What works for storeroom,
warehouse design


Supply Chain leaders should consider the following when organizing their internal storeroom and warehouse footprints:

Understand your workflow and recognize that it is as important if not more so than maximizing storage capacity.

  • Is there easy ingress and egress to aisles?
  • Are aisle widths sufficient for the people and equipment that travel them?
  • Is there a logical bin location scheme that directs people in an efficient path? Are staging and work areas of sufficient size and located such they limit re-handling material?

Make sure your material handling equipment is suitable for your workflow and the volume and type of material being moved.

  • Material handling equipment need not be automated except for larger warehouses with greater distances to travel and heights to reach.
  • Configuration of things such as basic as carts, bins and totes should be considered. Are there different configurations that can reduce handling and the number of trips required for stock put away, picking and transport?

Perform periodic inventory optimization and utilize your ERP/MMIS auto-replenishment capabilities for routine re-supply of inventory.

  • How is it your inventory replenished? Is someone walking the warehouse to record inventory replenishment requirements and/or making significant adjustments to an auto-replenishment job? If so, you’re likely not maintaining as efficient an inventory as can be attained through an accurately maintained perpetual inventory and properly set re-order point and re-order quantity (ROP/ROQ) methodology.

An accurate perpetual inventory, coupled with system generated replenishments, based on sound ROP/ROQ methodology, periodically reviewed, is the best way to achieve established inventory turnover goals.

Mike Henry, Director, Performance Delivery – Logistics, Supply Chain Services,
Owens & Minor Inc., Mechanicsville, VA


In all industries, efficient use of available space and the elimination of excess materials handling is essential. Applying the following foundational principles for hospital storerooms and warehouse space will minimize the number of times each product is handled and/or moved.

  • Mathematically calculate the required space for all warehouse/storeroom processes. These processes generally include product receipt, staging, product storage, product order/requisition picking, and product shipping/distribution to departments and facilities. The data required for the calculation includes: Number of items to be stored, size of each product (ideally cube/weight of the storage unit of the product), size, type, and quantity of each storage media required (shelving, racks), the ceiling height available in the storage area, and the aisle widths required for the material handling equipment. Other variables that need to be considered are space requirements for inbound and outbound staging of products, work stations, fire protection equipment, material handling equipment (including empty pallets and carts), charging stations, auxiliary operations, and, if applicable, restroom and breakroom facilities. All of these factors have to be systematically calculated and arranged in order to design an efficient warehouse/storeroom. After calculating the required space, a block diagram is a useful tool to develop the overall layout of the space.
  • Select a material flow strategy. Consider the overall flow of materials and products coming into and out of the warehouse/storeroom utilizing a straight-through (doors on both ends of space) or U-shaped (doors on one side) flow pattern. In a hospital, it is ideal if the hospital main storeroom is located adjacent to the receiving dock with a large door coming into the storeroom from the dock area, and another door on the opposite end leading out to the hospital departments (straight flow through). Larger, more complex facilities, such as a distribution center, may require a modular flow design to accommodate other process flows, such as cross-docking and internal continuous replenishment processes.
  • Understand the velocity of movement. Regardless of industry, slotting of products into locations according to their frequency of use (velocity) goes a long way toward eliminating wasted steps and materials handling in a warehouse. In hospitals, data has repeatedly shown that 80-90 percent of the volume of use comes from 20% or less of the items stored. Identifying those high use items and locating them in easy to access areas is an important layout planning principle. High-velocity items should be stored at waist level in quick to access locations (golden zones), and slower moving products at head and foot levels (or harder to access levels in high ceiling warehouses).
  • Locate processes with high incidences of interaction close or adjacent to one another. For example, receiving stations should be located near receiving dock doors, cross docking near receiving, completed order staging near shipping/distribution, etc. Warehouse activity relationship charts are often used to determine these interactions.
  • Layout of the warehouse space should consider proper and maximum utilization of the available cube space. If the facility has a relatively high ceiling, for example, the storage racks/shelving should be designed to store products up to 18 inches from the clear ceiling height (taking into account lighting, sprinklers, and other ceiling mounted equipment). Aisles should always be designed to allow the proper amount of space for personnel and material handling equipment to maneuver safely and reach products stored in all areas and heights of the warehouse.
  • Location schema should be set up in conjunction with the MMIS. An appropriate schema will enable products being put away or picked for orders to be done with one pass through the warehouse, usually in a serpentine fashion. Aisles and storage locations should be clearly labeled and delineated, with one SKU (item) per location.
  • Aisles and access throughways should always be kept clean and unobstructed. Good housekeeping in the warehouse environment is important for many reasons, not the least of which is safety, because of the use of dangerous material handling equipment. Clean facilities are especially important in the healthcare industry because of infection control regulations and the potential for clean or sterile patient-use products being compromised.

Jim Richardson, Senior Consultant, Vizient Inc.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here