A project for a Pepsi Bottling Group

The company

Pepsi Bottling Group bottles and distributes beverages (see a list of their products here). You can read about their operations in general and tour the Atlanta facility here.

Layout and pick-paths

Figure 2: High volume skus are close to the shipping dock, and pickers follow a U-shaped route within each aisle.


The distribution center picks two types of orders: bulk and route. Bulk orders are composed of full pallets, each of a single sku, and these typically go to large grocery stores. They are transported in 53-foot trailers. Route orders go to smaller customers, whose orders are combined into one large order to be shared among all the customers on a route. Route orders are loaded into a side-loading trailer, which functions as a “warehouse on wheels”.

Layout and operations

Here are spreadsheet depictions of both the previous layout, which was designed to simplify the building of pallets, and the new layout, which was designed to reduce congestion. All pallets in the picking area are in pallet rack that is 2-deep and 4-high, with gravity flow on levels 2, 3, and 4. Picking is from the ground floor positions, which are replenished only when both pallets have been emptied, when the picker alerts a restocker to come and drop new pallets from the positions directly above. If those positions are empty, he must hunt in levels 3 and 4, which are shared storage, for additional pallets.

All full-pallet picks are from a “forward full area”, which is simply floor stack near the shipping dock. If a customer requests, say, 80 cartons of a sku that is packaged 60 to a pallet, then one pallet will be pulled from the forward full area and 20 cartons will be picked from the appropriate carton-pick location.

PBG employs pick-to-voice technology. The system is not connected to the inventory control system nor to any pallet-building system: It simply tells the order-picker what sku to pick next and in what quantity.

All picking is onto pallets that are 36 inches by 42 inches (smaller than standard to account for weight of the product).

There are two restockers.

Here is an animation of picking. (It is slightly inaccurate in that it shows the product in floor stack rather than pallet rack, as it is in the Norfolk facility.)

New layout

The new layout was designed to ameliorate congestion amongst the order pickers.

Aisles 1-3 constitute the bulk-pick area, from which large orders, such as from a store of a grocery chain like Publix or Kroger, are picked. Only cases are picked here and pallets are built from these cases. The resulting pallets may contain different skus but all go to the single customer who placed this order. The pallets are loaded onto box trucks with lift gates.

Aisle 4 is for “new age” products, such as teas, coffee drinks, and so on. Aisle 4 supports both bulk and bay picking.

The next three aisles are the “bay pick” (aka “sku pick” or “route pick”) area. Each order picked here is for a single truck route that combines the shopping lists of all the (small) customers on that route. These are picked to pallet so that a pallet built out of this area can include items for multiple customers on a route. Each pallet will be loaded into a bay of the appropriate delivery truck. At each stop, the customer order will be picked from the bays of the truck.

When a pallet has been built, it is driven to the end of the aisle toward the loading dock, shrink-wrapped by hand, and then staged before the appropriate door.

Aisles are 13 feet wide. The so-called “red zone” is the area below the aisles, which constitutes the region for staging and loading freight. The distance from the bottom of the aisles aisles to the edge of the loading dock is 30 feet.


The company data is copyrighted and proprietary. You may use it for the purposes of this course only. If you would like to use it for something else, please contact me to discuss.

Based on an average of 68 cases per pallet, case-picking averages 191 cases per person-hour; full-pallet-picking averages 1200 cases per person-hour; replenishments from bulk storage average 800 cases per person-hour; and “let-downs” (restocks to the active pick position from the floor stack immediately behind) average 1500 cases per hour (but depends on where the fork lift is in the warehouse).

The rack is configured in the following way: Each slot is 108 inches by 114 inches and is capable of storing 2 pick faces, each one two pallets deep.


NB: To properly answer most of these questions, we need to know how Pepsi builds pallets, but that software is undergoing revision and is unavailable to us. Consequently, we may have to write some pallet-building logic. In its simplest form, the logic is to pick cans of carbonated beverage first, then bottles from in sequence from largest to smallest (24 OZ, 2 L, 20 OZ, 16.9 OZ, 15.2 OZ, 12 OZ), and to finish with uncarbonated products, which are generally the “new age” products (SOBE, frappuccinos, energy drinks). There are a few other guidelines: Once done stacking the plastics, then stack the non-returnables (which crush more easily), then the cans of energy drink. The most problematical to stack is the “bag-in-box”, which contains concentrate. It is easily damaged and so is usually loaded on a single pallet by itself.