The opening of the third building at Wegmans Food Markets’ Retail Service Center in Pottsville, Pa., completes a distribution hub that helps the company bring a full range of products to stores, fresher and more quickly than ever before. It also reduces transportation costs, so the company can continue offering customers consistent low prices. Wegmans’ investment in the newest warehouse totals $70 million.
The new warehouse, the third and largest on the Pottsville site, is for fresh and frozen foods. Wegmans is adding more than 200 new employees to staff it, bringing the total number of employees at the Pottsville facility to 529. Wegmans also operates 15 stores in Pennsylvania, including one that just opened in King of Prussia. In total, Wegmans now has more than 8,000 employees in the Commonwealth.
“This is a big day,” said David DeMascole, general manager at the Retail Service Center. “How products get to the store is admittedly something most people don’t think much about, but it has everything to do with giving customers the freshest food at the best price. It also allows our stores to restock quickly so customers can count on finding what they want when they want it.”
Over the last decade, Wegmans has opened 25 new stores, most of them in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. The company has gradually outgrown its distribution facilities near corporate headquarters in Rochester, N.Y.
“We were operating well beyond our capacity,” DeMascole said. “We needed additional infrastructure to support the company growth.”
Wegmans also will continue operating all of its Rochester distribution facilities to service the ever-growing needs of the stores.
When the company looked at increasing warehouse space, the advantages of having a second distribution point hundreds of miles closer to many stores were clear. Shorter hauls would keep the food fresher and consume less fuel—an environmental plus. In addition, the cost savings of fewer hours on the road by drivers and less wear and tear on the truck fleet could be passed along in the form of keeping prices low for customers.
A couple of highlights of the new facility include:
• At 492,000 s.f., it’s about the size of four football fields or four Wegmans stores. It has five temperature zones to keep refrigerated and frozen foods in peak condition. It handles meat, cheese, deli items, dairy and a range of frozen items, including meat, ice, bakery, seafood, ice cream and prepared food items; and
• It has 103 loading docks for shipping and receiving. Thousands of different food items pass through the warehouse on the way to stores, many arriving and leaving the same day. A case of Wegmans Greek Yogurt may be delivered by the supplier in the morning and be loaded on a truck heading for a store just an hour or two later;
The new refrigerated and frozen building operates along with two other warehouse facilities previously opened on the Pottsville site to stock a full range of products for Wegmans stores. A full-service produce distribution center opened in 2004, while another warehouse on the same site opened in 2005, handling grocery items. All three facilities are networked with Wegmans’ Rochester facilities, improving the company’s ability to keep products in stock in all stores, especially when events like storms or floods threaten to disrupt normal operations.
The three Pottsville facilities also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by powering up to 150 pieces of equipment such as pallet jacks and reach trucks with hydrogen fuel cells. In 2009, Wegmans received a $1 million grant from the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority to offset a portion of the costs of installing an on-site hydrogen infrastructure, which includes an outdoor hydrogen storage tank and indoor fueling dispensers.
“We’re very pleased that this expansion brings our employees opportunities for career growth, adds jobs to Pennsylvania’s economy, helps support the growth of the entire company and offers some environmental pluses, too,” said DeMascole.
In the featured photo at top: Wegmans has opened its newest warehouse at Wegmans Retail Service Center at Highridge Industrial Park in Pottsville, Pa. The new $70 million facility will handle fresh and frozen products and add more than 200 new employees. (Photo courtesy of Andy Matsko/republicanherald.com)