Grainger’s Illinois distribution center strikes LEED platinum; succces hinges on automation, logistics and safety

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Minooka outside

Grainger’s newest distribution center is located in Minooka, Illinois, and has been operational for nearly one year.

Recently, select media members were invited to tour the LEED Platinum Grainger Distribution Center, located southwest of Chicago. According to information provided by Grainger, the company, with 2013 sales of $9.4 billion, is North America’s leading broad supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products.

The 1 million-sq.-ft. facility is indeed impressive. From the building’s layout and flow to the use of automation contributes to a more productive employee and efficient workspace for the 450 logistics and warehouse team members. “We try to use automation as much as possible,” says Rob Favaro, Sr. Director ILDC, Supply Chain – Distribution Ops, and tour guide for the day.


The distribution center covers more than 1 million square feet and serves as the company’s central stocking location.

Why Minooka, Illinois, I thought, as we walked the initial leg of the tour of the Distribution Center last week. Having moved from its Niles, Ill, location, there were good reasons. “Well for one, truck drivers are thankful that the distribution facility is located in a more rural area and easily accessible to major roadways and interstate highways,” said Favaro. The 1 million-sq.-ft. facility is the company’s central stocking center, which features a state-of-the art automated material handling system and rated the largest LEED platinum facility for Commercial Interiors.


Grainger boxes coming off the conveyor.

By taking into account team member feedback and ergonomic best practices—once a month, one-on-one employee meetings and discussions occur—the workstations are designed so that they do not require any pushing and pulling of carts, reducing the risk of sprains. In fact, there are employees affectionately named “water spiders,” according to Favaro, that travel to and from workstations to pick up boxes so employees don’t have to leave their station themselves.

Practicing what it preaches in terms of safety, team members are trained in back safety and ergonomics, hazardous materials management and industrial power equipment, and all Grainger’s U.S. branches and distribution centers have trained first aid emergency responders. And, half, if not more, of the employees have cross-functional aptitude to excel in other workstations.

Minooka Employee-39

Outbound trucks are stacked high with deliveries to Grainger customers.

Sustainability Features

The facility uses all high efficiency plumbing fixtures, as well as high efficiency water heaters. Plumbing fixtures include electronic dual flush 1.1/1.6 gpf toilets; electronic flush 0.125 gpf urinals; sink faucets that include electronic metering faucets with a flow rate of 0.5 gpm; kitchen stainless steel sinks aerator flow rate 1.5 gpm; and showers with a 1.6 gpm flow rate. In addition, all of the water heaters installed were high efficiency units and had a minimum of 90% AFUE rating.

Approximately 80% of the facility is comprised of a nearly “passive” warehouse where the occupied space is primarily heated from the solar wall, machinery and those occupying the space, and the air is cooled and circulated from large ceiling fans, designed for high-volume industrial use.

Some of the other major green attributes include:

• Energy efficient HVAC system that includes Energy Star equipment.

• R-22-free refrigerant.

• A 2,200-sq.ft. solar wall, which uses innovative air and solar capabilities to help reduce energy consumption.

• Energy efficient lighting along with motion sensors.

• Electric automobile charger stations.

• A recycling program initiated to collect cardboard and shrink wrap from operations. In 2012, for example, Grainger U.S. distribution centers recycled 303 tons of cardboard and 22 tons of plastic wrap per facility for a total recycling rate of 72%.


The red and white Grainger boxes are 100% recyclable.

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