philbish - 5:11 am on Sep 24, 2010 (gmt 0)
You've got a good point g1smd. There's ways to make an automated workplace more stimulating though. Zappos is a great example (from reading Tony Hsieh's, Delivering Happiness).
Interesting thing about monkeys - we tried a bit of humor in the shipped confirmation email, "our warehouse monkeys have shipped your order". Eventually a customer from the south got very upset, saying it was a racial slur (porch monkey's I guess). So now we use, "our trained dolphins". I actually found a plush dolphin hat online, but it was only available in kid's sizes, otherwise there's a good chance our shippers may be wearing dolphin hats while shipping (just to get an awesome photo for each order).
Its going to be a while before we hit size / walking distance constraints. But great suggestions lammert, about the clustering, and conveyors. Robots that bring the shelves to the packing table seem to be the answer to this. Kiva won't really talk to you for less than a million-something dollars though. It wouldn't be too difficult or expensive to build my own Kiva-like system, for perhaps only $5k to $10k per robot. And then could still utilize the pick-to-light / put-to-light system with movable shelves.