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Choosing the geographic location of your warehouse(s) is an important step in the overall process of warehouse management — and should not be considered an afterthought.
Your warehouse’s location has a major impact on your ability to fulfill orders from your customers. Here, we’ll take a look at the main factors to consider when choosing a warehouse location — and why these factors have such an impact on your overall operations.
Not all plots of land are created equal.
Factors like terrain and weather (of both the immediate and surrounding areas) can make a given location more or less ideal for warehouse operations. For example, it wouldn’t make much sense to build a warehouse on the side of a mountain in an area that’s prone to deadly blizzards six months out of the year.
Going beyond the obvious, you’ll want to ensure the surrounding environment is sustainable for your products both now and in the future. This means taking note of any changes — planned or unplanned — that have occurred within the area (or that may occur moving forward).
While physical makeup will vary from location to location, your goal should be to find those that will provide the path of least resistance when fulfilling orders at all times.
Where your warehouse is located — with respect to your suppliers, buyers, team members, and other involved parties — also impacts the productivity of your warehouse.
That being the case, you’ll want to find a location that minimizes travel time from other major hubs within your area. This ensures that all involved parties (as well as your inventory) will need to spend less time in transit when getting from A to B. In turn, this minimizes the chances of problems occurring along the way.
Note, though, that minimizing travel time doesn’t necessarily mean minimizing the distance between your warehouse and these other hubs; traffic and other fluctuating circumstances play a huge role here. For example, in 2018, Amazon opened its first New York-based fulfillment center in Staten Island — a much less congested area than, say, Manhattan.
Simply put: Less travel time means less downtime. The less time it takes for everyone to get where they need to be, the better off everyone involved will be.
Warehouse operations rely heavily on technology, period.
It’s vital, then, that the area in which you build your warehouse allows for optimum use of said technology.
First things first, it’s important to not take the availability of even common technology for granted. You don’t want to assume structures are in place to provide a certain location with things like electricity, plumbing, and internet access.
You’ll also want to be sure that any tools or technology that your warehouse utilizes can function to its highest capacity. If any of the factors we’ve mentioned thus far (e.g., weather, traffic, etc.) hinder your use of technology, your warehouse’s overall productivity will suffer.
As your business grows, you’ll eventually have a need for more warehouse space. The question is does your warehouse’s location allow for such expansion to take place?
There are two ways to think about expansion.
The first — and most ideal — scenario is that your current location allows for expansion into the immediate surrounding area. This would involve purchasing additional land around your warehouse and adding onto your current facilities as needed.
The other option is to find a location that is nearby other potential plots of land that would also make for ideal warehouse placement. Here, each warehouse would function relatively independently, splitting the workload.
When the time comes for expansion, you simply won’t be able to afford any downtime in your warehouse-related operations. That said, make sure you anticipate these challenges before you commit to a location.