Warehouse and Distribution Science, by John J. Barthold III and Steven T. Hackman of Georgia Tech, is a comprehensive online textbook (295 pages) supported by a website (www.warehouse-science.com). The textbook can be downloaded as a PDF file.
The book takes a scientific approach to warehousing and distribution practice, based on mathematical and computer models. Methodology is used to optimize warehouse operations. Chapters cover warehouse layouts, order-picking, warehouse automation, special topics (i.e., cross-docking), measuring warehouse performance, and a look at how warehouses operate around the world. Appendices provide mathematical examples with implications for warehousing and inventory policies (economic order quantity and safety stock). Chapters include discussion questions. Instructors can contact the authors to request an instructor's version of the text.
The goal is for the student to develop an in-depth understanding of warehousing and distribution as a science; utilizing mathematical and computer models to optimize warehouse operations.
Target Student Population:
Advanced undergraduate or graduate students, and professionals.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Strong math skills would be helpful, as would an introductory logistics or distribution course.
Type of Material:
This book would work best in an upper level undergraduate or graduate logistics class, or as supplemental material.
In addition to an Internet browser (e.g., Explorer or Firefox), users will need Adobe Reader.
Evaluation and Observation
Content quality is outstanding. The chapters provide in-depth discussions of material, along with excellent examples. The book includes 7 areas of focus plus appendices: 1. Issues, equipment and processes; 2. Layout; 3. Order picking; 4. Automation; 5. Special Topics (which focuses on cross-docking); 6. Measuring Warehouse Performance; 7. Miscellaneous (which focuses on how warehousing issues differ around the world).
I focused my review on two chapters: Chapter 1, Warehouse Rationale, and Chapter 2, Material Flow. Chapter 1 describes the uses of a warehouse in the modern supply chain and describes how warehouses allow a business to respond quickly to changes in demand. Realistic examples are provided. Figures are embedded in the chapter to aid in understanding. Key points made include that warehouses exist to better match supply with customer demand and to consolidate product to reduce transportation costs and provide customer service. Types of warehouses are discussed, included: 1. retail distribution centers; 2. service parts distribution; 3. catalog fulfillment or e-commerce distribution centers; 3. 3PL warehouses; and 5. perishables warehouses. Real world examples are provided. Descriptions are thorough and easy to understand.
Chapter 2, Material Flow, focuses on the need to keep product moving and the desire to avoid layouts that impede smooth flow and remove bottlenecks. Stock keeping units (SKU) are introduced as the smallest physical unit of a produce; cases and pallets are also discussed. Space and time (labor or person-hours) are identified as the two fundamental resources of warehouses. Mathematical theorems are offered for optimizing warehouse space. The chapter ends with a series of 12 discussion questions. An example of one of the discussion questions: "Suppose a dairy distributor experiencing approximately constant demand for each SKU ships an average of 200 pallets per day. If there are approximately 1000 occupied pallet positions, how long must the shelf life of its product be to avoid spoilage?" (p. 21).
The only concern is that this book may be a difficult read for some undergraduate students.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
For the right audience, this book has the potential to be very effective. The book is written in clear, concise language, with ample examples provided. Numerous discussion questions allow instructors and students to work through problems in class and as homework, thereby increasing student understanding. The accompanying website includes supplementary materials, including software computational tools for warehouse design and analysis (e.g., tools to optimally slot pallets, cartons, or pieces into forward pick areas), photo and video tours of warehouses, links to logistics in the news, and resources keyed to chapters, including exercises and simulations. Additionally, there are helpful links for specific sections and/or terms.
The authors might consider doing more to make the website more interactive and attractive for students. The current site is very basic and the user has to dig around a bit to find links.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The book is very easy to download and use. Within the PDF file, clicking on a word in the Table of Contents or List of Figures and Tables will take you to that point in the chapter. The same is true of the comprehensive index located at the end of the book. The most updated copy of the book is always available on the website. The texbook is easy to navigate.
The website could be re-organized/arranged to be more user-friendly.
Other Issues and Comments:
If someone is looking for a book on this very specific topic of warehouse and distribution science, this book is an excellent resource.