IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings retailer, opened the doors of its Midwest distribution center to serve the inventory needs of stores throughout the Midwestern U.S., as well as customer fulfillment of online orders. The 1.25-million-square-foot distribution center was built on a 72-acre property located at the Laraway Crossings Business Park, 48 miles southwest of Chicago. Gray Construction built the facility and acted as project designer.
Prior to its inauguration, site manager Eric Poli welcomed IKEA executives, local officials and community leaders with a traditional Swedish log-sawing ceremony, bringing good luck to the new distribution center. In addition, project manager Gary Holler and IKEA logistics development manager Patrick Wedig provided brief welcome remarks and expressed excitement about the company’s presence and commitment to the community.
“We are thankful for the City of Joliet’s support of this project and excited to officially open our doors,” said Poli. “We are proud to be the first IKEA owned-and-operated distribution center in the Midwest region, resulting in lower transportation costs and faster deliveries to customers and retail stores.”
The new Joliet facility is equipped with automation technology on a scale unlike anything currently in use within the IKEA customer fulfillment network, and which allows for increased storage capacity. The design of the Joliet facility increases co-worker efficiency due to the proximity of the dock doors to the automated storage system. Coworkers use forklifts to drive pallets into a machine called an interface station, which eventually feeds the pallet into storage. This technology allows the Joliet distribution center to provide 50 percent more storage capacity than any other IKEA facility.
The Joliet facility successfully completed its first outbound shipment to the IKEA Bolingbrook and Schaumburg stores last month. In the coming weeks, additional IKEA stores in the Midwest will begin receiving inventory from Joliet. Goods received by the Joliet facility will reflect the nearly 10,000 exclusively designed items currently sold at all IKEA stores worldwide.
The Joliet distribution center is LEED Gold-certified, a first for American IKEA properties. A key environmental highlight is its 268,920-square-foot solar array built with 9,036 solar panels, currently the largest in Illinois. The array will produce approximately 3,377,000 kWh of electricity annually for the facility, the equivalent of reducing 2,513 tons of carbon dioxide, or annual the emissions generated by 538 cars.
In terms of contributing to the local economy, this project will create more than 200 full-time, permanent positions in Joliet once the facility is fully operational. It created 238,000 hours of work for the construction team, in addition to generating property tax revenue for local governments and schools.