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  • 05/16/2011 - National nonprofit?s ?logistics hell? challenges 3PL firm

    Kevin Hagan laughs ? at least sort of ? when he describes Good360. ?This,? says the chief administrative officer of the nonprofit headquartered at Alexandria, Va., ?is logistics hell.?

    Bender Group, a third-party logistics company based in Reno, plays a big role in making sure that the logistics hell turns into something that approaches distribution heaven.

    Good360 accepts donations of new products from manufacturers and retailers, then ships them to participating charities that place orders through an online catalog.

    For Bender, which warehouses the donations and prepares shipments to nonprofits, the Good360 account brings unknowns:

    Unknown merchandise of an unknown size and configuration, arriving on an unknown schedule, taking an unknown amount of floor space and sticking around the warehouse for an unknown amount of time.

    ?They have to be willing to work in an uncertain world,? Hagan says of the distribution companies that contract with Good360. ?Bender Group has really gone out of its way to work with us. They do a phenomenal job.?

    Bender?s distribution facilities in north Reno handle shipments to participating nonprofits on the West Coast, along with all donations and order-fulfillment of toys and personal care items for the entire country. A second Bender facility at Winchester, Va., handles even larger volumes of donations for Good360, says Jared Lindwall, business development manager for the 3PL company.

    The biggest challenge, Lindwall says, typically comes when the donated items arrive at Bender?s warehouses.

    Because manufacturers generally want only to be rid of the items they?re donating, shipments aren?t nearly as well organized as they would be if they were headed for a retailer or other paying customer.

    ?It can be a hodgepodge of products that?s been shipped in a hodgepodge of configurations,? Lindwall says. ?This is definitely different. It?s almost like a returned merchandise process.?

    But once Bender employees get the product straightened out and get data entered into warehouse-management systems, Lindwall says the Good360 merchandise moves like any other through the sprawling Bender 3PL operation.

    Unpredictability isn?t a major issue, Lindwall says.

    While Good360 used as little as 3,000 square feet of space in the Reno warehouse at times last year, and used as much as 6,000 square feet at others, that?s a small blip on the screen in the 500,000 square feet the company operates in Reno.

    ?It?s pretty easy for us to flex up and down,? he says.

    And although the hodgepodge shipments challenge Bender staff, a saving grace is that their arrival is fairly rare ? 49 shipments of Good360 merchandise arrived at the Reno facility last year.

    At the Bender facility in Virginia, however, more than 200 shipments ? an average of nearly four a week ? arrive from Good360 donors.

    Hagan, who oversees the Good360 operations, says the organization prizes efficiency in distribution operations. Its overhead amounts to less than 1.8 percent of the value of the goods that are donated, and Good360 has been identified by Forbes magazine as one of the 10 best-managed nonprofits in the country.

    Distribution efficiency is all the more important, he says, because Good360 bills its distribution costs back to participating charities, and low costs allows them to serve more people in need.

    Northern Nevada Business Weekly
    John Seelmeyer, 5/16/2011

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