Six Quick Tips: Saving Space In a Warehouse or Factory

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Saving space in your factory or warehouse?

Space constraints are frequently a problem for industrial operations. We’ve seen facilities where there was plenty of square footage, but cramped quarters in areas like palletizing, shipping, or packaging due to poor overall design, business spikes, or unanticipated growth.

Some things we recommend are:

  • Look at overall facility design with fresh eyes. Yes, this can be time consuming, but if your shipping area can’t put pallets on trucks, you have to consider why, and how you might give them elbow room. To understand if warehouse space is being used correctly, the entire airspace must be examined (The Logic of Layout)
  •  Saving space: The logistics defines the requirements for the facilityThink of a rope. When it’s tugged, knotted, coiled, or shaped to take a form (a question mark would be appropriate), the entire length is affected. Layout is similar. Along its length (movement of people and product) all parts are impacted by any expansion, elimination of equipment, equipment installation, whatever. All parts make up one interconnected whole. Revisions like adding personnel, a department re-layout, or equipment installation impacts all areas in the plant sometimes in less than obvious ways. (for example re-routing of material handling aisle to accommodate installation of new equipment, reduction of work-in-process due to expansion).

    Therefore, the first question you must ask yourself before focusing on any individual department or area intended for revision, “How does it impact the movement of people and/or product throughout the entire plant?”

    By following the layout logic’s bouncing ball you can see the inter-connection, which make up the whole:

    Customer (market) determines Product
    Product determines Warehouse and Equipment
    Equipment locations determines Material and Personnel Workflow
    Workflow determines location of office and Employee Entry
    Employee Entry determines location of toilets/lockers, cafeteria, Human Resources Office determines location of Main Entry Putting the Pieces of the Puzzle Together, proving or disproving your layout theory until you get it right (adjacencies)

  • Go lean. One of the many benefits of a lean process is that by nature it creates straight lines. It helps you visualize workflow in a way that’s naturally more efficient. Looking at your operation from a lean perspective helps balance space needs vs. time needs.
  • Think vertical. Mezzanines, taller racks, and other storage media can utilize the ‘dead’ airspace in your facility. One of our clients moved its conveyor from the floor and suspended it to recoup needed workspace below. The savings in floor space was used for work in process, traffic, etc.
  • Look at high density storage equipment. Consolidate order picking shelving into higher density storage such as flow racks or carousels.
  • Take control of your inventory. Nothing eats space like dead, slow, or inactive stock. Logistics Management recommends examining each stock-keeping unit’s cubic velocity versus its cubic inventory to determine which products have little or no movement. Reclaim that space with active inventory, work space, or new machinery.
  • Eyeball the biggest culprits. Warehouse space is mostly filled storage areas. Is there underutilized “air” in your rack system? Would certain areas benefit from a change (could you transform a row of rack from selective to push-back or pallet flow?) Are pallet stacked around the docks cluttering the area? Have corners become a “shove and forget” area? Is floor stacking an issue that could be resolved with a different layout, or more vertical storage?

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