Distribution Center Design

I am honored to be serving on the Board of Directors for the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC).  WERC “offers resources that help distribution professionals stay at the leading edge including educational events, performance metrics for benchmarking, practical research, expert insights and peer-to-peer knowledge exchange.”

  • Order-Fulfillment is one of the most critical tasks in a distribution center (and one anyone who has purchased anything from an online distributor like Amazon has experienced first hand). My dissertation (under the direction of Russ Meller) developed models to analyze the piece-level order-fulfillment process in the pharmaceutical industry. Check out this video on how CVS Pharmacy ensures that medications are delivered to pharmacies through the use of order-fulfillment technologies. One such technology used in pharmaceutical distribution (as well as other industries) is an A-Frame System, which are pretty neat automated piece-level order-fulfillment technology.  Check out this video on how Amazon uses a Random Storage Policy in their Order-Fulfillment Processes.
  • The design of Distribution Centers requires answering a number of questions, such as where to store products, how to layout your facility, how to route order pickers to minimize travel, how much order picking technology should be used, what’s the throughput trade-offs based on different designs, etc.  The correct answer to all these questions is “It depends”.  It depends on a company’s constraints, objectives, environment, etc.  Thus, my research team and I develop analytical models to provide insights into how to answer these types of questions for different environments.
  • My Ph.D. student Faraz Ramtin and I are developing analytic models to study automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS) that have multiple I/O points in the aisle. Such systems are common in temperature controlled environments, such as grocery distribution centers.  Here is a video of such systems used for case picking at the Walgreens warehouse in  Anderson, South Carolina.

  • Along with a research collaborator (Hector Carlo at University of Puerto Rico), we are studying how to rearrange products in a distribution center when demand profiles change. If you grew up in a place with seasons, this is similar to reshuffling your winter coats towards the front of your closet in October and shorts toward the front in June.
  • Who said distribution wasn’t all fun and games.  Check out this story about how libraries battle for book-sorting championships.

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