Tips on Distribution and Fulfillment

Buzz Van Santvoord, a consultant with multichannel operations and consulting firm F. Curtis Barry & Co., wants to help any company that runs a warehouse or distribution center. Here are Van Santvoord’s tips on distribution and fulfillment.


Regarding outbound workflow, Van Santvoord says the ultimate goal of any distribution center is to “get orders on trucks and on their way to customers. Good managers position themselves so they always have a view of their shipping department. When packages stop flowing through shipping, there is a problem.”

Van Santvoord suggests walking ‘upstream’ until the bottleneck is found. “It could be equipment related or staff related. Is the conveyor system down? Maybe the picker to packer ratio is out of balance, and packers are buried with congestion, and productivity is dropping.”

Out of space?

Consider installing pallet racks over dock doors to pick up dozens more skid locations, Van Santvoord says. Fill those slots with product or packing materials which only need to be accessed infrequently so as not to interfere with busy dock activities.

“We see that as much as 50% of pick-pack operations are still done with paper,” Van Santvoord says. “If your business operates that way, spend an hour observing what the picking department does with the pick tickets after they are printed. You may be surprised at how much more “sorting” of pick tickets is done manually. This is one of the reasons we use computers to help us with fulfillment. Your system should present the work to the floor the way you want it to and require no additional sorting.”

If you want to know more, Van Santvoord will be speaking on this topic at the Operations Summit in Memphis May 2-3. For more information, go to

Jim Tierney ( is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.

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