By Ken Sain
Chandler is welcoming another commercial heavyweight to the city after Ferguson, North America’s leading distributor of plumbing and HVAC supplies, opened a new distribution center on Queen Creek Road on November 15.
The facility is one of the ways the company, which has 37,000 suppliers, hopes to improve the supply chain slowdowns that have plagued businesses since the pandemic began.
The Chandler site is the second such distribution center the company has opened under this new strategy, following the original in the Denver area. Eventually, the company hopes to have more than 30 of these centers.
The Chandler Center adds 75 new jobs to the area and employs approximately 200 associates. The 365,000 square foot facility distributes residential, commercial and industrial plumbing, lighting and appliance products throughout Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas.
“We’re looking at 32 to 35 fulfillment centers,” said James Ogden, operations manager for the company’s southwest branch. “There’s a general rule, every city in the NFL should have an MDC.”
Chandler was the pick for the Phoenix market.
“During this process of finding land in the Phoenix Valley, we will call it, many sites have been visited, many things have been resolved, and I can tell you that we are very happy and excited to have ended up in Chandler. said Marty Young, the company’s southwest district manager. “It worked wonders for us.”
A market distribution center includes both a retail store for consumers and a giant warehouse for contractors. The goal is to have the part someone is looking for available for quick delivery.
Even at 385,000 square feet, the warehouse proved to be not big enough. That’s one of the problems with being one of the first built, company officials said. The next to open will be in the Houston area.
“We finally figured out in Houston how to do it right, because while this one works really well, it was undersized before we even moved in,” Ogden said. “So we overtook it before it was built.”
Both Young and Ogden said they plan to expand their new center. Ogden said they have 10 acres of land behind the current warehouse and hope to build an additional 240,000 square feet as quickly as they can be approved and built.
To improve efficiency, Ferguson relies on bots to track down everything customers need. The company dedicates a three-story area of the warehouse to a team of robots that weave their way around a honeycomb structure.
Each time a box is opened for a part, the unsold products are put into a crate. The computer knows and tracks the exact location of this crate. When another customer wants the same coin, the robot goes to where it is and gets it.
What if the crate they need is at the very bottom of this three-story structure?
“It’s a test they did,” Ogden said. “And something at the very bottom is needed for a customer standing at the counter, it takes about 12 and a half minutes to do.”
Ogden said that probably won’t happen often, as slower products will naturally bottom out over time.
“The robots operate day and night, saving on traditional warehouse costs and allowing us to fulfill orders quickly for faster same-day product availability,” said Michael Jacobs, vice president of the chain. Southwest Ferguson supply. “The system also reduces manual material handling.”
In addition to automation technology, the facilities have been built with state-of-the-art efficiency. Ferguson uses a special machine to make custom boxes based on the dimensions of each product to minimize packaging waste.
Each building is equipped with LED motion sensor lighting systems to save electricity.
There are 120 people employed in the warehouse area and another hundred in the offices. Prior to moving to the MDC model, Ferguson relied on regional hubs. The one that previously served the Phoenix area was located in Perris, Calif., and was based on a 1.3 million square foot facility.
Ogden said the main factor driving supply chain issues in their industry was not necessarily the short shutdowns caused by COVID-19. It was the shortage of semiconductor chips.
“The microchip thing killed us,” he said. “Home appliances have completely killed us. Lots of different things you do with electronically controlled pumps, lots of those things. It was really the microchips and that part is still bad. We are still struggling to get through this.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or a business to shop at the Ferguson store. It is set up as a home supply business. You’ll pay retail prices, but if you’re looking for a specific, hard-to-find part, this may be your best bet.
You may have to wait 12 and a half minutes to get it.
But Allison Finerfrock, Ferguson’s General Manager of the Southwest District, said, “Supplementing our workforce with new technology allows distribution centers like ours to process more orders in less time. We are excited to better serve the entrepreneur community with the products they need, when they need them. »