Gone are the days of waiting; today's consumers expect their order to quickly appear in stores or on their doorsteps without much thought to how it got there.
Distribution centers make it happen behind the scenes. They depend on reliable supply chains and well-run ports to efficiently move goods, but unexpected challenges often surface, causing shipping delays and increasing costs.
Logistics companies need Class A warehouses close to highways and ports and a well-trained workforce to quickly move goods. Hiring can be challenging amid the tightest labor market in decades, making location more important than ever. Locating near an existing labor force and a growing consumer base lowers operating costs.
More than 72 million consumers live within 500 miles of the Port of Charleston, and the continuous influx of new residents to the Southeast drives increased consumption and distribution center expansions.
South Carolina has seen a steady increase in distribution centers in recent years, reflecting the demand for putting retail goods closer to consumers in the Southeast — the fastest-growing region in the country.
DHL Supply Chain is investing $100 million into building a 1.7-million-square-foot industrial complex on a 125-acre site in Dorchester County, S.C., set to open in 2020. Harbor Freight Tools expanded its East Coast distribution facility in Dillon, S.C., by 1 million square feet.
TradePort Logistics is moving into a 200,000-square-foot warehouse near the Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant, S.C., to handle cargo for global retailers. The uptick in retail goods coming through the Port of Charleston spurred S.C. Ports Authority to buy a 1,000-acre site near Ridgeville, S.C., for privately developed distribution centers to launch operations.
More than 7 million square feet of Class A industrial space is currently available statewide; the Charleston market alone has 12 Class A warehouses totaling 4 million square feet. More speculative buildings are set to come online in the coming years.
This supply of move-in-ready industrial buildings, combined with a business-friendly environment and availability of trained material handlers, enables logistics companies to quickly launch in South Carolina.
Those distribution centers can access global markets through the Port of Charleston, which has seen 68% growth in cargo volumes from 2011 to 2018 and increased business with Asia, its biggest trading partner.
S.C. Ports Authority helps solve supply chain pain points with a refreshing approach — run terminals efficiently, move freight quickly and communicate directly with customers.
The Port of Charleston's average truck turn time is less than 45 minutes and ship-to-shore crane operators average 38 moves an hour — making it one of the most productive ports in the U.S.
"We understand the demands of e-commerce to ship goods just-in-time to consumers," S.C. Ports Authority president and CEO Jim Newsome said. "South Carolina has the warehouses, workforce and infrastructure to support distribution centers that want access to the Southeast market."
Distribution centers can take advantage of both oceanside terminals in Charleston and rail-served inland ports in Greer and Dillon, S.C., which extend the Port’s reach into the Southeast and the Midwest.
S.C. Ports Authority continues to invest heavily in infrastructure to ensure future capacity. By 2021, the Port will have the deepest harbor on the East Coast at 52 feet; 15 155-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes at its largest container terminal; and a new container terminal, which will have 169-foot-tall ship-to-shore cranes and double existing Port capacity.
"The Port of Charleston’s reliable operations and long-term growth capacity is well equipped to meet distribution centers’ needs for decades to come," Newsome said.