MIAMI -- Associated Grocers of Florida's newly acquired distribution center offers the wholesaler a number of efficiency enhancements, including front and back doors to allow simultaneous shipping and receiving, dry grocery and perishable products combined in one building and 28-foot ceilings throughout the facility.
The distribution center, in Ocala, Fla., will enable the wholesaler to increase its frozen-food, health and beauty care and general-merchandise lines, facilitating the company's continued development in north Florida and expansion in Georgia and Alabama, said Calvin Miller, president of Associated Grocers of Florida here.
With the nearly 700,000 square feet of warehouse space at the Ocala facility, the wholesaler has a total of more than 1.3 million square feet of distribution center space. Associated Grocers of Florida will close its Tampa facility, which has approximately 400,000 square feet of warehouse space, and move all its merchandise to Ocala by the end of July.
Storage of dry-grocery and perishable products in one building will be more efficient for picking and shipping than if they were in separate buildings, according to Jack Hunter, vice president of warehouse operations for Associated Grocers of Florida.
"Most facilities today don't have dry groceries and perishables in the same location," Hunter said. "They are normally in separate buildings on the same site. But for any operation I've ever been in, it's best for them to be together. This allows you more efficiencies when you ship combination loads."
The new facility consists of a fully racked, 484,445-square-foot conventional pick dry-grocery and nonfood warehouse; 126,399 square feet of refrigerated space, featuring a new ammonia refrigeration system; 30,000 square feet of general office space, a day care center and outbuildings. Water used in the operation of the center is sourced on premises, using the facility's own water-treatment plant.
The distribution center has ceilings that are "28 feet clear of storage space throughout the entire facility, and you just don't find that in the state of Florida," said Hunter.
Receiving and shipping will be more efficient at this new facility because it has dock doors at the front and at the back of the building, he added.
"This [design] allows you to receive on one side and ship on the other, so you flow merchandise right through the facility," he added. "You can also have a shipping and receiving operation working together better on one shift."
While Associated Grocers of Florida's headquarters and buying staff remain in Miami, a number of perishables buyers and sales staff will be relocated to the new facility along with warehouse operations personnel. The company plans to hire 75 to 80 people and employ more than 200 by the end of the year.
The Ocala facility formerly served as the Eli Witt Ocala distribution center. Prior to that, it was used by Certified Grocers of Florida.