(Note: this story appears in the August issue of Storerotica Magazine)

Doing anything amid a pandemic would be difficult, near impossible. Yet Pipedream Products moved a distribution center halfway across the country, and opened another in a different continent. Here’s how they did it.

Pipedream Products had its work cut out for it.  Like most industries the world over, COVID-19 threw plans off. In Pipedream’s case, those plans included the move to a new distribution warehouse in Centreville, Illinois.

Pipedream’s Matthew Matsudaira

“When I started as CEO, I could see that the demand for our product was outpacing what the existing operations could support,” says Pipedream Products CEO Matthew Matsudaira. “This is what drove our decision to start building a global infrastructure that will allow us to ship Pipedream products to our partners more efficiently.

“To move a distribution center of our size is difficult at any time,” he continues, “but to do so in the middle of a pandemic, with a skeleton crew, on a compressed timeline, was indeed a feat.”

The new warehouse opened in May — smack-dab in the middle of closures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.  Matsudaira says the pandemic’s disruption on the global economy forced Pipedream’s hand to compress its move.  What was originally a relocation penciled in for the end of July was fast-forwarded and compressed to 30 days.

“My team did a fantastic job, ensuring we could begin operations in our new facility by the time COVID began to subside,” Matsudaira says. 

Not that he could have foreseen a literal global pandemic, but Matsudaira has taken efforts since assuming the role of CEO in 2018 — investing in upgrading in-house talent and systems, improving efficiencies, and overall strengthening operations — to withstand a storm like the novel coronavirus.

But COVID was a disruption nonetheless. 

In addition to an accelerated move, Pipedream Products had to cease shipping, per state and county stay-at-home orders. 

“To move a distribution center of our size is difficult at any time,” he continues, “but to do so in the middle of a pandemic, with a skeleton crew, on a compressed timeline, was indeed a feat.” — Pipedream’s Matthew Matsudaira

With orders slowing drastically from non-eCommerce customers, the warehouse remained closed throughout the pandemic shutdown. 

“I am happy to say that our headquarter team was already set up to work remotely,” says Matsudaira. “We could continue to collaborate from our homes with the office closed. We also improved our sales team’s technical capabilities and invested in the technology we needed to virtually support our customers.”

From Chatsworth to Centreville

According to Matsudaira, the new distribution center is similar in size to the company’s former Chatsworth location. 

“The most significant difference is the ceiling height, which is double the height of our former facility,” he says, adding the space has twice as many bay doors. “This allows us to process and significantly inbound and outbound volume.”

The increased traffic flow was a key component of Centreville’s appeal, as was its centricity. 

“After visiting several states and considering a variety of locations to stand up our new facility throughout 2019, we settled upon Centreville for its central location to both coasts,” says Matsudaira. “This allows Pipedream to provide faster delivery times to accommodate our retail and distribution partners’ expectations.”

So far, the move has paid dividends. 

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of the Centreville location — double the bay doors to receive and send shipments faster and more efficiently and doubly heightened ceilings to better utilize space — the positives have “brought renewed excitement and energy to the team,” says Matsudaira.   Indeed, upgrading digs is always a nice human refresh button. 

“Our employees can pick and pack without constraints,” he adds. “Additionally, we invested in best-in-class warehouse management technology that will significantly impact our supply chain capabilities.”  

Post-COVID Pipedream

Despite the speedbumps and potholes COVID has presented businesses, it hasn’t stopped the overall hum of industry. 

“At Pipedream, we have been working on some truly innovative and exciting things that will ultimately transform the business and the industry,” says Matsudaira.As if one warehouse wasn’t enough, in July Pipedream unveiled another distribution center in the Netherlands as part of more than a year of planning a new distribution network designed to provide customers around the world more efficient access to Pipedream’s portfolio. The Netherlands-based distribution center will help reduce customer lead times, allowing European retailers to receive Pipedream shipments faster and more efficiently. The team is currently implementing new procedures and stocking up on inventory to ensure the company’s top-selling European SKUs will be available and ready to ship to EU customers, as COVID-related closures continue to grip borders and countries. 

In addition to this new facility, Pipedream’s customer service department is being expanded internationally to provide faster turnaround on all customer requests. The new Netherlands facility is ready to begin fulfilling orders and will be fully operational in August.

“Pipedream has spent more than a year preparing, planning, and implementing this game-changing solution and we are proud to make it official,” says Matsudaira. “This multi-million-dollar global investment is a significant part of the company’s transformation, helping us fulfill our promise to continue improving our customer partnerships in tangible, mutually beneficial ways. Our Pipedream team in the EU has worked hard to get our new facility ready for launch, and we appreciate everyone’s continued support. We are excited about this next phase in our transformation and look forward to continuing to improve our service levels to our valued customers.”

Both distribution centers and the exhaustive global network will be pushed to their limits, hopefully in Q4 of this year, when Pipedream plans to move forward with new product releases. 

In addition, Pipedream has announced its highly anticipated Elite Distribution Partnership program, a streamlined international network comprised of a strategic selection of European distributors. Following more than a year of planning and preparation, this program is designed to improve stock availability, giving retailers even more reliable access to Pipedream Products’ top-selling European SKUs.

Pipedream’s exclusive selection of Elite Distribution Partners is the result of a rigorous Request for Proposal (RFP) selection process. These Elite Distribution Partners will carry the full range of Pipedream European top-sellers and are committed to servicing retailers with dedicated marketing support designed to increase brand exposure and boost sales.

Pipedream is happy to announce that its first two Elite Distribution Partners in Europe are Scala and Debranet. A subsequent announcement will be made about an additional partner. The launch of the Elite Distribution Partnership program follows the debut of Pipedream’s Netherlands-based distribution center. 

In the face of COVID however, Pipedream Products can rest somewhat easy knowing it has put in place a framework that will churn and rumble alive with eagerness once the disease is in the rear-view. 

“With this crucial part of the infrastructure in place, we can now focus on other parts of our business, like product development, supply chain, sales, and marketing,” says Matsudaira. “I am so proud of what we were able to achieve, and I think it speaks to how committed our team is and how united we are in our vision.”

For more information, visit pipedreamproducts.com.