A few weeks ago, I went on a tour of the GES warehouse facilities located in Las Vegas. Although I’ve been writing about the tradeshow industry for exactly a year, I wasn’t prepared for what the inside of a warehouse would look like.
GES’ Las Vegas facility spans 54 acres and employs roughly 400 people. The buildings, which include an office area, graphics department and national servicenter, have been home to GES since 2002. National sales, account management, creative services, exhibitor services, warehousing, operations and finance are all part of a day’s work here.
But the largest section of GES’ facility was definitely the warehouses. Between the two storehouses, there are 96 loading dock doors, making it easy to pack and unpack different trucks for different shows.
And because GES Las Vegas produces approximately 300 events each year, the amount of primary tradeshow materials in the warehouse is shocking. Even though I was there at an extremely busy time (right after International CES finished), there were still rows of chairs and tables and drapery to be seen.
“GES stores items for more than 500 clients,” said Scott Paulsen, director of warehouse operations. “This includes the freight department, exhibits and events and show organizer materials.”
Because GES stores so much equipment and material, the company found a need to consolidate and update warehouse operations. Rather than storing things outwardly and spreading material across more space, items have been taken upward and have been placed higher on shelves to maximize output.
“Consolidating has allowed us to keep some of our more frequently used items on trailers, which reduces loading costs and allows us to keep the products closer to show site,” said Paulsen. “It has also taught us to work leaner. When producing multiple units of the same kind, we set up the parts and pieces in an assembly line fashion and have seen huge gains in productivity.”
During the tour, I was surprised to see how much extra room has been added since consolidation of the two warehouses. I was even more surprised to hear what GES has done with the extra space.
“GES has used its extra space to assist the community,” said Paulsen. “In the summer of 2010, a fire destroyed the main thrift shop of Opportunity Village, an important Southern Nevada charity that assists the intellectually disabled. GES contacted Opportunity Village and offered them 30,000 square feet of warehouse space at no charge from August through November 2010.”
In fact, this extra space was located along the back of the huge carpeting department, which handles material for all of GES’ tradeshows in the west region. There is over 200 miles of carpet on-hand in that warehouse, enough to cover the trip from Las Vegas to Disneyland.
Also included in the warehousing area is a full-service graphics department, which can print on anything from vinyl to mesh. The graphics depot in Vegas is only one of 14, but each printer is calibrated to match the rest of the machines across the country, ensuring that the quality and color of graphics, no matter which GES shop they’re from, are all cohesive and consistent.
And should an exhibitor decide they want their exhibit painted, the GES warehouse is home to a large painting “room,” where the exhibit is wheeled in, painted and then moved into a heated drying area until it is ready.
Although there was much to see and learn on the tour, the most interesting items in the warehouse are definitely Butch and Lucky, two larger-than-life construction workers who look out over the warehouses when they’re not busy at CONEXPO-CON/AGG.