An operational warehouse can be a busy place in which large amounts of stock are constantly being transported internally to accommodate orders from across the country and beyond. Within this bustling hive of activity, safety measures are necessary to maintain the well-being of personnel. At the same time, efficiency initiatives can improve the overall process by making it quicker or reducing the likelihood of mistakes along the way.
The balance between optimised safety and efficiency is a delicate one; a safety measure whereby shelves are spaced further apart to prevent injury from falling items, for example, might increase the time it takes personnel to navigate them, negatively impacting efficiency, whereas the implementation of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) can improve stock movement capabilities, but will certainly require additional safety scrutiny to maintain the health and wellbeing of your human employees.
But what if we told you there was a way to maximise both safety and efficiency within your facility? We are, of course, talking about warehouse line marking, an all-too-often overlooked operational measure that is phenomenally adept at regulating traffic, highlighting hazards, communicating complicated messages, and generally keeping a facility running like a well-oiled machine.
Where many people see simple lines on the floor, we see the potential to improve warehouse functionality and safety. That might seem like a romanticised view of hard-wearing floor paint, but it’s one that is familiar with the many advantages associated with high-quality warehouse line marking.
In this article, we want to explore five of those advantages. Before we do, however, it is worth defining what we mean when we use the term ‘warehouse line marking’.
What is warehouse line marking?
Warehouse line marking is the deployment of paint or tape to define traffic routes, highlight hazards and divide up space within a warehouse to promote safety and enhance efficiency.
The lines, shapes and signs are all used to communicate with warehouse personnel – whether visiting or working, human or artificial intelligence – in a manner that is simple, clear and effective, leaving the recipient of the messaging in no doubt as to what it means. Aside from the stock, racks and personnel, warehouse line marking is likely to be the most important component of a facility’s infrastructure, so it has the potential to influence a wide range of important factors.
What are the five advantages of warehouse line marking?
Imagine a facility without warehouse line marking. The space would undeniably have the same storage capacity as its marked counterpart, but at busy times it might prove to be a disorganised and even dangerous space where bottlenecks occur during peak hours and the process of finding what you are looking for becomes seemingly impossible.
Warehouse line marking is a sensible and safe way to improve the cohesive order of your facility, but far from an obligation that you resign yourself to implementing, the paint can, in fact, bring with it several distinct advantages.
Improved Health and Safety Executive (HSE) compliance
Ensuring safety in a warehouse, where substantial stock is frequently manoeuvred by heavy machinery – some of which may be autonomous – should be a top priority for any facility owner or manager. By law, those two roles have an obligation to ensure they are compliant with Health and Safety Executive guidelines which include regular risk assessments, correct training, and emergency planning.
While warehouse line marking can’t host training sessions or carry out risk assessments (yet), it can guide your employees and visitors to an exit in the event of a fire or another emergency requiring evacuation. Alongside creating an easily visible path towards safety, warehouse lines can also highlight hazards, distinguish the route of machinery from the route of humans, and, as a result, reduce accidents that might be caused by visual errors.
To maximise the effectiveness of warehouse line marking, it can be deployed in a range of colours depending on its intended purpose. Currently, no definitive legal framework exists which defines each colour, but the common colour-coding standards for warehouse line markings include white – used for general markings – yellow which highlights hazards, and green, alerting you to the presence of potential safe spaces within your facility.
A more efficient use of space
In most warehouses, there exists some form of line marking; to pretend there isn’t would be more than a little misleading. That being said, the marking might take quite a basic form, simply denoting a safe route for personnel to walk and perhaps highlighting your firefighting equipment. While certainly fulfilling your health and safety obligations, this does somewhat fail to fulfil the potential for optimum efficiency.
Instead of the intended slick operation, your stock movement might be punctuated by regular bottlenecks, hampered by machinery obstacles and characterised by stock totes that are overflowing with products.
If you would like to enhance the efficiency of your warehouse, one of the best advantages of warehouse line marking is its ability to define workflows, guide your personnel to the correct aisle markings (reducing the time it takes to find correct items), and allocate areas for the storage of equipment to prevent clutter. All this can be achieved with the deployment of a few arrows, some careful but clear wording, and some forethought as to how your facility might optimally function – all of which can be provided by experienced line marking specialists.
Standardisation across facilities
If you operate more than one facility, effective warehouse line marking can ensure consistency across multiple sites. Doing so promotes a level of uniformity that lends itself very well to scaling your business upwards (after all, your pre-defined layout and markings will determine much of the material and equipment costs depending on the facility size) and upgrading it when the need arises. You will also be able to implement a quality control system that is far more uniform than that which attempts to grade warehouses that vary considerably from one site to another.
Then there is the onboarding of a transferred employee. If your facilities are alien from one another, a lengthy orientation process is likely to be required. When your colour-coded warehouse line marking is uniform, this part of the process is almost eliminated, allowing them to slot into the team far more easily.
Providing pathways for AI
Artificial intelligence is changing every facet of our personal and professional lives, and the warehouse is no exception. Visit any Amazon facility and you will be met by one of the company’s 45,000 automated guided vehicles (AGV) which helps to move stock from one place to another alongside its human counterparts.
The key to the success of these autonomous robots is clear warehouse line markings, which are integrated into the vehicles’ navigation systems to highlight loading zones and efficient routes, as well as the junctions where their paths cross with those of humans and collision avoidance should be activated.
Without the markings, the job of an AGV would be far harder, almost impossible, so the prospect of stepping into a futuristic warehouse would be a work of fiction, rather than a close-to-home reality.
Perhaps the most obvious advantage of implementing effective warehouse line marking is its ability to simply and effectively guide facility personnel from one place to another. A warehouse can be quite an indistinctive space, a potentially bewildering space for someone who has to find a specific item within a catalogue that might be rather extensive, so clear and strategic paintwork can act as a navigational beacon with which to find their way. With the addition of markings, your warehouse can become organised and easily manageable, ensuring that personnel can locate specific items efficiently, reducing time spent searching and enhancing overall productivity.
But efficiency is not the only benefit of improved orientation; phosphorescent paint can be incorporated into warehouse line marking to improve safety by making the guidance clear even in low-light situations such as power cuts or fires that necessitate a swift exit from the building.
How to ensure warehouse line markings remain clear and visible
Warehouses are, by their nature, high-traffic environments in which wheels and feet pass over the same ground hundreds if not thousands of times each day. As a result, it’s vital that your line markings are up to the task. To fulfil that simple-sounding criterion, you should use high-quality, hard-wearing paint that contrasts with the colour of the floor, and seek advice from experienced professionals, such as ourselves, who can provide advice and regular inspections to ensure the longevity and visibility of your warehouse line markings.
Implementing clear warehouse line marking is one of the best – and easiest – ways to improve the efficiency and safety of your facility. These unassuming lines on the floor play a pivotal role in creating an organised and navigable environment, reducing the risk of accidents and optimising workflows. By serving as visual cues, they guide personnel through the warehouse labyrinth, ensuring smooth traffic flow and aiding in the quick location of items. If you would like to know more about how warehouse line marking can benefit your business, speak to us today.