Receiving Area Layout: Best Practices, Tips, and Examples

What the receiving area in a warehouse is and 2 core components of efficient receiving area layout. Plus examples of good and bad layouts.

As a part of your overall warehouse layout design, the receiving and shipping areas are usually the first appointed, and one of the most important. When improperly laid out, the shipping and receiving process can negatively affect the entire warehouse. In this article, we will discuss the components of efficient receiving area layout to minimize any potential bottlenecks in warehouse operations.

receiving area layout

Table of Contents

What is a receiving area?

A receiving area is a designated space in a warehouse where incoming goods are received and processed. This is usually called an “inbound” process.

Unless the primary type of warehouse is for cross-docking, the receiving area should be located as close to the storage area as possible. This helps minimize the distance goods have to travel for put-away. In a cross-docking setup, however, shipping and receiving should be located near each other.

Start With Our Warehouse Layout Guide

Have you read our guide about warehouse layout? If not, then jump over there first before following the steps below.

4 Main Areas in a Receiving Area

There are 4 main areas that occur in a receiving area. Here is how they usually break down:



Where inbound trucks connect to your warehouse.



Temporary storage for incoming materials.



Where inbound receipts enter in the inventory system.


Put Away Lanes

Where handling equipment moves materials to storage.

Anatomy of the 4 main areas in a warehouse receiving department

The Importance of Proper Receiving Area Layout

A receiving area layout is important because it is the first place where goods can bottleneck in your warehouse. This can cause backups or other problems throughout the rest of the warehouse.

An efficient warehouse receiving layout allows goods to process quickly, safely, and with accuracy. Good accuracy minimizes costly errors, such as incorrect shipments or misplaced items.

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2 Components of Efficient Receiving Layout

To obtain an effective receiving area layout, 2 main considerations should be taken into consideration. By prioritizing these 2 considerations, you can create an effective receiving area layout that helps optimize warehouse operations.

The Physical Characteristics of the Receiving Area

The physical characteristics of the space include both the size and layout of the area, infrastructure, and any other features. The layout of the receiving area should allow for safe unloading and inspection of goods. Infrastructure needs include electrical outlets, IT and automation systems, and other necessary warehouse equipment such as forklifts or pallet jacks.

The Flow of the Receiving Area

After the physical characteristics of the receiving area are clear, the mapping of material flow within the receiving area is next. The receiving process itself should be mapped out in detail so that workers know exactly where and what steps to take when receiving goods. During this process, the goal is to bottlenecks and unnecessary travel. For example, the staging area for inbound goods should be near (or next to) the docks, and also near the main storage area.

Tips for Optimizing Receiving Area Process

Now that you understand the importance of having an effective receiving area layout, let’s discuss how to design one. Here are some tips for creating an efficient receiving area:

  • Ensure adequate docking infrastructure. To maximize material flow efficiency, you need enough docks (and proper docks) to accommodate incoming shipments. This depends entirely on your forecasted volume of material. Ideally, inbound and outbound docks are segregated in different areas of the warehouse.
  • Automate your warehouse processes. Automation can be very impactful  for increasing efficiency in a warehouse. A warehouse management system (WMS) or other warehouse management software enables better planning and direction of inbound activities. Not only that, but these control systems can direct quality control, inventory control, picking process, and storage space. Some WMS’s even direct supply chain processes which helps further optimize efficiency.
  • Invest in appropriate equipment. Some equipment may help your receiving process and some may not. This depends on what specific kind of receiving process you have. Regardless, you should consider using standard material handling equipment like forklifts and pallet jacks. Other equipment like a barcode system helps gain maximum efficiency.
  • Designate enough staging space to accommodate peak traffic expectations. The amount of required staging space you need depends on the volume of goods you expect to receive. In general, there should be ample room for employees to unload and inspect goods, as well as enough room to store the goods until they can be moved into the main warehouse.
  • Don’t ignore ergonomics. Make sure the layout is ergonomic and organized so workers can access items easily. This may include the location, labeling, and type of bins or other storage mediums you use. For example, placing heavy or popular items at waist level rather than on the floor reduces employee strain
  • Plan the layout for heavy equipment traffic. Forklifts or other mechanized equipment need to be used safely and efficiently. Proper layout often includes designated walking and forklift paths and dedicating enough room for the safe use of the equipment. Forklifts carrying heavy loads can be dangerous if not allowed enough space to maneuver.

Examples of Receiving Area Layouts

To help understand how these principles work in an actual receiving area layout, we have put together a couple of examples to illustrate this. While there are many more kinds of examples we could examine, these two provide a basic overview of the core considerations to establish an efficient receiving process.

Example of Bad Receiving Area Layout

Example of bad shipping area design and flow

A brief glance at the example above and it’s plain to see that this layout has poor flow. A receiving area like this would suffer from heavy congestion and a high probability of safety issues. Here are the main concerns with this layout:

  • Not enough docks
  • Not enough forklift space
  • Bad staging area location
  • No clear lanes for heavy machinery traffic

Example of Good Receiving Area Layout

Example of good shipping area design and flow

This example is much better, with clear lanes of traffic and flow that moves in one direction toward the rest of the warehouse. A receiving area design like this would minimize any bottlenecks that occur by simply altering the use of the space, and ensuring enough dock doors are present.

  • Ample capacity
  • Good staging area location
  • Clear flow
  • Safety markers for human working areas
  • Clear lanes for heavy machinery traffic

Final Thoughts About Receiving Area Layout

Since the receiving area is the first touch point of your entire warehouse operation, it’s best to consider it first in your warehouse layout. If you don’t, then the rest of your warehouse efficiency will suffer and costly problems will arise. You can use the principles in this article to help you plan ahead for your receiving area needs, and implement a design that will work for you.

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