Five Ways Convenience Store Distributors Can Improve Their Distribution Center Efficiency


The COVID-19 pandemic has placed strains on many food and beverage distribution centers, with many of them having to contend with much higher than usual order volumes, at a time when their labor pool has likely become less reliable.

Below are five suggestions for convenience store distributors who are struggling to get product out the door while minimizing reliance on manual labor:

  1. Upgrade your warehouse management software (WMS): Many warehouses utilize outdated versions of their WMS system, which may not be well suited for the realities of fast- paced distribution. These companies have to contend with more complexities than other industries, namely FIFO rotation, lot control, expiry date management, and tracking inventory across multiple temperature zones. Modern WMS systems are able to work with all of these complex product attributes and plan the workflow of the operation in an organized and efficient way each day. If your WMS struggles to perform these basic tasks, it might be time to consider an upgrade.
  2. Labor management software (LMS): For distribution centers that have not invested in complex automation (like conveyor systems), picking orders is still largely a manual process involving workers and vehicles. Sometimes the best way to improve labor productivity in these operations is by developing engineered labor standards and holding workers accountable for working at a particular pace.
  3. Slotting: Especially when seasonality changes sales velocity profiles, it is important to keep fast-moving items close to the packing and shipping areas and keep slower moving items for off-season items out of the Developing an efficient process and technology to maintain slotting is critical.
  4. Cluster picking: the ability to pick multiple orders at the same time in a single trip through the distribution center can be a key labor saver in the For smaller orders this may involve using multi-shelf picking carts and picking several orders at once. For larger palletized orders, many companies have been able to use double length electric pallet jacks to pick two orders in a single trip through the warehouse.
  5. Storage medium optimization: Using the right mix of pallet racks, shelving, carton flowe, in an operation can make the difference between well utilized and poorly utilized space. When items can be stored closely together in a forward pick area, then not only space but pick labor is also optimized.

These five suggestions should be part of an overall holistic strategy for distribution center improvements. For more information email us at

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Ian Hobkirk


20 Park Plaza, Ste 400

Boston, MA 02116