Setting up storage for a new business

If you’re setting up a new manufacturing or mail-order business, then storage will be a key issue. It’s not just about volume, either – though if you are making and shipping bulky items then you may well need to invest in some warehousing space. (If you don’t have enough space at home or in the garage, you can usually rent self-storage comparatively cheaply.)

Good storage is key to getting organised. In the early days of your business when there are comparatively few orders, you will be able to get by easily enough with some rudimentary or makeshift storage. But what happens when things take off? It’s worth thinking ahead because any confusion and wasted time will be multiplied many-fold when big orders start arriving or you decide to diversify into other products. A minor frustration to a small-scale business can turn into a major headache for a thriving one – and by that time, it will be too late to change things easily.

Catalogue and label

Let’s say you have a jewellery business, or a small electronics company. To begin with you might get by with a handful of boxes or other containers, full of a mixture of components and various bits and pieces. That’s fine if you’re only making a few units, but if you multiply that up by 10, 20 or 100 – as one day you hopefully will – you’re going to struggle to find what you need in a hurry. Also, you might be able to rely on memory alone for where you keep things, but what if you need someone else to help you out?

It’s worth investing in a label printer here – one of those hand-held gadgets that prints out strips of lettered adhesive tape. Alternatively, if you need to make a lot of them, it’s probably better to buy sheets of sticky labels and use a computer to print onto them. Microsoft Office includes templates for label printing. You’ll also find this a great option for address labels – it’s neater and more professional than writing them by hand.

Depending on the number of different containers you’ll need, you can either label them descriptively (‘earrings’, ‘beads’ etc) or with a code (‘001’, ‘002’ etc). If the former, you’ll need to alphabetise your containers so you can find them quickly. If the latter, you can organise them by number but you’ll need a catalogue so that you can quickly find which parts match which number.

Find the right storage

There are a number of factors to consider when purchasing storage, including cost, size, materials, versatility and covering.

If you’re storing lots of small parts, you’re probably best off with a drawer system of some sort. Arrays of plastic tilt storage boxes are a great way of keeping lots of small items separate but easily accessible – both practical and convenient. They are also covered so keep the dust off. Some mount on the wall, others are free-standing. Multi-drawer storage cabinets are another similar option and come in all shapes and sizes.

For larger items, storage bins or wheeled cabinets are handy. These are often designed to stack to save space, or can be pushed under a work surface when not in use.

If you’re not sure how much storage you’ll need, then flat-pack cardboard trays are an excellent starting point. Again, these come in all shapes and sizes. The particular advantages are that they are very cheap, and they are self-assembly – so you only need to put together as many as you need at any given time.

 

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