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Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

A unique code or nomenclature that designates a single line item of a larger consignment. SKUs may be tied to a specific production run or expiration date, and may denote only a product of specific characteristics. A single storage facility with multiple SKUs will require very different handling procedures than a storage facility with few SKUs.

Inventory Unit

The lowest unit at which stored cargo items may be counted at. An inventory unit may be an individual item (example: blanket), storage container (example: bottle of pills) or kit.

Handling Unit

The lowest unit at which a stored cargo item is handled. In the context of a warehouse, the handling unit may be a carton that contains many inventory units. A handling unit may be a single unit, or an entire pallet.

Material Handling Equipment (MHE)

MHE is any form of mechanical equipment used to facilitate the loading and offloading of cargo, or the movement of cargo around an open space such as a port or a warehouse. MHE includes forklifts, cranes, pallet jacks, and more. 

Pick Order

The order generated by a requestor and communicated to a warehouse indicating the quantity and type of SKUs to be pulled from inventory and shipped.  

First In / First Out (FIFO)

An inventory and asset management system in which the oldest received inventory items on hand are the first removed from inventory.  

First Expired / First Out (FEFO)An inventory and asset management system that emphasizes and the movement of items based on their relative expiration dates. 

Non-Food Item (NFI)

Any stored item that is not food in nature. In the humanitarian context, NFI items usually refer to durable, non-perishable items such as household and shelter materials. NFI management in humanitarian settings usually does not require advanced storage solutions, unlike storage of medicines or medical consumables which may require temperature controls.

...

There are many things to consider while selecting a location and/or a structure in which to establish a warehouse/storage facility. Rapid assessment templates for identifying storage space can also be found in the Assessments and Planning section of this guide. 

Anticipated Cargo Needs

When planning a new warehouse space, organisations should consider what the anticipated cargo needs will be. Cargo needs will at least include the maximum anticipated volume at any given time, however they should also factor for special handling requirements or special activities, such as kitting. Understanding the full scope of the warehouse may require consultations between program and logistics personnel, and a mapping of programmatic activities over the coming period of time. Even a relatively small volume of cargo may require a large area in which to operate.

...

  • Location/Building has access to basic unities - electricity, water, communications.
  • Location has bathroom facilities on site.
  • If required, the storage space has separated compartments for different storage areas/different storage needs – climate controlled, secured areas, etc.
  • A usable office space of appropriate size.
  • The capacity to refuel trucks – does the site have existing refuelling tanks, or do tanks need to be installed.
  • An employee break/rest area.
  • Prayer rooms (if required).

Structures:

  • Proposed warehouse site has an existing physical structure.
  • Existing structure and surrounding grounds are in good condition – if not, consider required upgrades.
  • If required, location has drive-up loading bays for vehicles.
  • Location has adequate walls, doors, and ceilings – if not consider cost and complexity of required repairs.
  • If required, location has existing racking/shelving.
  • Storage space floors smooth and free from cracks, and capable of supporting required activities.
  • Walls are flat and free from pipes, exposed electrical wiring, support beams or other protrusions that might impact storage.
  • Structure is free from any perforations that may lead to water or pests coming into the facility.
  • There is proper drainage around structure – if not, consider cost and complexity of making drainage.

...

Example warehouse floor plan of a larger warehouse operation:


Zonal Storage

...

The ways in which cargo is physically stored in a warehouse can dramatically increase usable storage space, increase efficiency, and impact safety. Generally, there a few main categories through which cargo is physically stored and handled.

Shelving

Unlike racks which are used to manage pallet sized loads, shelving used in warehousing is useful for:

  • Small, low quantity, loose items – example: vehicle replacement parts.
  • Items that are dispensed at small quantities – example: medications.
  • High value items – example: computer equipment.

Shelving can easily be constructed in remote field warehouses from local materials, insofar as the local materials can physically support the required stored items. Shelving can also be installed anywhere inside a larger warehouse, however the location should make contextual sense. As an example, shelving may be used as an intermediary stage of order fulfilment; a warehouse may have pallets/large cartons of items small items, but only receive pick orders for low quantities. A reasonable quantity of stock may be moved to pre-defined shelf space to facilitate ease of fulfilling low or item level pick orders. Shelving may require a separated space physically separated from the main warehouse floor; high value items or controlled goods might be better suited stored on shelving in a separate lockable space.

Shelving installations should be ergonomic; shelves should not be so deep that an average height adult cannot reach to the back of the shelf, while shelves should not reach unsafe heights, and if possible, should avoid requiring ladders or stools to reach the top.

Image Removed

Loose Stacking / Ground Storage

Ground storage includes anything that is stored on the floor of a warehouse, often compiled in stacks. Items stored on the ground should never be directly in contact with the warehouse floor; cargo should rest on pallets, or if pallets unavailable, tarpaulin. The general configuration of ground floor stacks will vary based on the storage needs, including:

  • The number of different items SKU items that might require accounting
  • The weight of cargo limiting height
  • The physical nature of the cargo; cartons can be evenly stacked, while irregular kits in sacks might be piled like a pyramid

Ground storage of loose items is quite common in humanitarian settings. Most remote field warehouses are usually too small to accommodate special equipment installation, lack the sufficient infrastructure to properly support MHE, or are temporary structures in nature. A substantial portion of humanitarian relief supplies don’t necessarily require advanced handling either. There are several tricks to properly managing stacks of cargo, which are covered in the stock management section of this guide. Humanitarian agencies should resist the urge to use ground handling in all contexts despite its prevalent nature; commodities such as medication may benefit from not being stacked in a pile. Space planers should also resist the urge to fill up all available space when utilising ground storage; warehouses and storage facilities using ground storage and stacking should still observe the 70/30 rule, keeping lanes and aisles open for safety while making room for loading and offloading.

Image Removed

Racking

Warehouse racking – sometimes referred to as pallet racking – is a heavy-duty metal superstructure that is specifically designed to hold large, pallet sized items. Each space where a pallet might fit is referred to as a pallet bay, and pallet bays are generally counted as “pallet positions” when counting warehouse space availability. Palletised cargo, bulky items stored on pallets, or oversized cargo of a specific size can be loaded onto pallet racking using a forklift. The bottom bay can usually be loaded with a pallet jack, or may kept open for hand stacking smaller items. Properly utilised racks can dramatically increase the storage capacity of a warehouse, maximising three-dimensional space to the best of its ability.

Pallet racks can be built to meet the floor plan and storage needs of a warehouse, and the cross beams upon which pallets sit are adjustable to match changing storage height needs. The vertical space between rack cross beams should be reasonable; too high and space is wasted, too low and pallets may become stuck or cannot be properly inserted. An average height is around 1.5 meters, but adjustments may be required based on context of the pallet or items stored. Racks can be built to hold vertical stacks of pallets up to 20 meters tall, however racks should never exceed the safest lifting height of the available forklift on site, nor should they get closer than 2 meters from the ceiling.  The horizontal frame depth between rack cross beams should not be wider than the expected pallet type to prevent pallets falling through, and irregular shaped objects may not rest neatly or safely without an additional flat surface resting across the two beams.

Pallet racking systems should only be installed by professional companies with demonstrated experience. Racking systems also require warehouse floors to be sufficiently thick and strong, as racks will need to be physical bolted to the ground. Racking must be safely operated around and maintained; physical racking structures must not show signs of distress, corrosion or damage. Compromised racking structures can easily collapse causing substantial loss to stored items and serious injury or death. Wherever possible, racks should have some form of physical crash barrier at corners of rows and lanes to prevent damage from handling equipment. Only persons trained and certified to operate a forklift should be engaged in loading and offloading cargo from metal racking structures.

Image Removed

Stacking Frames

Related to pallet racks, stacking frames are pre-made metal super structures that are designed to vertically stack cargo. Unlike pallet racks, stacking frames are free-standing, and are highly customisable and modular.

A single stacking frame is typically cubic in shape, and around 1.5 x 1.5 meters at the base, though sizes vary. Most stacking frames can either be nested into each other when not being used, or even be taken apart, saving space.  Stacking frames are useful for:

  • Stacking irregularly shaped cargo.
  • Warehouse space with constantly changing racking needs.
  • Quickly moving entire racks from one place to another.

If loose cargo is stored in the racks, it should be properly braced, secured, or wrapped. The entire frame can be moved by a forklift, and frames can be easily stacked as high as safely possible to take advantage of vertical space. Unfortunately, stacking frames can only be used in warehouses with smooth and stable floors, and where forklifts can safely operate. Many larger facilities use stacking frames to augment racking and shelving, especially for irregular shaped items that cannot be easily stacked otherwise.

Image Removed

Pallets

Pallets have become ubiquitous across transport and warehousing operations globally, however there is a wide variety of sizes, dimensions and physical construction of pallets.  Though local warehouse managers may have very little control over the types of pallets that might arrive, an understanding of pallet differences can assist with both space planning, and safe utilisation of racking and MHE.

Pallets generally come in a few standard dimensions. ISO Pallet Standard Dimensions are:

...

Dimensions (Metric)

...

Dimensions (Imperial)

Square Meters Floor Space

Region Most Used In

...

W (mm)

...

L (mm)

...

W (in)

...

L (in)

...

1016

...

1219

...

40

...

48

...

1.2

...

North America

...

1000

...

1200

...

39.37

...

47.24

...

1.2

...

Europe, Asia

...

1165

...

1165

...

45.9

...

45.9

...

1.4

...

Australia

...

1067

...

1067

...

42

...

42

...

1.1

...

North America, Europe, Asia

...

1100

...

1100

...

43.3

...

43.3

...

1.2

...

Asia

...

800

...

1200

...

31.5

...

47.24

...

1

...

Europe

Both the square meters and side dimensions of pallets have implications for how pallets consume floor space in warehouse and trucks, how pallets may fit through doors, and how a pallet might be stored in elevated pallet racking. In addition to differing dimensions, there are different body constructions and different materials used in building pallets. Common pallet constructions:

...

Two-way entry pallet - close boarded, no base board

...

Four-way entry pallet - perimeter base

...

Image Removed

...

Image Removed

...

Four-way entry pallet - close boarded, 3 base

...

Two-way entry pallet - reversible 

...

Image Removed

...

Image Removed

...

Four-way entry pallet - close boarded, perimeter base

...

Four-way entry pallet - open boarded, 3 base

...

Image Removed

...

Image Removed

...

Four-way entry pallet - wing type

...

Two-way entry pallet - wing type

...

Image Removed

...

Image Removed

  • Pallets come in either two-way entry or four-way entry, meaning forks can lift from only two side or all four sides.
  • Pallets can be reversible or non-reversible. Non reversible pallets mean only one side has a stable surface upon which cargo can be stored. Non reversible pallets are sometimes called “skids.”

There may also be requirements for pallets to be fumigated, heat treated, or made of plastic. Pallets are predominantly made of wood, and different wood sources are more prone to infestations that can impact stored goods. Some countries even have regulations prohibiting the use and transportation of untreated wood pallets.

Material-Handling Equipment (MHE)

Material-Handling Equipment (MHE) is defined as any mechanised or manual machinery to assist with the movement of cargo, either around a warehouse or during the transport process.

Proper use of MHE requires not just the equipment, but the infrastructure to surround it. Pallet jacks, carts and some forklifts will only work on flat, hard and smooth surfaces. Some MHE – forklifts in particular – require external power such as diesel, natural gas or electricity. Without the ability to supply this external power to MHE that requires it, the MHE is essentially useless.

MHE is designed to do heavy lifting; it can help warehouse personnel move heavy loads but can also be very dangerous. Forklifts can easily hurt or kill workers, while a pallet jack may enable workers to move pallets far heavier than they realise, compromising the safety of others. While utilising MHE, warehouse staff should be properly trained and use proper safety equipment.

MHE typically involved in warehousing operations might include:

...

Image Removed

...

Forklifts – A mechanised power loader capable of lifting full pallets and heavy equipment. Forklifts come in a variety of sizes to meet a variety of load needs, but generally come with an enclosed cab and a four wheel base. All forklifts will have a hydraulic or chain powered “mast” capable of extending and lifting cargo vertically. The height and lift capacity of the mast depends on the rating of the forklift, and more information can be found from the manual or manufacture website.

Depending on the make, forklifts can be powered by either battery, compressed gas, or diesel/gasoline. Forklifts are generally designed for either use inside a warehouse with even surfaces, or for all terrain outdoor use.

Before obtaining a forklift, humanitarian agencies should consider:

  • The availability of skilled or licensed operators.
  • The conditions in which the forklift will operate (indoor or outdoor).
  • The available energy source required to operate the forklift.
  • The space required to utilize in or around a warehouse.

...

Image Removed

...

Irrespective of the structure type or the size, space planners should consider planning the physical location of stored items relative to the amount of effort required to move or load them, including:

  • Their size / weight
  • Their frequency of usage

SKUs that have the highest volume of turn over - meanest the highest numbers of in and outs - should be stored closer to the cargo loading points of the warehouse or storage facility. The time and effort saved when moving these items between storage location and points of loading/unloading will have long term impacts on the overall timeliness of operations. Inversely, less frequently used items should be stored further away from the storage facility points of loading.

An exception to storing infrequently used cargo in the rear of a facility is planning on storing extremely heavy or difficult to move items near the front of a warehouse or storage facility, even if they are used only rarely. Items like machine parts or generators might be cumbersome or even dangerous to move around inside of a storage site, and keeping them closest to the exit is an advisable strategy. This is especially true for storage locations that are entirely managed by hand - planners should think of the physical capabilities and safety of loaders.

Storage Space Zonal Plan

Image Added


Image AddedFrequently Requested/Oversized Items


Image AddedItems of Average Request Frequency


Image AddedLeast Requested Items

Storage Solutions

The ways in which cargo is physically stored in a warehouse can dramatically increase usable storage space, increase efficiency, and impact safety. Generally, there a few main categories through which cargo is physically stored and handled.

Shelving

Unlike racks which are used to manage pallet sized loads, shelving used in warehousing is useful for:

  • Small, low quantity, loose items – example: vehicle replacement parts.
  • Items that are dispensed at small quantities – example: medications.
  • High value items – example: computer equipment.

Shelving can easily be constructed in remote field warehouses from local materials, insofar as the local materials can physically support the required stored items. Shelving can also be installed anywhere inside a larger warehouse, however the location should make contextual sense. As an example, shelving may be used as an intermediary stage of order fulfilment; a warehouse may have pallets/large cartons of items small items, but only receive pick orders for low quantities. A reasonable quantity of stock may be moved to pre-defined shelf space to facilitate ease of fulfilling low or item level pick orders. Shelving may require a separated space physically separated from the main warehouse floor; high value items or controlled goods might be better suited stored on shelving in a separate lockable space.

Shelving installations should be ergonomic; shelves should not be so deep that an average height adult cannot reach to the back of the shelf, while shelves should not reach unsafe heights, and if possible, should avoid requiring ladders or stools to reach the top.


Image Added

Loose Stacking / Ground Storage

Ground storage includes anything that is stored on the floor of a warehouse, often compiled in stacks. Items stored on the ground should never be directly in contact with the warehouse floor; cargo should rest on pallets, or if pallets unavailable, tarpaulin. The general configuration of ground floor stacks will vary based on the storage needs, including:

  • The number of different items SKU items that might require accounting.
  • The weight of cargo limiting height.
  • The physical nature of the cargo; cartons can be evenly stacked, while irregular kits in sacks might be piled like a pyramid.

Ground storage of loose items is quite common in humanitarian settings. Most remote field warehouses are usually too small to accommodate special equipment installation, lack the sufficient infrastructure to properly support MHE, or are temporary structures in nature. A substantial portion of humanitarian relief supplies don’t necessarily require advanced handling either. There are several tricks to properly managing stacks of cargo, which are covered in the stock management section of this guide. Humanitarian agencies should resist the urge to use ground handling in all contexts despite its prevalent nature; commodities such as medication may benefit from not being stacked in a pile. Space planers should also resist the urge to fill up all available space when utilising ground storage; warehouses and storage facilities using ground storage and stacking should still observe the 70/30 rule, keeping lanes and aisles open for safety while making room for loading and offloading.

Image Added

Racking

Warehouse racking – sometimes referred to as pallet racking – is a heavy-duty metal superstructure that is specifically designed to hold large, pallet sized items. Each space where a pallet might fit is referred to as a pallet bay, and pallet bays are generally counted as “pallet positions” when counting warehouse space availability. Palletised cargo, bulky items stored on pallets, or oversized cargo of a specific size can be loaded onto pallet racking using a forklift. The bottom bay can usually be loaded with a pallet jack, or may kept open for hand stacking smaller items. Properly utilised racks can dramatically increase the storage capacity of a warehouse, maximising three-dimensional space to the best of its ability.

Pallet racks can be built to meet the floor plan and storage needs of a warehouse, and the cross beams upon which pallets sit are adjustable to match changing storage height needs. There are different types of racking system that can be considered in accordance with the storage requirements- Very Narrow Aisle (VNA), Selective racking, Drive-in/Drive through, Candiliver, bins, and more - however any agency considering different options should consult with private companies offering installation and management services to better understand the requirements and needs of each. The vertical space between rack cross beams should be reasonable; too high and space is wasted, too low and pallets may become stuck or cannot be properly inserted. An average height is around 1.5 meters, but adjustments may be required based on context of the pallet or items stored. Racks can be built to hold vertical stacks of pallets up to 20 meters tall, however racks should never exceed the safest lifting height of the available forklift on site, nor should they get closer than 2 meters from the ceiling.  The horizontal frame depth between rack cross beams should not be wider than the expected pallet type to prevent pallets falling through, and irregular shaped objects may not rest neatly or safely without an additional flat surface resting across the two beams.

Pallet racking systems should only be installed by professional companies with demonstrated experience. Racking systems also require warehouse floors to be sufficiently thick and strong, as racks will need to be physical bolted to the ground. Racking must be safely operated around and maintained; physical racking structures must not show signs of distress, corrosion or damage. Compromised racking structures can easily collapse causing substantial loss to stored items and serious injury or death. Wherever possible, racks should have some form of physical crash barrier at corners of rows and lanes to prevent damage from handling equipment. Only persons trained and certified to operate a forklift should be engaged in loading and offloading cargo from metal racking structures.

Image Added

Stacking Frames

Related to pallet racks, stacking frames are pre-made metal super structures that are designed to vertically stack cargo. Unlike pallet racks, stacking frames are free-standing, and are highly customisable and modular.

A single stacking frame is typically cubic in shape, and around 1.5 x 1.5 meters at the base, though sizes vary. Most stacking frames can either be nested into each other when not being used, or even be taken apart, saving space.  Stacking frames are useful for:

  • Stacking irregularly shaped cargo.
  • Warehouse space with constantly changing racking needs.
  • Quickly moving entire racks from one place to another.

If loose cargo is stored in the racks, it should be properly braced, secured, or wrapped. The entire frame can be moved by a forklift, and frames can be easily stacked as high as safely possible to take advantage of vertical space. Unfortunately, stacking frames can only be used in warehouses with smooth and stable floors, and where forklifts can safely operate. Many larger facilities use stacking frames to augment racking and shelving, especially for irregular shaped items that cannot be easily stacked otherwise.

Image Added

Pallets

Pallets have become ubiquitous across transport and warehousing operations globally, however there is a wide variety of sizes, dimensions and physical construction of pallets.  Though local warehouse managers may have very little control over the types of pallets that might arrive, an understanding of pallet differences can assist with both space planning, and safe utilisation of racking and MHE.

Pallets generally come in a few standard dimensions. ISO Pallet Standard Dimensions are:

Dimensions (Metric)

Dimensions (Imperial)


Square Meters Floor Space


Region Most Used In

W (mm)

L (mm)

W (in)

L (in)

1016

1219

40

48

1.2

North America

1000

1200

39.37

47.24

1.2

Europe, Asia

1165

1165

45.9

45.9

1.4

Australia

1067

1067

42

42

1.1

North America, Europe, Asia

1100

1100

43.3

43.3

1.2

Asia

800

1200

31.5

47.24

1

Europe

Both the square meters and side dimensions of pallets have implications for how pallets consume floor space in warehouse and trucks, how pallets may fit through doors, and how a pallet might be stored in elevated pallet racking. In addition to differing dimensions, there are different body constructions and different materials used in building pallets. Common pallet constructions:

Two-way entry pallet - close boarded, no base board

Four-way entry pallet - perimeter base

Image Added

Image Added

Four-way entry pallet - close boarded, 3 base

Two-way entry pallet - reversible 

Image Added

Image Added

Four-way entry pallet - close boarded, perimeter base

Four-way entry pallet - open boarded, 3 base

Image Added

Image Added

Four-way entry pallet - wing type

Two-way entry pallet - wing type

Image Added

Image Added


  • Pallets come in either two-way entry or four-way entry, meaning forks can lift from only two side or all four sides.
  • Pallets can be reversible or non-reversible. Non reversible pallets mean only one side has a stable surface upon which cargo can be stored. Non reversible pallets are sometimes called “skids.”

There may also be requirements for pallets to be fumigated, heat treated, or made of plastic. Pallets are predominantly made of wood, and different wood sources are more prone to infestations that can impact stored goods. Some countries even have regulations prohibiting the use and transportation of untreated wood pallets.

Material-Handling Equipment (MHE)

Material-Handling Equipment (MHE) is defined as any mechanised or manual machinery to assist with the movement of cargo, either around a warehouse or during the transport process.

Proper use of MHE requires not just the equipment, but the infrastructure to surround it. Pallet jacks, carts and some forklifts will only work on flat, hard and smooth surfaces. Some MHE – forklifts in particular – require external power such as diesel, natural gas or electricity. Without the ability to supply this external power to MHE that requires it, the MHE is essentially useless.

MHE is designed to do heavy lifting; it can help warehouse personnel move heavy loads but can also be very dangerous. Forklifts can easily hurt or kill workers, while a pallet jack may enable workers to move pallets far heavier than they realise, compromising the safety of others. While utilising MHE, warehouse staff should be properly trained and use proper safety equipment.

MHE typically involved in warehousing operations might include:

Image Added

Forklifts – A mechanised power loader capable of lifting full pallets and heavy equipment. Forklifts come in a variety of sizes to meet a variety of load needs, but generally come with an enclosed cab and a four wheel base. All forklifts will have a hydraulic or chain powered “mast” capable of extending and lifting cargo vertically. The height and lift capacity of the mast depends on the rating of the forklift, and more information can be found from the manual or manufacture website.

Depending on the make, forklifts can be powered by either battery, compressed gas, or diesel/gasoline. Forklifts are generally designed for either use inside a warehouse with even surfaces, or for all terrain outdoor use.

Before obtaining a forklift, humanitarian agencies should consider:

  • The availability of skilled or licensed operators.
  • The conditions in which the forklift will operate (indoor or outdoor).
  • The available energy source required to operate the forklift.
  • The space required to utilize in or around a warehouse.

Image Added

Pallet Jacks – Sturdy, low centre push cart with forks capable of lifting a pallet a few centimetres off the ground. Pallet jacks are typically only powered by hand, using a hydraulic piston to gently lift and lower pallets. Pallet jacks generally require flat surfaces and only work indoors, but can assist with moving large loads quickly and with minimal effort.

Image Added

Rolling Warehouse Ladder - Heavy duty, reinforced metal ladder that can be repositioned around a warehouse to enable workers to reach higher shelves/racks. These types of rolling ladders tend to have extremely sturdy and wide food holds that enable workers safely and easily carry cartons and other handling units up and down. These types of rolling ladders typically only work on solid, smooth surfaces. 

Dollies – Occasionally referred to as hand trucks, dollies allow for moving of stacked cargo without the aid of a pallet. Dollies can be useful for moving relatively small loads, such as a stack of cartons, or a single large item, such as a large roll. Many dollies are designed with heavy duty inflatable ties to assist with operating outdoors.

Push Carts and Others – There are a variety of other simple tools to facilitate the movement of cargo around a warehouse or between mode of transits. A very common tool is a standard push cart, however there are many variations on sizes and components, and users should select the support tools most useful to them.

Basic Support Items – Part of a properly functioning warehouse is the ability perform simple maintenance, conduct routine product inspection and address small issues without having to source external support. Basic tools and support items that should be available in any warehouse include:

  • Weighing Scalesscales.
  • Measuring equipment – tape measure or yard stick.
  • Sturdy ladders and step stools.
  • Rope, twine, plastic binding, and sturdy wire.
  • Packaging tape and duct tape.
  • (if required) Plastic pallet wrap.
  • Cleaning supplies – broom, bucket, mop.
  • Face masks and gloves.
  • Ear and eye protection.
  • High-visibility vests.
  • Heavy-duty pens.
  • Note pads and writing materials.
  • Safety knife and scissors.
  • (if required) Industrial fans.
  • Chairs and folding table.

A warehouse working with large MHE and palletised cargo will have some different needs than a small field level warehouse. Additionally, larger facilities may have contracts with professional cleaning or repair companies, while smaller facilities will be purely self-managed. The basic tools and equipment of a warehouse should reflect the daily needs of the operation, and the prevailing environmental conditions. Planners should think through their basic supply needs when establishing a warehouse; an overabundance of basic tools may cost more, but a lack of tools can stop an operation entirely.

Safety and Security

When establishing any warehouse or storage facility, adequate physical security measures must be enacted. In humanitarian contexts, relief supplies are incredibly attractive to thieves – often humanitarian supplies are in short supply and the chaotic environments and limited infrastructure make theft frequent and hard to trace. Additionally, the overall operating environment may make responding to injuries caused in the workplace difficult. Aid agencies should have solid measures in place ensure a safe and secure workplace for stored items and workers.

Perimeter Security - Storage facilities should have in-tact perimeter walls or fences. The premiers should not have any gaps or holes, and be high enough and sturdy enough to sufficiently prevent casual thefts or easy access. The perimeter areas should be as shaped as regular as possible to avoid potential blind spots where unauthorised access may occur. If possible, sufficient perimeter lights should be installed, and should function throughout the entire night.

Guard Service - The warehouse ideally should have some form of guard service, either privately managed or sub-contracted through a third-party company. Guard services should have sufficient numbers to cover all hours of the day and night with regular 8-10 hour shifts. Having one or a few live-in guards may mean guards reach fatigue and/or won’t be alert at all times, especially throughout the night. Any guard service should also control the flow of visitors and vehicles through use of sign in/out sheets, and possibly even the need to ask for permission before letting outsiders in. Guards should also perform routine perimeter checks, looking to see if doors have been compromised, and responding to any suspicious noise or activities.

Fire Suppression – Warehouse and storage facilities of all sizes should have a fire suppression plan in place. Larger facilities may have professionally installed smoke detector and sprinkler systems in place. Sprinkler systems should be regularly inspected by a licensed company, and in compliance with national laws where required. Smaller or remote warehouses may not have the infrastructure or the available utilities to support an advanced fire suppression system, and should be outfitted with basic fire-fighting tools.

Irrespective of the warehouse space, fire extinguishers should be readily available. Fire extinguishers should be clearly visible to the eye, easily accessible, and be placed at least every 25 meters or closer if required by local regulations. Extinguishers should be inspected every 30 days to ensure the pressure valve reads as in the workable range, and that the canister does not display symptoms of rust or corrosion, and that the hoses are not split or damaged. At least once a year, extinguishers should be pressure tested. If at any time extinguishers do not pass inspection, they should be recharged or replaced as necessary. Consult the owner manuals or supplier for proper gauge readings.

At bare minimum, class A extinguishers should be placed throughout the storage space at the correct intervals, and class B extinguishers should be stored near any place reactive substances or flammable liquid such as fuel are stored. Many field location will also use what are known as “sand buckets” – buckets pre-filled with sand and stationed throughout the facility to also enable rapid suppression of a fire. Both are recommended for remote locations where water may be scarce and proper maintenance of extinguishers may be difficult.

Fire Extinguisher Classes Per Region:

...

American

...

European

...

UK

...

Australian/Asian

...

Fuel/heat source

...

Class A

...

Class A

...

Class A

...

Class A

...

Ordinary combustibles

...

Class B

...

Class B

...

Class B

...

Class B

...

Flammable liquids

...

Class C

...

Class C

...

Class C

...

Flammable gases

...

Class C

...

Unclassified

...

Unclassified

...

Class E

...

Electrical equipment

...

Class D

...

Class D

...

Class D

...

Class D

...

Combustible metals

...

Class K

...

Class F

...

Class F

...

Class F

...

Kitchen Grade (Cooking oil or fat)

Occupational Safety – Warehouse workers should be instructed and encouraged to engage occupational safety in any situation where storage is required. Occupational safety includes:

  • High visibility vests worn by warehouse workers and visitors as needed.
  • Warehouse workers have sufficient and adequate breaks.
  • MHE is properly maintained, and support equipment such as ladders is not compromised or damaged.
  • Staff who operate MHE are trained and/or certified for that equipment where required.
  • Stocked first aid kits available on site.
  • Warehouse workers wear proper protective equipment, including gloves, hard hats, ear and eye protection as required.
  • Fire exits are clearly marked.
  • Lanes for movement of MHE are clearly marked on the floor.

Situational Safety – As the storage site is established, agency security personnel conduct periodic reviews and follow incidents accordingly. Safety and security assessments of the warehouse and the surrounding areas should be conducted at least once a year, and security incidents occurring on site or in the immediate area should be properly reported in a timely manner.

Facilities Management

Once a facility has been fully selected and is operations begin, agencies will need to continue to maintain, or ensure that the third-party associated with running the facility maintains the physical structure, supporting equipment, and immediate grounds around the facility.

Site Grounds

The grounds around any storage facility should be kept open and free from objects as much as possible; debris, rubble, trash and weeds should be cleared out to avoid damage to vehicles and structures. Exposed wires or pipes should be properly buried or sealed; pipes or electrical equipment that cannot be buried should be well marked, painted red and/or have a secure or caged structure built around them. Drainage ditches should be clean and in working order at all times. Clogged or blocked drainage must be fixed to prevent flooding, and inadequate drainage must be dug if not already available.

Trucks must be able to enter, park, load/offload and depart the facility without difficulty, and ideally, more than one truck should be able to perform work at the same time. There should be adequate room for trucks to turn around in the allocated parking area; even if space is available, equipment or piles of scraps may hinder movement, possibly leading to delays or accidents. The grounds around truck parking and turning areas may need to be graded, paved or gravel/loam laid down to even the surface. An unimproved truck parking and turning space may lead to large grooves or divots in the ground, causing water to pool, mud to form, and vehicles becoming stuck or even damaging their undercarriages. Depending on weather patterns, truck turning and loading/offloading spaces may require continual maintenance seasonally or throughout the year.

Physical Structures

For storage locations of all sizes, there are a number of considerations to be had.

Electricity will be required to operate office equipment, lights and communications equipment. If electricity is not available on site, generators must be installed if possible. Any installed generator will need to be specified to appropriately meet the anticipated power load of the warehouse; and under powered generator will cause equipment failures and require constant maintenance, while an overpowered generator will end up costing more in fuel and maintenance.  If a generator is used, agencies must develop a plan for supporting a generator, including having a supply of fuel and spare parts, and identifying how the generator will be maintained and serviced.

If no bathroom facility is available on site, either one will have to be constructed or access to a restroom nearby defined. If the site has no running water, either a water distribution system will need to be installed and water tankered in, or some other form of water will need to be provided for washing. Drinking water should be made available to warehouse workers, and if no tap or purified water is immediately available, bottled water may need to be provided.

There should be space for office work to occur. Any office space should ideally be separated from the main warehouse floor, and have locking doors and drawers. Office spaces should be provided with basic tools, such as a printer, stationary, desks and chairs, electrical sockets, filing cabinets and internet access wherever possible. Smaller facilities may lack the ability to keep office equipment on site, and as such basic supplies can kept in a locker, or carried with warehouse crews as needed.

Warehouses may require additional ventilation, based on the weather conditions outside and the types of commodities store inside. Many larger warehouses have soffit vents to enable hot air to escape as it rises towards the ceiling.  Smaller storage spaces may not have the proper structures to support permanent ventilation, and may need doors open during working hours.

For Mobile Storage Units (MSUs):

MSUs must be properly installed and maintained. Installation of MSUs must be facilitated by someone with experience in the process. Beyond just knowing how to assemble an MSU, MSUs must:

  • Be built with either the front or back facing prevailing winds to minimise wind pressure.
  • Should not be constructed in a low point, or in a location prone to flooding.
  • (Ideally) MSUs Should be built on free standing slabs to elevate the MSU above waters caused by rains or flooding.
  • MSUs must be properly secured, lockable from the outside and difficult for anyone to climb under the outer apron.

...

The Cargo Handling "Human Element" 

In the context of humanitarian field operations, cargo is either heavily or exclusively moved and loaded by hand. Humans are far more versatile than typical MHE, including being able to achieve specialty tasks, however there are also limitations to human labour. Logistics personnel tend to calculate needs of warehouse handling based on the maximum performance of hand loaders and ignore the fact they have limitations like anyone else. When working with or scheduling hand loaded cargo operations, a good practice is to remember:

  • Hand loaders require “recharging” periods such as water breaks or meals.
  • Resource planners may need to factor prayer times into warehouse activities.
  • People get bored with repetition which may increase mistakes. 
  • The overall efficiency and speed of hand driven operations will go down over the period of a day.

Injury and strain are common in warehouse operations, and human managed operations must acknowledge risks and needs of any tasks.  

Safety and Security

When establishing any warehouse or storage facility, adequate physical security measures must be enacted. In humanitarian contexts, relief supplies are incredibly attractive to thieves – often humanitarian supplies are in short supply and the chaotic environments and limited infrastructure make theft frequent and hard to trace. Additionally, the overall operating environment may make responding to injuries caused in the workplace difficult. Aid agencies should have solid measures in place ensure a safe and secure workplace for stored items and workers.

Perimeter Security - Storage facilities should have in-tact perimeter walls or fences. The premiers should not have any gaps or holes, and be high enough and sturdy enough to sufficiently prevent casual thefts or easy access. The perimeter areas should be as shaped as regular as possible to avoid potential blind spots where unauthorised access may occur. If possible, sufficient perimeter lights should be installed, and should function throughout the entire night.

Guard Service - The warehouse ideally should have some form of guard service, either privately managed or sub-contracted through a third-party company. Guard services should have sufficient numbers to cover all hours of the day and night with regular 8-10 hour shifts. Having one or a few live-in guards may mean guards reach fatigue and/or won’t be alert at all times, especially throughout the night. Any guard service should also control the flow of visitors and vehicles through use of sign in/out sheets, and possibly even the need to ask for permission before letting outsiders in. Guards should also perform routine perimeter checks, looking to see if doors have been compromised, and responding to any suspicious noise or activities.

Fire Suppression – Warehouse and storage facilities of all sizes should have a fire suppression plan in place. Larger facilities may have professionally installed smoke detector and sprinkler systems in place. Sprinkler systems should be regularly inspected by a licensed company, and in compliance with national laws where required. Smaller or remote warehouses may not have the infrastructure or the available utilities to support an advanced fire suppression system, and should be outfitted with basic fire-fighting tools.

Irrespective of the warehouse space, fire extinguishers should be readily available. Fire extinguishers should be clearly visible to the eye, easily accessible, and be placed at least every 25 meters or closer if required by local regulations. Extinguishers should be inspected every 30 days to ensure the pressure valve reads as in the workable range, and that the canister does not display symptoms of rust or corrosion, and that the hoses are not split or damaged. At least once a year, extinguishers should be pressure tested. If at any time extinguishers do not pass inspection, they should be recharged or replaced as necessary. Consult the owner manuals or supplier for proper gauge readings.

At bare minimum, class A extinguishers should be placed throughout the storage space at the correct intervals, and class B extinguishers should be stored near any place reactive substances or flammable liquid such as fuel are stored. Many field location will also use what are known as “sand buckets” – buckets pre-filled with sand and stationed throughout the facility to also enable rapid suppression of a fire. Both are recommended for remote locations where water may be scarce and proper maintenance of extinguishers may be difficult.

Fire Extinguisher Classes Per Region:

American

European

UK

Australian/Asian

Fuel/Heat Source

Class A

Class A

Class A

Class A

Ordinary combustibles

Class B

Class B

Class B

Class B

Flammable liquids

Class C

Class C

Class C

Flammable gases

Class C

Unclassified

Unclassified

Class E

Electrical equipment

Class D

Class D

Class D

Class D

Combustible metals

Class K

Class F

Class F

Class F

Kitchen Grade (Cooking oil or fat)

Occupational Safety – Warehouse workers should be instructed and encouraged to engage occupational safety in any situation where storage is required. Occupational safety includes:

  • High visibility vests worn by warehouse workers and visitors as needed.
  • Warehouse workers have sufficient and adequate breaks.
  • MHE is properly maintained, and support equipment such as ladders is not compromised or damaged.
  • Staff who operate MHE are trained and/or certified for that equipment where required.
  • Stocked first aid kits available on site.
  • Warehouse workers wear proper protective equipment equivalent to the required working conditions, including gloves, hard hats/helmets, close toed safety shoes, ear and eye protection as required.
  • Fire exits are clearly marked.
  • Lanes for movement of MHE are clearly marked on the floor.

Situational Safety – As the storage site is established, agency security personnel conduct periodic reviews and follow incidents accordingly. Safety and security assessments of the warehouse and the surrounding areas should be conducted at least once a year, and security incidents occurring on site or in the immediate area should be properly reported in a timely manner.

Facilities Management

Once a facility has been fully selected and is operations begin, agencies will need to continue to maintain, or ensure that the third-party associated with running the facility maintains the physical structure, supporting equipment, and immediate grounds around the facility.

Site Grounds

The grounds around any storage facility should be kept open and free from objects as much as possible; debris, rubble, trash and weeds should be cleared out to avoid damage to vehicles and structures. Exposed wires or pipes should be properly buried or sealed; pipes or electrical equipment that cannot be buried should be well marked, painted red and/or have a secure or caged structure built around them. Drainage ditches should be clean and in working order at all times. Clogged or blocked drainage must be fixed to prevent flooding, and inadequate drainage must be dug if not already available.

Trucks must be able to enter, park, load/offload and depart the facility without difficulty, and ideally, more than one truck should be able to perform work at the same time. There should be adequate room for trucks to turn around in the allocated parking area; even if space is available, equipment or piles of scraps may hinder movement, possibly leading to delays or accidents. The grounds around truck parking and turning areas may need to be graded, paved or gravel/loam laid down to even the surface. An unimproved truck parking and turning space may lead to large grooves or divots in the ground, causing water to pool, mud to form, and vehicles becoming stuck or even damaging their undercarriages. Depending on weather patterns, truck turning and loading/offloading spaces may require continual maintenance seasonally or throughout the year.

Physical Structures

For storage locations of all sizes, there are a number of considerations to be had.

Electricity will be required to operate office equipment, lights and communications equipment. If electricity is not available on site, generators must be installed if possible. Any installed generator will need to be specified to appropriately meet the anticipated power load of the warehouse; and under powered generator will cause equipment failures and require constant maintenance, while an overpowered generator will end up costing more in fuel and maintenance.  If a generator is used, agencies must develop a plan for supporting a generator, including having a supply of fuel and spare parts, and identifying how the generator will be maintained and serviced.

If no bathroom facility is available on site, either one will have to be constructed or access to a restroom nearby defined. If the site has no running water, either a water distribution system will need to be installed and water tankered in, or some other form of water will need to be provided for washing. Drinking water should be made available to warehouse workers, and if no tap or purified water is immediately available, bottled water may need to be provided.

There should be space for office work to occur. Any office space should ideally be separated from the main warehouse floor, and have locking doors and drawers. Office spaces should be provided with basic tools, such as a printer, stationary, desks and chairs, electrical sockets, filing cabinets and internet access wherever possible. Smaller facilities may lack the ability to keep office equipment on site, and as such basic supplies can kept in a locker, or carried with warehouse crews as needed.

Warehouses may require additional ventilation, based on the weather conditions outside and the types of commodities store inside. Many larger warehouses have soffit vents to enable hot air to escape as it rises towards the ceiling.  Smaller storage spaces may not have the proper structures to support permanent ventilation, and may need doors open during working hours.

For Mobile Storage Units (MSUs):

MSUs must be properly installed and maintained. Installation of MSUs must be facilitated by someone with experience in the process. Beyond just knowing how to assemble an MSU, MSUs must:

  • Be built with either the front or back facing prevailing winds to minimise wind pressure.
  • Should not be constructed in a low point, or in a location prone to flooding.
  • (Ideally) MSUs Should be built on free standing slabs to elevate the MSU above waters caused by rains or flooding.
  • MSUs must be properly secured, lockable from the outside and difficult for anyone to climb under the outer apron.

Damage to physical MSUs such as warping of beams or tearing of vinyl siding must be assessed, and repairs conducted by a knowledgeable person. Cracks or damage to MSU foundations must be repaired quickly to prevent further compromising the structure.

...

In the event an infestation is identified, records should be taken of the date and type of treatment used. Records can help schedule routine fumigation or product inspection, but also may indicate seasonal problems as well.

Goods Flow

...

Fumigation

The documentation requirements for warehousing can be vast, depending on the type of warehouse, regulatory controls over the stock or the facility, the types of commodities stored, or the specific activities of the agency running the facility. Documentation might include inspection reports, fumigation schedules, repairs, import/export documents related to bonded storage and more.

As an overview, most humanitarian agencies will use at least several standard documents across all of their storage operations, including large professional facilities all the way down to field level storage. These documents are essential for the proper audit and tracing of cargo as it flows in and out of agency managed facilities. It is important that this standard document be accurate, and that copies are properly kept – both at the site of operation, and eventually scanned/backed up in another location for wider historical record keeping.

...

As cargo leaves the warehouse, waybills will also be generated. Agencies may wish to generate their own agency specific waybills to accompany cargo they pack and load. In other situations, third-party vehicles may generate their own waybills on the spot. In either case, warehouse workers loading cargo onto vehicles must ensure that the information contained on the waybill is accurate. Situations in which organisations may choose to use self-generated waybills may include:

  • The vehicle is managed/owned by the agency.
  • The destination of the vehicle is a facility or distribution site managed by the agency.
  • The contract with the third-party trucking company stipulates that they must use agency specific waybills.

...

  • A GRN may capture information on multiple consignments arriving at once.
  • GRNs may take the place of waybills, which may show up with incomplete or incorrect information, or may not come at all.
  • GRNs are a form of standardising incoming information in the format most useful to the organisation.
  • With proper planning, a GRN can be generated prior to a shipment arrival so warehouse crews know what to expect at the point of offloading.

GRNs should capture dates, locations, persons involved in the transaction and the contents of the cargo entering the warehouse. The exact structure, contents and sequence of a GRN vary depending on needs – as an example, an organisation focused on medical interventions may need to track batch and lot numbers, while an organisation focused on food may choose to track items by the kilogram. Organisations should consider their own internal requirements when drafting a GRN.

Example GRN:

Image Removed

...

Example Stock Card:

Image Removed

A stock card should at the bare minimum include:

  • The item description.
  • Any consignment or procurement relevant information.
  • Dates and quantities of cargo items received.
  • Dates and quantities of cargo items released.
  • Running total balance.

Certain types of goods requiring more meticulous control and analysis, may and need to be tracked using stock cards with specific information, including but not limited to:

  • Project or donor earmarks.
  • The SKU code (if available).
  • Relevant product info - Expiration dates, batch numbers, lot numbers, date of manufacture.
  • Reorder threshold
  • Manufacturer references
  • Temperature control requirements 

The stock card has inventory control purposes and is normally managed by the store keeper and updated immediately with each stock movement, including losses. The use of stock cards is imperative in all warehouses, even if the number of articles is short or there is limited rotation. In an ideal context, any warehouse worker on the floor should be able to quickly reference a stock card for the most up to date information on the status and flow that specific good in a warehouse. Quantities and dates on stock card should also match the quantities and dates on a inventory Ledger, GRNs and waybills.

For some items, bin cards can be introduced. These may have a similar format as the stock card but are fixed to the bins or shelves where the items are kept. Bin cards track movements of an item stored in a particular bin, shelf or stack. Bin cards are used when big quantities of the same item are stored, requiring some kind of grouping, easing handling, picking and counting processes.

...

There is no one standard for a inventory Ledger system. Historically, running inventory Ledgers were recorded by hand in a book, but modern systems may use computer-based spreadsheets, specially designed software, web-based tracking, and more. The important part is that a warehouse manager can quickly and on-demand find relevant information for any stock item contained in the warehouse through a single centralised system.

Planning Reception

In an ideal cargo reception process, incoming shipments should be arranged prior to the delivery vehicle arriving and information on incoming shipments should be communicated to the warehouse team in advance. Ideally, the consignment contents and volume, and possibly even a scanned copy of a packing list and/or waybill will be communicated in advance as well.

  • If a single organisation is moving cargo between two warehouses/storage locations it directly manages, it should be relatively easy to provide advanced delivery information to the receiving location.
  • If the warehouse in question is receiving cargo from outside sources such as a vendor, agencies should endeavour to obtain as much information as possible up front.
  • In any situation, vehicles approaching the warehouse or storage facility should be instructed to call at least one hour in advance to ensure the warehouse can adequately receive and offload the vehicle. In storage facilities with busy operations, the vehicle will need to be scheduled for a specific time for offloading.

At Cargo Reception

Steps to take at the point of receiving cargo into a warehouse facility include:

  • The weights and volumes for each line item are recorded.
  • Full count is conducted against the waybill. Discrepancies between the piece count and the waybill or damages should be noted on the waybill.
  • A goods received note (GRN) for the received items is generated.
  • Items are placed in appropriate, corresponding place in warehouse/stock room.
  • Physical copies of the GRN and Waybill are backed up in a secure location in the office warehouse.
  • As item are placed in the warehouse, stock cards should be updated. If no stock card yet exists, a new stock card should be generated.
  • Shipments arriving without prior notification may be rejected, depending on security, warehouse capacity and policy of the organisation.
  • If damaged items are received, they should be separated from the main consignment and placed in a well-marked location, to be repaired or disposed of later.

Planning Dispatch

Much like planning cargo reception, there are steps that warehouses and organisations can take to plan for cargo dispatch as well.

  • Cargo dispatch should be planned in advance and communicated to the warehouse; pick orders should be clear, and warehouses given time to pull down cargo, compile shipments, and stage for pick up.
  • Vehicles arriving for pick up should be known and scheduled in advance. Vehicles arriving for unplanned cargo pick-ups, or arriving announced for planned cargo pick-ups may be delayed or rejected based on the policy of the managing organisation.

At Cargo Dispatch

Steps to take at the point of releasing cargo from a warehouse facility:

  • A physical piece count on the consolidated cargo is conducted to confirm correct number.
  • A waybill or a goods released note is generated (if required by the terms of the movement), containing information on the released cargo, dates, and names of person releasing and driver picking cargo up.
  • Stock cards and inventory Ledger updated with the new piece counts.

Weight and Volumes

Below are conversion calculators for commonly used units of measurements:

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</td>

<td>
<div style="width:248px;margin:0px auto;"><div style="width:99.5%;border:1px solid #34495E;border-top:none;border-bottom:none;text-align:center; height:24px;font-size:16px;padding:5px 0px 0px 0px;border-top-right-radius:5px; border-top-left-radius:5px;background-color:#34495E;color:##FFFFFF; font-weight:bold;"><font color="#FFFFFF">Volume Conversion</font></div><script type="text/javascript" src="https://ww.theunitconverter.com/converter.php?l=en&c=0&a=FFFFFF&b=34495E&s=volume"></script></div>
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Source: www.theunitconverter.com

overall need for pest and infestation control depends on the duration, storage conditions and type of commodities stored. Food in particular is sensitive to attracting pests, and agencies specializing in food may have special fumigation schedules. A general best practice is to enact fumigation once every six months, however ideally stock should rotate quickly enough to avoid the need for fumigation. In other instances, fumigation may be required every 3-4 months, or as soon as an infestation is discovered. As a general rule most insect pests under humid tropical conditions can be expected to multiply about 50 every six weeks, meaning an untreated infestation can become a large problem very quickly.

Fumigation can be for an entire warehouse or storage site, or for just one portion of stock, however it is strongly advised to fumigate all perishable SKUs at the same time. Fumigation in storage contexts is usually done using what are called "fumigation sheets" or "gas tight sheets" - large impermeable tarps that cover stored items. When using these fumigation sheets, chemicals specifically used for fumigation are pumped under the edge of the tarp, while the edges of the tarps are weighed down to prevent air movement. Use of these tarps concentrates fumigation efforts into specific areas and maximizes impact. 

Image Added

When undergoing fumigation, workers and managers should always consider the following:

  • Fumigation should only be carried out by a trained professional, or a specially licensed company. Agencies requiring fumigation services should enquire with their procurement team about what may be available on the market. At no point should an agency attempt to fumigate themselves without special training!
  • Even if fumigation is done under tarps, workers should vacate the storage space until they can safely return, as indicated by a trained professional.
  • Proper safety equipment should be used by all persons working with or around fumigation.
  • Fumigated items will need to be properly aired out before handling or distribution. 

After fumigation, continual inspection may be required. If infestations persist, there may be a need to alter storage or delivery methods. The use of additional liquid based pesticides may be required to spray around the exterior or floor of storage spaces. 

Goods Flow

Warehousing Documentation

The documentation requirements for warehousing can be vast, depending on the type of warehouse, regulatory controls over the stock or the facility, the types of commodities stored, or the specific activities of the agency running the facility. Documentation might include inspection reports, fumigation schedules, repairs, import/export documents related to bonded storage and more.

As an overview, most humanitarian agencies will use at least several standard documents across all of their storage operations, including large professional facilities all the way down to field level storage. These documents are essential for the proper audit and tracing of cargo as it flows in and out of agency managed facilities. It is important that this standard document be accurate, and that copies are properly kept – both at the site of operation, and eventually scanned/backed up in another location for wider historical record keeping.

Anchor
Waybill
Waybill
Waybill/Delivery Note – Warehouses will often use common waybills as part of the overall documentation process. Waybills – also sometimes called “delivery notes” - come in many formats, and can represent either domestic or international deliveries. Waybills also tend to be generated by external third-parties, and are used for their own third-party tracking needs. If properly handled, at least one copy of the incoming waybill should stay with the receiving party (warehouse). If a copy cannot be left with the warehouse, the receiving warehouse should attempt to electronically scan a copy of the waybill, including all signatures and notes on it as evidence of delivery.

As cargo leaves the warehouse, waybills will also be generated. Agencies may wish to generate their own agency specific waybills to accompany cargo they pack and load. In other situations, third-party vehicles may generate their own waybills on the spot. In either case, warehouse workers loading cargo onto vehicles must ensure that the information contained on the waybill is accurate. Situations in which organisations may choose to use self-generated waybills may include:

  • The vehicle is managed/owned by the agency.
  • The destination of the vehicle is a facility or distribution site managed by the agency.
  • The contract with the third-party trucking company stipulates that they must use agency specific waybills.

Anchor
GRN
GRN
Goods Received Note (GRN) – Some form of GRN is typically generated at the point of reception into a warehouse facility. A GRN will theoretically contain the same information on incoming shipments as a waybill, but a GRN serves a few key functions:

  • A GRN may capture information on multiple consignments arriving at once.
  • GRNs may take the place of waybills, which may show up with incomplete or incorrect information, or may not come at all.
  • GRNs are a form of standardising incoming information in the format most useful to the organisation.
  • With proper planning, a GRN can be generated prior to a shipment arrival so warehouse crews know what to expect at the point of offloading.

GRNs should capture dates, locations, persons involved in the transaction and the contents of the cargo entering the warehouse. The exact structure, contents and sequence of a GRN vary depending on needs – as an example, an organisation focused on medical interventions may need to track batch and lot numbers, while an organisation focused on food may choose to track items by the kilogram. Organisations should consider their own internal requirements when drafting a GRN.

Example GRN:

Image Added

Anchor
ReleaseOrder
ReleaseOrder
Goods Release Note/Stock Release Order – A goods release note serves a similar function as a GRN, however a release note’s goal is to capture the information on items as they leave the warehouse. Many organisations choose to use the release note the same as an official pick-order; the requesting party initiates the release note indicating which items are required, and obtains counter signature from the appropriate entity within the organisation. A completed release note will capture the final dates, quantities and persons involved with the loading all the way to the truck.  A proper release note will tell a story of what was removed, why and by whom. Many agencies don’t actively use release notes, opting to only use waybills at the time of release or communicating pick-orders via email.

Anchor
stockcard
stockcard
Stock / Stack / Bin Card – A stock card is a physical, hand written record that stays alongside the corresponding physical cargo inside a warehouse or storage facility. Stock cards are sometimes referred to as “stack cards". The nature of the tracking stock card does not change, however – its purpose is to trace the history of the physical consignment in a quick and easy to reference manner.

Example Stock Card:

Image Added

A stock card should at the bare minimum include:

  • The item description.
  • Any consignment or procurement relevant information.
  • Dates and quantities of cargo items received.
  • Dates and quantities of cargo items released.
  • Running total balance.

Certain types of goods requiring more meticulous control and analysis, may and need to be tracked using stock cards with specific information, including but not limited to:

  • Project or donor earmarks.
  • The SKU code (if available).
  • Relevant product info - Expiration dates, batch numbers, lot numbers, date of manufacture.
  • Reorder threshold.
  • Manufacturer references.
  • Temperature control requirements.

The stock card has inventory control purposes and is normally managed by the store keeper and updated immediately with each stock movement, including losses. The use of stock cards is imperative in all warehouses, even if the number of articles is short or there is limited rotation. In an ideal context, any warehouse worker on the floor should be able to quickly reference a stock card for the most up to date information on the status and flow that specific good in a warehouse. Quantities and dates on stock card should also match the quantities and dates on a inventory Ledger, GRNs and waybills.

For some items, bin cards can be introduced. These may have a similar format as the stock card but are fixed to the bins or shelves where the items are kept. Bin cards track movements of an item stored in a particular bin, shelf or stack. Bin cards are used when big quantities of the same item are stored, requiring some kind of grouping, easing handling, picking and counting processes.

Anchor
Ledger
Ledger
Inventory Ledger – A inventory Ledger is defined as any system that keeps a running history and current total of all cargo items in a storage facility, as well as all relevant information (expiration dates, donor information, etc). The inventory ledger also tracks inventory transactions (receptions and dispatches) in terms of quantity and value based on the information from the corresponding transaction document. This tool has accounting purposes and is normally managed by an accountancy person and updated in a regular basis (weekly, monthly).

There is no one standard for a inventory Ledger system. Historically, running inventory Ledgers were recorded by hand in a book, but modern systems may use computer-based spreadsheets, specially designed software, web-based tracking, and more. The important part is that a warehouse manager can quickly and on-demand find relevant information for any stock item contained in the warehouse through a single centralised system.

Planning Reception

In an ideal cargo reception process, incoming shipments should be arranged prior to the delivery vehicle arriving and information on incoming shipments should be communicated to the warehouse team in advance. Ideally, the consignment contents and volume, and possibly even a scanned copy of a packing list and/or waybill will be communicated in advance as well.

  • If a single organisation is moving cargo between two warehouses/storage locations it directly manages, it should be relatively easy to provide advanced delivery information to the receiving location.
  • If the warehouse in question is receiving cargo from outside sources such as a vendor, agencies should endeavour to obtain as much information as possible up front.
  • In any situation, vehicles approaching the warehouse or storage facility should be instructed to call at least one hour in advance to ensure the warehouse can adequately receive and offload the vehicle. In storage facilities with busy operations, the vehicle will need to be scheduled for a specific time for offloading.

At Cargo Reception

Steps to take at the point of receiving cargo into a warehouse facility include:

  • The weights and volumes for each line item are recorded.
  • Full count is conducted against the waybill. Discrepancies between the piece count and the waybill or damages should be noted on the waybill.
  • A goods received note (GRN) for the received items is generated.
  • Items are placed in appropriate, corresponding place in warehouse/stock room.
  • Physical copies of the GRN and Waybill are backed up in a secure location in the office warehouse.
  • As item are placed in the warehouse, stock cards should be updated. If no stock card yet exists, a new stock card should be generated.
  • Shipments arriving without prior notification may be rejected, depending on security, warehouse capacity and policy of the organisation.
  • If damaged items are received, they should be separated from the main consignment and placed in a well-marked location, to be repaired or disposed of later.

Planning Dispatch

Much like planning cargo reception, there are steps that warehouses and organisations can take to plan for cargo dispatch as well.

  • Cargo dispatch should be planned in advance and communicated to the warehouse; pick orders should be clear, and warehouses given time to pull down cargo, compile shipments, and stage for pick up.
  • Vehicles arriving for pick up should be known and scheduled in advance. Vehicles arriving for unplanned cargo pick-ups, or arriving announced for planned cargo pick-ups may be delayed or rejected based on the policy of the managing organisation.

At Cargo Dispatch

Steps to take at the point of releasing cargo from a warehouse facility:

  • A physical piece count on the consolidated cargo is conducted to confirm correct number.
  • A waybill or a goods released note is generated (if required by the terms of the movement), containing information on the released cargo, dates, and names of person releasing and driver picking cargo up.
  • Stock cards and inventory Ledger updated with the new piece counts.

Weight and Volumes

Below are conversion calculators for commonly used units of measurements:


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Physical Storage Guidelines

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Perishable items with expiration dates must be closely tracked and dispatched in accordance with the practice of FEFO - First Expired / First Out. Items with expiration dates less than three months in the future or expired items should flagged and communicated to program staff to ensure they are properly utilised.  

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As warehouses continue throughout their operations, they will inevitably need to dispose of damaged, expired, recalled, or no longer required goods. Disposition of any item must be done in an ethical, environmentally friendly and legal manner, all in compliance with the internal policies of the organisation managing the facility. Options for disposition:

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  • Identify the pallet configuration; single pallet vs. multiple pallets pushed together on the ground.
  • Plan a “layer” system for the stack. Each layer and row of carton/bale/sack should have the same number of handling units.
  • Start with a base layer on the lowest level first. Once the lowest later is complete, repeat the second layer in an interlocking pattern for stability.
  • Plan stack layers for like item units only. Avoid stacking/layering different items/SKUs.
  • Ideally, plan to keep only units from the same consignment in the same stack.
  • Cargo should only ever be removed from the top layer to avoid instability.
  • Cartons/bales/sacks should not be leaning off the edge of the pallet.

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Proper Layered Stack

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Stacked cargo should be stored as safely as possible. Stacks should be layered in interlocking patterns; a non-interlocking stack is far more likely to fall over and/or put pressure on the lowest layer of cartons. Partially empty cartons should not be stored at the bottom of the stack to avoid the lowest levels from caving in and causing the stack to collapse.

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Do Not Use on Lowest Layers

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Non-Interlocking Stack

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  • of the pallet.

Proper Layered Stack

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Stacked cargo should be stored as safely as possible. Stacks should be layered in interlocking patterns; a non-interlocking stack is far more likely to fall over and/or put pressure on the lowest layer of cartons. Partially empty cartons should not be stored at the bottom of the stack to avoid the lowest levels from caving in and causing the stack to collapse.

Do Not Use on Lowest Layers

Non-Interlocking Stack

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There are multiple varieties of alternatives for stacking loose cartons and irregular shapes. The configuration will depend on the commodity itself, the space requirements of the warehouse, and the speed and skill of the warehouse staff. Some possible configurations might include:

Block StackBrick StackPinwheel StackIrregular Stacks with Separators 

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Many ground stacking operations also utilize what is called "pyramid stacking." Pyramid stacks are useful for durable, bulky items and in contexts when high volumes of uniform items need to be stored in a relatively small space. Pyramid stacks - sometimes also called "stair stacking" have interlocking lairs with reduced diameters the further up the stack goes. The pyramid shape prevents dangerous items from falling, and may make accessing the top layer easier for hand loaders. 

Pyramid Stack

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No matter what the stacking configuration looks like, stacks should not be stored above an unsafe height.

  • A safe height may be context specific; for NFI cartons/bales/sacks of any size that are heavy enough injure workers, stacks should never exceed 2.5 meters, while light voluminous items such as empty plastic jerry cans might be stored higher if required.
  • Food bags, blanket bales or sacks of concrete can be stored in pyramid stacks, however pyramid stacks should still only be made as high as is contextually safe. 
  • No matter the height, warehouse workers should be able to safely withdraw cargo from the top layer without risk of falling or causing the stack to collapse.
  • A stack should not surpass a ratio of 3:1 - the height cannot be 3 times the horizontal width of the base.
  • Stacks should never be so high that they come into contact with the ceiling, and at least half a meter space should be left between the top of the stack and the ceiling for accessing items as needed.

Stacks should never exceed 6 meters in length, or a maximum floors pace floor space of 6 x 6 meters. Excessively wide or large stacks can cause multiple problems:

  • Spoiled or damaged items in the middle are difficult to spot or deal with.
  • Practising FIFO/FEFO may be difficult of if cargo in the middle of a large stack is inaccessible.
  • Visual counting may be difficult or impossible.
  • Excessive weight in a single area of the warehouse may lead to structural risks.

Stacked items should not be slumping or falling over. Crushed or damaged units at the bottom of stacks should be addressed immediately; crushed items should be moved to the top of the stack, and if possible/necessary, reduce the height of the stack to prevent further damage.

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The need for temperature-controlled storage has been increasing in the humanitarian operations over the past few decades, and agencies are becoming more aware of the challenges surrounding temperature sensitive cargo. Temperature control ranges are generally defined in the following ranges:


Temperature RangeCommon Name 
Below -15°C

Frozen Storage

2° to 8°C

Refrigerated Storage

8° to 15°CCool
15° to 25°CClimate Controlled or “Room Temperature”

30° to 40°C

Warm

Above 40°

Excessive Heat

Surrounding naturally occurring temperature - Usually considered 25°C +

Ambient Temperature


Field level humanitarian working conditions also frequently preclude any type of temperature-controlled storage capacity, so the need for temperature-controlled conditions must be factored into operational plans when selecting and establishing storage. Any form of temperature-controlled space will require basic equipment – air-conditioners, refrigerators, freezers – and some form of power, most commonly electricity.

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Fuel should be stored in a separate storage area outside the main facility, and at least 5 five meters (preferably more) away from the main structure. Any fuel storage area should be well ventilated, and be accessible only by designated persons. Fuel storage areas should have the appropriate fire suppression equipment nearby, and staff should be instructed not to smoke or perform external work in the immediate vicinity of the storage area. Never store fuel in a completely enclosed storage facility such as a shipping container, or a facility that can reach excessive heats.

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TEMPLATE - Warehouse Inspection Checklist

TEMPLATE - Loss Report

TEMPLATE - Binder Labels

TEMPLATE - Box Label

TEMPLATE - Donation-Loan Acknowledgment Letter

TEMPLATE - Material Loan Certificate

TEMPLATE - Temporary Allocation

Guide - Pallet Specifications

Full Template Package