A project for S. P. Richards Company

This is a project to accompany the course and the book Warehouse & Distribution Science, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, by John J. BARTHOLDI, III and Steven T. HACKMAN. Everyone is welcome to use the book and materials for educational purposes, as long as all copyrights remain intact.

The company and its DC operations

Click to enlarge.

Small parts stored in 18-inch deep shelves.

P. Viehweg, Senior Vice-President for Logistics of S. P. Richards Company (SPR), visited our class on 08 January and described the company and its operating environment. (His presentation is available here.)

Here are highlights from his talk. SPR distributes wholesale office products and most customers order electronically in mid to late afternoon. A typical DC receives product in the morning and puts it away, until early afternoon. Then picking begins in earnest to meet departure schedules of the trucks. The product is delivered overnight.

SPR does not know the customer orders until it is time to pick them. There is huge variance in the demand for even the most popular products.

A typical DC depends on a mostly manual system because it is not clear that capital investment would generate sufficient savings. SPR is in the process of installing a warehouse management system throughout its facilities.

Currently, product is stored in three major zones:

The usual design has light bulk on a mezzanine, small items down below, and large items in pallet rack or floor stack.

You can learn about the operations of one SPR DC by examining the 2003 class project.

The project

Click to enlarge.

Light bulk stored in 30-inch deep shelves.

What should a typical SPR distribution center look like? How large should it be? How should it be laid out? How much conveyor and where? Should it have flow rack? Carousels? Other automation?

Note especially that our class guests on 29 January spoke about how to do "greenfield design", which is what this project is about. They generously sketched out the process. Obvious suggestion: Follow this process!


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.)

You will recall that the three main sources of information about a warehouse are as follows.

In addition, SPR writes "The month-end files have the on-hand and on-order quantities, along with a field called AvgOH. That is the average on-hand that our inventory management system calculates." And: "We change stock numbers on [some] items. They are in a separate file, with the stock number and an alias. The item probably changed from one to the other in the month-end inventory files at some point, and the sales might have changed as well. Both stock numbers refer to the same items."

Thinking about warehouse design

Here is something to help you get started. It is a design suggested for SPR by an equipment vendor:

Here are some questions to think about:

Some groups may want to make it their project to evaluate this design, instead of inventing their own design.