Nine Questions Businesses Should Ask When Planning A New Distribution Center

A house will stand the test of time if it is built on a solid foundation. But if the foundation is done poorly or support beams aren’t placed strategically, the house will eventually fall. As soon as a storm hits, it will crumble, along with the deep investment its owners put into it.

Don’t let that be the fate of your new distribution center (DC).

New distribution centers best support long-term needs when they are designed against a solid foundation of planning assumptions and requirements. It’s true that building a solid foundation requires an investment of time and money, but it’s critical. Without it, the rest of your plan is at risk of failing quickly and without notice.

To future-proof your supply chain strategy and protect the investment you’re pouring into your new distribution center, take time to consider a wide range of questions. Answering the nine questions below will help you form the foundation upon which you can build an efficient, cost-cutting, productive operation:

  1. What are your company’s investment criteria, capital limitations, and payback requirements for this new facility?
  2. What is the timeline for starting up the new operation? Does this dictate a simplified design or a two-phased startup approach?
  3. What are the service requirements for the operation in terms of turn time for customer orders? Do these requirements meet your company’s competitive strategy for the future?
  4. What is the inventory profile for the product mix being handled? Is this highly seasonal? Is there a distinct A/B/C mix of products that allows for differences in how products are being stored?
  5. What is the shipping profile for the range of customer orders? Is there a distinct A/B/C mix of orders that allows for differences in how these are being assembled?
  6. What are the seasonality requirements for your operation, and how much can the operating week timeline be pushed during peak season to deal with the demands on the operation?
  7. What is your company’s appetite for automation as a means for simplifying your operation, improving accuracy, and reducing your dependence on labor availability in the local market?
  8. Does the systems architecture for the new facility provide for forward-looking improvements in customer service and inventory accuracy?
  9. How much growth capacity should be provided for? Can the new facility be developed to allow for an initial size and a future expansion?

Today’s market is dynamic and competitive; it’s constantly shifting and changing. To stay relevant, it’s imperative to analyze these key questions as part of your distribution center planning process to avoid any potential pitfalls.

Remember, the biggest risk of not exploring these questions is that tomorrow’s new facility might only serve yesterday’s customers.

Whether you’re planning to build a new distribution facility or update an existing one, these questions can help you fuse innovative conceptual thinking, data-driven process improvement techniques, and digital solutions. This powerful combination can help you determine the best design to support your needs, transform your operations, and make lasting change happen for your business.