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With a comparatively small population spread over a huge landmass, logistics – the timely movement of goods and materials across the country – has always been critical to Australia’s economy.

Today, the narrative has moved to developing smart logistics facilities. No longer just ‘big sheds’, the focus is on creating bespoke, intelligently designed, AI-supported facilities that deliver efficiency at scale.

The large-scale Drakes Supermarkets distribution centre at Edinburgh North is a shining example of this new trend.

With land purchased from Renewal SA, and the distribution centre built by Unley Properties in under a year, the now four-year-old facility in Adelaide’s north is among the largest and most productive of its kind in the industry.

It’s also become the centrepiece of the independent grocery chain’s burgeoning growth.

“We always say that people are our most important asset, but this distribution centre runs a very close second,” Drakes Supermarket General Manager Bob Soang said.

“It's the most important thing we’ve done in terms of future-proofing the business, both in terms of servicing our current network and the cornerstone for future growth opportunities.”

At around 51,000m2, the Drakes Supermarkets distribution centre is more than twice the size of Adelaide Oval or equivalent to 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It holds around $60 million in stock on hand at any one time with 23,000 separate grocery, dairy and frozen food product lines and 54,000 dry grocery pallet spots.

There’s another 53,000m2 of ‘hard stand’ to accommodate the 200 daily truck movements that are needed to service the 43 Drakes Supermarkets in South Australia (Drakes also has 23 stores in Queensland).

An 800kWh solar system generates around 1.0GWh of electricity annually, providing around 35% of the site’s annual energy needs. A $12 million robotics system helps make it one of the most efficient distribution centres of its kind, while the warehouse layout was deliberately designed to maximise efficiency at both ends of the delivery chain.

“We designed our facility to be laid out exactly as we lay out our supermarkets. That’s important when you’re delivering thousands of units to stores that usually have to spend the first few hours breaking down the pallets,” Bob said.

“Because we’re vertically integrated, they’re receiving product in a way that mimics their workflow, thereby greatly improving productivity. On top of that, we have auto-ordering at store level that adds another layer of efficiency.”

Renewal SA continues to be well-placed to support businesses in Adelaide’s north, with approximately 300 hectares of future industrial land held. The majority of this land is located within tectarse he 500-hectare Edinburgh Parks Industrial Estate, which has been developed by Renewal SA over the last 20 years. At just 25 kilometres north of the Adelaide CBD and with easy access to the interstate rail line and airport, the location and flexibility of the Edinburgh Parks Industrial Estate has attracted leading brands including Ingham’s, Coles, Freight and Lineage Logistics.

Like all Renewal SA industrial projects, the development of Edinburgh Parks has been much more than a standard industrial land release. Sites can be curated by Renewal SA to suit the specific requirements of the commercial partner. For Drakes, that meant being able to analyse a range of options and potential locations.

“I found Renewal SA to be incredibly helpful. They took the time to work out what we needed, they showed us several sites and gave us options on the table that made it a fairly simple process,” Bob said.

“Even afterwards when we were working through a couple of challenges, they were ready to help. It wasn’t a case of ‘we’ve sold it, not our problem anymore’, they were there through the whole process.

“The location is also ideal. The infrastructure around Edinburgh has continued to improve and the state government has done a great job in making it easy to move freight around. We initially considered moving our offices out to the new distribution centre, but it’s an easy 30-minute drive from our Torrensville headquarters because of the Northern Expressway and the Northern Connector so that’s another bonus of the location.”

Renewal SA also targeted a range of food and beverage processors, manufacturers, food packaging specialists, cold-chain suppliers and logistic and transport companies as part of the Northern Adelaide Food Park. This business ecosystem is leading to further opportunities for Drakes.

“We are probably only using 30% of our storage capacity at our facility, so we are doing deals with companies like Villis, Golden North and other third-party logistics companies to help them with their inventory,” Bob said.

The Drakes facility now employs more than 200 people and is arguably the hardest working and most productive asset the company has – and there’s still untapped potential.

“I think the layout and size of our Edinburgh Parks facility works perfectly for fast moving consumer goods,” Bob said.

“In fact, it is so efficient that it’s informing how we go about building a solution in Queensland and we may even use it to service a number of Victorian supermarkets from here in Adelaide. It’s that good.”

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