Eight Tips to Help You Optimize Your Retail Warehouse Operations and Space

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If you’re looking to overcome order-fulfillment challenges, you should take these top tips on how to optimize your retail warehouse operations and space into consideration.

Solving the Most Common Retail Warehouse Challenges

How to Reduce Issues in Your Retail Warehouse and Optimize Your Practices

You must manage the space and operations of your retail warehouse effectively to ensure that everyday challenges don’t drag it down. The easiest way to do this is by implementing automated systems in your operations. Warehouse automation is essential to optimize all processes, systems, and storage, boosting efficiency for local and global retailers.

The Most Common Retail Warehouse Operations Challenges

Warehouses and distribution facilities are central to the success of a retailer. When your retail warehouse isn’t optimized, your company isn’t meeting its full potential. If you ignore issues in your facility, it can decrease profit margins, customer satisfaction, employee productivity, and order accuracy. This is why it’s crucial to seek solutions to these common challenges that retail facilities face.

Examples of retail distribution center challenges include:

  1. Lack of space
  2. Slow operations speed
  3. Inventory tracking and accuracy
  4. Inefficient product picking and order processing
  5. Product loss and damage
  6. Managing demand fluctuations

Tips to Optimize Retail Warehouse Operations and Space

When running a retail operation, there’s little room for error when sending orders to your customers. A single mistake or delay could significantly damage your company’s reputation. Seemingly minor issues such as inaccurate inventory counts and inefficient picking methods quickly add up and can eventually take a toll on your operation. Luckily, we have a few tips on optimizing your retail warehouse space and processes to avoid these issues.

1. Extend your racking up vertically for optimizing space utilization

The easiest way to create more warehouse storage space is by expanding your racks vertically. Installing vertical racking systems allows you to utilize space that would likely be empty otherwise, letting you stock more inventory without having to invest in a larger facility. Keep in mind that if you choose to expand your shelves vertically, most building codes require your inventory to be 18 inches below the fire suppression system.

Some of the most commonly used racking systems for vertical storage include:

  • Mezzanines
  • Cantilever racks
  • Carton flow racks
  • Pallet racks

2. Use suitable selective racks for quick access to goods

When optimizing your storage space, you must also ensure that your employees can quickly access the stock so that your productivity doesn’t take a hit. Choosing the right selective racks for your operation allows you to maximize your space utilization while also accessing goods quickly and efficiently. This makes selective racks one of the most lucrative options for retail warehouse space optimization.

Popular types of selective racks used in a retail warehouse:

  • Selective pallet racks
  • Double-deep pallet racks
  • Push-back racks
  • Drive-in/ drive-through shelves
  • Pallet flow racks
  • Carton flow shelving
  • Cantilever racks

3. Make use of underutilized space

When looking to make the most out of the space you have, keep in mind there’s often space that you never realized you had before. Areas above shipping and receiving doors with pallet racks full of supplies, slow-moving inventory, or staging for outbound and inbound stock that hasn’t been processed can all be re-organized to open up more space. If you have a pick module in your warehouse with a conveyor down the center, you can hang a shelf above the conveyor. This is a simple way to optimize storage for slow-moving and small items that don’t need to be replaced frequently.

4. Implement quality conveyor and sortation systems

Quality conveyor or sortation systems identify items on a conveyor system and divert them to their designated locations, such as packing stations or parcel carrier doors. This allows you to quickly organize your inventory, ensuring that everything always goes to the right place. Depending on the model, sortation systems let you utilize floor space more efficiently and make use of vertical space.

5. Consider pick-to-light solutions

Pick-to-light systems notify operators of the correct location and quantity of the items in an order using lights that are mounted on your racks or shelves. With this method, your workers will be able to pick orders with a higher velocity and accuracy since they won’t have to waste time searching for items that are difficult to locate. It’s easy to integrate a pick-too-light solution, and since the lights are installed on your pre-existing shelves, you won’t have to sacrifice space to do so.

6. Leverage automated guidance vehicles

Automated guidance vehicles are load carriers that travel throughout a warehouse without an onboard driver. These vehicles boost productivity in retail operations because they can be deployed. A primary advantage of AGVs is that they can operate 24/7 and in conditions that humans cannot normally work, allowing you to boost your order fulfillment. AGV paths and operations can easily be adjusted or expanded during peak retail times to meet specific demands.

7. Implement the right warehouse management system (WMS)

All distribution facilities need proper management to remain productive. This holds true for retail centers as well. An end-to-end automated WMS system will simplify the otherwise daunting task of ensuring that every process runs smoothly. Intelligent software will streamline various aspects of your warehouse operations, including inventory tracking, route planning, order fulfillment, and more. Plus, you can manage all of these processes from one platform, making the management process a breeze.

8. Account for changes in product demand

In the retail industry, customer demands frequently change, especially around the holidays. Accounting for these changes in demand will ensure that you aren’t held back when there’s high product demand. This means that you will have to understand the velocity of the products in your warehouse by looking at the rates that they sell during a given time. To boost productivity, you should store items with a high velocity in racks that are easily accessible or close to the packing area to reduce travel time.

Using Retail Warehouse Automation to Make Processes, Operations, and Space More Efficient

Automation allows retail distribution centers to solve many of their challenges by streamlining tasks that might have been bottlenecks previously. Moving inventory from place to place with as little human intervention as possible allows for seamless order fulfillment, which means boosted productivity. When you invest in retail warehouse automation machines, robots, and vehicles, these intelligent devices help you meet growing customer demands and expectations. Therefore, if you want to optimize all of your retail warehouse’s processes, operations, and space, then automation is key.

About the author


Skyeler Smith

Skyeler Smith is a Marketing Coordinator at SRSI.