There are companies out there that believe smaller is better when it comes to DCs, but Wal-Mart isn't one of them. As Exhibit A, take the cavernous new Wal-Mart distribution center that opened six weeks ago in Bartlesville, Okla. The facility's sheer size, with nearly 21 full acres under one roof, had the small town's residents gaping when they were treated to a preopening tour in mid-April. And it's no wonder. The site includes a 474,910-square-foot dry storage warehouse covering the equivalent of 10.5 football fields, and a 395,256-square-foot perishables warehouse that could hold nine football fields.
The project is the third fully automated DC facility built by Wal-Mart and includes more "bells and whistles" than previous models, company officials say. Cranes that move at speeds of 9.2 feet per second will be used on the floor-to-ceiling storage racks, which were put together with 6.8 million pounds of steel.
Rollin Ford, executive vice president of logistics for the global retailer, assured those gathered for the tour that company founder Sam Walton would be pleased with the modern facility. "In the 1960s, Sam couldn't get enough materials and supplies for his stores, so he went to downtown Bentonville and rented a garage and stockpiled merchandise," Ford said. "That [was the] birth of what we now know as centralized distribution."
The opening of the center brings Wal-Mart's total work force in Oklahoma to about 30,000.