Fulfillment warehouse floors see a lot of traffic which comes as no surprise. However, as trends shift, so does customer demand. Worldwide, ecommerce sales last year topped almost $3.5 trillion. Further, the average growth rates for ecommerce sales increased by nearly 26% (from 2014-2017). That’s enough evidence to confirm that now is the time to upgrade your flooring. But, where do you start? How do you prepare your floors if you don’t even know if they’re treated? Hence, you need a flooring solution.

Your flooring solution can help you prepare your concrete floors to meet demand. It should include a roadmap of how your warehouse will effectively take in more supply materials. And, it needs to outline how to mitigate risks (avoid employee accidents, hazardous spills). And, here’s why this is important.

With technological advances, warehouse fulfillment solutions aren’t limited to sales histories from last season or last quarter. Today’s fulfillment warehouses use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for the most accurate forecasting models. These can help anticipate future demand based on benchmarking data - not just recent sales. With that in mind, you can prepare the areas in your warehouse where you expect to have the most traffic.

Here are a few ways you can prepare your floors to accommodate the growth in sales.

1. Consider Alternative Storage Capacities

Warehouse heights have increased in the past several years. In the 1960s, heights were about 24-feet-high. In 2016, they were 33-feet high and currently are near 36-feet high. One concern is the risks this poses to employees. Another cause for concern is floor load capacity.

Floors must support live loads. This is the weight of people, vehicles, carts, furnishings and anything else not attached to it permanently. They must also support dead loads. This is the weight of the floor’s structure and anything attached to it permanently. As you anticipate growth to meet demand, this can mean more weight on storage shelves, equipment and vehicles.

Talk to your flooring specialist and a structural engineer and review your building code requirements. Knowing your existing floor’s load limits can help you accurately plan the best storage options.

2. Pick Your Robotics Navigation System BEFORE Remodeling Your Floors

Growth in robotics adoption is on the rise. In 2016, the market was just over $2 billion. By 2022, it’s expected to rise to $6 billion in value.

The use of robots can free up employee time from repetitive fulfillment tasks. Robots can load or unload pallet trucks and forklifts and grasp, pick, package and sort items. They’re also useful for depalletizing (unloading pallets) and palletizing (loading pallets). Robots can even deliver, transport, package and replenish orders.

Industries That Use Robotics

Industries use robots based on their payload capacities. These might range from 1-pound to 22-lbs. For larger payloads, like the automotive industry, larger robots can optimize delivery times and increase productivity.

Industries that use robotics include:

  • Electronics, machinery, food and beverage and automotive
  • Textiles, apparel and chemical
  • Paper, print, electrical and pharmaceuticals
  • Metal, rubber and plastic

Robot Navigation Systems

In exploring the types of robots to use, you may need special flooring for your robotic navigation system. Talk to your flooring specialist about this.

Robotic navigation systems include:

  • Lasers and labels: These work with 3D lasers and a rangefinder to navigate doors, floors and shelves.
  • Magnetic-tape: These guide the robot to specified routes with special magnetic tapes.
  • Rail: The robot follows predetermined routes on the floor.
  • Vision: This works with optical sensors like a photometric camera.
  • Wire-guides: The robot works with an inductive sensor and follows a wire that's installed underneath the flooring.
  • Other systems include geo-guidance with reference maps or LiDAR which works with laser impulses.

3. Maximize Your Space with a More Productive Layout

As your sales increase, the goal is to work smarter not harder. Given the increases in ecommerce sales during the pandemic, more people are online and not in brick-and-mortar stores. Preparing your warehouse can help you capitalize on all that growth. Talking to your flooring specialist can help you outline a plan to make the most use of your warehouse.

A few points to explore:

  • Use an effective warehouse management system (no more paper counts) to help with retail fulfillment. Because the new trend is more smaller orders to fulfill, your floors need to withstand increases in traffic.
  • Know your peak seasons and the types of traffic in your warehouse. You can then outline how to map off designated areas for pedestrians, vehicles and storage.
  • To help with order fulfillment, address how orders are filled and from where. Can a change in layout reduce delays?
  • Design your floors based on an omnichannel approach. If your facility only uses a small area for peak season and your budget is a factor, consider a floor covering only in that particular location. This is helpful especially if there’s less foot and vehicle traffic elsewhere.

With your layout, you should:

  • Make good use of all available space, reduce the handling of all goods, make it easy to access goods and create a lot of working space.
  • Minimize travel time between picking locations and bins or carts and include areas for receiving, an office, packing, shipping and storage.
  • Put your highest selling items closest to your packing area and use order-picking software like hand-held RF technology, pick-to-light, barcoding or voice-picking.
  • Give you flexible storage options, optimize the picking in your facility and include new racks and shelves that are all visible at a glance.
  • Include labels on everything and be clearly marked.
  • Designate areas for expanded cluster-picking. Instead of 2’x2’ carts or totes, switch to 5’x2’ to pick up several orders at a time.

4. Use Specific Colors to Standardize Your Facility

Guiding traffic can increase workflows and reduce accidents whether it’s through floor tape or painted lines. Map out how you will color coordinate your facility. Your floor markings should also meet OSHA requirements. These can help employees easily navigate your facility and access emergency areas if necessary.

Common warehouse floor colors include:

  • Black for finished goods.
  • Blue for work in progress or a location under repairs.
  • Green for storing safety equipment or designating a pedestrian walkway.
  • Orange for storing machinery.
  • Red for "Do not block" zones, emergency exits or "No equipment allowed" zones.
  • Red and white for safety equipment only.
  • Yellow for pedestrian walkways.
  • Yellow and black for extreme caution areas.

OSHA floor markings include:

  • Aisle spaces: These can include any color and can include strips, squares or dots as long as they are continuous. Reference: §1910.22(b).
  • Environmental control areas: Use red for fire protection equipment, stop buttons, electrical switches, flammable liquids and emergency apparatus. Use yellow for caution and areas that pose physical hazards. References: §1910.144, §1910.144(a)(1) and §1910.144(a)(3).
  • Exit paths: Use luminous markings on exit paths and solid stripes on the edges of steps. Use demarcation lines for the edges of landings. References: §1024.1, §1024.2.1 and §1024.2.4.
  • Exit routes: Designate exit routes with yellow and black. Reference: §1910.35.
  • Mechanical equipment: Allow sufficient clearance for loading docks, making turns, aisles and doorways. Keep these areas in good condition and have your flooring specialist make repairs to avoid hazards. Reference: §1910.176(a).

5. Establish an Installation Timeframe

If you’re on a budget or short on time, a temporary flooring fix might suffice for a few years. Your flooring specialist might advise you to add an epoxy coating with a layer of urethane on top. This is durable, budget-friendly and long-lasting.

Another consideration is if you want to replace your floors instead of adding a coating on top of them. There are all kinds of epoxy blends and urethane cements to choose from. Factor in your budget, time constraints and if you’re looking for a permanent or temporary solution.

6. Select Flooring Specifics Based On What You Transport

If you’re in a new facility and you didn’t remodel the floors, you might not know what’s underneath the concrete layer or its age. As you expand, it’s important to know if there are cracks in the concrete with moisture or spilled chemicals in them. It’s also important to ensure your flooring will protect your employees from contaminants or a fall if the concrete is broken, buckling or chipped.

Ask your contractor about slip-resistant finishes and features like static-control. Inquire about easy-to-clean flooring options to reduce cleanup turnaround times. Another area to explore is if the flooring needs antimicrobial properties. This is helpful if you work in food services or healthcare. If durability and easy clean up are the focus, talk to your contractor about durable floor coating options like epoxy with a layer of urethane on top.

7. Address Current and Future Flooring Needs

When making flooring changes, it's helpful to address what you need now and can afford. Then, look at what you need long-term and any budget constraints. Perhaps you moved into a new facility and knew the floors needed refinishing but you didn't have it in your budget. Or, maybe you're scaling and want the most high-value and long-term solution.

Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Is our floor bland or dull? Does our flooring match our brand and image? Does it meet OSHA guidelines?
  • Does our floor improve or delay workflows? Is it safe for employees, customers and guests? Do we have cracks, stains or dust? Are there open crevices and signs of spalling? Are you seeing signs of moisture or is cleaning a problem?
  • Should we invest in a low-cost floor coating solution (fill cracks/joints, polish or stain, epoxy or urethane)?
  • Should we invest in long-term replacement flooring? Are we ready for a time-intensive project? Can we do it in sections?

Talk to a flooring specialist about your floor preparation steps and short- and long-term options. Epoxy floor coatings are an exceptional flooring solution that's durable and comes in different styles and colors. It's also easy to clean. Polishing gives you a temporary coating that's high-gloss and slip-resistant. Staining lets you change your floor color and you can even choose marbling or a speckled look. Urethane coatings use a clear coat over your existing floor. It's both scuff- and scratch-resistant and long-lasting.

Meet Growing ECommerce Demand with the Best Flooring Solutions

With a surge expected in ecommerce sales, preparing your warehouse floors can help you adjust for increased traffic. From creating designated walkways to maximizing storage space, you can organize your space and prepare for more growth. If you need assistance with floor coverings, Concrete Coatings is here to help.

At Concrete Coatings of the Carolinas, we specialize in custom floor coverings tailored to suit your business needs. With decades of experience pouring concrete and making repairs, we can determine the types of repairs you need before any resurfacing work to help you find the best flooring solution to help you meet demand. Contact our team for a free comprehensive estimate today!

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