When We Built Something Massive

imageWhenever someone asks about the projects I’ve led, I fixate on the Overland Park facility project. I’ve also led teams that built data centers, campus-wide IT infrastructure, and telephony and digital video products. But I always talk about Overland Park. Why?

Scale, baby.

Nine figure budget. 300,000 square feet. 1,600 new employees. The third largest mail order pharmacy in the world. 100,000 prescriptions a day.

The mail order pharmacy was only 60,000 square feet of the facility but it was the fun part. Downstairs the other 240,000 was allocated for offices and cubicles. But upstairs we were building a customized system so large only one vendor in the industry had done it. And they were exclusive to our largest competitor.

It was an adrenaline-fueled experience, and the 11 months leading up to Go Live were especially crazy. It was the most stressful and rewarding period of my career. We couldn’t miss that September 12 Go Live, and we didn’t thanks to an awesome team, many vendor battles, and 80 hour weeks.

Several politicians including the governor (now Cabinet member) attended the ribbon cutting. When the system ramp-up was finally finished it was truly a showcase facility. Super clean, highly automated and brightly lit, visitors from other facilities said our warehouse was cleaner than their pharmacy.

Today when I look out over the pharmacy I’m still filled with a childlike pride, like after building a huge LEGO village. If a LEGO village could generate billions in annual revenue. (A slide show of the project is here. Press coverage is here.)

We turned our design ideas into this enormous, complex, useful thing that impacts millions of lives. One of the many lessons I learned is it takes about the same effort to build something huge vs. something moderate. It’s a good reminder to think and build big. Big products, big markets, big disruption.

Scale, baby.

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