Warehouse Design Best Practices

Traditional 20th-century warehouses were often fairly simple, static, monolithic structures. By contrast, many 21st-century facilities are sophisticated beacons of efficiency and sustainability — organic entities capable of the repeated transformations required to address new product categories, sales volumes and, sometimes, mission changes.

Effective warehouse design begins with creative site design. Planning for growth requires provisions for adding loading docks, expanding parking lots and providing for extra truck access when required.

Appropriate Features and Amenities

Increasingly, today’s warehouses must address specialized requirements while accommodating changes over time. If short-term goals are pursued to the exclusion of long-term opportunities, avoidable costs escalate in the future.

Now more than ever, warehouse design will greatly differ from project to project. Consider the radically different purposes of heated and unheated general warehouses, controlled humidity warehouses, refrigerated warehouses and hazardous materials warehouses. The hazmat facilities may store anything from fuel to ammunition and from hazardous chemicals to radioactive materials.

The best warehouse designs successfully prioritize a variety of both traditional and modern amenities, like:

  • Higher bays
  • Quality wireless communication
  • Diverse storage options and picking alternatives
  • Latest materials handling equipment
  • Appropriate software, customized if necessary
  • Provisions for multiple distribution networks
  • Accommodations for future growth and changing purposes

In warehouse design, it is important to distinguish between necessary backups and unnecessary duplication. The former minimizes expensive and disruptive downtime, while the latter is productivity’s persistent adversary.

Materials Handling

Best practices in warehouse design require use of the latest materials handling technologies to provide for safe and efficient stocking, picking, loading and other essential activities. Equipment that improves safety reduces workers comp costs and improves employee morale. The importance of such equipment cannot be overstated — seconds and minutes saved performing common tasks add up when multiplied many thousands of times.

Wireless Communications

In modern warehouses, product flow is facilitated by a synchronized flow of data made possible by common SKUs and high-quality wireless communication. In any new facility, the latest broadband technology is ideally deployed in every nook and cranny. In turn, this wireless communication system is accessed by mobile workers and managers. For example, reliability specialists can monitor real-time logistics data at numerous warehouses. They can make timely decisions to effectively minimize bottlenecks, systemic failures and other problems.

The part of the supply chain represented by the warehouse is now often optimized by mobile managers. Broadband, combined with mobile communications, improves warehouse efficiency in ways only dreamed of a decade ago.

Green Design and Construction

Today’s warehouse designers are focused as never before on energy efficiency, carbon emissions and LEED Certification points. There are many fundamental questions to consider. Is it better to select ICF, tilt-up or other wall designs? In what climates will the thermal mass of concrete be most beneficial?

When it comes to roofing, black tar roofs are rapidly being replaced by white or light-colored roofs that are far more energy efficient. White EPDM coatings are increasingly popular in this era of green construction. Ambient surface temperatures can be reduced by 20-30 degrees or more with a highly reflective roof. The quest for net zero construction is more intense than ever. Large, flat warehouse roofs easily accommodate photovoltaic arrays, which are far more cost-effective than two or three years ago.

Reliable Data and Warehouse Design

Finally, designers and architects should have the discipline to analyze data regarding the current and anticipated flow of products in and out of the facility. Before proceeding, It is important to garner executive agreement on just how good the projections are — are forecasts too rosy, too conservative or realistic?

Cato Industrial can help you with your warehouse design requirements, occupancy permits and hazardous material permits as needed. Take advantage of our vast experience in optimizing warehouse efficiency and promoting warehouse safety.