As an Industrial Design Engineer preparing warehouse layouts and designs? Imagine you are in your customer’s office. Do you have to present your warehouse layout solution to customers? Is your client experienced in understanding CAD drawings?
Before that meeting, are you required to prepare your proposal within a short timeline? Do you need to draw the warehouse layout?
We have encountered similar situations.
We were a group of industrial engineers in a 3PL, designing warehouse layout solutions for customers. Often, we had to submit the proposals for RFP submission with a tight timeline.
On occasions, we had to be involved in continuous improvement projects (CIP) where process improvements were required. Warehouse re-layout was part of the improvement projects.
Typically, we drew CAD drawings for the warehouse layout. So do our competitors bidding for the same business. From the solutions standpoint, the presentation did not stand out. Just lines and curves. There was no wow factor!
There were situations where we were presenting to the decision-makers who were not experienced with CAD drawings, such as the finance team. It was challenging for them to understand the 2D drawings.
That was when we decided to explore presentation in 3D.
People are visual. Observing warehouse layouts in 3D is more impactful compared to 2D.
Do a test yourself. Look at the below 2 pictures.
Will you remember the warehouse layout in the picture on the left or the one in the right? Which one is easier to understand and leave a lasting impression?
There are commercial software tools in the market which can generate the 3D models. Their main capabilities are to generate simulations to determine if the models are ideal given the input provided by the operations.
Aside from the price factor to consider, the learning curve is steep, based on our experiences.
We decided to use Sketchup instead to draw our 3D visualizations of the warehouse to present to clients.
Sketchup is easy to learn and use. The functions are intuitive and new users can familiarise with the Sketchup environment much quicker than other simulation software. Pricewise, Sketchup is much cheaper than the commercial off-the-shelf simulation software.
Our customers loved our 3D models! They instantly understood the solutions.
With rendering plugin extension, you could further enhance the model to create photorealistic pictures.
Then we faced a roadblock.
The time required to model the 3D model was longer than the CAD drawings. For every project, we had to either modify existing components such as pallet racking to the specific dimensions or create new components from scratch.
To speed up the entire modelling process, we had created a plugin extension with a suite of common components. These components range from selective pallet racking, to double deep pallet racking, conveyors, mezzanine and even a generic warehouse.
You no longer require to modify these items. Just click and drag the components into the model, and change the configurations in the message box accordingly. The 3D model will change automatically.
With the plugin extension, users now cut down the total time of modelling a warehouse layout by at least 25%. It becomes much simpler to complete a model.
In Sketchup itself, after creating the warehouse model, you can export a video clip.
This will allow your customers to view the warehouse from multiple angles. Up to this point, both Sketchup and WarehouseBlueprint enable you to complete drawing a warehouse layout in 3D.
Being industrial engineers, we wished to utilize the software tools for continuous improvement projects as well.
We had developed the ABC analysis and the 2D warehouse heatmap with excel macro. Essentially, the concept is like warehouse slotting. To be efficient, operations should store the inventory according to the frequency of picking.
Popular items which are picked frequently should be placed in the most accessible area, whereas slow moving items should be stored in inaccessible area.
However, for most warehouses, the putaway is done manually. Warehouse operators tend to override the suggested locations by the system and store the pallets wherever is convenient. As a result of this practice, the picking process is impacted.
There could be situations where pickers need to travel all the way to the back of the warehouse frequently to pick a fast-moving item. This inevitably lowers the picking efficiency.
With data from inventory and outbound report, you can generate a heatmap. You can view how and where the pallets are stored.
We went one step further. Utilizing the data, we can create a 3D heatmap for the entire warehouse.
We have created another plugin extension to allow operations to visualize the current storage efficiency.
You are now able to generate a 3D warehouse heatmap.
Visually, the operations staffs can understand the requirement of re-slotting of the pallets to enable picking can be done more efficiently.
With WarehouseBlueprint products, you will be able to design warehouse layouts in 3D.
You will also be able to create a 3D heatmap to showcase the storage efficiency.