The Tools of a Distribution Center

Tools of a Distribution Center

The modern distribution center is more about movement that storage.  Gone are dusty warehouse where product sits and waits.  The modern distribution center is a complex, highly engineered entity.  Gone are the days of boxes sitting on shelves waiting to be manually picked by individuals on step ladders.

The internet has fuel an intense pressure on the modern distribution center to delivery high quality services like same hour delivers with the same quality and precision.  In order to meet these demand’s, a distribution center must have a suites of tools to ensure product is picked accurately, safely and timely.

Warehouse Racking

The foundation of the distribution center is the configuration of racking that supports the staging and storing of product.  Generally a distribution center will be made up of mostly steel industrial racking.  In most distribution center configurations, racking will be configured to hold product in bulk.  This most often means that the height of the warehouse racking will be configured to accommodate a standard six food high pallet

While most of the picking will probably occur in the bulk storage area, most distribution center environments will have to cater to low unit of measure picking.  For high velocity low UOM the most common racking strategy is to de-case goods into a gravity flow racking configuration.  This allows for high density storage & product rotation while ensuring easy picking.  For lower volume goods warehouse racking can be configured to accommodate half pallet or ¼ pallet reorder points.

For very low volume and low unit of measure wire racking is often utilized because it is easier to manipulate and let bulky.  In extremely modern facilities low unit of measure picking is often done by goods to man robot.  Product is brought to a picker by either a robotic picking agent or the actual racks move to accommodate needs.

Equipment

The distribution center my have evolved in a lot of ways but it still relies heavily on the fork lift to ensure product is moved throughout the warehouse.  Historically, most of the work of a warehouse could be accomplished on a hand powered tool that maybe only lifted the pallet two inches.  Today these types of manual forklifts are still used but they have been enhanced with motors & reach capabilities to give works a lower cost and efficient piece of equipment.

The most common form of equipment now is the motorized rider truck where pickers sit in a cockpit and drive the tool from picking locations to picking location.  This type of equipment can be fitted either reaching capabilities and designed for narrow or wide aisles.

Technology

The most important tool within the warehouse is the software stack that runs it.  All modern warehouses have a centralized system called a Warehouse Management System (WMS).  A WMS will integrate directly into the organizations main ERP.  The warehouse management system is expected to hold the slotting plan, enable batching picking and manage the receiving process.

On top of the warehouse management system most organizations will use some sort of voiced guided picking tool.  These systems allow for pickers to no have to constantly be looking at items all day long.  Voice picking will optimize the time of your pickers while reducing error.

Lastly, all modern warehouses will have some sort of transportation management system to help guide the inbound & outbound process.  These system help manage inbound appointments & optimize outbound routes.

Distribution centers more than ever or organisms the rely heavily on tools to run smoothly.  Without the racking, equipment and technology the distribution centers wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demands of the modern consumer.