Throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and other parts of the world, no one location is more challenging for NAPA Auto Parts than Alaska.
Its 70,000-square-foot distribution center in Anchorage serves 29 NAPA retail stores in the city where the average winter temperature is 10 below zero, and winter is longer than neighboring Canada and the continental U.S. to the south.
How does the extreme weather effect warehouse operations under such unique conditions?
“The demographics of Alaska requires a different type of distribution center and lead times for ordering and stocking parts,” said Richardo McIntosh, stockroom manager for the busy facility in a centrally located Anchorage industrial park. “Since Alaska is so seasonal, our customers can’t wait up to 21 days for certain parts or materials. We need winter and summer tires to be readily available. Air compressors fail frequently so they need to be here on demand. Products need to be here now – when the customers need them.”
Taking up most of the space on the warehouse racks are big, heavy and bulky items such as anti-freeze, oils and other auto fluids, he said. “We probably stock more engines that any other distribution center in the country.” To accommodate the unique auto parts inventory, the NAPA facility’s storage shelving are built three tiers high up to 30 feet, and sturdy enough to withstand the average 2200-2600 pounds of palletized products.
McIntosh added that the instant demand for products throughout the year puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the center’s fleet of forklifts.
“Because of the heavy workload put in by the vehicles, they go through a lot of wear and tear,” he said. “Most of the breakdowns are caused by failures of the forklift electrical contacts which control the steering and hydraulics. That is why I rely so heavily on our contract forklift repair team.”
Until recently, McIntosh was growing increasingly frustrated with the customer service provided by its previous forklift supplier. “I remember saying: Man, there has got to be somebody better than these guys.” After consulting with a colleague, he was referred to Raymond Handling Concepts Corporation in Anchorage and was immediately impressed.
“I called Rob Erdle at Raymond who arrived at our center within an hour. He made the repairs that were needed on one of our forklifts and they held up a lot better than the repair attempts made by the other guys we were using. Ever since then, the Raymond team of Rob and Casey Meliah has done a thorough job and I wrote a letter to Rob to let him know that.”
“Even when they are super busy, they find a way to help us immediately. I can’t say enough good things about Rob and Casey. When it comes to forklift service and repair, they are my heroes.”