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4 Key Steps to Planning Your Warehouse Distribution Center

A warehouse distribution center is the focal point of the supply chain, and choosing the best distribution software for your company can make a large impact on your company’s success. A successful strategy for planning your warehouse distribution center will reap positive results at several points, from receipt of products to distribution to customers. It goes beyond that though, as an optimized warehouse distribution center results in better record-keeping, better customer service, and helps other business units throughout the enterprise efficiently gather data for multiple purposes.

1. Define Warehouse Distribution Center Objectives

A new or smaller enterprise may think of a warehouse distribution center as nothing more than a large building for storing goods, but nothing is farther from the truth. A distribution center is capital-intensive, and is a key part of customer service. If customers do not get their products in good shape and on schedule, the results can be devastating to the company. Define your objectives immediately for your distribution center, not only in terms of how much needs to be stored, but also in terms of delivering the most effective customer service. Additionally, consider compiling information and data that can be used by other business units.

2. Plan for Storage & Picking

A warehouse distribution center requires careful planning and projection, requiring managers to take a look into the future of the operation and to anticipate needs down the road. Having to re-engineer a distribution center, or build onto it at a later date because of inadequate capacity is very costly. In considering storage, size is not everything. Smaller storage areas will yield more efficient picking. However, this may be contrary to the goals of those planning for storage, and so a good strategy will often incorporate a “just in time” system of inventory receipts so as to minimize the need for vast warehouses. The result, besides a better product flow, is that the picking process will be more efficient if the pickers are not required to encompass vast square footage to retrieve items.

3. Documentation & Stakeholder Input

A warehouse distribution function is labor-intensive and complex. Creating the most efficient process requires input from many different stakeholders. Start this input process by interviewing warehouse staff that are directly responsible for the storage and picking process, so you can get information from those who are familiar with warehousing. You should also interview staff and managers in other key areas that are impacted by the warehousing function down the line, like the customer service and sales departments. Find out what promises are being made to customers so your warehousing operation can be organized to meet them.

Use this documentation and input to collect all relevant data. This information will help you in designing the physical layout of the facility, as well as the technology to be used, and will also influence the construction or site selection process.

4. Analyze Data & Create a Warehouse Distribution Center Plan

Once you’ve gathered all your input and information about goals, a detailed analysis should be done to strategize for meeting those goals. The planning stage may require going back to the stakeholders if some of the goals are unrealistic or cannot be achieved, and the plan may need to be altered and goals adjusted. Analyzing the information also calls for a long-term view to predict how well products will move in and out of the facility, and to determine whether any roadblocks may occur as a result.

Want more information?Your warehouse distribution center is more than just a place where you store items. It is important for companies to properly plan how to optimize their warehouse distribution center to maximize the potential of your operation. Find the top warehouse and distribution software for your company on our exclusive research reports page, where you can compare vendors by price or key features on each free report.