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Warehousing has many facets; receiving and sending shipments, inventory control flow, and expectation management are just a few of the essential capacities that warehousing fulfills. But at the end of the day, warehousing is about space. More specifically, it is about optimizing the square footage of the building you have (thewarehousing) to suit all of the tasks listed above, and more.
Scalability is a huge concern, here. As they say, change is the only constant. Depending on the time of year, the type of inventory, and the direction and missions of your company, the use of your warehouse is bound to change. So there will be times when you will have more inventory than you know what to do with. Poor space management can lead to all sorts of flow interruptions and setbacks that are even more expensive than simply getting a bigger space in the first place. But with the right strategies, you work smarter, not harder, and create more space out of thin air. Here are some of our suggestions:
It might sound obvious, but one of the foremost causes of a cramped warehouse is simply too much inventory. There are two common paradigms, both equally problematic: either you have too much of what you need, or too much of what you don’t need.
In the case of the former, you probably have a hot ticket item that you have stocked up on in order to meet and fill 100% of your orders. While this can be advantageous for client relations, having clutter will ultimately interfere with your entire operation, and cause inefficiencies down the road. In peak seasons, it’s easy to fall justify a surplus of a product because you know you will move it. But in warehousing, it’s not just about what you have, but what you do with it.
Having too much of something you don’t need is usually caused by an oversight of inventory management or incorrect projections. When things slips through the cracks like this, it’s important to catch them quickly before you start running out of space. However, in both cases, the solution is the same: lose dead weight.
Aisle width is very crucial to optimizing your warehouse space. Most of your warehouse space probably consists of just the aisles, the space between your actual inventory. Of course you need aisle to navigate the warehouse safely and efficiently, but how much elbow room to you really need? In most cases, 9’ is plenty of space to navigate between the shelving in a standard warehouse. Take some measurements and you will be surprised at how much extra square footage you can get out of your warehouse just by tightening things up a bit.
This isn’t technically true—in a warehouse, the ceiling is the limit. Building your shelving and storage vertically is one of the easiest ways to create extra space in your warehouse. Depending on your inventory, available ceiling clearance, and equipment, you can practically stack another warehouse on top of what you already have.
Most warehouses grow organically, which is to say chaotically. There is often little forethought put into the development of a warehouse configuration before it is too late. So if you find that you’re running out of space, it’s likely that you are simply dealing with a layout problem, rather than a space problem. Instead of thinking about expansions, consider a completely new organization of your space that can fit everything you already have in the most efficient way possible.
If you find that you are tight on space during peak periods, and you absolutely need to meet all the demand that’s available at a moment’s notice. Then it might be worth looking into temporary, outside storage to house some of the spillover. After all, there’s no point in paying for the space year-round if you only need it for a few months at a time. Plus, managing dynamic inventory flow efficiently is a lot easier in a smaller, dedicated environment.
Again, it’s likely that the size of your warehouse is not the problem. If you don’t have good warehouse management software (WMS), you will end up with surpluses of inventory and other seemingly trivial problems that shouldn’t ever arise in the first place. Good WMS will not only tell you what you have and what you don’t, and what you do and don’t need—it can also help you find the best ways to organize your inventory based on product activity and unit load dimensions.
The fact that you are hitting a wall (quite literally) in your expansion means that something is wrong. At the very least, it suggests that you hadn’t anticipated that you would run out of space in the first place. Simply creating “more” space in your warehouse will not address other subtle inefficiencies in your operation that ultimately led to this problem—in fact, it will only exacerbate them. As we said earlier, change is the only constant. The warehouse is the environment that is best suited to accommodate the vicissitudes of the market, which means you have to be flexible, agile, and above all, prepared for anything.