How to use storage capacity efficiently?
With the cost of warehouse space, both owned and rented, and the increasing amount of goods flowing through it, every inch counts. These places don't have a one-size-fits-all storage system, so it's important to plan well before construction and think about future use so that it's an efficient solution.
Each type of business and individual shops have different storage needs with regard to the type of goods, their turnover, seasonality, size and other parameters. However, it is always essential that there is enough space, products are stored clearly, easily and easily accessible, not dangerous for the operator and not damaging to other stored goods. Pavel Křížek, Director of Logistics at Geis SK + CZ, explains his experience: "A different process setup is used by an online shop that sends directly to end customers on a daily basis and another by a company that supplies production to another company, so they have a B2B relationship. But even for companies in the same industry, sometimes the differences are big with regard to their goods."
In order to properly design and efficiently manage and operate a warehouse space, a number of factors need to be considered.
1. Focus on the end customer (B2C company), focus on companies (B2B company)
The division of business focus into end customers or companies usually predicts how the goods will be handled.
When a business is focused on the end customer, it often involves the movement of individual pieces of goods. The handlers and technicians need to be fast, they have a lot of smaller orders - easily hundreds or thousands a day. The goods have to be easy for pickers to reach, and the premises and location of the goods accommodate this. In these warehouses, there are often many people and smaller trolleys moving around, and goods are received simultaneously.
Geis also adapted the warehouse layout for its customer dm drogerie markt according to predefined warehouse areas to match the areas used by dm drogerie itself. This simplified the receipt of goods and eliminated unnecessary product movements. Goods from incoming pallets are always assigned to a specific area - for example, baby hygiene products, pet supplies and more. Such a pallet is brought into the warehouse to a location where the same group of goods is stored. It is therefore not necessary to distribute the incoming goods throughout the warehouse to the correct shelves.
In the case of B2B companies, larger quantities of goods are usually handled - often cartons and whole pallets. It is more like dozens of orders per day. Goods are not normally placed in the lower levels directly at the ground, so more use is made of handling technology to reach them.
2. Shelving systems
A properly selected racking system is part of the efficient use of warehouse space. Generally, we want to store as little air and as much goods as possible. However, we must not forget the space for handling products.
For B2C retailers, we always consider a shelving option that is suitable for easy picking. There are a number of them: standard, post-aisle, sliding and many more. The specific choice always depends on the type of goods, their turnover, height, the service required by the client...
The warehouse for B2B companies usually uses pallet racks with access to each pallet space separately. Between each rack there is an aisle, the width of which is determined by the type of equipment or its radius for loading and unloading the pallet. Systems in B2B warehouses tend to be more sophisticated and therefore more expensive.
Versatile racking solutions can be seen in multiuser warehouses, i.e. warehouses where goods are stored for different clients in different industries. There are usually wider aisles (usually 3 m) in which retractable trucks run and products are placed in pallet racks.
3. Handling technology
Just like racking systems, handling technology also contributes significantly to the overall efficiency of space utilisation in the warehouse. While standard front-end trolleys sometimes need up to 4 metres for handling, modern VNA (very narrow aisle) trolleys work in an aisle less than 2 metres wide. The middle way is the aforementioned retractor trolley.
Geis uses a large number and variety of trolleys, trains or specially manufactured picking trolleys in its warehouses and logistics centres to ensure maximum operational efficiency and cost optimisation at all times. The company therefore always selects the handling equipment from its background that is most suitable for the goods and the client.
4. Warehouse software
Warehouse management system (WMS), i.e. warehouse software, monitors and manages the daily operations in the warehouse. Thus, it also indirectly contributes to overall efficiency. A disorganized warehouse without a WMS needs more equipment and staff capacity, which negatively affects space utilization.
Geis deploys its own IT solution for all its customers and for large clients it also integrates it with their internal systems. For smaller clients, Geis uses its standard IT solution for Multi-User Warehouse, in simple terms a "box solution". It enables data communication between the client and Geis within standard logistics processes. In addition, this year Geis is coming up with a completely new WMS solution that, although standardised, will be easily customisable to each client's needs. The great advantage of this new system is its independence from the industry.
5. Process automation
Conveyors, pantographs, finger and glove scanners and overall automation of various sub-processes can significantly improve not only the material flow itself, but also the overall warehouse layout. Conveyors are used by Geis, for example, in the babymarkt.de children's goods logistics project. Simply put, this technology saves warehouse employees time spent going from place to place. Thus, one does not walk to the goods, but the goods are transported to them.
"Pick by voice" is a long-established technology that helps picking and dispatching goods, especially in warehouses with a wide range of products. As with scanners, there is no need for paper documents and workers have their hands free to work with the goods.
Logistics provider Geis always strives to find the optimal and cost-effective solution tailored to each client. Pavel Křížek adds: "It is not always necessary to use the latest technology, the cost of which is never recovered and the customer pays too much for it. Together with our clients, we always look for a solution that meets their requirements, including costs. There are still people, employees in the warehouses that we rely on, and a fully automated and robotic process is not always needed." The goal of robotics and automation in warehouses, according to Křížek, is to eliminate stereotypical and heavy human work in addition to increasing efficiency. To the extent possible, these activities will be performed by machines and workers will shift their efforts to more creative areas.
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