This is a collection of material to supplement our text Warehouse & Distribution Science. You may use for any educational purpose as long as you clearly acknowledge use of our material, as in standard academic practice.

Toys R Us

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This Toys R Us distribution center is one of about 16 in North America. They receive toys, mostly from China, and distribute to 63 stores in the southeastern US. Toys R Us stores are of the "big box" type, like WalMart.

The toy business suffers a severely-peaked selling season. This is reflected in the warehouse, where inventory accumulates January through October, after which net product flows are increasingly directed out.

Inside the DC

This facility is just under 1,000,000 square feet. (The local taxes would be higher if the floor area exceeded this threshhold.) The DC uses only 50 of its 93 receiving doors (the others are reserved for future growth), 56 shipping doors, and 16 rail docks.

Toys R Us carries about 7,200 different skus. Toys tend to be large, one toy to a carton, and so this facility is designed to store mostly pallets and to pick mostly cartons. The DC has over 300,000 pallet locations, 7-high in bulk storage. Vehicles are required to efficiently move product across the great extent of the warehouse, both up and across, and there are several types in use, including reach trucks, forklifts, and double- and triple-runners (forklifts holding multiple pallets). The trucks are used primarily to manage in-bound product, which is stored as pallets; but conveyor is the main means of transporting outbound product, which is mostly picked as cartons.

During peak season, everything becomes much more intense. The number of trucks arriving with new product increases from 30 per day to 130 per day; the number of workers increases from 150 to 500; the conveyor load increases from 2,500 cartons per hour to 9,000 per hour; and the DC increases the frequency of shipments to each store from 2 per week to 40 per week.

Miscellaneous observations

The distribution center is almost 1M square feet (10^5 m^2)
Bulk storage in narrow-aisle pallet rack, seven levels high. Notice that there is little lighting here because not much picking.
Shipments from China tend to arrive as loose cartons, which must be palletized before storing.
Non-conveyable product is stored closest to shipping, to reduce forklift travel.
A quick decision aid: There are two heights of pallet openings, marked on this support in white and in blue. As the pallet passes, it is clear to which size opening it should be assigned.
A damaged pallet resting on a good one. This costs labor in extra handling and possible costs space, if the higher pallet must go into a larger opening.
Receiving on the lower right, carton fast-pick area on upper right; pallet rack on left.
Lifting a newly-arrived pallet up to the carton fast-pick area.
Receiving down below; a fast-pick area for cases up above. A forklift can simply lift pallets into the back of 4-deep pallet flow rack.
The fastest-moving cartons are picked to "belt" (the conveyor on the left).
Carton-pick modules to left, bulk storage to right
Narrow-aisle, high-rise lift truck. These are expensive, heavy, and slow.
Front view of the lift truck. Note guide wire embedded in the floor.
A high-rise lift truck on the right, and a lower-rise truck on the left.
A "3-runner" may be used to move multiple pallets quickly; but it cannot lift them.
Pallets that have been put on the floor for storage by the narrow-aisle truck
Customer orders arrive as printed labels in location sequence.
There is a small amount of piece-picking from cartons.
Slow-moving cartons are picked from pallet rack.
Five stacked carton-pick modules on the left. The are well-lighted to support order-picking. Bulk storage is on the right.
Another view of the carton-pick modules
Start of the ground-floor carton-pick module. Seasonal items are brought out as needed to the head of the conveyor.
Carton flow rack on left; pallet flow rack on right
The backside of 2-deep pallet flow rack
Each pick module must provide a way for empty pallets to flow out.
Picked cartons travel up to reach the conveyors overhead.
Product flows upward toward the cross-warehouse conveyor system.
Congestion on the conveyor as product flows out of 5 stacked pick modules
Many lanes of conveyor carrying cartons toward shipping. Note the scanners in the foreground.
Cartons from many sources, moving toward shipping