Does Design Increase Productivity?: The Fishbone Aisle

Productivity can make or break a warehouse. It determines staff budgets, the amount of product that can be stored or moved, and how much new business your warehouse can take on.

So, the never ending question becomes, how can a warehouse increase its productivity?

One theory many companies are testing is the layout of their warehouse space, as they try to determine if the design of a warehouse space truly increases productivity.

Enter: the fishbone aisle.

Innovation through Design

The fishbone aisle layout design is based on an academic paper by industrial engineering professors, Kevin Gue (Auburn University) and Russell Meller (University of Arkansas). The design features cross aisles (shaped like a ‘V’) that cut diagonally into the warehouse aisle set-up, and reducing the number of right angles of a traditional shelving set-up.


This type of design is meant to make it easier for product pickers to travel longer distances in a quicker, more efficient way. Additionally, the aisle design makes it easier for forklift drivers to turn.

Initial computer-based testing of this layout design cut picking costs anywhere from 11.2 to 23.5 percent when compared to traditional warehouse designs with no cross aisles.

Innovation through Testing

The first warehouse to test the fishbone aisle design was a Generac Power Systems distribution center located in Wisconsin.

As a distribution center, the warehouse stores finished goods prior to shipping them to customers. According to a press release the company sent out after implementing the fishbone aisle system, they had quickly seen improved material flow and productivity as part of their broader strategy.

The Future of Warehouse Innovation

While the fishbone aisle layout design was introduced back in 2006 and the first adoption of the method happened in 2007, the future of warehouse innovation is always changing.

While it’s always scary to be the first warehouse to try something new, changing something as simple as your warehouse set-up can dramatically increase your team’s productivity and increase your bottom line. So, always be on the lookout for changes you can make to your warehouse.

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