Doug Macbeth, Wayne Macbeth and Brent Lenehan send off the 4 millionth pallet.
Doug Macbeth, Wayne Macbeth and Brent Lenehan send off the 4 millionth pallet. Contributed

4 million pallets and counting

A LOT of big statistics emerge when one looks into the productivity of our Big W Distribution Centre.

The centre – covering more than 7.2 hectares – uses 73 forklifts and nine kilometres of conveyor belts, hires 306 staff and sends out more than $1 billion worth of stock each year.

The most recent statistic though – and among their proudest – was the dispatch of their four millionth pallet yesterday.

This coincided with yet another figure – the centre’s 15th birthday.

Yesterday, a large number of employees gathered to sing happy birthday to their place of work and celebrate with cake.

Of all the changes and additions over the years, DC manager Stephen Gray said he was most pleased about the development of their people over the 15 years.

“The growth (of freight to come in and out) has been quite steady, but the growth of staff and their skills has been wonderful,” Mr Gray said.

“Safety is our number one priority – we can have up to 150 people working at once, so we need to make sure everyone is confident with what they’re doing.

“We rely on the training and skills of everyone to get it right.”

Mr Gray said the staff were particularly happy with the four millionth pallet milestone and the time it took to reach.

The two millionth pallet was sent in November 2005, nine years after the opening of the centre, with the next two million pallets taking just six years to send.

“Fifteen years is a long time in distribution centre life and I think it’s fantastic that Warwick staff have been improving and the centre has become a more efficient operation,” Mr Gray said.

“It’s really a credit to our entire team.”

Such is the enormity of the centre, a tour around the DC is a constructive way to spend a solid hour.

After arriving on the western end, goods are divided into categories such as heavy, bulky items, home items and electronics.

The centre has also employed environmentally-friendly habits, using electric-powered forklifts and other indoor vehicles and using half the lights during daylight.

The leftover plastic and cardboard boxes also get recycled.

After being processed, checked and sorted, the goods are taken to Big W stores from Cairns to Sydney via trucks.

Mr Gray said about 90 per cent of the transport vehicles were Wickhams.

“The other 10 per cent we use are QX,” he said.

“To our very northern stores north of about Mackay, we transfer goods via rail. It’s great we’ve been able to develop a relationship with those transport agencies.”

The staff are getting prepared for one of the year’s busiest times – the toy brochure, which arrives at homes at the start of July.

Mr Gray said there hadn’t been an item which had stood out in popularity.

“This year, after the global financial crisis, people seem to be after value for money,” he said.

“Compared with when we had the financial stimulus, where people would be buying a lot of plasma TVs and Wii players.”

For their busiest season – Christmas – work begins 10 weeks before the day.

To help with the extra work, the DC hires additional employees, namely university or school students, for night shifts.

The last time the Big W distribution centre made Daily News headlines was at the announcement of the opening of a distribution centre in Sydney, where a former employee expressed concerns the Warwick site would become redundant.

 

Fast distribution facts:

Big W distribution centre supplies all Big W stores from Cairns to Sydney.

Half of the goods arrive from overseas sources (namely China) via Brisbane port; the other half is Australian products, mainly from Melbourne and Sydney.

There are 15 different managers.

About 10,000 pallets on 500 trucks are dispatched each week, depending on the time of year.

The heaviest single item Big W stocks is a gym set, weighing more than 110kg.

The centre can hold about 52,000 pallets.



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