Reduction of walking time in the distribution center of De Bijenkorf

De Koster, R., Roodbergen, K.J. and Van Voorden, R. (1999), Reduction of walking time in the distribution center of De Bijenkorf, in: New trends in distribution logistics, M.G. Speranza and P. Stähly (eds.), Springer, Berlin, 215-234.
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In many distribution centers, there is a constant pressure to reduce the order throughput times. One such distribution center is the DC of De Bijenkorf, a retail organization in The Netherlands with 7 subsidiaries and a product assortment of about 300,000 SKUs (stock keeping units). The orders for the subsidiaries are picked manually in this warehouse, which is very labor intensive. Furthermore many shipments have to be finished at about the same time, which leads to peak loads in the picking process. The picking process is therefore a costly operation. In this study we have investigated the possibilities to pick the orders more efficiently, without altering the storage or material handling equipment used or the storage strategies. It appeared to be possible to obtain a reduction between 17 and 34% in walking time, by simply routing the pickers more efficiently. The amount of walking time reduction depends on the routing algorithm used. The largest saving is obtained by using an optimal routing algorithm that has been developed for De Bijenkorf. The main reason for this substantial reduction in walking time, is the change from one-sided picking to two-sided picking in the narrow aisles. It is even possible to obtain a further reduction in walking time by clustering the orders. Small orders can be combined on one pick cart and can be picked in a single route. The combined picking of several orders (constrained by the size of the orders and the cart capacity) leads to a total reduction of about 60% in walking time, using a simple order clustering strategy in combination with a newly developed routing strategy. The reduction in total order picking time and hence the reduction in the number of pickers is about 19%.
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