The ongoing evolution of D&H Canada continued last week with the official opening of its new distribution centre (DC) in Mississauga, which marks the company’s fourth home since it launched in 2007.
Speaking at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Michael Schwab, co-president of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based parent, D&H Distributing, said he remembers the first day operations began in this country vividly “because nobody called us, nobody placed an order.”
The calls quickly started coming in soon after, and during the past 15 years or so, the company has continued to evolve when it comes to expanding warehouse space.
“This is our fourth location,” said Schwab, adding that “we started with a modest 26,000 sq. ft. facility and quickly needed to almost double that.”
What followed was a move to a 90,000 sq. ft. distribution centre in Brampton, prior to the newest warehouse going operational early last month. At 253, 331 sq. ft., has close to three times the capacity.
All of the estimated 90 employees who were on the payroll in Brampton were retained in their new place of work. The Mississauga DC, located near Mavis Road and Hwy. 401, also contains a dedicated 5,000 sq. ft. configuration centre, similar to what currently exists in the Harrisburg DC, for conducting services such as laser etching and the asset tagging of end-user compute devices.
Among those who wanted to be part of the grand opening, but could not, was Michelle Biase, general manager of D&H Canada, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and forced to deliver her remarks virtually from home.
“I am incredibly disappointed not to be there with you to celebrate this milestone, and so, if you would like to make me feel better, I am accepting get well purchase orders,” she said jokingly.
On a more serous note, Biase described the facility, which will also be the home of D&H Canada’s corporate head office, as an investment that not only demonstrates “our commitment to support our partners growth, it is driven by our strong belief in the strength of the Canadian channel in all of you.”
Plans had been launched to look for a new home in and around the onset of the pandemic. There was, said Schwab in an interview, never any thought to postpone the project. “In our business trajectory, we saw the growth, we saw the need, and we really felt once we made the decision, we’re moving forward. And if it was delayed because of COVID, so be it, that would be outside of our control, but we were pushing the envelope trying to make sure that we were situated at a moment in time to be able to announce a new facility and then move in.
“Everyone was hunkered down – nobody was pouring cement. The fact that we methodically were able to work through it, get the approvals and design done and get the construction done and on time is really remarkable.”
The facility, he said, “is purpose built for our needs for at least the next 10 years and perhaps beyond. It is very expensive to move a facility. And the other thing is, we didn’t want to dislocate all the employees. So, if we move too far away, in fact, we’d have to start over, and I don’t know if we lost anybody.”
Daniel Haas, the organization’s director of distribution, said there is a “total of 11 kilometers from site to site. And we really looked into where all our employees travel in from, what’s the difference in the transportation from one site to the next. And we actually traded up on the bus route as well. More amenities are in the area for employees when they go for a break for lunch and closer bus routes, so there are a lot of positives.
“This is a spectacular warehouse and a great location. It’s a big win with all the employees.”
And with Schwab saying the ultimate goal is for D&H Canada to reach US$1 billion in annual revenues, there will no doubt be new technology advances added into the warehouse operation equation, but he stressed that would not come at the expense of human workers.
“Our goal was not to automate to the extent where you diminish the value of (warehouse) employees. We value them immensely and we want to make sure that they have a long viable trajectory and employment with D&H.”