By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Just about every detail of the Home Depot Direct Fulfillment Center in northeastern Wood County is massive.
Walking around the perimeter of the store would put 1.3 miles on your pedometer.
The site is staffed by 572 hourly employees and 68 salaried staff – all who wear the recognizable orange Home Depot aprons. The facility also uses about 45 contracted employees for services such as security and tech maintenance.
Towering racks allow products to be shelved 33 feet high. Employees use 170 hydrogen fueled forklifts to move the items after customers order them online.
On the average day, the facility in Troy Township ships out 28,000 to 30,000 units. That could be anything from a drill bit to patio furniture.
The number of shipped units could jump as high as 70,000 on Black Friday.
On this past Friday, the Wood County Economic Development Commission and Wood County Commissioners visited the vast Home Depot facility for the annual “state of business” tour.
They learned that the distribution center grew a bit this year – adding 32,000 locations for different products to the 300,000 locations already existing in the facility. The company made a $4 million investment this year in fire suppression, electrical and expanded racking. And the local site saw its annual sales increase by 9 percent.
The Home Depot facility, which sits in the middle of farm fields in Troy Township, handles 40 to 45 percent of the company’s dot-com business. Currently about 6.4 percent of Home Depot sales are online.
Despite its mammoth size of 1.6 million square feet, the direct fulfillment center is quite nimble.
Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, reported to the Home Depot officials that he recently ordered ceiling fans on a Tuesday, and they were delivered to his home on a Wednesday.
Lance Hunt, general manager of the Troy site, said the facility works smart to speed up the deliveries. Items are “profiled” based on whether they are hot sellers, seasonal favorites, or on sale. Those items are then located closest to the conveyors.
The company sells more than a million different items – from hammers, lawnmowers and grills, to faucets, garage door openers and toilets. Some of the bigger items include bath tubs, hot water heaters and refrigerators.
The fastest moving product is consistently the big orange 5-gallon “homer” buckets, Hunt said.
Most of the online orders are shipped by UPS and FedEx. About 40 percent of the online orders are picked up at the customers’ closest Home Depot store to save on delivery costs, Hunt said.
The Troy site employees work three 12-hour shifts each week. The site operates around the clock, with a smaller night shift. Except during the busy holiday season, the center is closed most Saturdays.
The facility hired about 150 people in the last three or four months in preparation for its busy season, Hunt said. The starting pay for hourly workers is $14/hour, which increases to $15/hour after 90 days. Employees also participate in profit sharing.
“We know that we’ve got to be competitive,” Hunt said.
Unlike some other large employers in the region, Hunt told the county commissioners that he has not had a problem finding quality employees.
Ross Kelly, maintenance manager at the Home Depot site, said the facility has a good relationship with the Northwestern Water and Sewer District, the local utilities, the Troy Township Fire Department, and the Wood County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s been a great partnership in the first 2 ½ years,” Kelly said.
Gottschalk asked about possible plans for expansion and offered his agency’s assistance, since the building on Pemberville Road near U.S. 20 was constructed with future growth in mind. A 400,000 square foot expansion is possible on the 150 acre site, but it is not scheduled to occur anytime soon, Hunt said.