Written by guest contributor Megan Ray Nichols, a freelance stem writer and the editor of Schooled By Science. For more from Megan, you can follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her blog here.
Renovating your warehouse is the best time to perfect the space for maximum efficiency — you have the chance to change everything for your business. The most crucial step in the renovation process is planning. When you have a goal to improve your warehouse operations after the renovations, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a more productive facility.
Here are six tips to keep in mind as you renovate your warehouse.
1. Look Up to Consider Roof Improvements
A leaky roof could ruin inventory. Now is the time to check your warehouse roof for leaks. If you want to install solar panels on your roof to supplement your facility’s power, do it when improving your roof. Consider future rooftop structural additions, too — your roof will need to accommodate any current air conditioner and water units, as well as future structures.
Also keep in mind that lighter colored roofs reflect heat, keeping the warehouse cooler in the summer. This is another way to make your warehouse more energy efficient.
2. Organize Aisles for Better Workflow
Consider traffic patterns in your warehouse as carefully as the roads you drive to work. You need to lay out your warehouse to allow for vehicles and people to travel the aisles. Consider designated foot-traffic-only lanes in aisles to protect people from vehicular accidents. If you plan on future automation, research the various automated vehicle options for picking. Each one may need different accommodations for aisle width and guidance hardware.
3. Arrange Shelving Layouts for Human or Automated Workers
The way you arrange the shelves will depend on who you have stocking or picking from the inventory. If you have human operators working with forklifts, you may not want to build shelves too high. Doing so will put items out of range of the forklifts. It’s also more dangerous for a forklift and its human operator if some objects are too high.
However, if you intend to have an automated storage and retrieval system, AS/RS, that doesn’t need people to run it, you can install higher shelves. Other advantages of AS/RS include requiring narrower shelves, running in less light and at lower temperatures and reaching higher shelves. These AS/RS will take advantage of the elevated area, making your warehouse more efficient by using more space for product storage.
4. Realize Now May Be Your Only Chance to Change the Floor
When you clear out your warehouse to renovate it, this may be the only chance you get to redo your floor, which must be flat and non-skid. Any dips could cause shelving to lean, creating a hazard. If you want to renovate the flooring, consider how much it will cost to keep clean, as well as how long it will last.
Epoxy is an excellent coating for an easy-to-clean flooring choice in general use warehouses. It does not need much cleaning or maintenance. For best results, choose a product labeled 100 percent. This percentage means all the epoxy coating stays on the floor without any evaporating. Cheaper, 50 percent, coatings have half the amount applied to the floor evaporate to the air.
Remember, your flooring supports your whole warehouse — it’s not an area you want to skimp on.
5. Plan for Specialized Areas
Though most of the space in the warehouse is dedicated to inventory storage, you need specialized areas, too. Office space within a warehouse puts your managers close to the workers. An intake area near the docking bay gives space for new products to wait until workers can stock them. It’s also a place for products to await outgoing shipment.
If your warehouse is in a location with cold winters, have interior dock space to keep products protected from harsh temperatures. An interior dock also protects workers from the cold. You should also keep a storage area in the warehouse for supplies the workers often use, such as cleaning materials and boxes.
6. Rethink the Walls
The type of walls you have installed at your warehouse will make a difference. Tilt-walls are cheaper to install, and their concrete design is long-lasting. On the other hand, curtains designed for industrial use give you partitions that allow you to avoid installing new walls. These curtains are the perfect choice if you need to make regular changes to your warehouse layout.
Warehouse Renovation Leads to More Productivity
When you renovate your warehouse with productivity in mind, you will see a boost in efficiency. Seconds matter when you’re in a fast-paced industry, and minor changes in your warehouse design will cut time from each product retrieval. Even slightly narrowing the aisles for AS/RS can increase storage space.
With less time and more space available, your warehouse will reach its maximum productivity potential in no time at all.