Warehouse Excellence



Just imagine yourself as a competitive athlete – sprinting the 100m in 10 seconds and jumping about 2,00m high. How would you assess your performance?

To evaluate your own performance, you have to know your abilities in every discipline and be able to classify them! That’s why you need to compare your own sprint-ability to that of other sprinters and classify your high jump skills according to the achievements of other high jumpers. Once you have identified your weaknesses, you can address them directly and become a better athlete.

Lessons from the athlete example can be easily applied to distribution centers as one asks questions like "How effective am I?", "In which areas is performance lacking?" and "How can I improve these areas to reach a higher performance level?"

The Distribution Center Reference Model was developed to support you in these questions.

It makes distribution centers and their respective  departments comparable in order to make a performance comparison.


To guarantee comparability, only identical tasks are observed within the Distribution Center Reference Model .

For example storing and picking whole pallets is one task in a distribution center. For this task, the content of the pallet is not important.
Distributions centers can be individually structured by 26 defined tasks within the modular system of the DCRM. One task is evaluated by comparing it with all identical tasks. Therefore, for every individual task, the most suitable benchmarking partner is selected out of all the distribution centers.


The Distribution Center Reference Model has a hierarchical structure with four levels.

At each level, the information offered is on a different aggregation level and meets the requirements of different user groups (top management, project manager, section manager, planning experts).



The Top Level gives an aggregated overview of  the distribution center.

Important information about the entire distribution center is given, including existing structures,   used resources and the performance level achieved by the distribution center as a whole.


The workflows on the Process Level resemble the flow of materials and include receiving, storage and picking, consolidation and packing, shipping and added value.

In addition, the process overhead displays the administrative work, which is not directly connected to the flow of materials. Findings at the Top Level are further detailed on the Process Level so the performance of every process can be evaluated. This evaluation becomes the basis for conducting a more detailed analysis on the Task Level.


Within the third level – the core of the Distribution Center Reference Model – all processes are  separated into tasks.

Due to their structure, the evaluation of the tasks is independent from the individual technical realization. Comparability is guaranteed on the Task Level. Therefore, tasks of different distribution centers can be compared.


The Technical Realization Level allows for each task to be compared with a "virtual benchmarking partner”, which is represented through an analytical model.

For each task, several analytical models exist. Each one represents one technical implementation. The models determine the typical key data, e.g. costs, space and time requirement. They represent idealized states and therefore a "theoretical Best Practice“. These models can also hint at performance differences. Finally, the models can be used to answer furtherquestions, such as: Was the right system chosen? Can the system handle future requirements? Is a separation or consolidation of areas expedient?


The tasks describe process specifications, which are essential for a defined result based on  external requirements.

For example "storing and picking of complete large loads” is one task within the process of storage and picking. Therefore, it is not important which goods are on the large load carrier and which technology is used for the realization of this task. For similar structures the comparability of two tasks is given.



The DCRM-Map is a transparent visualization of material and information flow.

Based on the ideas of value stream mapping (Rother & Shook) the DCRM-Map uses a standardized symbolism and a defined structure. The description of the structure depends on the application and allows for a first impression of the structure and the complexity of a distribution center. Above, two DCRM-Maps of two different distribution centers point out that complexity can be different even though throughput is the same. The DCRM-Map is the basis for data acquisition and analysis.