Warehousing 101

Introduction – The Building

Although many say warehousing and distribution operations are passe and in decline, it still is and will remain an important part of the supply chain for many years to come. In fact the drive to “each” or single item picking for direct to consumer home delivery may actually undo some of the consolidation/centralization of warehousing over the last decade in order to position goods closer to local consumers to meet the short lead times required to be competitive in internet retailing.

So where does one start when told to set up a warehouse for their company ? Or more often, what steps can and should one take when warehouse space has run out and the facility is gridlocked ? Customers and the President are screaming, and it’s obvious fast action must be taken ! These are some of the issues and questions we will delve into in this About.com Logistics and Supply Chain Management Warehousing 101 mini-course.

The best way to learn about the complex environment of the warehouse is to recognize and understand the component parts of these supply chain hubs and then how these all interact resulting in both positive and sometimes negative results. There are eight component parts in most warehouse operations, namely…

The Building
The Storage Medium(s)
The Dock Areas
The Processing Areas
The Inventory
The System(s)
The Material Handling Equipment
The People

However, before we get into reviewing each of these and their parts/impacts and inter-related issues, we must first cover off the item most often neglected in the set-up of a warehouse or warehouse network. This item is Strategic Review to first determine how many warehouses a firm requires, how large should they be and where these should be located. We will not cover this in detail here, but in our upcoming Logistics and Supply Chain Strategy mini-course, but in other words, is this warehouse really needed, is it in the correct location and finally, is it the right size ? This leads us right into the discussion of the first component, The Building, which will comprise the balance of this feature.

Many unfamiliar with the intricacies of building issues in relation to logistics operations think you just get a warehouse right ? As long as it’s “big enough” everything else will take care of itself right ?

As much as one might wish it were that simple, there are many building factors which must be taken into account before either selecting or designing a building. And although in the complete design process, there are many more features involved, the key ones from an operations perspective are;

Building Height and Shape
Column Spacing
Floor Thickness
Fire Protection
Roof Condition
Power Availability

In the subsequent portions of this course, we will review each of these factors individually to give our visitors and those new to warehousing improved insight into these important issues.

Jeff Ashcroft

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