A Flooring Warehouse

Shortly after we announced initial results on the aisle design problem for unit-load warehouses, we were contacted by a flooring distributor in Florida about implementing fishbone aisles in their new warehouse. This is a unique application because the product is stored on the floor (no pun intended), not on racks. Another complication was the need to accommodate order picking—more on this below.

Product in this warehouse is received through doors at the top of the diagram and put away in three-deep lanes in the upper and right portions of the figure. Picking is done in the central region of two-deep lanes. When one of these lanes is empty, new pallets are brought from the reserve areas to restock. There is a small bit of single-deep pallet rack in the lower-left part of the warehouse. This region stores small accessory products.

A fishbone design works here because all pallets must be stretch-wrapped on a single machine at the bottom center of the layout. Thus, all flow concentrates on this point. The fishbone also accommodated order picking in this environment because almost all orders required visiting only one or two locations. Below are three shots taken from the same location in the warehouse, at the bottom of the fishbone.

View from bottom center up the right diagonal cross aisle.
View from bottom center up the middle portion of the warehouse.
View from bottom center into the left portion. The diagonal aisle begins just behind the pallet rack.

This warehouse has lots of unavoidably wasted vertical space. The product is floor tiles, so pallets are extremely heavy. A single carton of tile can weigh more than 100 pounds.

We visited the warehouse shortly after implementation. Workers seemed to like the design, and reported no problems of disorientation due to the layout.

A view of the bottom right portion of the fishbone.

Due to a rapidly changing business environment (housing, Florida, 2008), we were unable to compare labor costs in the new warehouse with previous operations.