First Supply Partners with Exotec to Boost its Operational Capabilities and Support Business Growth

The new distribution center will serve all of the company's branch locations in the Upper Midwest as well as direct-to-customer deliveries.

Today, Exotec®︎, a global warehouse robotics provider, announced that First Supply, the largest Wisconsin-based wholesaler of HVAC, Builder, Plumbing, Lighting, Waterworks, Industrial PVF, Pump, Well and Septic supplies, has partnered with Exotec to install cutting-edge warehouse robotics at its new 308,000-square-foot distribution center in Western Wisconsin.


Like many companies experiencing strong growth, First Supply was challenged with changing its operating model to reimagine the possibilities of its supply chain. This included finding a solution to manage a growing variety of stock-keeping-units (SKUs), effectively utilize available space, and reduce labor-intensive manual picking practices. By automating its warehouse with Exotec's Skypod System, First Supply aims to improve productivity, optimize resource utilization, and ultimately better serve its customers.

First Supply's Skypod system will consist of over 43,000 storage bins, 36 robots, three picking stations, and three induction work stations. Anticipating continuous growth, First Supply has designed the distribution center to easily scale its storage capacity by up to 30% in the system by adding bins and robots. The system will make use of Exotec's smart conveying technology, Skypath, to feed six packing stations and a sortation loop with 12 outbound destination lanes. The distribution center will support all of the company's branch locations in the Upper Midwest, as well as effectively supplying direct-to-customer deliveries.

"As a 127-year-old, 5th generation company, First Supply is committed to innovating how our employees experience work daily. Our rich history has laid the groundwork for success in distributing innovation and fostering partnerships in our communities, with our customers, and among our partners," says Katie Poehling Seymour, President & CEO at First Supply. "We're transforming our supply chain, focusing on optimizing inventory management through enhanced technology and refined procedures, exemplified by our new distribution center."

First Supply has chosen to deploy Exotec's Skypod system in its distribution center, with the goal of innovating its current operations to prioritize its workforce and enable further business growth. First Supply is excited to enhance efficiency while also being able to make the warehouse a more enjoyable workplace for its employees.

"We believe in working smarter, not just harder. Robotics provide us with an efficient means to store and retrieve items, enhancing efficiency and enabling us to swiftly adapt to the evolving demands of our business," Poehling Seymour highlights. "We foresee a bright future for our company, driven by human connections in our operations while collaborating with companies like Exotec to accelerate our innovations."

"First Supply is among the first US companies in their industry to adopt cutting-edge robotics solutions for their warehouse," states Stanislas Normand, Managing Director of Exotec, North America. "This not only demonstrates their capability for innovation but also establishes the gold standard for the industry in building customer-centric supply chain operations."

About First Companies
Established in La Crosse, WI, First Companies is a regional distributor with 52 locations, including: 28 First Supply distribution branches, 5 First Waterworks branches, 1 Central Distribution Center, 14 Gerhard's Kitchen, Bath and Lighting stores, and 4 Kohler Signature Stores by First Supply in the upper Midwest. Founded in 1897, First Companies employs over 650 people, is a family-owned, single source provider of HVAC, Builder, Plumbing, Lighting, Waterworks, Industrial PVF, Pump, Well and Septic supplies. For more information, visit: FirstSupply.com

About Exotec
Exotec is a global warehouse robotics company powering the world's largest brands. The company combines the best of hardware and software to offer elegant warehouse robotic systems that drive operational efficiency, add resiliency, and improve working conditions for warehouse operators. 50+ industry-leading brands including Gap Inc, Carrefour, Decathlon, and Uniqlo trust Exotec to improve their operations across 100+ sites worldwide. Learn more at Exotec.com

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