Inside the tripling of Digi-Key’s Product Distribution Centre – video

Inside the tripling of Digi-Key’s Product Distribution Centre – video

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Distributor Digi-Key electronics has opened a major 2.2 million square foot expansion to its warehouse in Minnesota, making the site one of the largest in the US.

The Product Distribution Center expansion (PDCe) triples the daily average of 27,000 packages shipped to over 180 countries from the 3m sq ft site.

Notably the opening saw package handoffs to each of the company’s four carrier partners: DHL, FedEx, UPS and the US Postal Service (USPS).

The pandemic and component shortages have seen record growth for the company, with 65% growth in 2021 and bookings up more than 25% over last year. This year has also been one of the largest years for supplier additions for the company with 250 suppliers already added for the year. Since construction began in 2018, Digi-Key has added 1,500 suppliers and 1.5 million part numbers to their inventory.

The PDCe building was designed by Minnesota-based Widseth, with internal automation and operational equipment developed with KNAPP. It has two primary conveyor systems to provide redundancy in the case of a breakdown, with over 27 miles of automated conveyor belt. An average order will travel more than 3,200 feet inside the building.

The new facility is nearly fully automated, the only task that is truly done by hand is the actual picking of parts. Among the racks of components, carts are wire-guided so that the only thing a cart driver will have to worry about is where to stop. The wire-guided system will save more than 10% of time and is significantly safer.

The majority of the fourth floor of the building is currently open for the time being to allow for further expansion.

“This is a significant milestone for all Digi-Key employees and our community,” said Dave Doherty, president of Digi-Key. “Our new product distribution center expansion will help us continue to deliver excellence to our customers for many years to come. As exciting as this expansion is for us, our hope is that our customers truly don’t notice a difference – the transition for them should be seamless, and if anything, result in an even better customer service experience than they are already accustomed to.”

The building features six backup diesel engines and pumps along with a water tank built for fire suppression. It also has its own storm sewer and run-off ponds so as not to contribute to any flooding or storage concerns in the community. The roof has a white membrane to reflect the sun’s heat, sensor-activated LED lights to minimize electricity usage, and a specially designed conveying system which maximizes energy usage as well as efficiency.

Distribution competitors Avnet and Mouser have both recently broken ground on new buildings and expanded capacity. 

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