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  March 19th, 2024 | Written by

An Efficient Warehouse Should Incorporate These 8 Design Choices

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Running an efficient warehouse is one of the most crucial aspects of business management. It directly impacts bottom lines, as most people will shop elsewhere if the item they need is out of stock at their preferred store. Maintaining accurate inventory and accessing it quickly facilitates quick turnaround times and satisfied clientele. 

Designing a new warehouse is an exciting and daunting task. What should leaders be sure to include to establish and maintain organizational efficacy, employee productivity and inventory accuracy? An efficient warehouse should incorporate the following eight design choices. 

A Customized, Optimized Layout 

Warehouse layout determines how quickly personnel can move inventory from receiving to shipping while accurately fulfilling customer orders. There are three primary methods for organizing warehouse layouts: 

  • U-shaped: The most common layout where shipping and receiving area doors lie parallel to each other on the same end of the store. Benefits of this system include equipment sharing between shipping and receiving and short walk distances for quick in-and-out orders. 
  • I-Shaped: This warehouse design has shipping and receiving areas on opposite ends. It requires two such loading and unloading facilities and twice the equipment. However, it may work best for some high-end operations that handle specialty parts assembly-line style. 
  • L-Shaped: In these warehouse layouts, the shipping and receiving lie on opposite ends but at 90° angles, with the middle of the “L” used for storage. Although it minimizes congestion, this design most often appears on L-shaped buildings out of necessity, as it takes the most space.

A warehouse’s layout helps determine structural needs and potentially reduce costs, so be particular.

The material of the door is also an important consideration. A few options include aluminum and steel — the former of which is lightweight and comparatively less expensive. However, steel is much better at tolerating damage, so usage is a prominent determining factor. 

The best choice depends on each facility’s unique needs.

Storage System Solutions

The right storage system solutions facilitate efficient warehouse workflow. There are two basic types of warehouse storage:

  • Dynamic storage: Best-selling items that move in and out of the warehouse quickly. 
  • Static storage: Longer-term product storage, typically on pallets. 

Managers have multiple methods for storing goods. The right solution depends on the type of business or businesses served, typical item size and type, the type of equipment needed to move it (i.e., forklift), how fragile it is and any other special handling requirements, such as temperature control. Efficient warehouses may use a combination of the following: 

  • Conventional shelves
  • Pallet racks
  • Carton-Flow Racks
  • Longspan Shelving
  • Mobile Racking
  • Drive-in Racking 
  • Cantilever Racking
  • Mezzanines
  • Cold Storage
  • Bins
  • Wire partitions
  • Narrow aisles 

Warehouse Management Technology 

Maintaining accurate inventory and control is the heart of warehouse management. Today’s technology empowers leaders to know what’s on hand, in surplus and running low. Many such systems run continuously to provide real-time data at any time. 

Many warehouses use various levels of management technology, including the following: 

  • Standalone WMS: These systems exist on a single warehouse premise using the firm’s own software.
  • Supply-chain execution modules: These facilitate the flow of goods from production, transportation and delivery, integrating information from the standalone WMS and other portions of the supply chain, such as planes, trains and delivery trucks. 
  • Integrated ERP: These systems tie all aspects of the warehouse business together, including accounting and management, into one financial statement necessary for tax and funding operations. 

Material Handling Equipment 

Warehouse equipment is a lot like Baby Bear’s chair. Too little promotes reliance on manual labor, slowing delivery times and increasing accident rates. Too much creates a cluster that cramps efficiency with unnecessary traffic jams. 

Ordering material handling equipment and designing a warehouse layout must often occur in tandem. For example, it does little good to shift to a very narrow aisle design if the company forklifts won’t squeeze between them. 

Furthermore, the type of equipment order may hinge on factors such as the type of shelving used. Warehouses that frequently move heavy lumber require much different gear than those that primarily stock knick-knacks. 

A Safety-First Mindset 

Protecting worker safety is paramount. Accidents can result in costly fines and compensation claims, and too many harm a company’s reputation while impacting the bottom line. 

Many warehouse accidents occur as a result of violating one of OSHA’s big ten areas that also see the most citations, including:

  • Forklifts
  • Hazard communication
  • Electrical, wiring methods
  • Electrical, system design
  • Guarding floor and wall openings and holes
  • Exits
  • Mechanical power transmission
  • Respiratory protection
  • Lockout/Tagout
  • Portable fire extinguishers


It’s difficult to overstate the importance of lighting in warehouse design. Workers must be able to quickly and efficiently locate items, which is significantly harder to do in dim settings. Appropriate lighting is also a safety precaution. If tall shelves block overhead fluorescents, does auxiliary lighting along the aisles pickup the slack? 

Pick-to-light systems offer an innovative way to increase productivity on operator-picked items. These systems operate through a series of light modules mounted on racks and shelving units that illuminate to indicate the location and quantity of items needed. 

According to Hui Shen Tan, a Logistics Automation Solution Provider with Intralogistics 4.0 Solution, such systems integrate with existing WMS to quickly reduce the time it takes for order fulfillment. 

Climate Control and Comfort 

While warehouse management primarily concerns the workspace, it’s equally important to devote time and care to auxiliary spaces that complement operations. This need goes beyond appointing offices and conference rooms for management and team meetings. 

Managing climate control in warehouses creates several safety considerations. Some regions, such as cold storage, require accurate temperature control to safeguard goods like certain chemical mixtures or electronic goods. What about the workers in such areas? Does the warehouse offer proper PPE, such as gloves, to allow them to work in such regions without harm? 

Furthermore, considering ergonomics promotes the longevity and health of your workforce. Warehouse workers are particularly prone to cumulative trauma disorders like arthritis that occur when the human body forces itself into unnatural postures for extended times. Allow adequate space for workers to move and take stretch breaks. Offering onsite yoga might seem a bridge too far, but warehouse management might marvel at what it does for production numbers.

Finally, stories of pee bottles at Amazon warehouses created a PR nightmare. Restrooms should be readily accessible to staff, located at appropriate distances from workstations and cleaned and maintained regularly. Failure to do so creates serious public health risks and creates impossible working conditions for many. 

Data Analysis for Continued Improvements

Even the best WMS with integrated ERP won’t help leaders improve operations if they never schedule time to review the reports. Planning regular times for data analysis and review isn’t technically a physical design choice, but it can improve operational efficiency more than moving shelves or ordering an upgraded forklift. 

Furthermore, go beyond the data — talk to warehouse staff. There could be reasons for production lags of which management remains unaware. Small changes to daily procedures can make a huge difference, as can toxic supervisors. Something as seemingly minor as a reprimand for cellphone use when a worker has a sick child can spark resentment that affects an entire team’s productivity. Upper echelons may have no clue from examining numbers alone. 

Without workers, there is no warehouse, but more people leave bad bosses than jobs. Those who flee often cite a lack of communication and uncommunicative, secretive or inconsiderate behavior as prompting their resignation. Choose leadership roles with care and an eye for interpersonal skills over experience alone. 

Crucial Design Choices for Warehouse Efficiency 

The role of warehouses is to facilitate the efficient storage and delivery of goods from manufacturer to consumer. The right design eases the myriad operations involved in this system, creating a healthy workplace while delighting customers. 

Consider the eight elements above when making crucial design choices for warehouse efficiency. A little mindfulness goes a long way, whether improving an existing structure or starting a new warehouse from scratch.