A distribution center for recorded music. Most activity is piece-picking from cartons in both shelving and flow rack. Did you know that the busiest season is two weeks after Christmas? (First you get a CD player for Christmas, then you shop for the music.) Of course this is all history now, as information supply chains are displaced by distribution over the internet.
A distribution center for children’s toys. There are many skus and they go to relatively few destinations. Most activity is picking cartons from pallets; and this DC uses a fair amount of automation. Business is highly seasonal.
A service parts DC supporting ITE trucks. They have many, many skus, from engines to nuts and bolts. Most skus are ordered infrequently; but most orders are urgent because there is a truck — equipment of high capital cost — idled someplace.
A warehouse, managed by a third party, for the distribution of cosmetics. Orders are received until late in the day, picked mostly from carton flow rack, and shipped the same day, for next day delivery.
Another warehouse distributing cosmetics and personal care items. In this case, orders are known in advance and each customer receives one scheduled shipment each week.
The national and only distribution center of a US retail chain selling eyeglasses. They deliver via Fedex to (almost) anywhere in the US within 24 hours of receipt of order. Most activity is piece-picking small orders. The demand for lenses is easy to predict but eyeglass frames are a fashion item.
This warehouse distributes beverages such as soda, juice, water, tea, and so on. There are relatively few skus but they go to many destinations. Most activity is picking cartons from pallets, but without automation.
This facility has an unusually high level of automation for North America. (Addendum: Webvan finally went out of business. It was never able to justify the extensive automation.)
A distribution center for dairy products in San Jose, Costa Rica. It runs three independent operations: One to distribute foods in each temperature range: frozen, refrigerated, and ambient. Labor is relatively inexpensive but the building and rack is expensive because it must be built to withstand the earthquakes to which the region is prone.
A distributor of frozen and chilled foods. The design is determined by the requirement that this warehouse space must be refrigerated and consequently is very expensive.
A freight terminal typical of sortation hubs in the LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) industry. The challenge is to move diverse freight quickly from arriving trailer to departing trailer.
A distribution center for medical supplies, which illustrates many of the challenges of humanitarian logistics, including shortage of resources and the impossibility of planning ahead in any detail.
In addition, here is a collection of videos. They have less detail but give a greater sense of the dynamics of a warehouse and the flow of material. (The appearance of a company video here in is not an endorsement of their products.)