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8 Key Steps to Planning a Warehouse Distribution Center

Key Steps to Planning a Warehouse Distribution Center

It’s critical to plan out how a warehouse distribution center is going to look like. The layout, the integration, the way sectors, and departments dynamically, effortlessly, and integrally play with one another. Small tweaks, tiny little workarounds, and the addition of key automation tools, right from the get-go will not only benefit your current infrastructure - your present business model - but will give you the flexibility to require when planning ahead. With a few successful purchases, a planned out new warehouse distribution center is easier to manage and scale up. In this article, we’re going to give you a few tips, 8 in total, on how to better your warehouse distribution center and on what exactly a warehouse DC meaning is?

What is a warehouse distribution center?

The bare-bones about it is that there is no such thing as a Warehouse Distribution Center or warehouse DC. A distribution center, in most cases, is already a warehouse. All distribution centers are warehouses, but not all warehouses are distribution centers. It is a common mistake to add the classifier “warehouse” in front of “Distribution Center.”

A warehouse is used for storing products, that’s it. A distribution center meanwhile has a couple of extra features.

  • Distribution Centers offer other services, like product mixing, order fulfillment, cross-docking, packaging, logistics, etc.
  • Warehouse DC stores products from a much lesser period than their cousins — warehouses.
  • The flow of products through a distribution center is constant and quicker.
  • DC is customer-centric, which means they care more about order fulfillment than getting the products ready.
  • Typical warehouse and retail products are shipped from a distribution center.
  • Operations on a distribution center are much more complex. They are equipped with other tools and technology that helps management have more control and offer order processing and transportation.

Tips for successfully setting up a warehouse distribution center

Here are a couple of key nuggets of wisdom we’d like to impart while you’re making the blueprint for your DC — How to open a warehouse distribution center.

Define goals and objectives

It’s important to understand your business model and what your actual goals are. What you’re trying to accomplish. These ambitions will serve as the lifeline for your project and what you want to obtain. Ask yourself, are you a small DC? Will you be retail-oriented? Will you offer services to other corporations or is it just for your business? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Define volumes and functional requirements of the DC

Just as critical as your goals is the volume of products you’ll be managing. Not only that, but the type of products, and their due care. It’s important to understand what your products need to stay in tip-top shape before and during transit. The same with how much volume you’re going to move around. When you have your order flow carefully mapped out, only then can you start to get an idea of staff members needed as well as the technology you’ll require for proper dc warehouse automation.

Consider potential growth and future needs

Most DC start small, and if your business stays small then you won’t need to do any major overhauls — but that’s not the objective. Most business owners will eventually want to scale their operation, include into its framework new products, new markets, and new technology. In the supply chain, the golden rule is “the required quantity of the right product in the right place at the right time.” If any of your future plans put a stop, even for a day or two to your supply chain then you need to rethink your whole blueprint particularly when looking for a new warehouse. Why? Just one day off the grid is going to cost you a lot of money — plus complete overhauls require more capital than simple add-ons you had already taken into account during the inception period of your DC.

Consider DC warehouse automation

Automation is key to all warehouse distribution center projects. Why? The benefits are countless and really help out with your profit margin.

Automation can help you:

  • Be quicker — up to 5X.
  • Have better control over your stock.
  • Avoid overtime and better manage your workforce.
  • Gives you a safer work environment.
  • Prevents errors.
  • Work 24/7 with a skeleton crew.

In a nutshell, automation simply makes you more competitive and efficient. One idea to plan for would be collaborative robots.  With smart robots you can improve automation and be on the forefront of innovation.

Analyze and evaluate your options

It’s a complex exercise, creating a DC, you’ll have multiple options each with their cost and each with their pros and cons. Take your time to evaluate every one of them.

Consult with professionals

If you feel you’re overwhelmed, consult with a professional. There are hundreds of services out there that can help out and give you key advice on how to better craft your distribution center. In most cases, those very same businesses that sell you the tech you’ll need will happily give you a hand to clear out all your doubts.

Create a functional blueprint

Before you even get going, it’s important to have a great blueprint that incorporates most of the steps. Why? Because paper and ink are cheap — what isn’t cheap is the cost inherent to going back and rebuilding, remodeling, or buying new equipment because you made a mistake during the design phase.

Implement your plan

Give yourself a deadline — this is a pivotal feature of your action plan. Why? Otherwise, you’ll stall and quite possibly find yourself mired in inaction due to information overload.

The importance of a plan — why have one when creating a productive warehouse distribution center?

Most people think that all your need for a distribution center is simply a big space/a warehouse. That’s it. All you really need is a place to store all your products and equipment in. They think that once that’s fulfilled everything else falls into place. The truth is that running and planning a warehouse is more complex. The right equipment and technology will help you run your business better and truly get the best out of your space. It will help you pack in the boxes and pallets in an efficient manner letting you take advantage of every square foot. It will take into account things like the region's climate — for example, did you know that you need specialized equipment for humid climates or winter weather? A good blueprint will give you a warehouse you can expand — and one with a minimal amount of maintenance required.

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