GPC Asia Pacific’s cutting-edge Melbourne Distribution Centre at Broadmeadows is the newest linchpin in its ambitious growth strategy. With innovative technology and advanced logistics operations, the centre is poised to revolutionise automotive parts supply, boosting efficiency, speed, and customer satisfaction across Australia and New Zealand.
Less than two years after plans for it were announced, GPC Asia Pacific’s new Broadmeadows, Victoria distribution centre has opened for operation, radically improving GPC’s service and network capabilities for the automotive aftermarket.
“The Goods-To-Person [GTP] system is a game-changer, handling a large number of SKUs consolidated within one warehouse,” says Tim Heptinstall, Distribution Centre Manager for GPC Asia Pacific. “The system factors in data about the weight, size, and velocity of items, determining the most efficient distribution order.
“A generous proportion – about 70 per cent – of our volume will go through GTP, reducing wait time and increasing efficiency,” he says.
The GTP system also offers the flexibility of operating on a flexible amount of time during the day. With a range of 16 to 24 hours per day, the stations stay active without being limited by the cadences of the human eight-hour workday and accommodating flexible worker schedules. “People can work two hours, three hours, four hours, five hours, providing real flexibility for the workforce,” Tim adds.
The warehouse also utilises VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) racking at the back of the DC for slower-moving items. It’s a consolidated pick system, but unlike the GTP, it’s driven by value rather than volume.
“The VNA operation is at back of the warehouse, so we can zone the warehouse off to make the best use of space incorporating what needs to be near the dock doors and what needs to be in the back,” Tim says.
DESIGNING DCs WITH DATA
Comprehensive data analysis and a unique approach to automation proved key in designing the layout and operations of the DC.
Jon Longbottom, Chief Supply Chain Officer at GPC, says, “We didn’t specify the type of system that we wanted to use. Instead, we consolidated all our operational data – including all delivery models to customers – and presented it to automation vendors. Among these vendors was Schaefer, who eventually helped to create the optimal solution for GPC’s business needs.”
GPC was supported on the property development side by LOGOS and on the supply chain consultancy side by TMX. Working together, they sifted through potential vendors until they landed on Schaefer to provide optimised automation.
“The Schaefer system that we’ve currently got allows us a number of advantages,” says Jon. Key among these is space consolidation, housing up to 100,000 SKUs in the goods-to-person system in a relatively small footprint. More than space efficiency, the technology accelerates the processes of intake and distribution. “The most important thing is the ability to get the product in and out of that and to our customers very quickly.”
GOING FOR GROWTH
The Melbourne DC at Broadmeadows is a key part of GPC Asia Pacific’s ambitious growth plans.
“Our business certainly has plans to grow from where we are now exponentially over the course of the next three or four years,” Jon says. This facility, he says – with its growth capabilities stretching over the next 10 to 15 years – forms a crucial platform for such an expansion.
“Previously, we didn’t have a replenishment facility in Melbourne, so we actually replenished Melbourne from Adelaide,” Jon says. “With the new distribution centre now servicing Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, GPC Asia Pacific is fortifying its logistical network and improving its ability to efficiently reach its customers in these regions as well as reducing kilometres travelled.”
Setting up the Melbourne DC at Broadmeadows, like any large-scale project, was not without its hurdles. “We built this facility during COVID,” Jon explains. “So, you can imagine the challenges associated with the supply of materials like steel, wood, semiconductors, all the component parts that came from Europe and Asia.”
Despite these obstacles, the GPC team, along with its partners, managed to stay on course. “Despite all that, we’re pretty much on time, and despite a few increases in international freight charges, we’re pretty much on budget,” Jon reports, attributing this success to the collective efforts of LOGOS, Schaefer, and GPC. He further emphasises that GPC’s extensive international shipping capability played a significant role in the project’s success. “Globally, we managed to collaborate with Schaefer and with our other partners to ensure we had a robust process to get the products into Australia on time and on budget.”
The effort has certainly paid off. Tim says the consolidation of operations is radically streamlining processes and enhancing efficiency.
“By consolidating into this format for GPC, the benefits become self-explanatory,” Tim says. “We have a longer working day available to us. We have a multi-task workforce that can move between business units, which means you can adjust according to the seasonality of things.
“GPC can now better optimise our workforce deployment, adapting to peaks at different times of the week, the day, the season, the year.”
Jon underscores the significance of this consolidation. “This is the first time we’ve consolidated our motorcycle division with our automotive division under one distribution footprint,” Jon states. This facility will now be distributing to all 27 AMX stores across the country, as well as to GPC’s wholesale customers and retail stores, including Repco & Napa stores across South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory.
The Melbourne DC at Broadmeadows’ positive impact on GPC Asia Pacific’s store network and customer experience is undeniable. The benefits derived from the facility’s state-of-the-art systems and consolidated operations will directly translate into improved service to the end consumer.
“By having a longer working day and the fit-for-purpose facility, we’re able to fulfill all our orders straightaway and are also able to process international containers straight from the docks much quicker,” Tim says.
This efficiency in handling incoming stock translates to faster turnaround times and quicker deliveries to customers.
“We’re getting the product out quicker to the customer. If we give that confidence to the buyers and merchandise teams further upstream that we can keep that momentum going, then their buying power changes too, as their lead times change.”
“For the customers in this part of the world, it means quicker and more efficient service, and that should translate all the way down to the actual end user or consumer,” Jon says.
The Melbourne DC at Broadmeadows stands as a significant investment in the future of the automotive aftermarket, streamlining not only GPC’s operations but also – most importantly – the speed and quality of service to customers.
“Now, with the advent of this new DC, when a person takes their vehicle to the local mechanic, we can push the product out to the local mechanic – as well as our larger contract customers and to the consumer more broadly – at greater speed.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about faster and better service. That’s what GPC’s new Melbourne DC at Broadmeadows means for our customers.”
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