What started out as a proposal in an academic paper on innovative warehouse layouts is getting its first live test in a Wisconsin distribution center.
The new layout is based on designs developed by a pair of industrial engineering professors, Kevin Gue of Auburn (Ala.) University and Russell Meller of the University of Arkansas. Gue and Meller proposed two new designs, dubbed the "gull wing aisle" and the "fishbone aisle." Both feature cross aisles that cut diagonally into the picking space, a departure from traditional parallel picking rows with cross rows at right angles.
Now, Generac Power Systems has implemented a modified version of the fishbone aisle in a new DC in Whitewater, Wis. In a statement released by Auburn University, Generac Logistics Manager Brian Randleman said, "We had a cleanslate opportunity for our warehouse in Whitewater. I contacted our director of operations, and he was positive on the idea. His team ran some numbers to prove the benefit, and three months later we had drawings in our hands."
Gue and Meller, who first developed the designs in 2006 and discussed them during a Warehousing Education and Research Council Webcast in January 2007, have been working with potential adopters since then. "For most managers in the logistics industry, implementing this kind of design is a little scary," said Gue in the Auburn release. "Everyone wants someone else to be the first adopter."
Generac, which manufactures dieseland gas-engine generators and related equipment, stores finished goods in the DC before they are shipped to customers. Randleman said the decision to implement diagonal aisles was part of a broader logistics strategy. According to the press release, the design has improved material flow and reduced travel distances while making it easier for lift-truck drivers to turn.