A project for a School Specialty, Inc.

Here is the presentation shown during the client visit and project kick-off (pptx format, 13.3MB).

The company

School Specialty (SSI) distributes school supplies to K-12 teachers throughout the US. Their distribution network includes warehouses in Mansfield, Ohio; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Greenville, Wisconsin (site of the corporate headquarters); Salina, Kansas; and Fresno, California. Most of their business is concentrated in May and June, when teachers order supplies in advance of the new school year beginning in August.

Small shipments are sent via parcel carrier and larger shipments as freight. UPS manages outbound shipments of both parcel and freight.

During May and June, almost half of the lines are sent as freight, because classrooms are stocking up on supplies. During the rest of the year, orders are smaller and few lines are sent as freight.


Popular product that moves in large volume is picked from carton flow rack, while slower-moving product is picked from static bin shelving. Pallet rack is used for bulk storage.

Warehouse operations

Each order is broken into pick lines for full cartons and pick lines for less-than-carton quantities. Then the less-than-carton lines are assigned to cartons (that is, a particular box size and a “license plate”). Then a pick-list is prepared for each carton. Less-than-carton quantities are picked from the flow rack or bin shelving directly into shipping cartons.

Cartons are picked from bulk storage.

Goal of this project


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.

Data will be provided on CD directly to project groups. Here is what to expect:

The Order History represents the peak season (May, June, July and August) and a couple of non-peak months (December and January). This information is segregated by DC and includes the following columns:

The Item Tables includes the following columns:

The Container file lists carton sizes, and includes the following columns:

In addition you will find the UPS zone tables by DC origin and the UPS rate structure for every carton from 1–70 pounds by zone, and estimated annual usage and cost of cartons.

Suggested approach

To reduce shipping costs, pack items into fewer and smaller boxes. You can do this by either choosing a more effective mix of box sizes (including new sizes) or by changing how the SKUs are assigned to boxes. (The latter may be problematical, as we shall discuss.)

First steps