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Philips' East Huntingdon center is 1st business to open in Westmoreland Distribution Park

| Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Pennsylvania Senator Pat Stefano (left), 32nd District, Dave Butler, global operations and supply chain leader for Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care, and Justin Walsh, global operations and supply chain leader for Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care, get a tour from Philips Respironics distribution manager Jennifer Paliscak during the grand opening of the East Huntingdon facility, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Philips Respironics distribution manager Jennifer Paliscak (left) guides Pennsylvania Senator Pat Stefano (left), 32nd District; Dave Butler, global operations and supply chain leader for Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care; and Justin Walsh, representative-elect for the 58th District, during a tour of the new facility at the grand opening of the East Huntingdon facility on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Brian Grundy, 33, of Greensburg, wraps a pallet of equipment for shipping, during the grand opening of Philips Respironics East Huntingdon facility, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Eric Ewing (left), second shift supervisor, talks to Pennsylvania Senator Pat Stefano, during the grand opening of Philips Respironics East Huntingdon facility, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Bob Pierno of Uniontown, works to repair a customers CPAP machine, during the grand opening of Philips Respironics East Huntingdon facility, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
The outside of the new Philips Respironics facility in East Huntingdon, on Monday, Dec. 12, 2016.

An expansive warehouse bustled Tuesday as local leaders celebrated the grand opening of Philips Sleep & Respiratory Care's new distribution center.

“Nine months ago, this was a dirt pile,” said Dave Butler, global operations and supply chain leader. “It was a barren piece of property. In nine short months, we went from a dirt pile with nothing on it to a fully operational, 260,000-square-foot facility.”

Philips' $2.6 million purchase was the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.'s largest sale, one that director Jason Rigone hopes will snowball into other development at the West‑moreland Distribution Park North in East Huntingdon and neighboring space off Technology Drive.

“It certainly is encouraging that a company like Philips has made the significant investment they have here,” Rigone said.

The warehouse — it was fully operational around Thanksgiving — has enough space for Philips to consolidate functions at leased buildings elsewhere in Westmoreland County and maintain its staffing level of about 250 employees.

Philips makes continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, equipment used in treatment of sleep apnea, a condition that causes people to temporarily stop breathing during sleep. Its product lines include ventilators, diagnostic and oxygen equipment.

Orange shelves lined with boxed products tower over employees in the warehouse area. Elsewhere, employees sit at computer terminals troubleshooting problems with products that customers mailed in. Workers have the capability to repair 382,000 devices annually at the new center.

Employees fill customer orders and prepare them for shipping there, with a capacity of 850,000 deliveries annually. On an average day, the center processes 3,500 shipments, Butler said.

The center was specially designed for Philips' needs and cost between $4 million and $6 million. Butler said the facility is “six acres under a roof.”

“So when you look at it like that, it's an impressive accomplishment,” he said.

Neil Apple, director of global service, came to the former Youngwood distribution center in 1999. Then, the distribution and service facility was about half the size of the East Huntingdon center. As the company grew, more space — and buildings — were needed.

Philips is back to the original consolidated plan established in 1999 to keep many functions in the same building, Apple said.

“Technology has changed, and this gives us an opportunity to better utilize technology to improve efficiency and best meet our customer demands,” he said. “It's a tremendous job opportunity. This gives these people here the opportunity to see we're putting in an investment to keep them.”

While Philips has cemented its relationship with the county, Rigone hopes others will follow suit. It is the first business to open in Westmoreland Distribution Park North, which became available in 2008. Two other sites remain available in that park.

The park is near RIDC Westmoreland, the former Sony plant, which is being retooled to house separate companies. The RIDC site has several tenants that employ about 700 people.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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