To manage your supply chain, you pay attention to every step of the process from obtaining raw materials to getting your product into your customers' hands. One important link in the chain involves storing inventory before distribution, so having a warehouse that works will help make your supply chain management more efficient.

There are many factors to ponder when seeking a warehouse to suit your needs. Before handing over the search to a commercial real estate agent, try to define your requirements. How will you use your warehouse? Various purposes require different design approaches:

  • If used only for storage, the focus will be on shelving and accessibility.
  • Including office space may change plumbing requirements.
  • Will loading bays be needed for transportation?
  • A workshop may entail more machinery and equipment.

You may consider hiring a designer so that the space is used as effectively as possible and the layout allows for fluid movement. Easy access prevents wasted time. Will the volume of your inventory require the use of a forklift for containers and pallets, or will dollies be adequate?

Developing an inventory control system for the warehouse will depend also on who works there. If your operation is small, you may be able to handle any warehouse duties by yourself, or you may send your regular employees to work there on an as-needed basis. However, a large warehouse may require dedicated on-site employees.

Because the value of goods stored in a warehouse can be very high, there are security and safety issues to consider. Your insurance needs will change and a security system will be a priority. Eventualities to prepare for include:

  • Fire — A fire safety consultant will let you know if your warehouse complies with regulations.
  • Flooding — Keep stock off the ground.
  • Temperature extremes — Will anything be damaged by heat, cold or humidity?
  • Pests — Insects or mice could damage your stock.

Of course, if you prefer to concentrate on other aspects of your business, you may decide that outsourcing your warehouse needs is a better solution. If so, make sure that third-party providers can offer you service that best suits your business needs.

For more information on logistics and inventory, check out our section on Supply Chain Management.