Seasoned warehouse managers use the principles of material flow in the warehouse to continually assess and improve warehouse efficiencies. Material flow is a function of labour, time, and warehouse space.
The following principles can serve to guide the less experienced warehouse manager in their quest to optimize material flow in the warehouse and operating efficiencies.
- Define the processing and functional zones within the warehouse. This would include receiving, inventory storage, packaging, staging and any secondary work operations (e.g., kitting)
- Analyze the space & design needs for each functional area. So, for example, receiving would be a function of volume received per day, work processes related, staging needs to support QA and counting, and put away processes
- The design principles for each area should be to minimize material handling and provide the necessary space design and allocations to support processing needs.
- Once you have designed the space needs for each warehouse function, it is time to ‘connect’ them. This challenge is key in determining the optimal flow of materials in and out of the warehouse.
- The main objective in connecting or moving materials between the various functional spaces is to minimize material handling, optimize travel times and ensure worker safety.
To best assess and review your warehouse layout with respect to material flow, you should contact an expert in the field. JDH Warehousing Systems is an example of a logistics consulting firm that has helped numerous companies improve warehouse efficiency through optimal material flow principles.