Managing Your First E-commerce Warehouse for Success

e-commerce warehouse management

If your e-commerce business has been successful, you may be considering taking the big step to open your very first warehouse. Or, maybe you already have a warehouse, but with the number of orders you have been receiving, are beginning to consider moving into a larger space to fulfill your orders. Whatever your reason, you’ll want this transition to be as painless and stress-free as possible. Check out these tips to set up your e-commerce website for long-term success.

Make a Budget

Make sure to carefully budget for your first e-commerce warehouse before beginning this venture. Start by considering rent costs, set-up costs, staff costs, and inventory. It is best to seek out some professional help if you aren’t experienced in this area, as you will need to be precise before you can begin looking at spaces and determining your needs.

Create Objectives

You are moving into your warehouse to minimize your own costs and maximize efficiency and profit – but what other objectives do you have? Outline every positive that could come from this move, and implement a strategy to meet these goals.

Consider the Transition Period

You will want to perform an assessment of your current operation and create a short-, medium-, and long-term plan of action for your warehouse readiness to handle the online channel challenges. Ensure your plans will effectively support the transition with no issues for your customer.

Determine the Space Needed

warehouse space planning

You will want to consider the amount of square footage required for your warehouse before you begin shopping around for a new space. Be exact with this, as it will determine how well you utilize the total square footage of the building (not just the floor space). Factor in all areas, including space for shipping, sorting, receiving, packing, employee and management offices, and product locations.

Plan it Out

Planning out your warehouse should be the next step. Factor in all possible obstructions in your planning, such as poles that your employees would have to walk around every day.

Look at the area where product will be arriving and going out daily. Make sure you have separate areas for inbound and outbound products, so that the two are never mixed up. You can add painted arrows to your warehouse floor to ensure that this is never an issue.

Consider where products will be stored in relation to packing stations. Create designated storage spaces for your most popular products near the packing stations, so workers do not spend additional time walking up and down your warehouse aisles. Similarly, if two products are frequently ordered together, do not store them at opposite ends of the warehouse.

Warehouse Attributes

Be sure that the warehouse you choose has a loading dock. Since the majority of product will be coming off of a truck, they will be unloaded via a pallet. If your warehouse does not have a loading dock to assist workers with this, they will have to lower product from the truck during every shipment, which is a two person job.

You will also want to be sure that the floor of the warehouse is a smooth, concrete material. If the floor is pitted anywhere, rolling carts with get stuck, and their wheels will be more susceptible to breaking.

Equipment Needed

warehouse conveyor system

Before you begin the transition to your new warehouse, you will want to consider the equipment and racking system you will need. This varies depending on your product and needs, but may include:

  • Forklift
  • Conveyors
  • Sorters
  • Carton erectors
  • Radio-frequency terminals
  • Product handling
  • Palletization and stretch wrapping
  • R-pack technology and heat tunnels
  • System terminals

Remember that the equipment you purchase will require maintenance to continue running smoothly. Whether that means general cleaning or replacing old or broken parts, the maintenance costs of a warehouse add up and should be factored into your overall budget.

Production Zones and Assembly Areas

Once you have considered and planned out primary units like equipment, stock shelving, and assembly stations, the next step is to address how workers, materials, and goods move in and around your key elements.

On top of this, it is vital to consider the space needed for production work to not only efficiently – but safely – occur on a daily basis. Safe workflow applies to all types of operation, but is especially important in manufacturing where materials and equipment will be moving around one another. It’s vital to create suitable production zones and workflow areas for any warehouse layout plan.

Storage Areas

Taking time to consider the storage area in your warehouse layout is vital, particularly for assembly operations. Storage is important for manufacturing, too, but usually secondary to equipment needs.

Before determining the storage space your warehouse requires, first consider what you are storing. Examples include:

  • Small assembly items housed in bins on light-duty shelving
  • Pallets with machinery parts
  • Boxed goods for pick, pack, and ship
  • Overstock items
  • Large raw materials for manufacturing

Whatever your warehouse is storing will dictate the type of storage you need for your warehouse layout. It also dictates the space you need around storage areas, like aisle widths needed for transporting goods to and from storage.

Setting up your warehouse correctly before beginning operations will improve efficiency and save on time and money that you will have to fork over later if you miscalculate space or materials required. Take as much time as you need in order to reduce packing and picking errors, help prevent workplace injuries, and reduce stress for the entire team.

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