The word “Warwick” conjures up visions of bucking steers and stampeding rodeo bulls. And the Warwick Rodeo has become the biggest such event in Australia. But besides the stone fruit, wines and other agricultural “green” industries that have sprung up there, Warwick is the centre of the Big W Northern Distribution Centre.
This enormous warehousing and distribution centre, spreads across 16 acres (or 16 football fields) and employs 450 locals 24 hours a day. The centre was opened in 1996 and today, services 84 Big W stores throughout Queensland and all stores located north of Sydney. Heading-up this operation, is Northern Region Distribution Manager, Karen Ware.
“I’ve been here for three years now and with Big W for a total of 27 years. I started as a register operator and progressed through a number of Big W positions,” said Ware.
“Currently, I have six direct reports in this role, which includes managers in HR, OH&E, Inventory, plus quite a few Operations Managers. The Lead Operations Manager is Roger Gray, who receives reports from the Shift Managers, Receiving Managers, Dispatch Managers and Cross Dock Manager.”
Ware said since starting, she had noticed a number of operational process changes within the DC itself. “Our cross-docking area has grown and containers are now de-stuffed off-site at the Port of Brisbane. Goods are then palletised and shipped to Warwick. These are two significant changes.
“It’s imperative the palletising is right, as we use pallets right from the start of goods entering the DC. If it’s not right from the start, it impacts on the picking side. We’ve been using Loscam pallets for some years now and have a very good rapport with them. Operationally, our Operations Manager is in regular contact with Loscam. We get together a couple of times a year and thankfully, there are a lot more good things to discuss than adverse things. We have a fairly good relationship and would believe we are a good customer of theirs.”
Warwick’s operation is labour intensive and one of the features of Loscam pallets - and a benefit to the Warwick employees - is their lighter weight.
“Because we do so much in the DC manually, anything done to reduce the weight during manual handling, is appreciated,” Ware said.
“Big W sponsors the Warwick Rodeo every year and we have employees who volunteer their time and services to charities and organisations within the community. We applaud that and help out where we can.”