Metro's new distribution centre promises produce fresher, faster

New warehouse aims to get produce to Metro's stores almost as soon as it arrives

Metro has officially opened a new $50 million produce and dairy products distribution centre in Laval, Que., that the company says represents a pillar of its freshness strategy.

The facility, which has been operating since April 14, is more than twice the size of Metro’s almost 50-year-old former distribution centre in Montreal. The Quebec-based grocer had been renting that space since 1992 after acquiring 48 Steinberg grocery stores.

The new 241,000-square-foot building sits on 1.5 million square feet of land and has 50 loading docks, 40-foot ceilings and 31 banana rooms that can store 20,000 cases of bananas.

For produce, there are six sections with different temperature (55, 45, 35 and 32-33 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity levels.

The distribution centre is currently operating at 60% capacity but should be functioning at full capacity within a year, said Alain Paré, director of quality assurance at the distribution centre.

The aim is to use just-in-time practices to get produce out to stores as soon as possible after it arrives, Paré said, noting “we’re not a warehouse. We’re a distribution centre.”

The centre holds about 600 varieties of fruit and vegetables at a time and about 500 dairy products. He added the DC is well-placed to meet consumers’ growing demand for fresh fruit and vegetables.

Operating around the clock, except between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the facility currently has 250 employees. Within a year, that number will increase to 350 employees, Paré said.

Its busiest days, which are closely linked to consumer demand in stores, are between Tuesday and Thursday when it sees 100 trucks daily. On lighter days, there are about 60 trucks.

The centre has a number of energy-saving features that reduce its environmental footprint.

Its white roof and lightly-coloured, roller-compacted concrete parking lot limit heat islands and, in turn, reduce refrigeration costs. A CO² refrigeration system meanwhile, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and uses heat from compressors to heat offices and staff rooms in the building.

As well, lighting indoors is controlled by motion detectors while LED lighting outdoors reduces light pollution.

There is also reserved parking and charging stations for electric cars.

In an aim to protect plants and ecosystems around the distribution centre, wetlands were preserved, more than 30 mature trees were transplanted and 60 new trees and 1,500 shrubs were planted.

Metro has another fruit and vegetables distribution centre near Quebec City, which serves eastern Quebec. In Ontario, similar distribution centres are in Etobicoke and Ottawa.

View gallery of Metro's new distribution centre below:

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