This chapter discusses principles for picking the right equipment for your facility and what essentials you'll need to get up-and-running.
Why equipment matters
Picking the right equipment for your warehouse isn’t just a matter of performance, but also necessity. The right equipment can increase accessibility to products in the warehouse, increase efficiency, and drive cost savings. But more importantly, it’s a critical factor in the safety and wellbeing of your team.
While we won’t get into the specific specification breakdown for each product, there are some general principles we recommend when purchasing. These principles fall under a philosophy of purchasing known as “needs-based purchasing.”
Needs-based purchasing is the process of defining your constraints or “needs” before sourcing a product from vendors. There are a few major benefits to following a needs-based approach:
- Expand the set of possible products for getting the job done (e.g., if you’re flexible on the width of a box, then there are a lot more options with potential price savings)
- Minimize the possibility of purchasing products that incur additional costs (e.g., accidentally buying two types of pallets requirement two different forklifts)
- Consolidate similar products to unlock bulk pricing (e.g., if you’re flexible on the width of your boxes, then it’s possible you can purchase one type of box to satisfy the needs of two).
The set of possible products out there to purchase is seemingly endless – needs-based purchasing gives you a framework for wrangling the chaos and unlocking major savings and efficiency for your team.
What to do before picking equipment
To pick the right equipment, you’ll need at least a preliminary idea of your warehouse layout design. If you haven’t already, we recommend reading our guide to warehouse design.
Warehouse equipment checklist
We won’t be getting into the details of selecting each and every product required to run your warehouse, but we’ve put together a comprehensive list of products you’ll most likely need.
The most important category of products on this checklist. Make sure you have everything to keep your team safe.
- Anti-Fatigue Mats: reduce stress or fatigue on workers standing in one position for a long period of time.
- Anti-Slip Mats: reduce the possibility of slips in typically wet areas.
- Barricades / Railings: reduce possibility of forklift or other collisions.
- Bollards: prevent vehicles from entering spaces; provide visual aid for drivers in loading bays; protect critical infrastructure.
- First Aid Kit: kit of essential equipment for handling minor injuries.
- Gloves: protect your workers’ hands when moving goods through the facility.
- Hard Hats: protect your workers from falling objects (e.g., items falling from shelves)
- Mirrors: reduce the possibility of incidents when turning corners with blindspots.
- Visible safety signs: clearly notify workers of warehouse hazards (e.g., “Watch for Fork Truck Traffic”).
Lifting equipment is used to transport the goods flowing through your warehouse. Selecting the right lifting equipment will help improve the efficiency of your team while also keeping them safe. The equipment you choose will depend on a few things:
- Size of items in inventory: should be able to lift these items.
- Width of your facility’s aisles: should be able to navigate aisles without getting stuck.
- Shelf height / accessibility: should be able to access items at any shelf height.
You’ll want to explore each of these options:
- Cranes, Hoists, and Monorails
- Dollies and Castors
- Hand trucks
- Pallet Jacks
- Service Carts
Picking the right loading dock equipment will ensure trucks can enter and exit your docks smoothly, and your team can do their job safely:
- Dock Boards / Plates: bridge the gap between the back of a trailer and your loading zone.
- Dock Bumpers: protect facilities and trailers from damage.
- Dock Levelers / Lifts: permanently bridge the gap between the back of a trailer and your loading zone.
- Dock Seals / Shelters: protect facilities and trailers from damage when backing up trailers.
- Lighting: improve visibility for drivers when backing up trailers.
- Truck Restraints: secure trailers to the loading dock to prevent them from moving when loading or unloading.
- Wheel Blocks / Chocks / Wedges: prevent trailers from moving when loading or unloading.
- Yard Ramps: provide ground-level access to trailers and docks.
Conveyors are material handling machines used to automate the process of transporting goods through your warehouse. They reduce the health and safety risks associated with manually moving goods through the warehouse, while improving efficiency.
After defining your needs, you’ll want to explore each of these options:
- Automotive Conveyors
- Belt Conveyor
- Chain Conveyor
- Dust Proof Conveyors
- Flexible Conveyors
- Gravity Roller Conveyor
- Plastic Belt Conveyors
- Pneumatic Conveyors
- Spiral Conveyors
- Vertical Conveyors
Picking the right storage equipment is ultimately about making the most of the space you’re working with:
- Bins / Totes: containers for transporting small or raw goods.
- Carousels: automate storage and transportation of goods from shelves.
- Racks: store and retrieve goods via lift equipment.
- Shelves: store and retrieve goods by hand.
Packing equipment will help you either wrap or box your products to keep them safe and make handling easier as they move through and beyond your warehouse. Picking the right equipment can increase the speed at which items are packed and ultimately drive down the cost of your operation through reducing man hours.
- Industrial Scales: weigh large loads.
- Packing Tables: increase accessibility and efficiency when packing by hand.
- Strapping / Banding: prevent loads from getting loose and damaging goods.
- Stretch Wrap Machines: improve efficiency of securing loads with stretch wrap.
There are a few miscellaneous products to help improve the quality of your working environment:
- Coffee Machines
- Fans and Heaters
- Rolling Ladders
- Water Coolers
- Picking the right equipment will lead to a safer and more efficient operation.
- Before purchasing equipment, you’ll want to know your warehouse’s layout.
- For each product category, you’ll want to review each product and how it fits into your operation’s needs.