7 principles of Warehouse and Distribution Centre Design

Few people really understand the discipline of warehouse design and as a result, there are literally thousands of facilities that are underperforming.

According to http://www.logisticsbureau.com, these are the 7 principles for designing a warehouse or a distribution centre:

1Determine the objective of the facility

The first step is to define the objectives and goals of the facility. What is it there for, what market does it service, is it part of a network, what types of good will be stored, what is the anticipated life of the facility.

2- Define volumes and functional requirements

The facts needed are:

a) Quantities of products to be stored.

b) The throughput velocities, including incoming goods, customers orders, interfacility transfers, dispatches and returns.

c) The nature of orders and specific picking requirements, for example, is picking performed in pallets, containers, cartons, or single units.

This is one of the hardest and most time consuming part of a design project. This is because most of the time enterprises do not have this data available. In cases where there is not much data or this is non existent, the designer must draw from his/her own expereince to fix assumptions around volumetric estimates. This is best performed with collaboration and agreement from the stakeholders involved.

d) What functions need to be provided for?

It’s imperative that the designer understands all of the functions that are to be included on the site footprint, for example,  warehouse, offices, gantry cranes, loading docks, forklift charging areas, dangerous or hazardous goods, cool or cold rooms, clean rooms, manufacturing or packaging operations, staff facilities, etc. Equally important is that relative dependencies between functions are determined so that the designer can correctly frame functional proximities for best flow and operation by staff.

3- Match storage modes, it systems and mechanised technologies with volumes

Once the data has been analysed, the designer is ready for equipment selection. Be it static racking equipment, mezzanines and the like, or mechanical equipment such as conveyors, carousels, stacker cranes etc., all equipment and systems must be applied according to their purpose, limitations and fit with the volumes handled.

For instance, it is a waste if an automatic storage and retrieval system is installed, when a conventional racking system will be enough. On the other hand, if the facts point to justification of a high-velocity automated system, it is foolish to ignore them for the sake of a more conventional system. A critical aspect of equipment selection is that the designer has expert knowledge of available equipment and technologies, and how to apply them.

This is a complex area that deserves careful consideration and the novice designer is well advised to seek advice from materials handling equipment and software suppliers, builders, and industry specialists to ensure that their design is well founded, robust and practical.

4- Flow

a) One-way flow.
The best warehouse operations are those that apply this principle. Whether straight, clockwise, counter clockwise, up or down, make sure it flows in a one-way direction. But here’s a tip. Be cautious when dealing with international customers, where cultural and religious beliefs point to specific requirements.

b) Flow vs. Capacity
The second rule of flow is that free movement has priority over storage capacity. If you are pressed with a choice, the experts agree that it’s better to hold flow sacrosanct, compared with building more stock or storage equipment. Why? Long after the warehouse construction has been completed, a team has to operate efficiently and safely in the warehouse year after year. If the design compromises on the size and quantity of aisles, for sake of more stock holding, beware: this can cause suboptimal performance over the life of the facility.

5- Close to zero materials handling movement

Keep the product handling by people to a mínimum. Ideally from 3-5 touches of the product, while goods are the in the warehouse.

6- Evaluate your options

The developed concept design options must be evaluated to ensure that the objectives are achieved. The two common approaches to assessment are:

a) Quantitative analysis: return investment, payback, cost per order to supply, cost per order cubic metre to name just a few.

b) Qualitative analysis: reviewing the advantages and disadvantages of options considered. Ideally the evaluation is best performed both individually and in a team workshop environment. It’s amazing what can be revealed when a team collectively focuses its attention at a project. Despite the meticulous job the designer may have performed, a workshop can often reveal a late insight, idea, or missed detail that can significantly impact upon the end design.

7- Consult widely as the design process is multifaceted, and normalyy involves executives, managers, and operators as well as equipment suppliers, builders, architects and councils

As part of the development process all should be regularly consulted as to planning and legal requirements, operational needs, preferences, ideas and opinions.

The best implementations typically features a cohesive and dedicated team charged with managing the project from early design phases through to completion.



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