Green Warehousing In Franklin

Barrett Distribution in MetroWest is hard to miss.

The warehousing, logistics and distribution company's facility in Southborough, for example, is well over 200,000 square feet.

Headquartered in Franklin, Barrett also has warehouses in Leicester, eastern Massachusetts and around the country. The company has nearly 1 million square feet of space in the state overall.

All of that space – which holds thousands of products for various manufacturers – requires electricity, said Timothy Barrett, the company's chief operations officer.

"I guess it's always been a concern for us because it's a significant portion of our cost structure," Barrett said.

The company is doing something about that, and its recent efforts earned it recognition by GXT Green, a Billerica-based sustainability firm that recently named Barrett to its 2012 honor roll in the corporate category.

A $2-million photovoltaic system on the company's Franklin site is nearly ready to be switched on. Barrett expects it to go live in August.

"We've been watching the solar panel market for probably about five years and finally got to a point where economically, it made sense for us," he said.

He said a state tax credit and the solar credit the panels will generate were both big factors in the investment decision.

The project received some state funds and the rest is being financed by debt, which makes it cash flow positive the moment it is turned on, Barrett said.

Further Measures, Future Plans

Also in Franklin, the company has installed prismatic skylights, which are made with special glass that increases the amount of light that hits the warehouse floor below.

Brightness detectors will inform the lighting system if it's a sunny day or a cloudy day. The lighting will adjust accordingly, which will help save electricity.

Barrett said his company's headquarters is acting as a pilot of sorts when it comes to green measures.

The company hopes to enact similar measures at its other facilities as it gauges performance of its new systems.

Barrett manages manufacturers' relationships with major retailers. Customers store anywhere from 2,000 to 60,000 items in Barrett facilities. The company also handles "e-commerce fulfillment," which means it ships orders as they come in.

The company serves a range of industries, from footwear and apparel to pharmaceutical and furniture. Many of the goods it stores come in from overseas manufacturing facilities, Barrett said.

While some manufacturers, especially bigger ones, handle their own order fulfillment, he said a logistics operation like his allows customers to leverage the company's expertise and achieve economies of scale.

"They're leveraging our management," he said. "We may have a manager that spends an hour a day on that account and moves on to something else."

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