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‘Industrial Athletes’ Power AutoZone’s Newest DC In Ocala, Florida

For the 320 employees working in physically demanding roles at the DC, physical fitness is an important piece of the puzzle for preventing injury. Without a single piece of robotics in the place, the Ocala DC runs on pure manpower.

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AutoZone CEO Bill Rhodes at the podium with Ocala manager Scott Breedlove.

When asked what the secret is to making AutoZone’s new distribution center (DC) in Ocala, Florida, one of the most highly rated DCs yet, manager Scott Breedlove gives the impression this is just business as usual for the ‘Zone.

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A recent article in the Ocala Star Banner, celebrating the opening of the new 450,000-square-foot DC, which began operating in January, touted the location as the “safest and most successful” start-up in AutoZone’s 40-year history. For Breedlove, he says it is all about the people, of course. “Our management team is engaged and we have a great group of AutoZoners here in Ocala,” said Breedlove. “Our AutoZoners get it and appreciate our strong safety culture.”

A team willing to follow consistent safety guidelines is a big factor in a DC’s ability to run smoothly. According to Breedlove, all AutoZone DCs begin every shift with a review of safety topics.

“We stress safety, by raising awareness [and] utilizing prevention techniques,” he said. “For example, we facilitate ‘injury reenactments’ when we do incur an incident, in an effort to learn from the experience and so we can prevent reoccurrences in the future.

“Our most important resources are our AutoZoners,” added Breedlove. “Our teams are engaged with our processes and we work closely to receive their buy-in and suggestions. Our AutoZoners want to work in a safe, hazard-free environment.”

For the 320 employees working in physically demanding roles at the DC, physical fitness is an important piece of the puzzle for preventing injury. Without a single piece of robotics in the place, the Ocala DC runs on pure manpower.

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“We consider ourselves industrial athletes,” Breedlove says. To maintain that athleticism, employees perform exercises at the start of each shift and after the lunch break to loosen up. Breedlove says the team also takes advantage of the wellness program AutoZone offers employees to promote a healthy lifestyle.

As for what’s going in and out of the facility, the location in Ocala services 340 stores in Florida, southern Georgia and Puerto Rico. That number is expected to increase to 400 stores by the end of the year. The VIO market in the region reflects the average vehicle on the road today, and Breedlove says, “I would estimate these markets reflect the U.S. fleet; where the average age of a vehicle is 11 years, eight months.”

When asked what distribution to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico looks like today, Breedlove noted AutoZone was among the first to reopen its stores in Puerto Rico, in an effort to help get businesses and residents moving again. “From what I see, it appears to be business as usual for our AutoZone stores in Puerto Rico. AutoZone was the first to reopen our stores in Puerto Rico because our customers need the products we sell in order to recover,” he said.

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While it’s been operating since January, the new AutoZone DC in Ocala, Florida, celebrated its grand opening with AutoZone executives, employees and family last month. This is AutoZone’s 10th DC in the U.S. The other nine DCs are located in: Texas, Washington, Kentucky, Georgia, California, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Starting out as a division of Malone & Hyde, the first Auto Shack (now AutoZone) store opened in 1979 in Forrest City, Arkansas. Today, the company sells automotive and light truck parts, chemicals and accessories out of more than 5,500 stores across the U.S, as well as another 536 in Mexico and 16 in Brazil. A Fortune 500 company, AutoZone boasts more than $8.1 billion in annual sales.

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