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Adapting to Complexity

When a Wall Street Journal survey revealed that warehouses are getting more complex, few operators were surprised. There was a time when many warehouses handled pallets in and pallets out, and nearly all handled nothing smaller than full cases of merchandise. With e-commerce, cases are broken and small parcels are shipped to consumers.

Sometimes the complexity is built into the product line. Here is one example. Shoes are one of the most complicated consumer product inventories. Our feet come in sizes and shoes come in many styles. Furthermore, each style comes in many colors. 

Shoe manufacturers deal with this complexity challenge by producing a case of product with a "musical run" of sizes. Data analysis determines that if the store gets the right mix of sizes based on the statistics of a typical population, the need to segregate by size can be eliminated.

However, when the e-commerce warehouse ships a single pair of shoes to a consumer, the right size becomes critical. Therefore, the storage layout and picking procedure for an e-commerce distributor must be different from a DC that is shipping full cases of musical runs to retail stores.

Fortunately, advances in information technology allow the warehouse operator to employ software and hardware that make it easier to handle complexity. Barcode scanning, voice recognition and RFID are just some of the technology tools that can be used to maintain productivity and accuracy in an increasingly complicated environment.       


K. B. Ackerman Company
2041 Riverside Drive
Suite 204
Columbus, Ohio 43221
Phone 614-488-3165
Fax 614-488-9243

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