Less than an hour north of Nashville, Coopertown, Tenn., is a small town that prides itself on family and community. Although it was officially incorporated just 20 years ago, the town’s history has centuries-old roots in the storied Tennessee whiskey tradition – it was named after a cooper shop that produced barrels for a nearby distillery. Self-described as a ‘commuter town’, Coopertown has seen a significant portion of its population take jobs in nearby Springfield – Middle Tennessee’s industrial hub, and Robertson County’s county seat.
In late July, BRR team member Dan Popp was at the front of a crowd in Coopertown, all gathered together for the announcement of a plan from Lowe’s that will hopefully help change the community’s current narrative for the better.
Standing alongside leaders and business partners from multiple entities, Dan and the rest of the crowd eagerly awaited the same moment that, as simple as it is, signifies the start of an idea becoming reality – the tossing of dirt. Determined to prevent a rainy day from diluting the moment, elected officials and Lowe’s executives stood together under a few canopies to break ground on a new direct fulfillment center.
Sprawling at 1.1 million square feet, the new facility will ship parcel packages directly to Lowe’s customers and stores nationwide. It will also be one of the company’s most technology-driven operations. Equipment throughout the facility will be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, and a state-of-the-art automated storage and retrieval system will be integral to daily operations.
“Because of increasing online sales and the demand for shorter shipping times, Lowe’s goal was to create a primary fulfillment node for parcel shipments,” said Popp, who served as the lead architect and project manager. “This facility will help enhance the customer experience between Lowe’s online presence and their physical stores.”
As with any large distribution facility, geographic location is one of the star players. More than 16,000 transportation, logistics and distribution establishments currently operate in Tennessee. According to Lowe’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Brent Kirby, the Nashville area, and Coopertown specifically, was an ideal match-up because of “existing large shipping hubs, access to interstate roadways and well-skilled workforce.”
The direct fulfillment center is a leading example of how efficient and technologically-advanced facilities of its kind have become. But the design of the center is as focused on the people it employs as much as it is the people it ships to. Vibrant colors give the 43,000-square-foot office and maintenance area visual energy. A large cafeteria, gaming/technology spaces, and an exterior courtyard will all be spaces where employees can relax and “recharge” during breaks from the warehouse floor.
“The overall design direction for this project was to create a facility for the Lowe’s team and its operations that was on the cutting edge of technology, while also being a place employees would look forward to coming to work each day,” Popp said. “The employee experience in this type of facility is very important to Lowe’s.”
With plans to be operational by the third quarter of 2018, the new direct fulfillment center will initially create an approximate 400 jobs in Coopertown, and that number is expected to grow to 600 by 2022. The design and production process has been more than a year in the making alone, requiring extensive coordination with engineering and consultant teams from multiple countries.
“Dan did an amazing job leading this complex project,” said John Quinton, Jr., a BRR Vice President and Principal-in-Charge. “He successfully organized and managed a team of more than 25 designers, vendors, contractors, and Lowe’s team members to keep the project’s many parts moving and on schedule. When a new challenge presented itself, Dan stepped up and found a solution, every time.”
Fast forward 18 months … what will be most rewarding for Dan? “After the construction is complete and the systems have been tested, knowing that the first package has been shipped will be the best moment for me,” he said. “I set out to push myself to go beyond my perceived limits as a project manager, and everything about this project has done that. Seeing the different systems working in harmony and bringing the building to ‘life’ is when it will all feel complete.”
Curious in learning more about the the direct fulfillment center’s unique features? Check out these stats: