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IKEA’s growth means more jobs for Savannah distribution center

Popular Scandinavian furniture retailer IKEA continues to expand its presence in the U.S. Southeast - a plan that bodes well for the Savannah area, even though its poplation isn’t large enough to support a store of its own.

Since opening its massive distribution center at the Savannah River International Trade Park off Ga. 21 some 10 years ago, the Swedish company has opened new retail stores in Florida, Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas - most of them served through the port of Savannah. As business grew, so did the distribution center, which currently has 151 employees.

With the announcement last year that the company would open a store in Jacksonville in the fall of 2017, it was almost a given that the Savannah workforce would continue to grow.

Earlier this month, the Georgia Department of Labor announced IKEA will hold a recruiting event in Savannah Monday in anticipation of hiring more than 20 full-time workers for the local distribution center.

But it’s not all about Jacksonville, said Joseph Roth, public affairs manager for IKEA.

“We’re doing well across the board,” he said, adding that a second Dallas store will open about the same time Jacksonville does and a third Dallas store is expected in late 2018.

“The volume through this DC continues to grow. I think it’s safe to say we would need to add co-workers whether or not we were looking at a new store in Jacksonville,” Roth said.

While IKEA has no immediate plans to expand the size of its Savannah DC, the potential is there.

“We planned this facility with expansion in mind,” Roth said.

Efficiency as important as size

While it may look like a huge warehouse from the outside, a step inside tells a different story, said Savannah distribution center manager Joel Everett.

“A well-run DC represents the heartbeat of the logistics industry and ours is no exception,” Everett said Friday, adding that the need for speed and execution in moving product has turned the huge facility into “the embodiment of high-tech efficiency.”

The nearly 800,000-square-foot facility currently supplies 10 of IKEA’s 43 U.S. stores, as well as a store in the Dominican Republic, handling an average of 50 container - or tractor-trailer - loads a day.

“Product comes in from the ports in containers and goes out to our stores on trucks,” Everett said. “Our job is to make sure that happens as efficiently as possible.”

In the 110-foot-tall area known simply as “the silo,” an innovative automated storage and retrieval system takes each incoming pallet, scans its label, weighs it, squares it on the conveyer belt and then moves it - via automated shuttle and crane - to its proper place among the long lines of racking stacked 18 bays high.

When it’s time to ship, the system remembers where that particular pallet is, retrieves it and brings it down for loading. The silo holds up to 82,000 pallets, with each of the 13 automated cranes capable of moving 37 to 40 pallets an hour.

Recruiting co-workers

IKEA, one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2016, will be recruiting for the Savannah Distribution Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday at the Georgia Department of Labor’s Savannah Career Center, 5520 White Bluff Road. Due to OSHA regulations, applicants must be at least 18 years old.

While previous forklift experience is preferred, it is not necessary. Applicants must, however, be able to sit, stand, lift at least 70 pounds and walk throughout the 800,000-square-foot warehouse. Applicants must be able to speak and write English and work various shifts, including weekdays and weekends.

Potential employees are encouraged to dress appropriately for interviews. Those applicants selected will be subject to a criminal background check.

For more information on the available jobs, or to apply online, visit www.employgeorgia.com to create an account and upload - or prepare - a resume. Having an Employ Georgia account will expedite the interview process.

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