Augsburg Fortress
One Mission Blog - reflections on the ministry of publishing

Distribution Transition: Important Information for our Customers

February 25th, 2014 by Beth A. Lewis

Have you seen those signs that say “Please be patient while we are under construction to serve you better in the future?”

That’s the essence of this blog post!  Please bear with us in the next month or so as we are making changes in our warehousing and distribution to serve you better!

We are in the process of transitioning from managing our own distribution center in Grove City, Ohio to having our warehousing and distribution of physical products managed by Professional Book Distributors Worldwide (PBD), a 38-year old company that specializes in working with publishers of all types and sizes on fulfillment. The PBD warehouse where our resources will be managed is located in Bolingbrook, IL.  Warehousing and fulfillment are not our core competencies, but they are PBD’s!

This was not an easy decision for us since we have eleven good employees working in Ohio. But, after three years of review, we decided that it is the best decision based on rapid changes in our industry and in our business that have a service quality impact on our customers and a financial impact on this ministry of publishing.

Transition timeline and transition patience requested

Since early January, our Distribution Center colleagues and others on our Finance, Information Technology and Purchasing teams have been working diligently to move our products to PBD.  So far, about 27 semi-trucks filled with resources that won’t be needed by our customers until summer or fall have been moved to PBD.  We’re now at the point where we need to move another 22 semi-truck loads of resources over the next 4 weeks. They are being selected with an eye toward the seasons of the church year and historic sales patterns to minimize impact on you, our valued partners in ministry.  In addition, this is one of the slowest seasons of the year for us, so it’s the best time we could select for this move.  We expect to have everything moved to PBD and be shipping completely from their warehouse by the end of March.

Have you ever packed and moved your household goods?  If so, imagine what the job would look like if you had to pack over 2,129,000 individual items located on racks soaring 24 feet into the air! And, unlike your household goods, these items need to be individually counted for inventory management in addition to being packed, shrink-wrapped on pallets and loaded onto trucks. It isn’t a trivial challenge!  It involves renting extra forklifts, lots of evening and weekend overtime work.  And, that’s just at the Ohio end of the transition!  The reverse has to take place at the Illinois end!

What does this mean for you, our customers?  It means that we will do our very best to continue to ship orders out in a timely manner.  But, we ask for your patience!  Instead of our usual ability to ship orders either the same or next day, we may need to take several days because over the next few weeks, some of the inventory will be in Ohio; some will be in Illinois; and some will be on trucks driving on snowy roads in-between the two!

If you know that you will need Lenten or Easter or other resources over the next 4 to 6 weeks, we encourage you to order them as soon as possible!  Thank you for your understanding and patience during this time of transition.

Returns

If you have overstock that is eligible for return for credit, you may begin sending those to PBD effective immediately.  Here is their returns address:

 

PBD Worldwide

c/o AF Distribution

905 Carlow Dr., Unit B

Bolingbrook, IL 60490

 

Why this change?

The publishing industry and our warehouse needs have dramatically changed over the past several years as we have decreased the inventory we carry,  focusing our work on creating innovative faith formation, worship and book resources instead of carrying church supplies as resellers for other companies.  In addition, many of our resources are no longer physical, but are available as digital resources requiring no warehouse space.

Today, we lease approximately 76,000 square feet of warehouse space in Ohio, but we only need approximately 32,000 square feet for the next year or two. And, as digital delivery of content continues to grow, we are likely to need far less than 32,000 square feet of space in the not too distant future, yet if we were to sign a new lease, it would be for a minimum 5-year commitment.  We would likely be paying for space that we won’t need in the near future and this would not be good stewardship of our financial resources.  We prefer to use that money for the creation of great resources for the Church and higher education.

The distribution/fulfillment business is also changing rapidly with significant advances in technology allowing for extremely accurate and speedy services for customers.  Because PBD is a specialist in the distribution business managing the fulfillment for over 100 companies, they invest in the very best technology for inventory management and distribution.  As a small publisher, we cannot afford to make these types of investments to stay competitive in terms of fulfillment service.

As we reviewed options for leasing new space or outsourcing, we invited our small package carrier, FedEx, to analyze our shipments and pinpoint the best possible warehouse location for serving our customers well.  They identified the metro Chicago area as the best location given the locations of most of our customers. Bolingbrook, IL where our PBD warehouse is located is a southwest suburb of Chicago.

We researched a number of different fulfillment partners. We are confident that PBD will be an excellent partner as we continue to strive to provide top quality service to you.

 

What about the current Augsburg Fortress Distribution Center employees?

The distribution center staff members were given 4+ months’ notice of this change.  During this time of transition, they are receiving outplacement assistance and upon satisfactory completion of their employment with us, they will receive severance in keeping with our human resources policy.

Please join me in thanking our Grove City colleagues for their years of dedicated service and in praying for them during this time of transition.  If you post thank you’s to them here or send them via my email address below, it will be my great pleasure to pass them along to these good people.

 

In closing

Again, we request your understanding and patience during this time of transition.  Should you need assistance with an order, please don’t hesitate to contact our Sales & Service team at 800-328-4648.

And, remember, if you have returns, you may send them to PBD starting now at the address above.

Thank you for your business and for understanding that we are managing this as closely as possible, but that there will be some delays in some shipments.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Blessings,
Beth

 

@bethalewis

ceo@augsburgfortress.org

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Beth A. Lewis, President & CEO Augsburg Fortress

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