Situated a stone’s throw from OR Tambo International Airport in Kempton Park, John Deere’s new parts warehouse and distribution centre stocks 76 000 numbered parts. The facility is a mirror image of John Deere parts warehouses in Atlanta, Denver and elsewhere in the US, and has simply been scaled to South African requirements.

The investment of R150 million confirms John Deere’s commitment to growth in Sub-Sahara Africa, including South Africa, said Len Brand, MD of John Deere SA. ‘Four years ago supporting Sub-Sahara Africa’s future agricultural potential became part and parcel of John Deere’s strategy, said Brand. ‘Nigeria currently has the biggest potential market, but others include Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

The warehouse is 20 000 m2 – roughly spanning three rugby fields. There is also an extra 6 500m plot of land adjacent to the warehouse for expansion purposes, when necessary.

Stock replenishment
In all, 23 pickers and packers, and two schedulers will be handling five incoming 40-foot containers weekly (one every single day). Stock replenishment and dealer direct lines handled on a monthly basis amounts to around 35 000 items.

‘The biggest benefit of the new warehouse to farmers in South Africa and north of the border is the dramatic shortening of parts supply lead time, said Brand. In the past it took three months to ship stock orders from the US and Germany. With a fully automated, computerised stock control system directly linked to the mainframe in the US, and more efficient stock projections/demand forecasts and daily incoming freight, emergency orders can now be shipped out on the same day if the order is placed before 15.00. Daily stock orders are shipped out on the next day.

Efficiency in all things
A new state of the art warehouse control system predetermines the dimension and weight of an order and automatically specifies box requirements (amount and size). It also prints shipping labels and pack lists (heaviest items at the bottom of the box).

Shelving has been specially engineered based on parts requirements and sales history. Soil compaction extends to a depth of 1,8 m and a 28cm thick concrete foundation sufficiently supports the shelves, one of which has a carrying capacity of 24 tons (3 tons per shelf, extending upwards for 8 levels).

Energy-saving measures include motion- censored light fittings, only triggered in the aisle where parts need to be binned or extracted. Steel guide rails prevent forklifts from accidentally causing a domino effect in the warehouse with parts flying allover, and a smoke detection and management system alerts management to any changes in the density of the air within the warehouse due to an increase in smoke or dust particles. For this purpose, 23 tons of piping through-out the facility will pump 10 000 litres of water per minute to extinguish any fires – filling an average swimming pool roughlyevery five minutes.

‘Adequate space is available for future growth as the facility can handle double the current volumes. We are extremely proud of this world-class facility, concluded Cor van der Slik, Parts Manager.