Quality Bicycle Products thriving in new distribution center
Dave Smith, the site manager at Quality Bicycle Products in East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, won't say how much the parts that his facility ships around the eastern U.S. every day are worth, but volume-wise it's in the tens of thousands.
“On Monday, we shipped 16,000 lines, but each line could have just one part on it or a quantity of a couple hundred,” Smith says.
These aren't parts for your $200 Huffy bike, either. The Bloomington, Minn.-based wholesaler serves around 5,000 independent retailers across the country who carry high-performance bicycles costing several hundred to several thousand dollars a piece. And since there aren't many universal parts for these bikes, each manufacturer — and therefore each dealer — has very specialized needs, whether you're talking about nuts and bolts, springs or pulleys, tires or inner tubes, Smith says.
“We carry 40,000 parts, and we sell to brick-and-mortar stores only,” he stresses. “You won't find any of our products on Amazon or at Wal-Mart.”
More products, more quickly
Until a few months ago, QBP's “Q-East” distribution center, as it's called, was in a rented, windowless warehouse in Middletown, where the indoor temperature frequently hit 100-plus degrees in the summer. But after a yearlong construction project, the facility moved in January into a $10 million, environmentally friendly, 122,000-square-foot building that's giving it the ability to ship more products more quickly.
The center's warehouse management system uses a radio frequency computer, worn on workers' wrists, that tells them where to go in the facility and what products to pick for shipping, Smith says. From there, the parts are transported via cart to the packing area and sent primarily via UPS and FedEx ground shipping.
“We offer our customers same-day shipping, and all the work is done by humans, not robots,” Smith says. “Also, the only paper that's used is the packing slip that goes in the box.”
Casual culture, high performance
The center has about 70 employees working in the shipping department, including some seasonal workers. Smith stresses that QBP is “selective” about who it hires, often choosing someone who fits the company's laid-back culture rather than an experienced warehouse worker.
“We may have a casual work environment in our dress and interactions, but we try to surround ourselves with high-performing people in every position,” Smith says. “We hire for fit and then train them for skills.”
Part of that culture includes encouraging employees — not just at QBP but everywhere — to ride their bikes to work for fitness reasons and to help protect the environment. The company calls the program “Every butt on a bike,” and about 10 percent of its workers participate.
The facility also boasts an “open office” concept that “doesn't focus on hierarchy and helps the team to feel unified,” Smith notes. “There are no closed doors and no head-honcho office here. If we need to have a conversation, we can peek over the computer and collaborate in real time.”
Other features of the building include smart LED lights, skylights and large windows to let in outdoor light, solar tubes to supplement electric light with natural sunlight, motion sensors that turn off unused lights, a climate-controlled air-conditioning system, plus such amenities as locker rooms and showers, a large lunch room, and even a full-service bike repair shop on the premises for employees to use.
Smith credits the Economic Development Co. of Lancaster County with helping QBP to find the 19-acre site for its $10 million East Coast hub, located on Noll Drive on the former Lime Spring Farm, and for helping it to obtain a $2 million PIDA loan for its construction.
John Biemiller, EDC's vice president and COO, says, “We're always looking for good corporate citizens and for ways to grow the economy and create job opportunities. And QBP certainly fits that description. They're a really nice company, their employees are friendly and happy, and it's a great work environment. We're lucky to have them in the community.”
Lisa Riggs, EDC's president, recently called their collaboration with QBP “a great example of community teamwork.”
Expanded space, expanded jobs
Smith says there aren't any current plans to expand the East Hempfield facility, but that a phase-two project, sometime in the next five years, could add 80,000 square feet. He says the company may also add a regional customer service call center and an accounts receivable department at Q-East. Both scenarios would mean more local jobs, Smith says.
Also in the works is a bike dealer trade show, tentatively slated for mid-October, that would be held in the facility's upstairs exhibition space. The details haven't been worked out yet, however.
As distribution center manager Dave May said on a recent tour of the facility: “It's all about getting people on bikes and making the world a better place.”