Your warehouse product flow determines your overall productivity and efficiency. Warehouse and distribution center layouts often include four areas: dynamic storage, static storage, shipping, and receiving. How these areas are configured should be based on your available space, product throughput needs, and material handling equipment used.
Dynamic Storage vs. Static Storage
Dynamic storage, also known as forward pick, is the section of warehouse in which items are consistently picked for order fulfillment. In this area, high selectivity is vital to a successful operation, therefore often integrates multiple types of racking to reduce overall pick time, also known as a pick module.
A pick module can consist of one or multiple pick levels and can be designed in a number of configurations tailored to the material handling equipment used and product characteristics. For example, as shown in the illustration to the right, pallet flow, carton flow, and selective rack are integrated together to expedite the order fulfillment process. This example shows 2-deep pallet flow on the ground level, which provides first-in, first-out pallet storage that can be easily accessed by forklifts. Carton flow rack is integrated above the pallet flow for first-in, first-out case or piece picking. Selective rack is included above these picking locations to be used for product replenishment in the carton flow and pallet flow areas.
The static storage area of a warehouse is where the overflow of products is stored, typically on pallets. This section of the warehouse is also referred to as the reserve storage area. Once products in the dynamic storage area are picked, pallets are retrieved from static storage for replenishment.
Because this area is used for reserve palletized storage, density is often the focus over selectivity. Double-deep selective rack as well as drive-in rack offer high density storage and are therefore ideal storage systems for this area. If storing products that require higher selectivity, standard selective rack and drive-through rack may be more ideal.
When designing the overall layout of your warehouse, dynamic storage, static storage, shipping and receiving placement should be evaluated and chosen based on your available space, product throughput needs, and available resources. Warehouse flow layout options to consider include U-shaped, I-shaped and L-shaped patterns.
A U-shaped warehouse product flow is the most common type of layout. In this layout the shipping and receiving docks are located next to one another, offering shared utilization of dock resources such as personnel and material handling products. This layout also minimizes product handling, offering high cross-docking capability.
I-shaped warehouse product flow and L-shaped warehouse product flow, also known as through flow, are similar in that the shipping and receiving areas are located on different sides of the warehouse. As a result, these require more available warehouse space than U-shaped layouts.
These layouts can be beneficial for certain operations. For example, warehouses that require heightened security can benefit from the separate “in” and “out” areas. I-sha
ped and L-shaped layouts can also provide larger sorting and storage areas for both shipping and receiving docks as well as allowing for isolated monitoring of each function.
Storage Systems and Product Flows
The racking types chosen for both the dynamic and static storage areas of the warehouse or distribution center will depend on your product flow requirements. Racking systems can be categorized in two groups: “first-in, first-out” and “last-in, first-out”.
First-in, first-out, or FIFO, is a type of inventory management that allows inventory placed into a rack system first to be removed first. FIFO rack systems are ideal for customers requiring rapid stock rotation, have a high turnover rate for inventory, or store items with expiration dates. For example, FIFO food storage applications allows for constant product movement, safeguarding that no inventory spoils or goes to waste. FIFO rack options include selective, drive-though, carton flow, and pallet flow.
Last-in, first-out (LIFO) is a type of inventory management that allows inventory placed into a rack system last to be removed first. Last-in, first-out storage is most often used for goods with a long shelf life or those held in large quantities. LIFO rack options include double-deep selective, drive-in, and push back.
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