AP NEWS

‘Get-‘er-done guy’ running logistics

February 25, 2019

Jeris Noye exudes quiet confidence.

“He can be very firm and direct, a man of few words,” colleague Jerry Noble said. “He gets things done.”

Sweetwater Sound is counting on that last bit. As senior vice president of logistics, Noye is overseeing the music retailer’s 400,000-square-foot distribution center project, part of an $80 million investment announced last fall. The expansion is expected to create 1,000 new jobs.

The task is huge but firmly in Noye’s wheelhouse. Eight years ago, he directed construction of Family Dollar’s 815,000-square-foot distribution center in Ashley. The $70 million, highly automated warehouse now supplies stores throughout the Midwest.

That assignment wasn’t a fluke. The 39-year-old’s résumé includes jobs with retailing heavyweights Walmart, GNC and Dollar Tree. 

But Noye readily gives credit to others on the team planning the Sweetwater distribution center that will serve customers worldwide.

“By no means is it just me,” he said.

Noye’s co-workers point to his steady leadership as the reason they’re confident the final result will receive rave reviews.

John Richter, Sweetwater’s director of inbound and logistics, respected Noye so much for their days as co-workers on the Family Dollar project that he accepted Noye’s job offer at Sweetwater.

“He has the answers to those questions you (have),” Richter said of Noye.

“He’s been a good mentor to me and my development. He pushes you to go the extra mile and improve.”

Noble, one of Sweetwater’s two corporate architects, appreciates Noye’s approach, which he described as “perfect for a warehouse environment.”

That’s not to say Noye doesn’t sometimes share a joke or personal story with co-workers, Noble said. But making friends on the job isn’t Noye’s priority.

“We have a couple of happy, friendly guys,” Noble said of the company’s management. “And he’s the get-’er-done guy.”

Strike out  

Noye was born and raised near Vancouver, Canada, where he dreamed of a career in the major leagues.

“Every kid who plays baseball has those dreams,” Noye said. “But I wasn’t good enough, so I got a real job and here I am.”

His career path actually wasn’t that direct.

After graduating from a small Arkansas college, where he studied international business and attended on a baseball scholarship, Noye married and went to work for a wealth management firm in Knoxville, Tennessee : his wife’s hometown. It took only one year for Noye to realize he was in the wrong field.

Young financial advisers can struggle to build a client roster, he said, because people with money to invest often consider someone in his 20s too inexperienced to provide sound advice.

His wife, Holly, encouraged him to explore other career options. Noye left the firm to work for a Walmart distribution center near Knoxville. That’s where he found his niche.

“It’s seeing something work, or completing a project,” he said of what he likes about logistics, or receiving and shipping products. “It was fun to develop a plan and succeed.”

Opportunities led Noye to hopscotch around the eastern half of the U.S., to Indianapolis; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Chesapeake, Virginia. In his last post with Dollar Tree, Noye logged 150,000 miles in the air in one year. He spent 150 nights in Hilton hotels alone.

Noye decided it was too much time away from his wife and two young sons. The couple reviewed the communities where they’d lived and felt drawn to return to northeast Indiana. After narrowing his search geographically, Noye found an ideal opportunity with Sweetwater.

The Noyes have settled in Huntertown, where they attend Pine Hills Church and the boys attend Northwest Allen County Schools.

“It’s just the right size where we have almost everything we want” without the headaches of bigger cities, he said of living near Fort Wayne. “We feel safe here.”

Down to business

With his family settled, Noye can focus on redesigning the processes Sweetwater uses to move merchandise.

The musical equipment retailer, which has annual sales of more than $600 million, employs more than 1,300 people.

The 40-year-old business has grown so quickly : 17 percent to 18 percent a year, Noye said : that it’s a challenge to create an order fulfillment system that will accommodate future needs.

Noble, the architect, said the new warehouse was designed to allow up to 50 percent expansion.

He noted that demand for different types of products increase : or decrease : at different rates. And an item’s size determines its handling requirements and its flow through the building. Some items can move through the warehouse on a conveyor belt while others require a fork lift.

“We’re going to do it completely differently than we do now,” Noble said. “We look forward to a great deal of increased efficiency and capacity.”

Noye said the new warehouse has been designed to allow expansion two ways : vertically and horizontally. The 163-acre site will allow a building addition to be constructed south of the new structure, he said.

“It’s something we failed to do in our current environment,” he said, adding that nobody could have predicted the retailer’s rapid growth.

Capacity issues aren’t the only thing on Noye’s mind. He realizes technology will probably advance several times over during the building’s lifetime, so it is being designed to allow upgrades.

Plans call for the warehouse and a 35,000-square-foot conference center with seating for 1,000 to open by summer 2022.  The warehouse area will also house space for audio gear testing, product photography and administrative offices.

The building and automation designs are done, Noye said. Gravel is on the ground, and steel is ready to be erected.

“I believe that 90 percent of our success in planning out things comes down to basic math,” said Noye, who described himself as detail-oriented and numbers-driven.

The biggest challenge, he said, will be transitioning operations from the current, 120,000-square-foot warehouse to the new one while continuing to ship instruments and equipment to musicians, recording studios, broadcasters, filmmakers, schools and houses of worship.

Sweetwater, which prides itself on superior customer service, doesn’t want to miss a beat, especially during the busy holiday season.

After the transition, existing warehouse space will be renovated for other Sweetwater departments, which will ease overcrowding, spokeswoman Heather Herron said.

“It’s tight around here,” Noye said of the headquarters at Kroemer Road and U.S. 30 west of Fort Wayne.

The building, which is open to the public, includes a retail store, a diner, a cafe, a salon and spa, a two-story slide, and free pool and arcade games. On-campus amenities for employees include a health clinic, a fitness center and a video lending library.

Sweetwater has leveraged those perks and others to become a preferred employer with the ability to recruit skilled workers from across the country.

Officials have budgeted the 1,000 new workers’ pay at $54,000 a year on average. The new positions will be created throughout the company.

Although the new warehouse will be more than twice as large as the existing one, it won’t significantly add to the company’s workforce.

“We are building this building to be more productive, which means it requires less headcount,” Noye said, before adding that “nobody in this building should be worried about their job.”

Job duties might change, he said, but workers will be trained for new responsibilities.

Richter, who worked with Noye at Family Dollar, said staff training is among the items being discussed.

“All the little things will have to be decided on,” he said.

Some changes were evident last December, during the Sweetwater distribution center’s busy time, Noble said. Getting orders filled has been less of a struggle since Noye came on board, he said.

But don’t expect Noye to claim credit. In fact, his co-workers were surprised that Noye agreed to be featured in a newspaper article.

“He’s not a guy who likes to be in the spotlight,” Noble said.

sslater@jg.net