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Secrets of the Smart Warehouse

Ten ways to think smarter about distribution center design.
By Forte
March 21, 2012

The Rubik’s® Cube offers 43 quintillion possible arrangements of its pieces in search of a solution. Another type of 3-D mechanical puzzle is the distribution center “cube” or “box.” While its permutations do not extend to the nth power, they are nevertheless considerable, as the combination of architecture, mechanical systems, controls and software lead to decision-making conundrums squared and cubed.

Whether addressing the Rubik’s Cube riddle or the distribution center puzzle, the use of mathematical algorithms is key to finding a correct solution. With the latter, however, it requires more than the consistent application of complex calculations. Unlike the Rubik’s Cube, the distribution center is dynamic, with the need to adapt to changing market opportunities, competitive pressures, product mix, technology and other variables, especially those unforeseen. Data-driven analysis and metrics alone are insufficient. They must be tempered with experience in the day-to-day operation of a distribution center and its all too surprising vagaries.


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*Is your company currently considering improvements to your supply chain? If so, when?
0-3 months
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More than 12 months
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*Which of these issues impact your operations?
Order fulfillment times too long
Inventory levels and costs too high
Transportation costs too high
Distribution costs too high
WMS does not meet current business requirements
Customer service levels too low
Implement more effective warehouse processes
Inability to respond to supply/demand fluctuations
Fulfillment accuracy too low
Charge-backs too high
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*What are your supply chain initiatives planned for the next 12 months?
Implement more effective warehouse processes
Improve visibility to warehouse activities and inventory and order status
Determine outsourcing feasibility/select a 3PL
Conduct a network analysis
Create a more agile, flexible warehouse to keep up with rapid changes
Expand the warehouse or build additional facilities
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