Stemilt's new distribution center, called The Fresh Cube, is in operation, featuring an automated pallet storage and retrieval system and pallets stacked eight high. ( Courtesy Stemilt Growers LLC )

Stemilt Growers LLC, Wenatchee, Wash., has opened a new 500,000-square-foot shipping building to handle its apples, pears and cherries, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.

The new building is connected to the company’s packing facility.

Product will travel over a conveyance and be robotically palletized, he said.

The building will be able to handle more pallets than other facilities its size because pallets will be stacked eight high rather than three or four high.

And because product is stacked robotically, “You don’t have any of the safety issues you have with forklifts,” Pepperl said.

There are 30 loading doors, “which is a big deal,” he added, because of the scarcity of trucks.

“Getting trucks loaded and out of here is a top priority for a lot of retailers because trucks are hard to get,” he said.

The building, called The Fresh Cube, has ripening rooms and 11 new controlled-atmosphere storage rooms that were engineered specifically to store pears, said Brianna Shales, communications manager.


Jim Offner contributed to this story.