Take one step inside CDW’s state-of-the-art Western Distribution Center in North Las Vegas, NV, and you are transported into the future of product distribution. The future, however, is here today and CDW’s efficiency and fulfillment accuracy have helped the company achieve one of the highest customer satisfaction rankings in the industry.
At more than 513,000 square feet, the North Las Vegas facility is the second and largest Distribution Center operated by CDW and primarily serves customers throughout the western United States. The Midwest and Eastern regions are served by CDW’s 450,000 square-foot distribution center in Vernon Hills, Illinois.
At the opening of their western facility in 2006, John A. Edwardson, CDW chairman and chief executive officer, said, “Our ability to ship quickly to our customers from the largest in-stock inventory in the industry has long been one of CDW’s key competitive advantages. This new Western Distribution Center expands that advantage and helps position us for continued growth. The efficiency and productivity gains from this facility will enable CDW to meet our future needs and respond with even greater urgency to our customers’ IT requirements.”
Wildeck, Inc. — manufacturer of mezzanines, VRCs (Vertical Reciprocating Conveyors) and Safety Guarding Products — was one of the primary suppliers of advanced material handling products and systems for both of CDW’s distribution centers. The Western Distribution Center is highly automated utilizing multi-level Wildeck® mezzanines and more than seven miles of roller conveyor belts to move product accurately and quickly to customers who don’t expect their shipment to be delayed.
According to Martin Drapacz, CDW’s Western Operations Manager, “When the decision was made to build the facility in North Las Vegas, the development team wanted to design one of the most modern and efficient distribution centers with a floor plan and equipment placement that best utilized the available space. Our ultimate goal is to assemble and distribute more product than ever before. To achieve that, we knew we had to select and work closely with experienced suppliers who could deliver their equipment on time and it had to be right when installed.”
To accomplish this, Drapacz consulted with Ken Mater, President of Matco Distributors in Milwaukee, WI, who had worked with CDW on other successful projects and supplied both mezzanines and safety guard rail manufactured by Wildeck, Inc.
“We started with a basic rectangular building design,” said Drapacz, “broke ground in the Spring of 2005 and, I am pleased to say, we were operational on December 12 (2005) — less than ten months in construction!”
The well-organized “flow-through design” of the North Las Vegas Distribution Center provides for seamless traffic flow and maximum efficiency. Products are brought in on the North side and packages ship out on the South. The facility’s layout enables some 60,000 outbound cases of IT products to be processed and shipped daily and there is still room to expand to meet increasing market demand.
“We worked closely with Martin and his team,” explained Ken Mater of Matco, “to provide two custom designed multi-level Wildeck® mezzanines that span 178,000 square feet of the building. They help route the miles of conveyors that move a wide range of products from picking to packing stations. Wildeck also supplied a network of code-compliant switchback stairs that were placed wherever CDW personnel needed easy access to mezzanine levels.”
To keep the facility operating safely and smoothly, the conveyors and other critical systems throughout CDW’s eleven acres of interior floor space are protected by seemingly endless rows of bright yellow Wilgard® guard rail, rack protectors, and other Wildeck® safety products. Some 900 linear feet of 44-inch high double rail lines the facility to the point where when standing at one end, the far side of the guard rail becomes a tiny speck on the horizon.
“The biggest problem in distribution centers is the smash effect,” says Drapacz. “When items of different size and shape come together on conveyors, things can go wrong. This facility is designed to avoid that and to efficiently utilize our space. We could not predict the future, but we designed the entire operation with our vision for the future in mind. We had to carefully think it through and do what was necessary to meet our product flow requirements and on-time shipping standards.”
The North Las Vegas Distribution Center was clearly designed to achieve just that. Specifically, two types of products are processed:
1. Ready-Ship items including computers, laptops, printers, and monitors that are “picked” from inventory, scanned, labeled, and conveyed to a “Ready-Ship” processing area for immediate shipment to customers.
2. Custom-configured computer or network “System Products” that are assembled by a CDW technician in a 25,000 square-foot product configuration center according to customers’ specifications, then re-boxed and automatically conveyed to the final packing and shipping area.
On “Ready-Ship” products, CDW achieves over 98% turnaround within one day of order placement. On custom-configured “Systems Products”, CDW achieves an impressive 1- to 2-day turnaround time.
Besides operational efficiency, culture and ownership by all employees are an integral part of CDW’s success. A key goal is to avoid the dull “warehouse” stigma. Everything is clearly marked and the facility is spotless and shines under bright overhead lighting.
According to Drapacz, “Our employees are stakeholders and every person has a part in treating our workplace as if it is their home. Taking pride in the workplace is an important part of our culture. It translates into a safe and secure environment and everyone understands that getting the right products to our customers is why we are here. To avoid mistakes, we check every package twice, and pack it once.”
With sophisticated equipment and approximately 250 employees working in three departments, five days a week safety is also a top priority. “That is why you see all the Wilgard® Guard Rail in place throughout the center,” states Drapacz. “Everything is designed to work better, smarter and faster, and the guard rail is in place to protect our facility, inventory and most importantly, our people. You may notice a few scratches and dings on the rails and posts, and that’s good. It’s doing its job.”
As for the future, CDW is continuing on their vision for North Las Vegas to set the industry standard for IT product distribution. They will continue to maximize the real-estate they have and become even more efficient. They do not have extra land for expansion, however, when they built the North Las Vegas facility, they designed in the room they needed for their expected growth. CDW also had the foresight to implement a plug-n-play set-up with the programming and wiring in place to quickly add conveyor systems and avoid heavy construction delays.
CDW is currently implementing the RFID process in selected areas and proceeding towards the total RFID conversion mandated by the Department of Defense.
“We pride ourselves in delivering on our promise every day,” states Drapacz. One look at the tagline imprinted on every package speeding down conveyors seems to communicate that promise: CDW – The Right Technology, Right Away.