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Automation Has Unexpected Benefits

Two distribution centers tackle major automation implementations with some unanticipated benefits.

(Boonton, NJ, October 25, 2013) — When W.W. Grainger opened its new 1 million-square-foot DC, it sported state-of-the-art automation. When Safeway’s 36-year-old automation system finally died, the grocer decided it was time to upgrade.

The decision by both companies shows that investment in DC automation is back in vogue as the economy bounces back. At this year’s Material Handling and Logistics Conference, the two companies shared the lessons learned from their automation investments.

In an unusual piece of advice, Mike Peterson, group director of distribution operations for Safeway, says to look for “heros“ in projects of this type.

Upgrading your automation isn’t easy, but it gives your people a chance to shine. “One of the unintended consequences was that it helped us identify heroes,” Peterson says.

In some cases, workers unexpectedly stepped up to take on new responsibility with the ASRS upgrade. Peterson responded by giving those workers more responsibility on other projects.

Additional tips from both companies appear in the October issue of Distribution Center Management.


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For more than 40 years, Distribution Group publications have helped distribution center and warehouse managers increase productivity, cut costs, and meet increasing customer demands. Distribution Group publishes Distribution Center Management newsletter, books and reports, and a free e-newsletter.

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