Bucket brigades at Wawa Convenience Stores

Chris del Percio, Manager of Warehouses, supports over 500 Wawa Convenience Stores out of his facilities in Wawa, PA. He reports success in picking full cases to pallet jack in a union shop. During the first week the order-pickers averaged 25% improvement in pick rates and hit 52% improvement by the first Friday.

Chris and his team implemented this entirely on their own.

All picking is from pallets stored on the floor. Originally each of the 4-6 workers walked through all the aisles, picked cases, and built a pallet for a customer. Switching to bucket brigades allowed Wawa to use narrow aisles without congestion because there is no passing under bucket brigades. Narrow aisles also freed up space for two additional aisles.

Figure 1: Layout of the fast-pick area. The bucket brigade follows the red arrow, down aisle #1 and back up aisle #3. Aisle #2 is for restocking (black arrows).

Because bucket brigades forbid passing, narrow aisles can be used

Figure 2: The bucket brigade starts here in aisle #1, proceeds down into the picture, and then returns back up aisle #3 to shipping. The empty pallet jack is waiting for worker 1 to start a new order. Empty pallets are stacked nearby.

Aisle 1, the start of the bucket brigade

Figure 3: Aisles #1 and 3 are restocked from aisle #2 to avoid interfering with the bucket brigades. The restocker pushes pallets from the back to restock the two picking aisles.
Aisle 2, the restocking aisle

Chris reports that there was some initial resistance to handing off partially completed pallets because each worker tended to have his own style of pallet-building.

To avoid losing time due to occasional blocking, a worker may abandon a pallet-in-process and go back to get another, but if more than one or two pallets are sitting, this is a sign that something is wrong.