STIHL Inc. and its Lewis County associates celebrated the opening of a new 100,000-square-foot distribution facility located at 3122 Kuper Road in the Port of Centralia on Tuesday with an open house.
The facility is the new home of STIHL Northwest distribution, which supplies about 500 authorized STIHL dealers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska with replacement parts and accessories. STIHL Northwest has served the region for nearly 30 years. Planned expansions are expected to nearly triple the size of the new facility when all is said and done.
The Port of Centralia first announced in 2018 that STIHL Northwest, previously located on Hamilton Road in Chehalis, would relocate its operations to the port’s Park II development.
Though the project to construct the facility was four years in the making, STIHL Inc. leaders say it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the demand for their products with more people undertaking home renovations, landscaping and development projects. E-commerce fulfillment has also become more of a focal point.
“The demand last year was so big, and even now we’re so strong, that this new facility is really important to be able to deal with the service of dealers and make sure we can ship to them 24 to 48 hours, that’s what we try to do in most areas,” said Bjoern Fischer, president of Stihl Inc., following a ceremony and facility tour.
At 54-feet tall in the middle and many hundreds of feet long and wide, the building is among the tallest and largest of its kind in the area. More than 9,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) were organized neatly among pallets when The Chronicle stopped in to visit Tuesday.
The Centralia facility is one of 11 throughout the United States serving more than 10,000 locally owned STIHL dealers nationwide, Fischer said. This is in addition to their 1-million-square-foot U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operations in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
For Dave Bulger, STIHL’s newest distribution center might as well be the eighth wonder of the world.
Bulger was STIHL’s first corporate branch manager when they began rolling out their distribution networks in 1994. The first center was built off Hamilton Road in Chehalis and boasted a spacious 15,000 square feet when it opened.
He retired in 2015 after a 31-year career with STIHL.
“I’m thrilled and excited for the team here,” said Bulger, a Vancouver B.C. transplant. “We had a facility that was great at the time, but the company grew.”
Bulger agrees that the difference between the 1994 and 2020 facilities is substantial. While the technology may have changed, the mission to ship parts in a timely manner has largely remained the same.
Casey Kralovetz, director of branch operations in Centralia, said 32 employees will work out of the new facility.
A dozen staff members will work on the main floor of the facility, receiving product and stacking pallets. The team’s logistics system, Kralovetz said, allows customers to purchase products by the pallet or individually by FedEx.
“When the order’s full, it’s getting wrapped and it’s getting put in either the LTL trailer, the FedEx trailer, and being delivered to that dealer within 24 to 48 hours. And if they place that order before 1 o’clock, it should ship that day,” Kralovetz said. “We’re happy to be here in the Port of Centralia and having ties with Lewis County.”
Fischer emphasized that the primary goal is to give their dealers, and by extension their customers, a quick turnaround on equipment repair and new parts.
“Things that make STIHL great is we don’t just sell the product, we sell it through servicing dealers, which means that we provide all the spare parts and all the accessories to enable dealers and support our customers, not just with the purchase of the product but through the life of that product, so that they can keep it tuned, repair it and keep it in good working condition,” Fischer said.
He also noted that the new facility marks a sizable investment in not only Lewis County but for the entirety of the STIHL Northwest dealership network.
Kralovetz said their 30-year plan will expand upon the facility in phases, adding 80,000 square feet through consecutive construction phases to about 275,000 square feet in that timespan.
STIHL originally purchased the 12-acre property from the Port of Centralia back in 2018 for approximately $2.17 million. The plan is to expand into neighboring land south as demand increases.