Sooner or later, most small and medium-sized retail operations will need to enter the online space to continue growing. For traditional brick-and-mortar stores, this can be a daunting project.
Once your operation grows to a certain size, you’ll have to run your own warehouse, big or small, to fill orders. Very few entrepreneurs happen to double as material handling professionals. That can leave them in the dark when the time comes to set up a functional order-fulfillment process.
This checklist outlines the essential equipment every warehouse needs to function efficiently and safely. It might not include everything you’ll need for your own unique stock, but it’s an excellent starting place for a bare-bones warehousing operation:
Industrial Shelving/Storage Racks
Rows of shelves form aisles, which are your warehouse’s circulatory system. Choose shelving that matches your products.
If you palletize everything you work with, install heavy duty pallet racking. If you work with bins or items of different sizes, Industrial Shelving from BHS provides reliable storage with an acid- and scratch-resistant powder coating that can stand up to any environment.
Specialized Material Handling Equipment
Even the smallest warehousing operation needs material handling equipment that’s designed to work with particular items. Whether that’s a reliable steel Order Picking Cart, a set of pallet jacks, or a fleet of electric forklifts, choose high-quality gear from a trusted source.
Once order pickers pull an item from the shelves, receiving/delivery staff will need to package it for shipment. This job involves repeated motions, creating a serious risk of musculoskeletal disorders over time.
Improve safety and efficiency at once with ergonomic order packing stations. The simplest choice is to install a Shipping/Receiving Desk, which offers an optional cutout to keep work within staff’s ergonomic working zone.
To custom-locate order packing tasks within each worker’s safest range of motion, consider installing hydraulic Lift Tables or Tilt Tables. These devices bring work to the worker, eliminating the need for injury-causing reaches, bends, and twists.
Where there are forklifts, there will be collisions. Ensure that your shelving survives them by placing Structural Bollards at the ends of aisles.
Most lift truck/shelving collisions occur here, when lift truck operators misjudge the 90-degree turn it would take to get them into aisles. A few well-placed Structural Bollards will protect shelves and the products they store from impact.
Structural Barrier Rails can also prevent injuries at docks and on mezzanines. If there’s a chance a worker could fall from a certain area, that area probably needs Barrier Rails or some other means of protecting workers.
Dock Ramps and Boards
The final step on your end of the order fulfillment process is to load the order onto a truck. That’s what the dock is for.
However, even if you don’t have a proper dock, you’ll need a way to easily move in and out of trailers. Yard Ramps from BHS function almost like portable docks, allowing safe, simple access to trailers with the advantage of portability.
Perhaps the most important pieces of equipment in any warehouse are the fire extinguishers. Safety is the top priority. In addition to fire-prevention tools, including fully compliant extinguishers and carbon monoxide/smoke detectors, your facility may need a ventilation system. If you run electric forklifts, you’ll certainly need to install a Battery Room Ventilation System to keep hydrogen concentration at a safe level.
As in any new venture, the key to building your ideal distribution center is to remain flexible. Track data, and make changes as needed. With the items listed above, at least, you’ll be ready to get started.
“Worker Safety Series: Warehousing.” OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, 2004. PDF. 2 Jan. 2017.