Choosing to remodel an existing warehouse or plan a completely new warehouse is a challenging task that requires extensive planning. If you want the final result of your project to align with your design principles and meet your goals, it’s highly recommended that you take the time to create a comprehensive warehouse project plan. Doing so should help you optimize your warehouse and deliver lean operations.
In the long run, the project planning you perform will allow you to more efficiently use your resources, which should positively impact the rest of your business. Keep in mind that there are numerous factors that should be carefully considered as you create a warehouse plan, which include space, processes, equipment, and inventory. You should also have an understanding of your priorities and operational goals. The following is a step-by-step guide on the warehouse project planning process.
The Importance of Warehouse Project Plans
In order to create a warehouse, many moving parts must be cohesively put together to ensure that the warehouse layout allows for efficient loading and unloading. Being able to design your warehouse from scratch is a great opportunity to create a space that matches your exact specifications and design preferences.
Properly planning your warehouse project is essential if you want to avoid making mistakes that take time and money to fix. The planning process encompasses four distinct phases, which include the initiation phase, the planning phase, the execution phase, and the evaluation phase.
The first phase of warehouse project planning involves the initiation phase, the purpose of which is to identify the exact problem that you need to solve. If all you do is rearrange some shelves and organize a few work areas without a set objective, you’ll likely find the results to be disappointing. Try to understand the major issues in your warehouse, which could be anything from a poor placement of equipment to an inefficient placement of products.
Let’s say that you regularly use one piece of equipment immediately after using another. In the event that these two pieces of equipment are located on opposite ends of the warehouse, you’ll be wasting time and resources. This equipment should always be positioned in a manner that allows for efficiency. Any inefficiencies in a warehouse can be costly.
This same issue could occur with products. In the event that 20% of the products in your warehouse are located in hard-to-reach areas, workers will take longer to pick, store, and pack products that are meant to be moved quickly. There are two things you can do to determine what the current challenges are in your warehouse, which include holding consultations and using technology to measure warehouse efficiency.
If you consult with your personnel, these employees should be able to give you an accurate understanding of existing inefficiencies. There could be aspects of your operations that you never believed were an issue before now. Addressing these problems during the planning phase is essential if you want to eliminate inefficient tasks and help maintain the mental health of your personnel.
If you decide to use technology, radio frequency identification technology (RFID) and mobile scanners can help you assess data to identify how goods flow through your warehouse. The analysis you perform will determine which goods are moved most frequently, which areas in your warehouse see the most traffic, and how long it takes for personnel to ship, store, pick, and pack goods. During this process, you’ll be given data that allows you to reorganize your space to make sure that all fast-moving items are easy to access.
The planning phase can be the lengthiest stage of the warehouse project planning process. Your goal in this phase is to outline all of the work that needs to be done as well as the resources and tasks that are required. Estimated timelines will also be set during the planning phase. Once you’ve reached the conclusion of this phase, you’ll likely have:
- Estimated all of the project costs
- Created a comprehensive schedule
- Listed and detailed all tasks that will need to be done before the project can be completed
Make sure that you draw up a detail map of the warehouse, which can be done manually with warehouse layout technology. This map should display such elements as office areas, overhead doors, height restrictions, columns/supports, and installed equipment. Every area in the warehouse should also be clearly labeled to represent an operational activity, which could be anything from the inbound staging area to the damaged product area.
During the planning phase, you should also think about the unique requirements that your warehouse has. These elements can include:
- Your equipment and the surrounding workspace – The main units in a warehouse include equipment, pallet racks, and shelving
- Workflow areas and production zones – Warehouse managers should consider the areas between the shelves to make sure that goods can be efficiently accessed
- Storage areas – The exact items you store in your warehouse dictate what your layout should be
Your warehouse flow should also be added to your map. You can begin by listing out key processes, after which you can draw workflow directions that these operations have. Make sure that you use different colors for drawing secondary operations that aren’t as important as the primary ones. Your personnel should be able to provide you with all of the info you require about warehouse workflows. Make sure that your planning accounts for the following workflows:
- The put-away flow that goes from the inbound area to free areas or racks
- Main walking paths that pickers should take
- The direction that forklift drivers should take
- Movement of any returned products
- Outbound flow that picked orders will have
- Flow of labeled and packed boxes to outbound area
Now that you’ve created a warehouse map, you should analyze it to identify opportunities for optimization. Look at the data about the shipping and receiving locations, special handling lines, and operational locations. Compare this data with the latest warehouse flow that was drawn up.
Knowing exactly where storage, staging, and product areas will be should help you improve warehouse efficiency. If you want to be certain that all facets of the warehouse layout have been taken into account, below is a general checklist that should help.
- Diagram all movements within your warehouse
- Reserve space for necessary forklift movements
- Highlight the main paths
- Separate the locations for inbound and outbound shipments
- Create a multi-purpose area for moving and staging processes
- Make a dedicated space for any damaged items that arrive at your warehouse
- Consider small shelves for small items
You can begin creating a shopping list and budget once you’ve determined which areas in your warehouse can be optimized. Keep in mind that you can use design software to better visualize your preferred warehouse layout. These tools allow you to compare different layout options and create 3D renderings of your warehouses. Simple sketching tools can also help.
Your next step involves making a list of all of the equipment you need and the costs associated with this equipment. The main pieces of equipment that are needed in a warehouse include:
- Hand trucks
- Flow racks
- Cantilever racks
- Pallet racks
- Industrial shelving
- Service carts
- Yard ramps
- Dock boards
After you make a list of the equipment you need to buy, you can place prices to the side of each item, which allows you to create a budget. If you need to optimize your warehouse layout and design, some technologies that can help you automate operations include:
- Automated guiding vehicles
- Automated picking tools
- Warehouse management system
- Automated inventory management system
- Automated storage and retrieval system
- Collaborative robots
Every task that must be completed before the project is finished should come with key milestones as well as start and end date estimations.
When you’re designing a warehouse from scratch, executing a warehouse plan is relatively straightforward as long as you adhere to the planning documents you’ve created. If, on the other hand, you have day-to-day activities that must be taken care of in an existing warehouse, you’ll need to choose between an all-out approach or a layered approach.
The all-out approach involves implementing every change at once, which will likely require some operational downtime until the project is completed. When taking the layered approach, you’ll implement the changes slowly to minimize downtime. The approach you end up taking largely depends on the vendor’s installation specifications, the time of year, and the size of your warehouse.
Even though the changes you make to your warehouse will likely improve worker efficiency, it will take some time for employees to learn the new layout and manage the infrastructure changes.
The fourth and final phase is the evaluation phase, which indicates that your work is almost done. From here, you’ll be tasked with documenting everything that went well and everything that created issues with the project timeline. The lessons you learn from this process should be documented and presented to the primary stakeholders. They should also be stored for future reference on other layout improvement projects.
Why Choose QMH?
Here at QMH, our experience has given us a built-in knowledge of how to provide our clients with the right solutions when they’re planning their next warehouse project. Creating a warehouse project plan is essential if you want to minimize mistakes and complete the project on your preferred timeline.
Every phase of the planning process is integral to the final result. The initiation phase gives you time to identify the main components of your warehouse and learn about the inefficiencies that currently facilitate problems in the facility.
During the planning phase, you’ll create detailed guidelines that every team member will follow for the remainder of the project. The execution and evaluation phases will go off without a hitch if the planning phase is performed correctly. Now that you understand what this four-step process entails, you should be ready to get started.