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Welcome to Epic Learnings: the home of the Infoplus team’s most in-depth, research-backed thoughts on key topics in warehousing, eCommerce, fulfillment, software, and more. Every piece of content you see is always freely available and always heavy-duty. So keep this page in your inventory.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Understand why setup is so key — and why it may be the factor that's hindering your growth.

Why Strategic Setup Enables Growth

Are you keeping up with growth?


If not, you’re in good company. The majority of eCommerce retailers hit a growth curve they weren’t prepared for. But it’s not their inventory or resources causing the problem—often, it’s their warehouse setup. Their layout is ill-suited for their new high volumes.
Addressing your warehouse layout is critical to managing an uptick in your business.

Unfortunately, changing the layout usually isn’t the first solution many retailers try. They’ll take a more “strategic approach” instead. But many don’t really need to go that route; their approach isn’t the problem. After all, their main concern is getting customers, growing revenue, and creating a trustworthy, reliable brand—all good things.So many well-meaning retailers make unnecessary changes, only to reach a breaking point caused by shifting away from their original warehouse layout and design.

Start with Foundational Principles

Let’s say that you’re an eCommerce retailer who specializes in small parcel orders—more than 90% of them go directly to consumers (online retail orders). You’ll need to organize your warehouse to allow for efficient product flow. Keeping up with both your daily demand and the expectations of your customers requires simplicity.

A simplified warehouse flow will keep receipts out of the way of your outbound operations. Otherwise, you’ll have a congested dock, and operations will slow down to a crawl. Moving your receipts immediately out of the way for future QA and put-away ensures that your outbound operations will always run at capacity.

These kinds of choices are straightforward, but they also can help prevent some of the most incapacitating and common mistakes in warehouse setup, including:

  1. Sub-optimal shipping and receiving areas

  2. Order picking paths not optimized

  3. No separate areas for dead stock, returns, etc.

  4. Lack of easily recognizable signage and shelf labels

  5. Treating technology as a toy, not a tool

Determine the Right Setup for Your Size

From there, you can make a plan for your warehouse. We've drawn on our extensive experience to put together suggested roadmaps and designs for small, medium, and large eCommerce warehouses.

You can find the full 10-step guide to setting up your warehouse here, but there are a few keys:

  1. Determine the space you need
  2. Optimize pick paths and zone layouts
  3. Integrate warehouse systems and management software
  4. Define KPIs and set up data collection for your warehouse


An easy way to calculate how much space you need is by determining how many pallets and cartons you plan on carrying at any one point and then multiplying by the footprint of your average pallet or carton. You can then assess how many cubic feet of space you'll need — and remember to keep potential growth in mind.

Check out these sample warehouse layouts and their accompanying guides below.

 

Large Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Large Warehouse Design

Medium Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Medium Warehouse Design

Small Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Small Layout Design

 

Specialize the Setup of Areas and Workflows

The difference between a good setup and a great setup comes down to how well your warehouse is optimized for the particular needs of your logistics business. Your setup should enable and influence your workflows and your technology — including your Warehouse Management System.

With a layout mostly set, it's time to consider how that layout influences warehouse operations. You'll need to dig into the needs of zones, like your shipping area or receiving area.

Your workflows will also have to adjust, in particular your picking process. Choosing the best warehouse picking process is a function of several factors. The overall design of the space, the equipment available, the workforce, scheduling, the number of SKUs, and the product itself, all help define the best method. This infographic breaks down the best three order picking methods and how they'll interact with your setup.

You should also assess your technological needs. Your newly-optimized warehouse layout will enable everything to flow smoothly, but technology will be the engine that keeps everything moving on time and on track.

Why Strategic Setup Enables Growth

Why Strategic Setup Enables Growth

Are you keeping up with growth?


If not, you’re in good company. The majority of eCommerce retailers hit a growth curve they weren’t prepared for. But it’s not their inventory or resources causing the problem—often, it’s their warehouse setup. Their layout is ill-suited for their new high volumes.
Addressing your warehouse layout is critical to managing an uptick in your business.

Unfortunately, changing the layout usually isn’t the first solution many retailers try. They’ll take a more “strategic approach” instead. But many don’t really need to go that route; their approach isn’t the problem. After all, their main concern is getting customers, growing revenue, and creating a trustworthy, reliable brand—all good things.So many well-meaning retailers make unnecessary changes, only to reach a breaking point caused by shifting away from their original warehouse layout and design.

Start with Foundational Principles

Start with Foundational Principles

Let’s say that you’re an eCommerce retailer who specializes in small parcel orders—more than 90% of them go directly to consumers (online retail orders). You’ll need to organize your warehouse to allow for efficient product flow. Keeping up with both your daily demand and the expectations of your customers requires simplicity.

A simplified warehouse flow will keep receipts out of the way of your outbound operations. Otherwise, you’ll have a congested dock, and operations will slow down to a crawl. Moving your receipts immediately out of the way for future QA and put-away ensures that your outbound operations will always run at capacity.

These kinds of choices are straightforward, but they also can help prevent some of the most incapacitating and common mistakes in warehouse setup, including:

  1. Sub-optimal shipping and receiving areas

  2. Order picking paths not optimized

  3. No separate areas for dead stock, returns, etc.

  4. Lack of easily recognizable signage and shelf labels

  5. Treating technology as a toy, not a tool

Determine the Right Setup for Your Size

Determine the Right Setup for Your Size

From there, you can make a plan for your warehouse. We've drawn on our extensive experience to put together suggested roadmaps and designs for small, medium, and large eCommerce warehouses.

You can find the full 10-step guide to setting up your warehouse here, but there are a few keys:

  1. Determine the space you need
  2. Optimize pick paths and zone layouts
  3. Integrate warehouse systems and management software
  4. Define KPIs and set up data collection for your warehouse


An easy way to calculate how much space you need is by determining how many pallets and cartons you plan on carrying at any one point and then multiplying by the footprint of your average pallet or carton. You can then assess how many cubic feet of space you'll need — and remember to keep potential growth in mind.

Check out these sample warehouse layouts and their accompanying guides below.

 

Large Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Large Warehouse Design

Medium Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Medium Warehouse Design

Small Warehouse Layout Walkthrough

Small Layout Design

 

Specialize the Setup of Areas and Workflows

Specialize the Setup of Areas and Workflows

The difference between a good setup and a great setup comes down to how well your warehouse is optimized for the particular needs of your logistics business. Your setup should enable and influence your workflows and your technology — including your Warehouse Management System.

With a layout mostly set, it's time to consider how that layout influences warehouse operations. You'll need to dig into the needs of zones, like your shipping area or receiving area.

Your workflows will also have to adjust, in particular your picking process. Choosing the best warehouse picking process is a function of several factors. The overall design of the space, the equipment available, the workforce, scheduling, the number of SKUs, and the product itself, all help define the best method. This infographic breaks down the best three order picking methods and how they'll interact with your setup.

You should also assess your technological needs. Your newly-optimized warehouse layout will enable everything to flow smoothly, but technology will be the engine that keeps everything moving on time and on track.

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    Do You Rule Your Inventory?

    30% of warehouses are operating efficiently. And US warehouses have trillions in unmoved stock. So dig deeper into our 3 Rules of Inventory in this in-depth resource.

    Set Yourself Up For Success - and Efficiency

    We've dug into the details of warehouse setup, from the details of where to place certain zones to the big picture of how setup interacts with all your warehouse workflows. That's the key takeaway here: your warehouse setup influences everything else in your operations — which means it's foundational to your bottom line and your overall efficiency. Reach out to us for any additional advice on how to adjust your warehouse setup!

    Tim Chamberlain
    8 years at

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