Expanded Digi-Key Facility Opens—Boosts Shipping to 81k Boxes Daily
Digi-Key Electronics opened its new distribution center this week at its headquarters. The new facility triples the location’s shipping rate to 81,000 boxes per day of electronic parts.
In this period of strained supply chains, electronics distributors are playing a critical role in supplying the devices EEs need to design and build their systems. Feeding those needs, earlier this week Digi-Key Electronics officially opened its new Product Distribution Center expansion (PDCe).
Attached to the company’s headquarters, the PDCe grows the total facility’s footprint by 2.2 million square feet for an overall total of 3 million square feet.
PDCe Triples Capability to 81,000 Boxes Per Day
According to the company, the new facility was built to be able to perform parts selection, box packing, and shipping at a rate of 81,000 boxes per day to EEs, purchasing agents, and other customers involved in designing and building electronic systems. That’s triple the location’s previous daily shipping average of 27,000 boxes. The facility ships packages to customers in over 180 countries worldwide, says Digi-Key.
From left, Chris Lauer, Digi-Key’s VP of order fulfillment, Digi-Key; Thief River Falls Mayor Brian Holmer; Dr. Ron Stordahl, Digi-Key’s owner; Dave Doherty, Digi-Key’s president; Steve Grove, Minnesota DEED Commissioner; and Ramesh Babu, Digi-Key’s CIO.
To celebrate the PDCe’s opening this week, Digi-Key held a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was performed by Digi-Key’s owner Ron Stordahl, along with several of Digi-Key’s executives, Thief River Falls’s mayor, and Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner (see caption above for a list of names.)
Cleverly in theme with the facility’s purpose, the “ribbon” used in the ceremony was a roll of the company’s Digi-Reel belt. Digi-Reel (see image above) is a custom set of uninterrupted belt sections on a reel made by a manufacturer's roller.
The Digi-Reel’s tape is rewound onto a plastic reel per the industry standards of the Electronics Industries Alliance (EIA). The reels are precisely designed so that customers can use them for direct feeding into automated PCB-mounting machines, says Digi-Key.
Aside from the ribbon-cutting itself, the day’s event included ceremonial first package handoffs to each of Digi-Key’s four carrier partners: DHL, FedEx, UPS, and US Postal Service. Remarks were given by several Digi-Key execs and the local government officials. Also included were video messages from Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. Representatives from All About Circuits/EETech were among the invited guests attending the ribbon-cutting event.
PDCe: A Fully-automated Distribution Facility
According to Digi-Key, the new PDCe is nearly a fully automated facility. The task of picking parts is the only task that’s truly done by hand. Carts are wire-guided as they move among racks of components so that the only thing a cart driver has to be concerned about is where to stop. The wire-guided system is expected to save time by more than 10% while being significantly safer, says the company.
The PDCe’s automated conveyor belt system is over 27 miles long. A typical order travels more than 3,200 feet inside the building.
Two primary conveyor systems in PDCe provide redundancy in the case of a breakdown while also allowing the opportunity for future growth. With future growth in mind, the fourth floor is currently open for the time being.
The facility’s automated conveyor belt system traverses over 27 miles and a typical order travels more than 3,200 feet inside the building.
The Control Room monitors the movement and flow of the operations of the PDCe facility.
The PDCe has a Control Room where staff can monitor the movement and flow of the operations. This includes the flow of orders and details within the orders, as well as helping monitor the system for pinch points occurring physically and systemically.
Built for Sustainability and Energy Efficiency
Sustainability was top of mind during the planning and construction of the PDCe building, according to Digi-Key. A white membrane covers the roof to reflect the sun’s heat. Sensor-activated LED lights help minimize electricity usage. Meanwhile, the conveying system was designed which maximizes energy usage as well as efficiency, says the company.
The building has six backup diesel engines and pumps, plus a water tank built for fire suppression. To ensure not to contribute to any flooding or storage concerns, the building has its own storm sewer and run-off ponds.
The poster shows the stats of the new facility. An aerial representation of the new PDCe is shown on the upper left, attached via a bridge to the original headquarters building on the right. (Click the image to enlarge)
With construction started in 2018, the PDCe building was designed by Minnesota-based Widseth, with McShane Construction serving as a general contractor. For its part, KNAPP partnered with Digi-Key on the building’s internal automation and operational equipment.
Digi-key says that 2022 has been one of the largest years for supplier additions for the company with 250 suppliers already added so far. Since the construction of the PDCe began, the company has added 1,500 suppliers and 1.5 million part numbers to its inventory.
While the new distribution facility will enable EEs to get the electronic parts they need for the designs in the real world, Digi-Key has also recently added resources to help engineers in the virtual world with its interactive online platform called Innovation Hub.
[Updated Aug 20, 2022, 7:11 PM]: Article mistakenly reported "27,000 boxes" as the new facility's shipping rate. 27k was the previous rate, now tripled to 87k.]
All images used courtesy of Digi-Key