McKesson Distribution Center in Clear Lake plans to hire 100 additional employees.
The 340,000-square-foot McKesson facility opened in May andcurrently employs 120 workers, expanding to 220 in the coming months.
“This was a unique experience because it was a startup and we needed to hire people to get started,” Director of Operations Chris Van Norman said.
Van Norman moved to North Iowa in September after managing a smaller McKesson distribution center outside of Detroit and in Chicago before that.
The facility’s office space is decorated to reflect the area with pictures of docks in Clear Lake, the Surf Ballroom and Lady of the Lake. Each conference room is labeled with a gold record and the name of a song sung by either Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens or the Big Bopper. One conference room off of the main office is called the “La Bamba” room.
“We try to incorporate Clear Lake into everything that we do,” Van Norman said.
One sign above the entrance to the main distribution area is the company’s mantra, “It’s not just a package, it’s a patient.”
“We remind people you’re not just shipping paper towels, you’re shipping medication that could be lifesaving medication,” Van Norman said. “Our hospitals order medications the night before for surgeries that happen the next day.”
Quality and accuracy are top priorities.
The center serves the Midwest and northern central plains.
“We have 2,500 customers over that area, strictly pharmacies,” Van Norman said.
Those pharmacies can be in hospitals, independent pharmacies and big box retailers like Walmart, Hy-Vee and CVS.
The distribution center is able to supply pharmacies completely both behind the counter and in front with toothpaste, soaps and other health products.
“If you’re an independent pharmacy and you want a store, we can stock your whole store,” Van Norman said.
The building is cutting edge with automated sorting and packaging to move products. Most of the day shift is preparing for packaging order totes for shipping during the night shift.
“At night all the conveyors would be loaded with totes and we’d have employees working the double check process to make sure the orders are correct,” Van Norman said.
There are 40 employees on the day shift and 50 at night. With the employment increase, there will be 100 on each shift.
“We brought more business in here than we originally anticipated. Everything’s gone so smoothly,” Van Norman said. “It’s been the most successful launch McKesson’s ever had. In every metric.”
Everything is timed for precision and efficiency, monitored by workers for quality.
“It’s a lot safer. In an old McKesson, a worker would have to run miles a day to shelves and hand fill orders,” Van Norman said. “Now, a computer can do it quickly and accurately.”
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds paid visit to the distribution center Wednesday.
Branstad was involved in recruiting the company to locate in Clear Lake and made trips to McKesson headquarters in San Francisco. McKesson is a Fortune Five company.
“This building will be $5 billion in sales and the building itself is a Fortune 200,” Van Norman said. “McKesson is kind of the biggest company that no one’s ever heard of.”
The distribution center has welcomed many visitors including several government officials including speaker Linda Upmeyer, Sharon Steckman, Steve King and Chuck Grassley.
“We get excited and we get our pictures. We have a collage now of everyone who’s come,” Van Norman said.