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The Psychology of Warehouse Layout: Designing for Optimal Workflow

The Psychology of Warehouse Layout: Designing for Optimal Workflow

Warehouses are the backbone of many industries, simplifying goods storage, organisation, and distribution. However, a warehouse's efficiency is more than just its physical structure; it is deeply influenced by the psychology behind its layout design. Understanding human behaviour, perception, and cognitive processes is important in creating warehouse layouts that improve optimal workflow and productivity. 

In this blog, we'll explore the key factors influencing warehouse layout design, its significance, and the psychological aspects behind layout decisions. We'll also uncover strategies to improve operational efficiency.

What Is Warehouse Layout?

Warehouse layout refers to how a facility is arranged. It controls how materials, workers, and equipment move through the space, with the aim of making production and distribution more efficient. The layout considers how each area of the warehouse is organised, including storage, picking, shipping, and office space, as well as how equipment is placed and used in these areas. The design should also take into account the size and shape of items, as well as any hazards or obstacles that could cause problems.

Top Factors Impacting Warehouse Layout Design

1.     Staffing requirements

To estimate how many people you need and their shift timings, it's important to understand your staffing requirements. Your warehouse layout should not obstruct the movement and productivity of your employees. While designing the layout, make sure to keep the future in mind and ensure there is enough space for new employees, products, and materials to be added comfortably down the line.

2.     Warehouse space needed

When designing a warehouse, available space is an important factor. The building's size and shape will determine the storage and equipment that can be used, such as shelving, racking, carousels, and AS/RS. It's crucial to use every inch of the warehouse efficiently to maximise its potential.

3.     Budget

When planning a warehouse layout, companies may create multiple designs, from basic to advanced. However, before finalising a layout, it's crucial to consider the budget and business needs to find a balance between cost and operational goals.

4.     Safety regulations

When setting up a warehouse, it's important to prioritise safety by adhering to the regulations established by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To ensure safety, consider creating clearly marked exit routes for emergencies. Make sure fire extinguishers are located in designated areas and that aisles and loading docks have enough clearance for safe passage.

Choosing the Right Warehouse Flow Pattern for Your Business

The layout is like a floor plan of your home. Both patterns are designed to cater to specific requirements and priorities. Some common floor plans are:


  • U-shaped designs organise components in a semi-circle, with shipping and receiving zones on one side and the storage area in the middle.
  • I-shaped designs feature a long, straight layout with shipping and receiving zones positioned at opposite ends and the storage area situated in the middle.
  • L-shaped designs incorporate a layout resembling the letter L, with shipping and receiving zones on one side and the storage area on the other.


Through-flow layouts, also known as I-shaped designs, suit high-volume operations. They feature load/unload zones at one end, shipping at the opposite end, and a central storage area.


In contrast, L-shaped warehouse designs prioritise storage space. They optimise building corners by arranging traffic and functional areas in the shape of an ‘L’.

The Psychology of Layouts: Maximising Workflow Efficiency

The psychology of layout behind optimal workflow in warehouses taps into several cognitive principles to create a space that feels intuitive and minimises mental strain. Here's how you can create a psychological warehouse design:

1.     Spatial Cognition:

Humans naturally develop a mental map of their surroundings.  An efficient layout leverages this by promoting a clear visual hierarchy. Frequently used areas like picking zones are placed prominently, while less accessed storage might be tucked away. This allows workers to anticipate where things are located and navigate the space effortlessly.

2.     Minimising Cognitive Load:

Constantly deciphering a complex layout or searching for items increases mental workload and slows down workers.  Simple, predictable layouts with clear signage reduce cognitive load, allowing workers to focus on picking tasks without expending mental energy on wayfinding.

3.     Frictionless Movement:

The layout should subconsciously guide workers through the picking process. A logical flow, like a U-shaped layout with receiving on one end and shipping on the other, creates a natural progression that minimises decision-making and wasted movement.

4.     Reducing Mental Fatigue:

Factors like long picking routes or poorly lit areas can contribute to mental fatigue.  Incorporating natural light where possible and strategically placing break areas helps to combat fatigue and maintain worker focus throughout their shift.

5.     Sense of Control:

Providing workers with a degree of control over their environment can boost morale and efficiency.  This could involve designated picking zones for specific staff or easily accessible storage areas that allow for independent work.

Further Strategies for Improving Warehouse Operations

It is important to create a custom plan that meets a business's specific needs when designing an effective warehouse. However, the improvements don't stop there—you can refine certain aspects of the design once it has been implemented as a physical structure.

Here are a few tips to improve the efficiency of your warehouse:

  1. Automated systems are used for sorting, picking, and packing in the warehouse. It reduces errors, speeds up tasks, and boosts productivity.
  2. Regularly provide training sessions for staff to ensure they are well informed and up-to-date on the latest warehouse operations and safety protocols.
  3. Train staff regularly to keep them informed about current warehouse operations and safety protocols.
  4. Regularly review and update warehouse layout and processes to match evolving business needs and technological advancements.
  5. Implement energy-efficient lighting and machinery to reduce operational costs and minimise environmental impact.

Warehouse Workflow Elements

To design an effective warehouse layout, it's essential to cater to the requirements of various workflows. By carefully mapping out the processes and movements associated with each workflow, you can determine the most suitable layout:

  1. Inbound Receiving to Storage Workflow (Putaway Flow)
  2. Storage to Packing Workflow (Picking Flow)
  3. Packing to Staging Workflow (Outbound Flow)
  4. Staging to Outbound Shipping Workflow (Shipping Flow)
  5. Rework to Multiple Warehouse Locations Workflow (Rework Flow)

Creating an Efficient Warehouse Layout with OZI Racking

You can achieve ultimate efficiency in your warehouse layout for streamlined operations with OZI Racking. Established by Huss in 1988, OZI Racking has become a leader in providing durable pallet racking and storage solutions.

We are committed to meeting customer needs, which drives us to offer top-quality shelving and racking in Australia. We focus on enhancing organisational accessibility and safety. We work closely with top manufacturers to guarantee that our shelving and racking products meet the highest standards of quality and reliability.

If you're ready to optimise your warehouse workflow and boost storage efficiency, explore our range of solutions tailored to meet your needs.