Distribution Center Configuration Models – UA08-MDLN

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Distribution Center Configuration Models – UA08-MDLN

Warehouses operate better when the forward picking area is sized appropriately. In this project we developed analytical models to estimate the best size of the forward picking area in a Medline warehouse.


Medline Industries, Inc.

Research Team:

Russell D. Meller

Universities Involved:

University of Arkansas

Start Date:


End Date:



The CELDi membership fee will be directed towards research in the area of “distribution center configuration models” and these models will be applied to Medline Industries’ facilities.

Currently there are not sufficient models available that could be used to accurately configure the distribution centers for Medline Industries. For example, the following questions have not been addressed in the research literature and industry relies on rules-of-thumb to answer:

1. What is the optimal size and shape of a DC?

2. What is the optimal number of doors and amount of staging area/door in a DC?

3. In a DC that intersperses research storage and forward picking locations (for example, in the same racks, reserve locations are designated as the upper levels and are accessed by lift trucks while forward picking locations are designated as the lowest level and accessed by pallet trucks), how are the skus allocated in the forward area knowing that some picking will be required from the reserve area. Although this question is partially addressed in the research literature, aspects like congestion are not considered in doing so. Also, no aspect of the dynamic nature of the problem is addressed.

4. For Medline Industries, an additional question that pertains to the configuration of their DCs is aisle design. Although new aisle designs have been recently introduced that reduce the travel time by up to 20% (i.e., the fishbone aisle design), the models apply only to unit-load environments where a full pallet is stored or retrieved on any trip (which can address single-command or dual-command, or task interleaving, cycles). New aisle designs for order-picking, where multiple storage locations are visited on each tour have not been developed. Given that the reserve and forward areas are interspersed at Medline, the question becomes one of which aisle design is most appropriate.

Given that distribution center configuration models are not available to answer the above four questions for Medline Industries, the CELDi membership agreement will be used to develop such models and to apply those models to Medline Industries’ data.