Importers find Kansas City ideal as hub for distribution

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Logistics  

By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOTImporters of major-brand consumer items increasingly are finding that distribution hubs in the Kansas City area provide an ideal, centrally located solution for getting products to shelves swiftly and cost effectively.
“It’s amazing, the number of large organizations that are coming into this area and investing a lot of money,” said Jeff Kisling, vice president for North American logistics and services for Pure Fishing, a unit of Rye, N.Y.-based Jarden Corp. that last fall opened a 400,000-square-foot facility just east of Kansas City International Airport.
“We’re able to knock off days inbound, which drives speed to shelf and value for our customers,” Kisling said.
“On the outbound side, the location means that most places in the United States can be delivered in two or three days,” he added, noting that goods ordered on Monday are easily on store shelves by Friday. “Being a fishing tackle company, it’s important for our customers to have product on their shelves on the weekend, when they have a lot of their sales.”
Pure Fishing’s facility in Skyport Business Park follows the success of a 2 million-square-foot center of Jarden Consumer Solutions – with brands such as Sunbeam, Oster and Mr. Coffee – in Neosho, MO, and is to be joined in the coming year by a 1.1 million-square-foot hub being built in Gardner, KS, for another Jarden unit, outdoor product leader The Coleman Co., Inc., which until now has centered distribution in Wichita, KS.
Pure Fishing’s Kansas City, MO, facility opened Oct. 1, less than a year after commencement of a logistics network analysis that pinpointed the area as perfect for consolidating multiple warehousing operations, including two in Spirit Lake, Iowa, two in Columbia, SC, and one each in Philadelphia and the Toronto area. The Northwest Iowa facility now becomes solely a distribution center for the manufacturing operation, focusing on making consumable products, such as bait and line.
The current supply chain model calls for product under such brands as Penn, Shakespeare and Berkley to come by ship from Asia into the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and travel by rail to Kansas City rather than move by a combination of routes involving ports such as Seattle, Savannah and Charleston and rail and/or drayage inland. Kisling anticipates a reduction in lead time of as many as seven full days.
The lightness of product allows Pure Fishing to make use, without weight concerns, of 53-foot-long containers for outbound full-containerload truck shipments, Kisling noted.
John Beasley, Neosho-based director of transportation and import logistics for Boca Raton, Fla.-headquartered Jarden Consumer Solutions, said annual throughput through his Jarden Corp. subsidiary’s Kansas City area facility has nearly doubled – to between 8,000 and 10,000 forty-foot-equivalent container units a year – since the transition begin in 2003 at Neosho from manufacturing of gas grills to purely distribution of multiple product lines.
That transition coincided with the 2005 acquisition of The Holmes Group Inc., with kitchen product brands such as Crock-Pot and Rival, and a realignment of distribution mode from the former Holmes approach of hubbing distribution on the West Coast to bringing imports through Kansas City rail ramps.
“Our focus is to be lowest cost to shelf,” Beasley said. “We go to our customers and say, ‘We’re going to charge you $10 more, but you’ll save $20 on your domestic transportation.’”
As is the case with most consumer product firms, Jarden’s biggest customers are Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Brands Inc. Costco Wholesale Corp. is now the only major Jarden customer for which distribution is handled exclusively via the West Coast.
Thus, in accordance with its well-researched analysis model, between 70 percent and 80 percent of Jarden’s distribution operation is in the Midwest, Beasley said.
The 400-acre BNSF Railway Co. logistics park being developed in conjunction with The Allen Group at Gardner, Kan., is a

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For more than a quarter of a century, Paul Scott Abbott has been writing and shooting images for the American Journal of Transportation, applying four decades of experience as an award-winning journalist. A graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with a master’s magna cum laude from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Abbott has served as president of chapters of the Propeller Club of the United States, Florida Public Relations Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Abbott honed his skills on several daily newspapers, including [em]The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Richmond (Va.) News Leader, Albuquerque Journal and (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, and was editor and publisher of The County Line, a weekly newspaper he founded in suburban Richmond, Va.[/em] A native Chicagoan, he is a member of American Mensa and an ever-optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs.