How to Configure and Equip Your Warehouse: Pallet racking, industrial shelving, MHE and more are covered in a practical warehouse design “due diligence primer.”
When two recently retired MHE professionals connected at a social function a few years ago, little did they realize that their enduring passion for the industry would quickly catapult them into a year-long project. Soon-to-be authors Keith MacDonald and John Binns believed they had a lot to offer emerging and current generations of warehousing professionals. Their discussion turned to the need for a self-help book about warehouse material handling systems and layouts.*
Ongoing changes and new equipment capabilities had transpired over the course of their careers and continued to be added. These have important implications for warehouse design. For instance, rack spacing has progressed from “wide” aisles to narrow aisles and then to very narrow aisles. The tremendous increase in storage height is another example as is the awareness of the effects of building column spacing.
Authors Look to Fill a Void in Warehouse Design Information
MacDonald and Binns reasoned that warehousing professionals not involved with deciding storage and handling methods on a day-to-day basis could not be expected to be aware of all the choices available or have the know-how for the needed decisions. Warehouse decision makers are often too busy in operating their existing warehouses to keep up to date on new possibilities. While large multinational companies often have warehouse design expertise, they recognized that for many independent warehouses, there is a serious knowledge gap.
A review of available books on the warehousing topic by the authors confirmed their belief that industry professionals needed better information about warehouse design, including configuration and equipment selection. They found existing titles to be strongly skewed toward efficiently operating the facility. And although operational efficiency is critical, it is much more difficult to achieve in the absence of first understanding how to select and dimension the storage and retrieval systems which will best position the warehouse for success. Without such attention to warehouse design in the early stages, the chances of achieving the expected operating results are greatly reduced.
Further, they also recognized that the ability to select correct equipment was, in itself, not sufficient for a trouble-free installation and operation. The hands-on learning of pitfalls and dimensioning of various types of equipment and aisle widths, which are combined to form a system, is a must. The fact that the two had been involved with many different types of equipment supplied by a large variety of manufacturers allowed them to bring this broad perspective to the discussion.
They decided that the book would have to be easy for all to follow and become a communications tool as complexity increased. Most importantly the project manager would have to feel comfortable in using it and have others use it; to be literally “all on the same page” in their understandings of any situation. This must include the progression from “what systems to use” through “how best to use them” and on through “how to combine all the different systems and methods into an efficient layout”.
The Selection Process
To attain these difficult goals it was decided to use a modular approach, which works well for warehouse layouts. Most layouts are just a combination of square or rectangular areas called zones; with each zone being a stand-alone segment of the warehouse.
Therefore, the selection process should be to first determine the type of storage and activity required for a zone and then select the equipment and aisle width to suit. The needed area is then easily determined and each zone becomes a moveable warehouse segment. It’s length and width can be easily reconfigured to fit as many complete warehouse configurations (combinations and placements of zones) as required.
The first step is to consider the different types of goods to be stored, their physical sizes and weights and the type of activity they will require for storage and retrieval. These will be fit into different types of zones.
Types of zone activity will usually fall into one or more of these categories:
- Pallet-In……Pallet-Out / Cases-Out / Pieces-Out
- Cases-In…..Cases-Out / Pieces-Out
In order to progress from the types and needed activities of stored products to a completed layout, the authors recommend a six-step process. For enhanced clarity of the explanations, comments, and cautions, many full-page drawings were considered essential.
For each zone the selection process might then become:
1) Consider and select the preferred storage equipment.
2) Consider and select the preferred handling and order selection equipment.
3) Decide on the preferred storage aisle width. This may not be the narrowest possible. There are many considerations in deciding aisle widths.
4) Combine the storage and handling equipment with the chosen aisle. This is the basic system for a zone.
5) Then comes the very important check of all dimensions to ensure that there will not be any surprise problems. Regardless of warehouse size, the planning is based on a game of inches or fractions of an inch. A rack bay which is ½” longer than expected can make a row of racks unacceptably long, perhaps messing up the width of access aisles or in-floor wire-guidance. Every equipment and aisle combination should be checked by an experienced person. Quite often ”The Devil is in the Details”.
The chances of misfits increase when a number of suppliers are involved and close attention from the project manager becomes very important.
6) When the selections have been finalized and checked for compatibility each zone can then be inserted where wanted in the overall plan. It is here that the number and width of access aisles (“main aisles”, “cross aisles”) can be determined and the locations of building columns checked. Some suggested “fixes” are shown for instances where the columns become a problem.
The authors believe the manual achieves to a large extent the goals they set in regard to illuminating the process of warehouse configuration and equipment selection. Kirkus Reviews calls How to Configure and Equip Your Warehouse “An informative operational due-diligence primer.”
How to Configure and Equip Your Warehouse is available from a number of major book suppliers with a “look inside” on their websites. In Canada go to friesenpress.com. Also, check it out at Amazon.com and on Google Play.
* For the purposes of this manual a “System” or “Storage and Handling System” is used to include any combinations of storage and handling equipment, along with the methods and aisle widths used to store and retrieve products. A warehouse may have any number of these different systems which, through a step-by-step method, are inserted into the total warehouse layout.