A simple way to improve warehouse organization and employee efficiency is to implement a rack labeling system. Rack labels come in a variety of styles—adhesive and magnetic labels are the most popular. Labels are one of the simplest ways to highlight implemented organizational systems and improve inventory management in warehouses. To create a brand new labeling system, or adjust a technique that’s no longer working efficiently, consider our quick tips as a starting point.
Top Tips for Warehouse Rack Labeling
Whether implementing, improving, or maintaining a rack labeling system, ensure your process is consistent, follow industry standards for rack labeling, choose the right label style, and evaluate and update your labeling processes as needed for success.
What is Rack Labeling?
Rack labeling is the term for marking aisles and shelves with labels that display logical identification numbers. This process improves organization, navigation, and productivity in warehouses and industrial facilities. Including easy to read labels on racks and shelving makes products easier to find, which boosts efficiency, reduces waste, and improves inventory management. Rack identification tags also facilitate warehouse traffic flow and improve overall workflow.
1) Choose the Best Labeling System
Whether labeling aisles, marking pallets, or creating visual markers to use with multi-level racks or other warehouse numbering schemes, follow industry standards paired with facility-specific solutions to create the ideal labeling system.
- Some tags may be temporary: If you’re labeling bins or storage containers as part of your location’s workflow, consider whether the labels will change often, or if the labels will need to be durable enough to withstand months of use.
- If labeling pallets, consider whether color-coded labels, in addition to a numbering scheme, may improve communication.
- When testing a new labeling strategy, you may find that it’s helpful to use temporary labels to stretch the budget until you’ve settled on the right technique.
- Always ensure your shelf, aisle, and rack labels are accompanied by any necessary safety warnings.
2) Select the Right Label Material
A useful rack labeling system requires the ideal materials for the job. Adhesive labels, printed with a barcode and other necessary identifying information, apply easily to shelving and floors—but may be damaged and require replacement in busy zones. When covered with label protectors, they are a long-lasting solution, perfect in areas where shelving labels rarely change. Magnetic labels, purchased by the roll to cut as needed, or pre-cut styles, are ideal in locations where swapping labels is common. Similarly, if you’re labeling in cold storage or freezer areas, select durable label types designed to stick, even in the cold.
3) Number the Racks Logically
Choose the numbering technique that works for your facility. Numbering schemes often share similarities between facilities—using numerals for warehouse section, aisle, specific rack, shelf level, and sometimes the position on the shelf—but each location has a different process.
Start numbering on the ground-level, then use double-digits going up numerically: 01, 02, 03, etc. This way, you can add a new level without re-numbering. The specific numbering system may come down to the order picking technique used. When creating a rack-labeling system, first consider whether you use Standard, Serpentine, or another picking technique, then decide which numbering technique best suits your workflow.
- Standard, or single-order, pickers go sku-by-sku to gather all items from a single order at a time. This technique may require backtracking. Organized using both numerical and alphabetical labeling.
- Serpentine picking means a worker starts at the beginning, then picks along a path, reducing back-tracking. This technique may be preferred in warehouses with fast-moving inventory. Often organized with alphabetical-only rack labeling, which can be paired with numerical aisle numbers.
- Zone-specific picking keeps employees in zones where they pull items from their specific zone before sending their cart on to the next. They may focus on a single order, or groups of orders at a time.
4) Pair Rack Labels with Floor and Aisle Signs
Floor and aisle signs displaying numbers or rack ranges make it easier to see which zones or sections are within a warehouse aisle. Because they’re easy to see from a distance, floor tape and signs are ideal visual cues to help employees find the right rack. Additionally, durable vinyl Econo Mark tape can be used to improve shelving visibility or add color-coding to rack sections, while Superior Mark® floor marking tape can withstand forklift traffic and pallet dragging, making it ideal for directional cues and visual communication on the floor, even in busy areas.
5) Standardize Facility-Wide
Inventory management techniques vary from location to location—what works in one warehouse may not work in another. It may take time to discover what the best system is for your location. Once you’ve created a rack labeling strategy, ensure the labeling procedures are followed throughout the facility. Maintaining the process in all sections ensures each rack and row label is easy to understand, which reduces confusion and improves inventory management overall.
- Labels should be easily visible
- Any text or numerals on labels should be clear and easy to read
- Rack labels should have plenty of contrast between the background color and text
- Always affix labels in the same area on the shelving so they’re spotted at a glance
- A simple numbering system is ideal, most facilities choose all numerals or a limited alphanumeric system
Warehouse rack labels are an important tool in inventory management and organization. Properly labeled shelves using a numbering system tailored to your facility helps reduce errors, improve inventory tracking, and boost employee efficiency and productivity. For more warehouse organization tips and tricks, explore our Resource Center.