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Below is a suggested periodic maintenance schedule for warehouse management. 

  • Floors
  • Pest signs
  • Locks
  • Walls
  • Sides of racks, shelves, fridges
  • In-depth check for pest
  • Stability of racks, shelves
  • Exterior lighting systems
  • Perimeter walls/fences 
  • Floor
  • Stored Items
  • Roof
  • Gutter
  • Truck parking areas
  • Facility grounds
  • Wall cracks
  • Water leakages
  • Fire Extinguishers/Sand Buckets
  • Condition of handling equipment 

Goods Flow

Warehousing Documentation


  • Fragile items such as glass vials can be stored on the bottom shelf to reduce the risk of accidental breakage if handling units are dropped or fall over.
  • Liquids, powders and solids should be clearly separated. Liquids should be stored on bottom shelves, both because of their weight and because a ruptured package might leak on all items below it. 
  • Some like-items may still need to be separated. As an example - the same quantities and dosage of a single pharmaceutical may have different expiration and/or batch/lot numbers, or different items belong to different donor grants. Each item will need its own stock  card and clearly defined space.

General Storage Guidelines

Below are general guidelines for the most commonly stored types of items in a humanitarian context. 

Medical Items

  • Boxes should not receive direct sunlight.
  • Temperature in the warehouse should be controlled and recorded daily, and fridge temperature should be controlled and recorded where cold chain items are stored.
  • Drugs should ideally be stored by type of drug: infusions, injectables, oral drugs, diagnostic tests, etc.
  • Always store medical supplies separately from chemicals or food (pesticides, fertilisers, cement, fuel included), and dangerous goods. This also applies when loading onto vehicles.
  • If stored on pallets, all cartons should be clearly labelled with their contents.
  • Always record batch numbers (found on the outer cartons and on each container of the drugs, allocated by the manufacturer) and expiry dates of medical supplies upon receipt and record batch references at all stock movements, including on all stock/bin cards and all warehouse ledgers.
  • It is good practice to track medical supplies on stock cards raised by batch number. Alternatively, you can record the batch number of the drugs as they moved in and out of stock.
  • Expired drugs are not fit for human consumption and should be destroyed safely. Contact your local Food and Drug Administration to enquire about the regulations around the destruction of medical supplies.
  • Expired or damaged drugs must be quarantined until they can be safely destroyed. Keep a record of drugs placed in quarantine on the relevant bin and stock cards.
  • It is advisable that all medical items be rotated following the FEFO (first expired, first out) principle.

Food Items

  • Food needs to be protected from sun, rain, humidity and extreme temperatures.
  • Covered and protected storage space is always preferable.
  • If uncovered and unprotected storage cannot be avoided, make sure outside storage is only temporary (maximum 10 to 15 days).
  • Always store food separately from chemicals (including pesticides, fertilisers, cement, and fuel), dangerous goods and drugs. This also applies to when transporting items as well.
  • If you are treating a warehouse that contains food against pests, make sure the chemical used is food-safe (consult your regional logistics support if you are unsure).
  • Ensure the storage areas are cleaned daily, and that all cleanings are recorded (daily sweep, weekly clean and wipe-down, monthly deep clean).
  • Pay particular attention to infestation signs
  • Immediately separate and quarantine infested stocks from the rest. All infestations must be reported immediately to country managers.
  • Expired food items must be quarantined and stored separately until they can be destroyed.
  • Expired food must be disposed of immediately. Check with local health authorities to determine whether it can be used as animal feed or for the appropriate disposal method (incineration or burial). Be mindful that the destruction of food may sometimes cause strong cultural reactions.
  • Pay particular attention to the reception process to confirm weight received: weigh five to ten per cent of the consignment and extrapolate weight of the full consignment to estimate total weight of the consignment against documented weight or use a truck weighbridge to compare the actual weight to the documented weight on the GRN/delivery note/waybill. Record any discrepancy on the GRN.
  • Always record batch numbers and expiry dates of food items upon receipt and stock movement, including on all stock/bin cards and all warehouse ledgers.
  • It is advisable that all food items be rotated following the FEFO (first expired, first out) principle.

Construction Materials

  • Small parts such as screws, nails, turns and bolts are usually measured and accounted by weight rather than units.
  • For poles, sticks, metal bars and other long and/or bulky items, build “reference” storage areas, with items separated by quantity. For example, store wooden poles in bins with 100 pieces in each. This will help managing stocks per FIFO principles and avoid the deterioration of stock.
  • For sand, gravel and other loose materials, build tank storage per cubic metre to help track stock levels. A good option is to build one cubic metre “bins” and cover them to preserve the quality of the material.
  • The maximum height of a stack of cement should not exceed 15 bags, to prevent lumping from pressure.
  • Cement must always be kept dry and away from the walls of the warehouse. Ideally cover cement stacks with tarpaulin to protect the bags.

Chemical Products

  • Chemicals can never be stored with food or drugs supplies.
  • Many chemical products are defined as dangerous goods – dangerous goods should be identified and labelled/handled appropriately.
  • When conducting routine warehouse checks, check the packaging of chemicals thoroughly for wet cartons, chewed plastic, broken seals and spilt liquids.
  • Most chemicals are perishable. Maintain an alert system to warn of pre-expired chemicals.
  • The disposal of chemicals is extremely sensitive. Always refer to local laws and regulations. 
  • Fuel and chlorine are the most commonly stored chemicals in humanitarian contexts – make sure they are managed accordingly.

Adapted from the British Red Cross Warehousing Guidelines.

Temperature Controlled Items