Top Factors to Consider When Laying Out a Warehouse for Automation

With the individualized needs, products and processes of warehouses it is no surprise that each facility requires an equally unique design and solution. A warehouse design that works perfectly for a facility that ships primarily full pallet orders may not be as efficient as one that ships a variety of products in limited quantities.

During the critical step of warehouse design, order analytics help develop the right solution and layout. Designers and planners analyze the way products are moving today, while looking toward the future, to determine the right amount of automation necessary to gain efficiencies without incurring huge capital cost. The ultimate design should consider the capabilities of both a warehouse execution system (WES) and automation.

Warehouse Layout
Manufacturers in every industry are constantly challenged with utilizing warehouse space to its maximum capacity. If you have a large number of pallets of products, it may seem like the most convenient way to store those pallets would be on the floor. However, a floor storage design might require a warehouse with a footprint equal to football fields long, which is not cost effective. Not to mention, efficiency could decrease dramatically because of the time needed to travel across the warehouse to pick orders. Moreover, many products may not have the sales volume to justify their excess storage space on the floor. Thus, you tend to have a lot of product not within a reasonable area that is readily available for picking, which is where automation can play a greater role.

Organizations that implement an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS) within an existing facility typically increases storage capacity by 30 to 50 percent, allowing them to increase throughput and position themselves for future growth, without costly construction. When determining your warehouse’s layout it is important to consider what will be stored in your warehouse. When storing inventory in the fresh and frozen food industry, every square foot of the warehouse counts.

Warehouse System Design
Aging of products is a huge concern for companies, especially in the food industry, that deal with perishable goods. Moreover, consumer packaged goods manufacturers prefer not to ship newer products to retailers before they clear older stock off store shelves. To make better use of resources, these manufacturers can use an AS/RS with a WES. When combined, these systems have the ability to increase inventory visibility and control by providing real-time data that allows manufactures to increase overall operational efficiency, and plan better for future production and planning.

In addition, a WES offers a variety of options for optimal inventory replacement. For instance, the system can initiate replenishment on faster-moving products when space becomes available for a pallet on the rack. For slower moving products, users can set up an algorithm where the system does not trigger replenishment until a future order contains that product.
By Dan Labell, president, Westfalia Technologies, Inc.

Author Bio:
Dan Labell is the president and founder of Westfalia Technologies, Inc., a leading provider of logistics solutions for plants, warehouses and distribution centers since 1992. Under Labell’s leadership, Westfalia has transformed supply chains through the power of warehouse automation with its high-density AS/RS and Savanna.NETE™ Warehouse Execution System (WES).

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