Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Smarter Shelving?

Contributed by Actis furio

Take a look around your house when you get home this evening and look at all the shelves on the wall.  Why were they put there and not five inches to the left or right? Or should they be higher to better maximize the high ceiling?  You probably didn't consider this when they were first hung as you were more concerned with aesthetics then efficiency, but that isn't a luxury warehouses can afford.

All industrial spaces that are built and organised into warehouses no matter on what scale or budget have a common trait that makes them all similar in some sense. They all must have an efficient use of space and include shelves that are adequate to fit and store the goods that need to be warehoused. The problem with these characteristics is that sometimes it is hard to know which is the best way to store your goods.

In terms of shelving obviously the best way to make it an asset to your business rather than a burden is to customise the warehouse shelving from scratch. Starting with a floor plan of the space available to you is a good way to valuate your options. This way you can decide on the height, width and placement of the shelves made in expanded metal that will fill your warehouse space with the flexibility of being able to make the most of every nook and cranny.

In regards to smaller warehouses for small businesses one of the major things that are overlooked are the timing of the arrival and departure of goods plus the many possibilities that can make your goods unsellable due to damage. A negative aspect of this is that in smaller businesses where the inventory system isn’t as sophisticated as other bigger warehouses is that goods can be unsellable and therefore obsolete but still be taking up space. Warehouse managers may be unaware of this and shelf space can be lost unnecessarily. With tight budgets sometimes it is also harmful for a firm to writing off damaged stock on warehouse shelves as the stock value on the books can change dramatically and successively change the value of the business.

Management of the stock on shelves is just as important as the layout of the warehouse itself. In saying this creating an operational warehouse can reduce the damaged stock and therefore increase the profits.

Naturally all of this depends on what is being stored and how often it is being sold and replaced. By efficiently registering what goes on the shelves the warehouse managers can inform the pricing managers about which products need to be cleared through product promotions and which can be kept without becoming obsolete.

Having the right equipment is essential for access to all areas of the warehouse, which gives these managers greater elasticity in supervising the stock and making sure that the storage of goods is working for your business and not against. At the end of the day this is the purpose of a warehouse, increasing the capacity of your business to supply to customers.


Unknown said...

This is a great topic, especially for small businesses newer to warehousing. One consideration for warehouse managers is the space of the racking. One small company I work with decided that they should space racks far enough apart to place pallets up to 96 inches high in each slot. However, after a few months, they quickly realized that since most of the pallets were not that tall, there was a lot of empty space above most of the pallets. Accordingly, they are considering switching to a smaller height for each row to maximize its space - something most large companies also do.

Additionally, I love your point about helping the sales team know what old inventory needs to be cleared out of the warehouse. Often, small companies are so busy with new products, that they sometimes forget what's in the back corners of their warehouse. This inventory could be liquidated and cash freed up, which is something essential for many small businesses. I've wrote in my blog about holding a warehouse sale, which is especially useful for clearing out all the odds and ends that you don't have enough of to sell to a liquidation partner.

Unknown said...

The keyword in any storage warehouse is label. Always, always label clearly. The worst run storage warehouses have such messy set ups they screw up orders all the time. With proper organisation like that, workers should be able to follow the guides and labels to the exact product. Loading of items in the shelves must also be done correctly, thus eradicating further confusion down the road. The other thing often overlooked is ergonomics. Workers must be able to excess all corners of a shelf and if the shelf is tall, as they often are, a ladder on wheels must be provided on the warehouse floor. These ladders must have their proper storage place and must be return to that point after use.

Unknown said...

It makes sense to me that warehouses would have to be very careful about their shelving. The shelving must be as efficient as possible to avoid wasting space. I feel the same way about my bookshelves and shelves holding my CDs and DVDs. I don't like wasted space on my shelves!