New center promises to keep Navistar trucks moving
By Bob Okon email@example.com June 11, 2012 6:42PM
Navistar employees look on during an opening ceremony for its new Midwest Parts distribution center in Joliet, IL on Monday June 11, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 13, 2012 6:16AM
JOLIET — Keep those trucks on the road.
That was the message Monday at Navistar’s celebration of its new 860,000-square-foot Midwest Parts Distribution Center in Joliet.
In Will County, so many distribution centers have opened in the past decade that the arrival of another one may not stir a lot of excitement.
But for Navistar, the new Joliet facility is a big deal.
The warehouse handles parts needed to keep the Navistar’s International trucks and IC school buses running. Most of the focus Monday was on the trucks.
Chief Executive Officer Dan Ustian emphasized this number: $1,950. It’s posted on the wall at the distribution center and represents the estimated cost per day for one trucking firm when it has a truck idled for repairs.
“You can see the criticality of us keeping trucks on the road. That’s what this is all about,” Ustian told a gathering that included Navistar management, dealers, customers and many of the 147 employees at the facility called Midwest PDC. “You can see what it costs one of our customers to be down. That has to be in the forefront of what we do.”
Navistar moved the distribution operation from an older facility in West Chicago. All the employees came with Navistar.
But the way they work is different. Ustian said the company has reduced the time it takes to handle a day’s worth of orders to the distribution center from 20 hours to 11 hours.
The Navistar plans serves as a microcosm for why so many companies have opened new distribution facilities in Will County in the last two decades.
More room for organizing warehouses. The Midwest PDC can contain the Willis Tower and its antennas.
Convenient access to major highways. One reason so many employees could move with the warehouse from West Chicago is Interstate 355, which also takes the executives to the corporate office in Lisle.
New space to implement in new ideas.
Midwest PDC in Joliet is the prototype for Navistar’s future distribution practices, said Josef Kory, vice president of global distribution operations.
The company has nine distribution centers in North America — six in the United States, two in Canada and one in Mexico.
“We will take the processes that are learned here and start implementing them elsewhere,” Kory said.
Midwest PDC is set up to operate with continuous precision. Work progress is monitored by the hour so any delays can be addressed. Parts most in demand are located where they can be most easily reached. And, everything, including the garbage wagons, have their place.
Although the entire building takes up 860,000 square feet, 60 percent of the orders picked each day are done in one 30,000-square-foot section, Kory said. That’s because parts are better organized now, he said.
The building is divided into two sections. A regional division handles roughly 10,000 orders a day from 130 Navistar dealers in the Midwest. A national division handles slower-moving parts that go to roughly 1,000 dealers across the United States.
Much attention has been given in recent years to working conditions at local distribution centers, especially third-party providers that handle work for other companies.
Navistar management pointed with pride to their ability to bring their workforce with them from West Chicago.
The workers are union employees represented by the Steelworkers union. Management commended the union’s role in the development of new working procedures in Joliet.
But the main focus again and again was on the trucks dependent on quick delivery of parts when down for repairs.
“You take a guy whose got one truck and it’s sitting in our shop waiting for a part from Midwest PDC,” said Shelby Howard, an owner/dealer with 11 International dealerships. “I can’t stress to you enough how important it is that it is the right part, and that we get it on time, and that when it comes to our shop it’s not damaged.”