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OK, you need to design a new warehouse.  Where do you start?

Mal Walker, one of our most experienced materials handling consultants, explains the process.

Is there a process that I go through when I start a consulting assignment? 

Yes, there is. Basically, there are 7 Principles of Design:

  • The first one is I determine what the objectives are of a given facility.
  • The second one is I try to find the volumes as much as I can in terms of what’s moving through the facility, how much storage there is and what we need to do with that and how we handle the stock.
  • The third thing is once we now what the volumes are, I try to match the storage needs and the storage modes with the volumes and the functional requirements of the warehouse.
  • While I’m doing that, I consider the concept of the one-way flow, so as much as possible, I try and get the warehouse to getting the goods moving in one direction and coupled with that, I try to minimise the number of tatters of the goods. So if warehouse personnel, multiple times of handling causes costs so I try to eliminate that as much as possible.
  • The fifth thing is that I try to evaluate our options. So once we’ve moved 2 or 3 of those concepts, then we look at the options available for the client and the customer and then we evaluate them both in a quantitative and a qualitative way.
  • Lastly, we like to consult widely with everyone that’s involved in the warehouse that will have a stake in it in the end. So warehouse operators, managers, we might get architects in and even some contractors in some cases.

Are there mistakes that people make in warehousing?

Yes, there are. And the major one is that they often obtain a warehouse before they have considered the design in terms of what they want to do and what they want to do inside. So I would always suggest that we design from the inside of the warehouse rather than from the outside. So as much as possible, let’s try and work out what we want to do in that warehouse before we obtain the building.

A second really common mistake that companies will make is that they might see a piece of equipment at a trade show or at another company’s warehouse down the road and they want that piece of equipment for their own operation. But a mistake that they make involved in making those sorts of decisions is that they get the equipment that’s wrongly tailored for their specific operation. So I would always suggest that companies look at their movements are, what their volumes are and then design the equipment to meet those needs. And in that way, we’re not over specifying or we’re not under specifying. In effect, we try to save money for the company that would otherwise been spent for elaborate solutions.

What’s the best time to get me involved in designing a warehouse?

Well I would say right at the outset. If a company is even thinking about putting up a warehouse in a couple of year’s time, then I think right now is the time to start about what they’re going to do, what the objectives are, what is the warehouse doing and what type of equipment is involved. Because if you try and cram that, then companies are likely to make mistakes during that process.

What if I’m called in too late on a project? What is the impact?

Well often we need to sort out some of the areas that could have been made along the line. And often companies, this does happen to us quite often, companies will ask us to come in and deliberate upon a solution, awesome ideas, or a building that’s being purchased, or whatever. But if they call us in too late, it’s hard for us to rectify any issues that have occurred along the way. So we may have to comply with what they have done but it may be a sub optimal solution.

Is there a good case study that I can reflect upon that I can tell you what we’ve done?

Yes, there is. We did some work for a major supplier of equipment in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. What I did with them is I did a complete review of all of their stock movements, their transactions in their warehouse. In the course of that review, we looked at over 12 months’ data, we actually designed the equipment that would go into that warehouse. Not only did we do that, but we helped them implement that solution right through into a full blown project. That particular project was a 12,000 sq meter facility and required multiple modes of picking, so it was quite an elaborate solution and we did that over a period of 18 months.

Do we get involved not only with the design but also with the implementation?

Yes, we do. Because warehousing is quite a complex business, often customers don’t have the expertise to not only design it, but to implement it as well. We’re dealing with warehousing on a day to day basis, that’s our core skill. So we are able to offer great value to customers in terms of project management and implementation skills.

For what industries have I designed warehouses?

Fast moving consumer goods, hardware, industrial applications, retail. We’ve just done some work in offshore, in Thailand and Papua New Guinea, in retail. We’re doing some work for breakfast cereal manufacturers and on top of that, in the fashion goods industry as well, and there’s many more. So there’s quite a mix of industries that we work for and sometimes people say: Are they all the same? No, they aren’t. Every client’s operation is different and unique so we try to design a solution that will meet their needs.

What’s the first step to get us involved in designing a warehouse?

Well, give us a call, and we’re very happy to assist and provide a quotation or an appraisal of your operation. And then based on that, we’d be happy to program you into our schedule and work with your company.


Feel free to contact us any time to discuss your warehouse design needs.


Mal WalkerBest Regards

Mal Walker

Email or +61 (0) 412 271 503



Further Information about Warehouse Design and Warehouse Process Improvement can be found on these links:

Warehouse Design

Distribution Centre Process Improvement

Distribution Network Design

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