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  • frank.mccabe

PIPE DREAM: Designing a Plumbing & Heating Supply Operation

Large and heavy boilers.

Long and awkward piping.

Small and odd-sized fittings.

Folks in the plumbing and heating supply world have some very specific challenges related to how they should best store, move, track, and ship their inventory.

Designing and laying out a warehouse for plumbing and heating supplies requires careful planning to ensure efficient storage, easy access, and smooth operations. 

While many of the fundamental practices of distribution center design are common, the plumbing, heating, and, HVAC professionals have some special factors in their planning.

Here are some key steps and considerations to guide you in the process:

1. Assess Space and Requirements:

• Determine the size of the warehouse based on the volume of plumbing and heating supplies you plan to stock.

• Identify specific storage needs for different types of items (pipes, fittings, boilers, tools, etc.).

• Consider future growth and expansion when determining the warehouse size.

2. Create a Floor Plan:

• Design a floor plan that maximizes the use of available space while allowing for efficient movement of goods and personnel.

• Divide the space into functional zones such as receiving, storage, packing, and shipping.

• Allocate specific areas for different product categories to streamline the picking and packing process.

3. Receiving Area:

• Design a dedicated space for receiving incoming shipments.

• Include an inspection area to check for damaged or incorrect items.

• Use barcode scanning and inventory management systems for accurate tracking.

4. Storage System:

• Choose appropriate storage systems such as pallet racks, shelving, and bulk storage for various items.

• Consider the height of racks to maximize vertical space utilization.

• Group similar items together to facilitate easy retrieval.

5. Aisles and Walkways:

• Design wide and clear aisles to accommodate forklifts and other material handling equipment.

• Ensure that aisles are strategically placed to minimize travel time and increase efficiency.

• Implement a logical layout to reduce the risk of congestion and bottlenecks.

6. Picking and Packing Area:

• Create a designated area for order picking and packing.

• Implement a system for organizing orders and ensuring accurate picking.

• Consider using conveyors or automated systems for larger warehouses.

7. Labeling and Signage:

• Clearly label aisles, racks, and storage areas for easy navigation.

• Implement a consistent and logical numbering system for items and locations.

• Use color-coded labels for different product categories.

8. Safety Measures:

• Implement safety protocols and equipment, such as fire extinguishers and emergency exits.

• Ensure that heavy items are stored securely to prevent accidents.

• Provide proper training for warehouse staff on safety procedures.

9. Technology Integration:

• Utilize inventory management software to track stock levels, reorder points, and movement of goods.

• Consider RFID or barcode systems for accurate inventory control.

• Integrate the warehouse management system with other business systems.

10. Future Expansion:

• Plan for scalability and future growth by designing a flexible layout.

• Consider modular storage systems that can be easily reconfigured as the business expands.

11. Regulatory Compliance:

• Familiarize yourself with local building codes and safety regulations related to warehouse operations.

• Ensure compliance with regulations specific to the storage of plumbing and heating supplies.

12. Efficient Lighting and Ventilation:

• Ensure adequate lighting throughout the warehouse for safety and efficiency.

• Provide proper ventilation to maintain a comfortable working environment.

By carefully considering these factors, you can design and layout a warehouse that optimizes space, enhances efficiency, and meets the specific needs of a plumbing and heating supplies company.


The Beacon Group has more than twenty years of experience in the plumbing and heating supplies industry. We have designed, engineered, and implemented operational and material handling systems across the United States for dozens of clients and hundreds of facilities. If you need help with your next project, PIPE US IN! :)

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