Monday, February 05, 2007

Big Building, Bigger Investment

Big Building, Bigger Investment -- Saint-Gobain's Warehouse Enables Company to Consolidate Operations, Add Departments
By Ines Bebea

The Saint-Gobain Containers warehouse is big enough to fit seven football fields inside. (Photo by Christine Baker)

FAIRFIELD - You can't miss it.

Saint-Gobain Containers' 1,020,000-square-foot warehouse on 2600 Stanford Court in Fairfield is big enough to fit seven football fields. And if you are wondering why a company would need that much space, the answer is simpler than you think: Wine and food.

Within its 1,700-foot-by-600-foot dimensions and a perimeter of just under a mile, the warehouse houses glass containers for many of the wines made in California. This particular plant serves as the distribution center for the company's Madera and Seattle facilities, where the bottles are made.

Saint-Gobain designs and makes the food or beverage containers selected by its clients. When requested, Saint-Gobain packages and ships the desired empty containers inside the clients' labeled boxes.

As a neighbor to Napa County - the biggest supplier of wine in the country - the Fairfield warehouse is no accident.

"From this particular warehouse, we supply many of the wineries in the area and in Napa," said David A. Bolander, vice president Saint-Gobain Containers' wine sector. "We are the office for the wine sector on the West Coast."

Before moving to the warehouse, Saint-Gobain Containers worked for 10 years out of two buildings across the street from Rodriguez High School. The company moved into the Stanford Court warehouse - near the intersection of Air Base Parkway and Peabody Road - last September.

"Moving here gave us a chance to consolidate our operations," said Bolander. "Now we also have sales departments and technical support."

The warehouse's technical capabilities make processing orders and deliveries easy. With its wireless computerized system, workers processing an order need simply to scan bar codes to locate the appropriate name. Its long hallways, illuminated only by motion sensors, give a whole new meaning to the saying looking for a needle in a haystack.

"With our (warehouse management system) we are able to keep track and easily locate our products," said Michael A. Borja, facility manager for the Fairfield Saint-Gobain Containers distribution center.

With such a large warehouse and inventory, a small group of forklifts is needed to move the boxes to and from the beds of the trucks in the nine docking pods.

"We have about 64 docking doors to accommodate the volume of inventory," Borja said. "We are a just-in-case operation. When the client needs the product, we ship it."

The construction of the warehouse lasted one year, and it was built as a joint venture between Lauth Property Group and USSA Real Estate. Saint-Gobain Containers doesn't own the property, it leases the space from USSA Real Estate. Lauth Property Group, an Indianapolis-based construction company, specializes in health-care and industrial parks, office and retail space.

"The size of the building really depends on the needs of the company," said Marc Lotter, public relations manager for Lauth Property Group. "If you are looking to house 500 people instead of 500 boxes, their needs are not interchangeable."

Warehouses such as Saint-Gobain's are becoming more prevalent in metropolitan areas near large transportation corridors, Lotter added.

While Fairfield's prime location along the interstate and train line and proximity to the Bay Area is an asset to existing companies and an added marketing tool to prospective companies, city officials have no plans to turn Fairfield into a warehouse forest.

"Because of our location and proximity to Napa, we've always been an excellent warehousing and distribution location," said Curt Johnston, assistant director, Economic Development Division for the city of Fairfield. "The issue is that we don't have enough land resources to dedicate to warehouses. A warehouse like that, which I think might be 53 acres, takes up a lot of valuable land and doesn't generate many jobs."

The city granted the permit to Saint-Gobain's Containers because it was already an existing business in Fairfield, Johnston added.

Reach Ines Bebea at 427-6934 or

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