Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186

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A decision-support system for the design and management of
warehousing systems
Riccardo Accorsi, Riccardo Manzini *, Fausto Maranesi
Department of Industrial Engineering (DIN), ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - University of Bologna, Viale Risorgimento 2, Bologna, Italy



Article history:
Received 24 May 2013
Received in revised form 15 July 2013
Accepted 29 August 2013
Available online 4 October 2013

The issue of material handling involves the design and operative control of warehousing systems (i.e.,
distribution centres), which allow matching vendors and demands, smoothing with seasonality,
consolidating products and arranging distribution activities. Warehousing systems play a crucial role in
providing efficiency and customer satisfaction. The warehouse design entails a wide set of decisions,
which involve layout constraints and operative issues that seriously affect the performances and the
overall logistics costs.
This study presents an original decision-support system (DSS) for the design, management, and
control of warehousing systems. Specifically, the proposed DSS implements a top-down methodology
that considers both strategic warehouse design and operative operations management. The DSS can
simulate the logistics and material handling performances of a warehousing system. Heuristic methods
and algorithms address several critical warehouse issues, such as the order picking process, which is
responsible for 55% of the overall costs in a distribution centre. The benefits due to the adoption of the
proposed decision-support system are summarised as a dashboard of key performance indicators (KPIs)
of space and time efficiency that allow logistics providers, practitioners, and managers as well as
academicians and educators to face real-world warehousing instances and to find useful guidelines for
material handling.
ß 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Warehousing systems
Industrial storage systems
Decision-support system
Order picking
Material handling

1. Introduction and background
In recent years, enterprises have completely reconfigured their
supply chain to address increasing customer service levels and
demand variability. Warehouses play a pivotal role in the supply
chain, and requirements for warehousing operations have significantly increased. Specifically, the customer needs in terms of the
order accuracy and response time, order frequency, order quantity
and order size have dramatically changed with the global economy
and new demand trends (e.g., e-commerce). The literature has
widely debated the issues of warehouse design and management,
which is aimed at minimising the operation costs and time and
increasing the supply chain performance. Comprehensive surveys
on warehouse and industrial storage system topics have been
proposed by De Koster et al. [1], Gu et al. [2] and Dallari et al. [3].
The main function of the warehousing systems is to receive
products (from inbound or manufacturing lines), to store materials
until they are requested, and then, to extract products from
inventory and ship them in response to the customers’ orders.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 051 2090468; fax: +39 051 2090484.
E-mail address: (R. Manzini).
0166-3615/$ – see front matter ß 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Fig. 1 illustrates a conceptual framework for classifying
warehouse operations, considering the definitions of entities,
processes, activities, and decisions as related to storage systems.
Products typically arrive in large units, such as unit-loads, and
standard or custom containers, or pallets, which cause the related
labour and handling activities to be less expensive. Incoming
products must be put away, which is the most significant
warehouse function. The put-away process entails a set of
interdependent decisions [2]: given a warehouse configuration
(based on the layout parameters of Fig. 1), how much inventory
should be held for a generic SKU (the so-called allocation in Fig. 1),
and where should it be stored (the so-called assignment in Fig. 1)?
The warehousing system pursues the transformation of the
large and relatively homogeneous arrival materials into small,
frequent and heterogeneous output quantities in response to
customer demands. The small and frequent output quantities
result from the fulfilment of the customer order lists.
Order picking is one of the prime components of labour and
warehouse-associated costs. Two alternative configurations of
layout types are common for picking. One, the so-called multi-level
picking (see Fig. 1), executes high-level picking directly from
storage locations, which are all accessible by picking equipment
(e.g., turret-trucks). The other, the so-called forward-reserve

(see Fig. the contributions of the literature address the problem of warehouse design rather than the management of warehouse operations separately. zoning. 1). Generally.. transportation. the literature reveals the benefits of using computer-based systems to support logistics management. and so on. Accorsi et al. which holds the bulk of the inventory for every product in a larger. conventional multi-aisle storage systems). The zoning comprises partitioning the warehouse into different zones. focusing on models. it supports the design of complex multi-zone forward-reserve picker-to-part storage systems and provides multi-scenario simulation for KPI assessments. DSSs are computer-based tools that have been adapted to support and aid complex decision-making and problem solving [4. Typically. All of these metrics are affected by the management of space and time. When given a product for which the inventory is low in the forward area.g. techniques. Specifically. Gu et al. The first aspect refers to the layout constraints and parameters (illustrated in Fig. the routing defines an appropriate sequence of items on the order list to ensure a good route through the warehouse. For example. [2] describe inbound/ outbound processes and review the literature. the locations of the products (i. . the cost rate. thereby ignoring the integration of multi-purpose approaches. the problem of layout design. These two aspects significantly affect warehouse performances and have a direct influence on the level of service of the overall logistic chain (i. Therefore. especially in the areas of logistics. batching and routing in warehousing is given. and methodologies to enhance the operative performances (e. which are critical for every logistic process. the determination of the number of aisles. the adopted method and the type of the observed warehouse (e. two main aspects lead to enhanced performance: the warehouse design (1) and the operations control (2). 1). it requires the retrieved SKUs be sorted into a single order.g. the storage capacity.7].. the storage equipment and the high-level strategic decisions on the total inventory of the facility. the definition of the total storage capacity. reserve storage area. passing it along from zone to zone. stock-keepingunits or SKUs) within the storage area. Research in this area typically highlights the importance of information technology in improving efficiency adopted by users to make decisions. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 Fig. The majority of the contributions reviewed in the literature [1–3] focus on a single aspect of the warehousing problem. replenishment is realised from the reserve. The DSS implements sets of heuristic methodologies to support data-oriented analyses and performance enhancement. The management and control of warehousing system (i. Specifically.5]. The proposed DSS develops a top-down methodology for the comprehensive design of a warehousing system that allows for the decision-maker to develop and compare different configurations and scenarios in a user-friendly computer environment. warehousing problems are non-polynomial (NP) problems and have a very large amount of real-world data to manage.e. automated. The remainder of this study describes the conceptual design and development of a decision-support system (DSS) for the strategic design and the management of operative activities in a warehousing system. The second addresses the warehouse operative activities.. involve interrelated areas and are challenging but can be addressed through a unique modelling formulation. the stock per each SKU. executes low-level picking from the easily accessible forward area. Lastly. which correspond to work stations.. and workers progressively assemble each order. replenishment and order picking. Pickers are assigned to zones. routing). 1). the types of racks. It implements multi-scenario simulation techniques to address real-world case studies. Framework for warehouse design and operation issues. The literature proposes a wide set of warehouse KPIs that include the throughput capacity (the material flow processed through the warehouse per time unit). and the cost per unit of material flow shipped by the warehouse. For an exhaustive description of the patterns that are depicted in the proposed framework. the steps before and after the warehousing system of Fig.e.. such as put-away. improving their effectiveness [6. industrial storage system) activities and processes range among various design alternatives and involve different expertise. the response time (the time within the order arrival and its shipment). user-friendly and timeless solutions for the warehousing issues are ambitious aims for computer-based applications.e.176 R. The batching comprises making a picker retrieve multiple orders in one trip. 1. a definition of zoning. Even though batching represents a very useful approach to reduce travelling. Overall. classifying the papers on the basis of the scope of analysis. and warehousing [8–10]. to highlight the interdependency among decisions and to identify useful guidelines about warehousing issues. batching.

often advising the efficient use of space. the ratio of the demand to the inventory for each SKU).. Solving warehouse design and management issues: a topdown procedure The proposed DSS implements a top-down procedure for the design and management of a forward-reserve OPS. Information on the picking processes is collected to compute a panel of metrics used for SKU classification. the cube-per-order index (COI). costs of travelling. The goal performance is the minimisation of the total travelled distance due to picking.. The proposed DSS implements different so-called allocation strategies by which to configure alternative scenarios of stock for every SKU. Other studies present tools for managing order picking systems (OPS) (i. which are referred to as warehouse management systems (WMS). 2. [11] and Svestka [12] develop interactive decision support systems that are aimed at the conceptual design of dedicated storage systems to store and retrieve pallet loads (i.. Section 2 presents a design-support methodology for warehousing systems and reports a more relevant definition of the main leverage of analysis. The decision-maker conducts a sequence of analyses. For this purpose. the ability of an item to close an order). a reduction in the 177 vehicle congestions. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 Rouwenhorst et al. an index-based assignment policy classifies the overall set of SKUs according to the effective criteria as the popularity (P) (i. and other outcomes. At this step.e. allocation and assignment problems. The DSS asks the behaviour of selected SKUs within the demand profile for a selected time horizon. designed from a green-field). the fast-pick area or the low-level locations). The proposed DSS is written in a high-level programming language (C#) that utilises a relational database that can gather.g.e.e. minimises the restocking to the forward area for pieces-picking (i. as proposed by Bartholdi and Hackman [17] and previously by Hackman and Rosenblatt [18]. labour. the SKU master file. which likely require specific racks or equipment. Section 3 illustrates the developed DSS functionalities through graphic user interfaces (GUIs) and the datamanagement section. The expected results of the proposed computer aided system can be exploited by disseminating knowledge among logistic providers. For a . The system also supports a pattern [17] to determine the sub-set of SKUs that maximise the net-benefit of the forward area. Thus. the pallet size or other container solutions). as suggested in the proposed DSS. 2.1...R.2. less-than-unit loads). Assignment The storage assignment strategies establish the appropriate locations to assign to the SKUs in accordance with different heuristics. the rack sizes and types. parking areas. The reduction in the distance means a reduction in the number of travelling material handling solutions (e. In the forward area (i. The DSS rationalises the whole storage space by devoting different zones for different SKUs in terms of the shape and size. the number of aisles. 1). Allocation The storage allocation strategies establish a fraction of the overall available storage space in the forward area to be devoted to the generic SKU according to specific criteria.. Accorsi et al. storage allocation. such as the shape factor. cartons-cases picking). 2. the feedback flow illustrated in Fig..g. Warehousing systems generally collect tens or hundreds of thousands of SKUs. while an equal time strategy (EQT) ensures the same number of restocks for each SKU given a selected time horizon. inventory master file) to determine the requirements for the OP operations and storage capacity [13.14].. by educating and improving industrial engineer expertise and by analysing real-world case studies.e. Currently. and storage assignment. storage equipment. store and manage datasets from a real-world warehousing instance.e.. The remainder of this study is organised as follows. An equal space (EQS) strategy devotes the same fraction of space to each SKU. This methodology organises procedures. industry invests in the development of integrated information solutions. and algorithms in an organic sequential decision to provide a wide set of solutions for storage layout. These commercial systems provide a real-time view of material handling. forklifts and guided vehicles) that are necessary to move materials.3. [16]. which support the analysis of operating data (e. Both of these strategies are renowned in industry and are suitable for every storage context (i. Section 5 discusses the conclusions and provides directions for further research. generating sets of alternative warehouse configurations to be assessed through a what-if multi-scenario simulation. with customer demands of millions of order lines per year. number of requests per each SKU). unit loads). adopting numerical simulations to assess results. models. the pick from the reserve) and the time for replenishment.. WMS solutions comprise management systems that have no functionalities that are related to decision-making on warehouse design and optimisation.e. The lack of systemic methodology on this topic highlights the need to provide a DSS that can gather data from real-world instances and implement sets of effective heuristics to rapidly support decision processes on warehousing design and management. and equipment [15]. statistics and performances. 2. given a certain time horizon. Specifically. while managing inbound-outbound processes. The proposed methodology is based on the historical inventory and customer demand (or the demand forecasts) that are assumed as input for a stock out risk evaluation analysis that is aimed to establish the required storage capacity of the warehousing system (i.e. maintenance. 2 allows for the user to rearrange his/her decisions to achieve efficiency in both the warehouse design and the operations. practitioners. and scheduling shipments. The aim of this study is to illustrate an innovative architecture of DSS for the analysis of warehousing systems while considering the layout features. and the characteristics of the unit load (i. The following sub-sections focus on the main decision steps. the order picking for the small parts). Layout The first decision involves the design of the warehouse layout. and managers. Lastly.e.e... order master file. the decision-maker matches the allocation results with layout features and eventually considers the opportunity to return to the top for re-layout planning.e. Section 4 gives a picture of the potential results and analyses that were conducted through the application of proposed DSSs to real-world industry instances. the order closing (OC) (i. the number of bays per aisle. considering both the time savings per pick (i. the turn-over (T) (i. the pick from the forward vs. The purpose of this step is to set the facility layout through the definition of a set of parameters (see Fig. the literature does not provide any contributions that can combine warehouse design and operations patterns into a unique analysis. quality checking.e. The optimal strategy (OPT). which represents 55% of the overall warehouse costs. The study of a warehouse layout is based on the assessment of the facility storage capacity.. labour. the choice of the stock level to devote to each SKU affects the replenishment activities as well as the picking processes because this choice influences the locations of the SKUs [16]. Nevertheless. as illustrated by Accorsi et al.

different side) and on the so-called aisle-visiting strategies (i.g. to be properly matched with a list of locations. percentile-based) [20–22]. turn-over.g. Regardless of the adoption of specific assignment policies (i. ranked by the increasing value of the single-command (SC) path (i. detailed description of such heuristics and methods for indexbased assignment policies. group average) and different similarity-cut thresholds of a dendrogram (i. Accorsi et al. DSS top-down decisional methodology. 2... The implemented correlated-based approach comprises the following three main steps: Correlation analysis. The computation of the SC depends on the location of the shipping and receiving docks (e. the distance to visit a location from/to a shipping/receiving dock). a recent literature contribution [16] is recommended. The level of correlation is generally measured by introducing a similarity index among the SKUs. This step computes the above-mentioned metrics (i.g. This step concerns the adoption of hierarchical clustering algorithms (e. the assignment step returns a list of SKUs (or a cluster of SKUs) that are sorted in accordance with the selected criteria.e. This procedure allows comparing general-purpose similarity indices..e....e. approximately twenty). the Jaccard index proposed by McAuley [19] and certain problem-oriented issues. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 Fig.e. Clustering. e.. Correlated-based assignment policies can be applied to group SKUs that are requested together and assign them to storage locations that are close to each other. distributed. the popularity of a cluster is given by the weighted sum of the popularity of the included SKUs) and to sort the clusters of SKUs accordingly.and bi-directional aisles). value-based. single linkage.e. as summarised in Accorsi et al.e.. Cluster Assignment. Another relevant aspect that can be considered through the proposed DSS is the correlation among the SKUs that are requested together by customers. configurations of . complete linkage. mono.g. index-based or correlated-based). order closing) for each cluster of SKUs (e...178 R. left/right corner. To fit the layout constraints multiple (i. to save on the travelling needed for the picking activities. [16]. popularity. same side.

The developed DBMS represents an interface between the data and the decision-maker. The GUI comprises distinct modules that are further detailed in the following sub-sections. This database architecture has various advantages. Graphical user interfaces (GUIs) GUIs enable the user to conduct analysis and to lead decisions through the DSS. reporting and graphic visualisation. In conclusion. The decision-maker plays opportunities to design a warehouse zone from ground-zero (i.g. Warehousing systems manage tens of thousands of SKUs that are picked from thousands of locations to fulfil thousands of demand lines per day (see.. 2. the user specifies the domain and dataset object of analysis. and other parameters are generally handled by practitioners in warehouse operations. Decision-process inputs with regard to operative features. Multi-scenario simulation The set of decisions that were previously addressed by the DSS (i. During any execution run. Database considerations The DSS utilises the aggregated historical data that is stored in the database as the foundation for the application of all of the heuristics. At the end of each simulation. singleorder picker-routing. order-batching. The database includes a set of tables (see Table 1) that allows for a comprehensive description of the system’s object of analysis through a typical snowflake structure. Furthermore. for example. the pick-rate. demand) to build a comprehensive stand-alone database in accordance with the entity-relationship (E-R) diagram illustrated in Fig.g. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 both aspects are implemented. One of the advantages of saving the results of each run is the opportunity to draw out effective guidelines for the design and management of complex warehousing systems. it allows for a wide set of dynamic views and queries to create a performance dashboard of the warehousing system. A what-if multi-scenario simulation of put-away. The SQL database architecture enables users to gather. Lastly. First. the very large amount of data that is to be 179 handled is critical.4.. methods. The client side comprises a user-friendly interface made by GUIs. assignment. This system involves the processing of a considerable amount of data (see Fig. . which differ in their layout configuration.  Run the DSS for a complete layout-allocation-assignment analysis of a generic warehouse zone (i. spare parts storage and management systems in the automotive industry). replenishment and order-picking and outbound (e. The application is organised around a main GUI that presents all of the principle features and commands to load data or projects and to save results. the SKU master file. The main window presents a toolbar to load or save a project.  Develop a what-if multi-scenario analysis for the warehousing KPIs. The preliminary step of analysis comprises filtering the available historical information (e. This section focuses on the information and data architecture as a basis of the proposed DSS.. models and heuristic algorithms and user-friendly graphical user interfaces (GUI) that enable interactive queries..e. and/ or storage assignment criteria. Statistics and results are summarised on the bottom of the control panel as a quick report window to inform the decision-maker about the computer processing.e. it enables users to track the inventory and to localise a generic SKU in both the forward and reserve storage areas.e. each SKU is assigned to the most convenient available location in accordance with a greedy heuristic approach. The proposed application is based on a stand-alone database. storage allocation. which is necessary to describe univocally the characteristics of the warehousing system. the obtained results and KPIs are depicted and stored into the appropriate tables of the database (see Table 1).24]. whilst outputs comprise operative KPIs that are usually tracked in the real world (e. A what-if experimental analysis based on a dynamic simulation can be conducted to compare the performance of the warehousing system under different configurations and operating conditions.  Import the existing layout (we call brown-field) to perform an allocation-assignment analysis. a what-if multiscenario simulation of operative performances (i.  Implement heuristics for storage allocation. and analyses.e.R. picking) activities is performed as a benchmark to assess the efficacy of each scenario and the effectiveness of the adopted allocation and assignment policies. 3. The tool enables the following main functionalities:  Design a new warehousing system (we call green-field). Multiple iterations of the DSS allow for generating multiple warehouse scenarios. DB21). graphical 3D views of warehousing scenarios are drawn automatically by an ad-hoc graphical user interface with AutoCAD1. to add a new zone to an existing warehouse (called here an ‘‘expansion scenario’’) or to import an existing storage zone for an allocation-assignment analysis (i.. in accordance with warehouse zoning). which is gatherable by users through dynamic queries. MySQL1. On the other hand. DSS functionality and design The DSS provides a useful and user-friendly tool for managers and decision-makers who have no background and expertise in programming and software development but who frequently face warehousing system design and operations issues. Accorsi et al..e.. In warehouse operations. travelling for put-away. Warehousing activities are usually tracked by enterprise WMSs. a green-field scenario). To enhance the picking performances. and a travelling salesman problem (TSP) heuristic (i.2. allocation and assignment) provides a specific configuration for a warehouse scenario. The DSS implements database management system (DBMS) architectures for data storage. For each project.e. costs...g.1. nearest neighbour) is developed as a routing tool. store and manage a very large amount of data quickly.  Draw a graphical 2D/3D warehouse in agreement with different designed scenarios. 3. time and cost. in accordance with warehouse zoning) as an aggregated system. replenishment and picking) enables the decision-maker to assess the best solution for the warehouse design and management by the minimisation of the total travelling distance. 3.. 4). a brown-field scenario). time/ travelling for picking). This system comprises a relational SQL architecture that is powered by AccessTM but is quickly replaceable by any other commercial DBMS (e.e.g. multiple warehousing scenarios can be developed.. inventory. whose description is not in the scope of this paper) based on a clustering approach is implemented as a batching tool.  Merge single-multiple warehouse zones (i. the layout design.. an orderbatching algorithm (i.e. Meaningful preliminary studies on the unified modelling language (UML) and E-R diagrams are crucial to designing an informative architecture with the tool and to aid in further code maintenance of the modifications [23. 3.

5. as illustrated in Fig. the decisionmaker sets the total warehousing holding capacity.R.FK1 INVENTORY PK ItemCode FK1 Period Description Category CartonLength CartonWidth CartonHeight CartonVolume CartonWeight ULCode WeightPerVolume CartonPerUL PiecesPerUL WHCode Period OrderCode ItemCode PkdQty PkdVolume PkdWeight PK. etc.FK1 PK ItemCode Period CartonStockFW CartonStockRS ULStockFW ULStockRS WH PK FK1 FK2 RACK WHCode PK WHType WHLength WHDepth Aisle Bay AisleWidth CrossingAisleWidth BMLength BMWidth BMHeight LayerPerBM ULPerBM ULPerBMLayer BMDepth RackLevel ColumnCode BeamCode CrossingCode LevelsFW ULCode Routing DockIn DockOut Code Period WHCode PeriodFrom PeriodTo Batch SimilarityIndex ClusteringAlg ThresholdPercentile ThresholdValue VehicleCode OrderList MBCode FK1 WHCode CoordinateX CoordinateY CoordinateZ MBLength MBWidth MBHeight FK1 LocCode MBCode ItemCode Carton ULCode ULLength ULWidth ULHeight ULWeight OUTPUT PK Code Period OrderCode Trip ItemCode PkdQty DistanceHz DistanceVt DistanceHzDockOut DistanceTotal Time DistanceRestock SCENARIO PK UL SIMULATION PK PK PK PK RackType Length Tollerance BaseX BaseY LOC MB VEHICLE PK VehicleCode Description VehicleType VehicleLength VehicleWidth VehicleHeight CurveRadius LoadWeight LoadUL LoadVolume SpeedHz SpeedVt AccelerationHz AccelerationVt LiftLimit WHCode RackCode SimCode WHCode InvMngStrategy StorageCapacity ShapeFactor AisleNum BayNum LocNum RackLevel PlantLength PlantDepth PlantHeight ULCode LayerPerMB ULPerLayer AisleWidth CrossingAisleWidth FWLevel AllocationStrategy AllocationFrom AllocationTo AssignmetIndex AssignmentFrom AssignmentTo SimilarityIndex POI1 POI2 POI3 POI4 POI5 ClusteringAlg ThresholdPercentile ThresholdValue ClusterSorting RoutingStrategy DockIn DockOut Fig. 3. The DSS even includes an AutoCAD1 application. the aisle width and number. This GUI reports the characteristics of the layout configuration. the unit load sizes.e. 3. the numbers and sizes of the aisles and bays. the ratio of the storage volume to the overall available volume). which . the storage saturation (i. the base module sizes. Layout GUI To begin the design of the warehousing system.2. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 180 SKU ORDERLIST PK PK PK. the DSS computes the three-dimensional coordinates of all of the locations and stores them into the database (see Fig. such as the total storage capacity. and the rack types. 3) for further simulation analysis.1. E-R diagram of the proposed DST.. the number of SKUs stored per each aisle or per each bay. the unit load location. Given a dataset on the historical demand or inventory. Accorsi et al. Once the warehouse is designed (or imported). the user must guarantee the overall level of the stock and properly organise the available space. The leverage handled through the proposed DSS for the configuration of the layout are the shape factor.

replenishment) and outbound (i. Thus. Weight or Volume Storage Area Code Storage Equipment Storage Size Type of Rack Rack Sizes and Properties Num.. by filtering the dataset through dynamic SQL queries. Specifically. filling product and related quantity Describes the type and characteristics of the commercial rack uploaded into the database. Data SKU ORDERLIST INVENTORY WH MB UL LOC RACK SCENARIO VEHICLE SIMULATION OUTPUT Contains data regarding the SKU’s properties and characteristics and generally accounts for ten thousand rows Contains the order history file of a horizon of analysis (e. a couple of years) and generally comprises millions of lines Includes the inventory file for every SKU for all of the storage areas. 7) selects the horizon of analysis. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 181 Warehouse Data Input SKU Master File Order History File Item Code Item Description Category Package Size Sales Price Item Turn Class Customer Code Customer Address Due Date Item Ordered Ordered Qty.g. Data required to develop a DSS for warehousing issues. The sizes and load tolerance are reported Summarises the setting of the layout leverage.e. On the left.e. three of which were previously described in Section 2.. 2 Includes the list of storage equipment (i. a panel of allocation strategies accordingly allocates to every SKU the storage volume. number of aisles and bays. the detailed list of parts is given as a rough estimation of the total investment. location sizes). Accorsi et al.. one is hereby proposed. Different time batches are selected to compute the fraction of the storage volume that is devoted to each SKU according to the historical demand and inventory data. 2011 to September 28th.g.2. the so-called EQT*. rack size.g. of Locations Size of Locations Fig. 2011). this application allows for analysts and logistics providers to import rack components (e.2.R. allocation and assignment policies and all of the parameters and choices selected by the decision-maker through the top-down analysis methodology. The calendar panel (on the left of Fig. Table 1 DSS database tables. two input command windows (‘‘Rack Level (n. and unit loads within the forward area (see the tables in the middle). number of levels. picking) activities . the DSS imports an existing warehouse system to be evaluated according to allocation-assignment analysis Includes the list of bays within the warehouse Contains the properties and characteristics of the holding units and pallets in which the items are stored Reports the list of locations with details on the bay.. cartons.e.e. As a result. beams. 3. the shape factor.. to assess the trend in the performances for a scenario) Summarises the statistics of the simulation in terms of the travelled distance and time for each line of inbound (i. The system evaluates the maximum load weight of the inventory and checks for the availability of appropriate rack components that are suitable in their sizes and characteristics. level. to compare their performances or to different time horizons adopted for the same scenario (i.. 4. vehicles) and the related properties in terms of the operative performances Reports the list of simulations that were conducted by the decision-maker. The results from each scenario by iteration are illustrated in Fig. adopts real-world rack libraries to make a bi-dimensional and three-dimensional picture of the warehousing system. put-away. 7 illustrates the GUI such as is proposed to the decisionmaker. aisle.)’’ and ‘‘Allocation Strategy’’) are presented to define the number of rack levels that are devoted to the forward area and to select the allocation strategies by which to adopt. 6a gives a picture of some threedimensional views of warehouses that result from the DSS application. Weight or Volume Inventory File Item Code Snapshot Date Stocks Qty per Item Storage Area Inbound Activity File Layout Features File Delivery Code Arrival Date Due Date Cross-docking Item Code Delivered Qty. Fig. Through such a table.2. Allocation GUI This GUI allows for the user to compare different allocation strategies that were attempted to allocate the appropriate storage volume to a generic SKU within the forward area for a typical forward-reserve picker-to-part OPS.. the user has the opportunity to configure a low-level or high-level picking system and assign the highest levels to the reserve storage area. For example. columns) that are taken from manufactures’ catalogues and configure a truthful and accurate warehouse layout. This module has an open architecture that eventually allows an easy implementation of other additional allocation strategies. Multiple simulations might refer to different scenarios. which allocates the appropriate storage space to each SKU considering the demand in terms of the retrieved volume and pick lines. Fig. The DSS encompasses four main allocation strategies. given a temporal batch (from August 31st. Multiple inventory snapshots report the stock trends Involves properties and features of the layout and storage areas (e.

g. according to the pattern that was briefly introduced in Section 2. More than twenty combinations for the sites of the shipping and receiving docks (e. corresponds to the maximum value of the curve depicted in Fig. The bird’s eye view is a frame shot of the SKU locations.. and order closing). The results of the assignment module are store into the database and are roughly illustrated as the bird’s eye view of the designed warehouse zone. where each SKU is differently coloured. and related data are stored into the database... are hereby saved and are further selected by the decision-maker to be merged into a unique system (see Fig. Both of the opportunities compute a ranked list of the SKUs (eventually computing clusters of SKUs). .2. the decision-maker can evaluate the net benefit of the forward area. This GUI enables us to configure articulated and complex warehouses that are made by different storage zones.182 R. 3. according to the procedure presented in Section 2. merging the warehouse made by one or multiple Fig. correlation-based functionality) through a clustering approach. to reach efficiency and reduce operating costs. The DSS also fills the rack with the SKUs in the designed layout in a three-dimensional view (see a sample in Fig. different categories of SKUs in terms of the shape. adopting different types of rack or storage equipment according to a zoning approach. Once the appropriate location in the forward area is assigned to a specific SKU. item code. middle. At this step. the number of cartons and unit loads in both the forward and reserve areas) is known.e. corner. this GUI matches the decisional steps with what-if simulation analysis. 6b).. Storage space is often a precious resource to be handled. volume. which is not considered as leverage of the analysis. 8a). 7. (a and b) Three-dimensional views of warehouses designed with the DSS. which maximises the net-benefit of the forward area.g. the same chosen for allocation analysis or different).. Considering the horizon of analysis (i.e. and number of cartons per item) are summarised. as commonly occurs in real-instance warehousing problems (exemplified in the literature by [25]).3.e. the location code. Furthermore. the AS-IS inventory per each SKU (i. and the storage details (e. 5. turn. bottom-up) that affect the singlecommand time to access a generic location are considered. By considering real commercial racks. separately and independently designed through previous GUIs. the user can skip the allocation module. 6.2. If an existing warehouse zone/system is imported and loaded. the index-based functionality). Layout GUI. to be properly matched with a list of locations..e. The sub-set of SKUs. weight or size of packaging are assigned to different zones. the reserve area is accordingly arranged by the adoption of greedy heuristics to reduce the distance between an item and its reserve. Simulation GUI In warehousing operations. leaping from the layout design module directly to the storage assignment problem. Accorsi et al. the decision-maker obtains a ready-to-print version of the designed warehouse that is useful for equipment and systems manufacturers and providers as well as warehouse operators who are responsible for put away and picking activities.3. the user classifies SKUs according to a set of proposed criteria or metrics (i. to assess the correlation among the SKUs (i. Thus. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 Fig. respond to specific criteria (see the previously cited popularity. 3.4. Assignment GUI This GUI leads the decision-maker towards the assignment issue by the definition of the appropriate location to assign to a generic SKU in the forward area. By setting the layout (i. Several configurations for the storage zones..2.e.

In particular. as a metric of the vehicles congestions. the forward area and reserves the travel path (in terms of distances) from the shipping and receiving docks and those from/to each other (see Fig. which holds four storage zones grouping homogeneous SKUs in size and shape of unit load and similar in weight. Each storage area presents a different type of racks.. including costs (i. . and requires proper storage management practices.g. etc. number of visited aisles. 4.R. for every location. 7. order picking) operations and provides a useful tool to assess system performances. Allocation module of the DSS. Case study In this section. The DSS calculates. weight. in terms of the travelled distance and time) within a specific horizon of analysis.g. number of replenishments per each SKU. The analysed system accounts twenty-four aisles arranged in a multi-zones warehouse.g. restocking) and outbound (e. storage zones). cantilever for door. The what-if simulation analysis involves inbound (e. bin shelving for air-filter.. travelled distance (horizontal and vertical) due to put away and replenishment. (a and b) Simulation GUI: pre-setting. Fig. This system is a regional distribution centre (RDC) that accounts approximately 8000 SKUs as spare parts. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 183 Fig. The high variability of SKUs in size. which is suitable to allocate a specific set of SKUs (e. 8b). this case study addresses a spare parts management system for an international brand of the automotive industry.). spatial pickdensity. the proposed DSS has been applied for the design and performance assessment of a real-world warehousing system. the decision-maker imports the location coordinates for each zone and arranges them according to the overall warehouse layout configuration.. putaway. Accorsi et al. The DSS reports a complete panel of statistics and KPIs to evaluate the efficacy and efficiency of the layout. allocation and assignment configuration. and shape is typical for automotive industry. A list of statistics includes the travelled distance (horizontal and vertical) and time due to pick-path. time waste due to stock-out. ranging from bonnets to screws. and other aspects.. A logistic firm operating worldwide provides the logistics services of transportation (inbound and outbound) and warehousing for an important automotive company to supply the demand of spare parts to hundreds of Italian dealers.e. 8.

184 R. OPT). if combined with different assignment strategies. Such a trend results for the observed warehouse in articulated inbound/ outbound operations. The simulation analysis does not involve layout leverage. accounts on average 37 lines. assignment strategies (i. A dashboard of KPIs involving put away. visiting strategy (i. traversal).e. The colours yellow. since the client had no budget for layout re-design or infrastructure refurbishing. The overall warehousing system is composed by the four storage areas. The complexity of the system bases on the disomogeneity of both the SKUs and the processes. The receiving and shipping activities are decoupled and limited respectively to the left and right of the dockside.. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 The observed low-level single-order picker-to-part and forward-reserve OPS represents a relevant sample to assess the effectiveness of the proposed tool. replenishment and order picking missions allows the decision-maker to address operative criticalities and propose strategies for both layout re-design and operations improvements. and the ‘‘traversal’’ visiting strategy is adopted either in real world than in the simulation. the picking process starts on the bottom left corner of the system and the ends on right bottom corner.e. which account about 970. the check of loads.e. 2).e.000 square metre wide..100 picking lines. thereby . the forward area) is 25. Table 2 illustrates the results of a simulation campaign conducted on the historical set of inbound/outbound annual operations. the warehouse scenarios are organised through the adoption of the following rules and parameters:     3 4 1 1 allocation strategies (i. EQT. and 25. allocation and assignment steps of analysis implemented into the DSS (see Fig. which are independently designed in accordance with the allocation and assignment policies. and blue refers respectively to the layout. OC). The presence of narrow aisles does not allow reverse back. first. in different values of total replenishments within the observed horizon of time. The DSS implements a what-if multi-scenario simulation to compare how different allocation and assignment strategies affect the performance of the inbound/outbound operations in the observed warehousing system. results in long timeeffective picking missions. pushing logistic providers to handle both homogeneous and heterogeneous flows. EQS.. These two control points represent respectively the parking of walkie-stackers and rollcontainers and the sorting/packing station for the orders to be shipped. and second. put-away and replenishment. routing heuristic strategy (i. the comparative analysis regards just with the reduction of travel distances. Different allocation strategies result. in influencing the location of the SKUs in the forward area. For sake of brevity. popularity. which include the truck unloading.e.500 replenishment missions. and the order picking. as an approximation of the operative time.. which is common to any proposed scenarios. The low-level storage area (i. Accorsi et al. red. Table 2 The results of a multi-scenario analysis.. In particular. Customer orders. The increasing complexity of modern supply chain shifts the role of warehousing systems in addressing demand variability. Although the receiving and shipping docks are distributed along the warehouse side. turn. nearest neighbour). COI. made by many order lines. since the pickers has to achieve in sequence products which are far located one from the others.

the DSS handles operative short-term decisions. and turnovers.729 Carton-picking-by-pallet High-level forward 3235 1 5500 6 37.e. and space) achieved by the combination of allocation and assignment strategies.the order profile. the set of SKUs. results in raising the complexity of the warehousing operations. . The reduction in demanded quantity joined by the customization of items. to hold products and sustain the customer service level. Table 3 reports the obtained results by the implementation of the DDS with three real case studies. a generic client). the purpose of the client and the related implemented analyses. In the following section.426 44.953 – – Carton-picking-by-pallet Forward-reserve 7386 4 25. the combination of an EQS strategy and popularity rule accomplishes reducing the total travelled distance primarily because of the picking activities. / Computers in Industry 65 (2014) 175–186 185 Table 3 Some tips from DSS implementations on real case studies. The illustration of the alternative warehouse scenario allows the decision-maker to recognise the influence of decisions on SKU allocations and assignments in both the forward and reserve storage areas. Furthermore. the goal performances in terms of time efficiency. thereby affecting the reorder quantity from the distribution nodes at previous stage of the supply chain. Replenishment.. which are highly dependent by a broad set of factors including the layout. the potential applications of the proposed DSS will be described with the focus on the enhancement opportunities in tackling real world instance and both strategic and operative warehousing decisions. forward-reverse low-level system vs. the routing policies for put away and picking missions.. Profile Case 1 Case 2 Case 3 Client business Product category Client role Grocery/catering Food/drinks Warehouse owner Automotive Spare parts 3PL Heavy machinery Spare parts Warehouse owner Complexity Picking approach Warehouse system # SKUs # Storage area Storage area (m2) Observed period (months) Picking (lines/period) Replenishment (lines/period) Put-away (lines/period) Carton-picking-by-pallet Forward-reserve 1667 3 9000 12 19. These profiles were selected as the basis for system validation since they were most representative for computational complexity and robustness of enterprise datasets. Third. order-batching).. The saving of replenishment missions occurred by EQT and OPT strategies. Second. P 16. Accorsi et al.. the selection of the retrieving strategy to adopt (i. Correlated & P 18.147 25. The proposed DSS supports the decision-maker in addressing warehouse operations. based on the assignment strategies of SKUs to locations. the set of SKUs. characterised by high-variability in items.e. the DSS offers to warehouse owners the opportunity to simulate the operative savings (i. the DSS supports the third part logistic (3PL) managers in facing daily concerns on the management of multiple-client storage systems.73% 4 Picking EQS. storage racks. to match vendors and consumers in global trade. high-level system). testing the effectiveness of models and heuristics on providing performing solutions and creating knowledge over the most critical and recurrent storage issues. COI 22. Based on the described functionalities. and the opportunity to set multiple storage areas dedicated to different classes of SKUs. First. Tactical decisions include also the analysis of the appropriate storage quantity to allocate to each SKU. space efficiency or both. it supports the decision-maker in handling long-term strategic decisions. Significant timesavings can be generated by a re-allocation and re-assignment of SKUs within the forward area of a multiple zones warehousing system. time.000 – – Allocation Assignment Allocation Assignment Allocation Assignment 6 Picking EQS. costs for racks and storage equipments) necessary to arrange a new storage area from green-field. the DSS allows researchers approaching different real case studies. warehousing systems are still necessary to address the demand variability and seasonality. involving the definition of the storage areas devoted to picking rather than bulk storage (i. are not enough to justify their implementation considering the overall costs. the storage equipment and infrastructure. tactical and strategic horizons of analysis. with suggestion for tactical and operational improvements and tips for scheduling labour among different areas.e. Specifically. Finally. Discussion Despite of the increasing trend of lean paradigm in production and distribution operations. 5. The implementation of this tool for real-world instance has different purposes.000 12 970. singleorder vs. the size and shape of each storage area.e.57% Purpose Results Simulated period (months) Simulated process Best Scenario Travelling savings (D%) affecting the total travelled distance for all inbound/outbound operations. The tool depicts a detailed dashboard of the operative performances of a generic storage area (i.. Indeed.11% 12 Picking.e. the definition of the best performing routing policy. based on the estimation of requirements of space and investments (i. the SKUs turnover. it addresses mid-term tactical decisions.R. EQS. providing improvements solutions and enhancement guidelines with operative. The three profiles differ for the industrial sector of application. This section gives a picture of the potential multi-leverage analyses conducted through the proposed DSS. Systemic analysis of the three profiles identifies major opportunities for improvement over the AS-IS scenario. which are called to achieve high performances and to make goods travelling fast throughout the distribution pipeline. costs. it provides various levels of assistance to different users. The what-if multi-scenario simulation analysis assesses the operative performances of each scenario. which results in changing approaches for the management of SKUs slotting.

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His current research interests include warehousing modelling and simulation and computer applications for manufacturing and logistics issues.T. 3. Design of order picking system. automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS). managers. This tool enables us to gather and store information from enterprise WMSs and to elaborate. A. Journal of Computers and Industrial Engineering 17 (1) (1989) 49–54. Macharis. Warehouse and distribution science. reliability modelling and maintenance. Beverly Hills. The proposed DSS comprises a user-friendly tool for supporting practitioners. Italy. Storey. R. Interactive and graphic implementations of the dedicated storage warehouse design model.