse Equipment Storage Layout

The project followed the same workflow, but this time we used a 3rd step for the Ecommerce’s warehouse floor plan and product storage layout.

During the first planning and site selection process, we identified the products in need of storage space to be on their own aisle in the warehouse. These products were also sorted into different boxes by type. A few boxes were identified as large, and we decided that they should be stored close to the loading dock, while the rest were stored in lots in Alpha location.

We worked on the floor plans, and it allowed us to decide the flow and where the different boxes would go and how they would pack them. There would be 2 forklifts, one for the flanges and the other for the bulkhead. We also had another 3 people who would use the equipment.

We decided to draw the equipment storage area on a warehouse floor plan sketch.

We followed the same procedures as we used to plan the floor plans for the rest of the warehouse.

The result was an excellent Ecommerce warehouse floor plan that is currently being used by its management for a variety of reasons. Check out the following slideshow to see the 3Rs of Fluid Handling and the floor plans they have used.

Test Your Warehouse Traffic Flow Plan

The best warehouse floor plans are just that … brilliant. However, they only work if they’re practical and efficient, leaving enough room for people, equipment, deliveries and access. A good warehouse layout is one that has been thoroughly thought and put together. The layout should be based on a process flow to ensure efficiency and traffic flow, and the process should be promoted. So if there is no room then be sure to look at the design from other points of view too.

Industrial planners will always have the larger warehouse floor plansheet but the smaller warehouse layout is another thing. According to your needs, you are going to get a layout which is better suited for the overall requirements of the business, that is good to bear in mind. The basic goal behind dividing a building into smaller units is something that is vital to the organization in the long run and it should be a priority.

Step 1. Put together the –shifting warehouse parameters:

  • Are there different facilities?
  • Are there any special requirements?
  • Does the organization have any safety or security concerns you must take into account?
  • I’d also like to see the –shifting floor plan notes –

Practice Performing Work Functions in the Planned Layout

You might be tempted (and excited!) to simply dive right into the layout and get to building. However, you should always make sure to practice the work functions you are looking to include in the layout. It's a good idea to practice these moves several times before beginning to build. Otherwise, you may find you need to move things around or perform the same task in a different way. And at that point, you'll be at the mercy of some other layer of the business process.

Note: You may find you do not need to practice the same work functions repeatedly to gain proficiency. But your level of success with one may impact how you perform other functions. Thus, practice at least one function from each of the following categories: picking, loading and unloading, movement, placing, and welding.

If you have the time, you might want to write down each work function you perform in the layout. This way, each time you practice, you'll be able to make notes on what you need to improve or add. At first, you won't even use this practice. But over time, you may find it's helpful to refer to those notes.

Get Employees to Test Your Warehouse Floor Plan

It’s critical to get your employees to actually test out your new plan. Ask them to empty the entire warehouse onto one floor or the other, leaving only your crucial essentials close to the stock, according to their own insights about which items traditionally sell better.

Does one end of the warehouse sell more health and beauty products than the other? If that’s the case, have all the health and beauty products located in one area.

Be sure to keep the place of least resistance organized and very obvious where you are planning to put the most expensive items.

Check Hard-to-Change Layout Areas Multiple Times

With hard-to-determine layouts like these, it’s important to use a plan that can be adapted to the space as much as possible. The first step that you’ll want to take prior to putting together your layout plan is to check on-site where there are hard-to-change areas of the warehouse. (Also, you want to approximate how much space will need to be kept clear in order for forklifts and people to maneuver.)

The biggest areas that you’ll want to check on site are the areas around docks and lifts. You want to be sure that these docks and lifts can easily operate.

Next, you want to make sure that there are adequate aisles across the space. (In most cases, you’ll want to set your warehouse floor plan up with two or three aisles across the warehouse floor and then two or three aisles opposite the aisles.)

The last area to check on site that you’ll want to make sure is correct is the office area. This area is a key area of the warehouse and is typically the main area that employees are located. With this portion of the layout in hand, you’ll be able to take a look at the other areas of the warehouse without getting started on putting together your layout plan.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to reduce the cold storage space required and optimize your inventory storage space in a warehouse, this post will tell you everything you need to know to get started.

Warehouse Floor Plan Layouts

Before drawing a warehouse floor plan, you should have a clear understanding of your warehouse’s purpose and the facility’s cost factors.

The most common warehouse floor plan layout for cold storage involves maximizing the floor’s loading area, but other warehouse layouts can also be effective.

Maximize your use of loading dock space

A tight perimeter or walkway around your warehouse should provide a useful off loading effect. This will help to reduce the cement floor loading space required. Present and future material storage needs can be maximized with a truck dock in the perimeter.

Pipe railing is an alternative to a fixed perimeter fence or gates. The benefit is a great way of marking out all the different areas for convenient truck loading. The disadvantage is you’ll want to ensure the dock and the materials do not allow any ingress or egress from the general public which could act as a security risk.

Optimize your inventory storage area

The larger your inventory storage area is, the more storage loads you can accommodate.