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Outside-the-box thinking doubles growth

AMS Fulfillment’s business philosophy has led the Santa Clarita warehouse company to expand services

Posted: May 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 22, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Francisco Aguilar, left, and Felipa Molina-Gomez prepare a shipment at an AMS Fulfillment warehouse in Valencia.

 

AMS Fulfillment is putting the finishing touches on its newest addition — a warehouse larger than two football fields combined.

A third-party company for warehousing, assembly and order-fulfillment services, AMS Fulfillment of Santa Clarita is the headache-relief remedy for harried merchants in the highly competitive retail industry.

With AMS, designers, manufacturers and retailers alike can focus on sales and leave the inventory management, customer-order fulfillment and shipping to retail locations around the world to AMS Fulfillment.

The latest addition marks the sixth warehouse at the company’s Valencia Commerce Center Business Park. AMS also has a warehouse in Orange County and partners with two warehouse operations in Indianapolis and Vancouver, Canada.

Worldwide
Serving both national and international customers, AMS Fulfillment first began operating in the business park in July 2002.

Jay Catlin, president and managing partner of AMS, said the company’s first client was a major producer and distributor of DVDs and CDs. Forty AMS employees were packaging the disks into cases for shipment to retailers across the country under the leadership of founder David Catlin, Jay’s father.

“We were only fulfilling orders for DVDs, but had a vision this trend could pass,” Catlin said. “We had a longer term vision of providing the same service for all retail products.”

In 2004, Jay reconnected with Ken Wiseman, a Santa Clarita resident, who joined Jay as an equal owner in the business. Wiseman is the company’s CEO and managing partner.

Both men had been friendly competitors for years in the fulfillment business.

Today, the company manages tens of thousands of retail items, product orders and shipments for 40 active retail clients.

It employs more than 175 permanent employees plus about 50 regular temporary employees.

DVDs now represent only 5 percent of the company’s inventory. The other 95 percent includes name-brand merchandise, such as Toms Shoes, Umbro, Native Shoes, Ridemakerz and Arbor Sports.

AMS also manages the distribution of local companies’ retail products,  such as sports protection gear for athletes sold by XProTeX and designer handbags by Christine Price.

A growth enterprise
AMS Fulfillment’s first warehouse was only 30,000 square feet. Today, a visitor will tour six different buildings in the Commerce Center, occupying nearly 500,000 square feet.

The warehouses are stacked floor to ceiling with shelves filled with the latest product trends headed directly to consumers via retail outlets throughout the country.

Around 140 shelving units hold 10 pallets of merchandise each, equaling nearly 1,400 shelving units of retail products for distribution into consumer hands. With six warehouses, AMS also has plenty of space for stacking bulk crates on the floor.

AMS Fulfillment’s business has grown so steadily that this year it doubled the number of buildings it occupied in 2010, doubled the number of people it employs and doubled its revenue.

Employee strength
 AMS Fulfillment has a unique business philosophy. The company flat out states: “Profit and growth are not goals unto themselves” — but merely the end result of the attention the company pays to its customer, organization, community and its people.

The employees who route merchandise in and out of the warehouse on a daily basis are the key to the successful AMS operation, both Wiseman and Catlin said.

Managing the inventory is no easy task, and on-time shipping is crucial to the AMS operation.

The team of employees manages retail distribution by shipping merchandise to thousands of brick-and-mortar retail locations, from key national chain stores, to mom-and-pop shops and the Home Shopping and QVC networks.

Clients, who have online access to real-time tracking of all shipments, would notice any interruption to service, if it were to happen, the moment it occurred.

But there needs to be a balance between work and personal life, Wiseman said. He is more excited to see his staff hustling at the end of a day so they can go hiking than to see people working long hours.

“I feel so fortunate and blessed with what has become of AMS, not only with the phenomenal growth, but also with the amazing team we’ve put together,” Catlin said. “Great fulfillment service begins and ends with your people, and our team is the best I’ve ever been around.”

Newest addition
The largest of their buildings, the new 120,000-square-foot warehouse, will also house most of its administration staff, as well as merchandise for four or five of the company’s larger accounts.

Calling the opening of the new warehouse a milestone in the growth of the company, Wiseman said that within a few weeks, AMS Fulfillment will have transformed the empty space into a fully stacked and stocked warehouse.

Along with the core services, AMS also provides product packaging, kitting and assembly services, and builds complex retail displays.

Respectful of the environment, AMS has always compressed and recycled all cardboard and plastic shipping and packaging materials as they come in the door.

“Our business has run counter to many others in this economic downturn,” Wiseman said. “It is in these difficult times that many companies take the time to evaluate the cost benefits of moving their fulfillment into a controlled cost environment. Our business has doubled in the last two-and-one-half years.”

 Innovation
 AMS Fulfillment’s success has come from its willingness to be flexible and create other business models to meet customer needs.

More than an ordinary warehouse company, AMS has also just launched its “front office model” for clients based on customer requests.

In addition to providing warehouse and distribution services, AMS is now providing virtually every administrative function for clients.

AMS also provides accounts payable and receivable, order entry, customer service and interaction with retail accounts services.

The company interfaces with sales representatives, manages sales commission payments, conducts financial reporting and inventory allocations for orders.

The front office model support leaves customers free to focus on their own core business such as sales, product development or manufacturing while AMS handles everything else.

AMS Fulfillment will also set up an e-commerce payment processing and customer service system for clients.

The company manages e-commerce trade by processing orders for customers buying products through telemarketing, infomercial or online orders. AMS also manages returned merchandise for its clients.

Direct-to-consumer order fulfillment is a more complex process requiring sophisticated order and tracking systems to process and manage the product selection, packaging, and shipping of items to brick-and-mortar retail locations, as well as residences, while tracking the inventory each step of the way.

One-stop operation
With high-tech security systems, a temperature-controlled climate storage space for delicacies like chocolates, and sophisticated inventory tracking systems, the 24/7 operation at AMS Fulfillment is the solution for retailers, designers and manufacturers who want to focus on what they do best in their own business.

AMS is virtually a one-stop operation offering services in the front office to the point-of-sale, and it provides every function after that sale is made. And it continues to grow based on its willingness to think outside the box.

Clients have said that one of the key reasons for choosing AMS was the corporate culture and family-like environment.

“Our team knows that our own success depends completely upon the success of our clients, so we operate each client business with tremendous urgency and proactive attention,” Catlin said.

AMS Fulfillment Inc. is located at Commerce Center Dive in Valencia. The company can be reached by phone at (800) 931-4267 or by email info@amsfulfillment.com. For more information, visit www.amsfulfillment.com.

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