DMW&H offers its clients strong distribution solutions with extensive industry expertise.
By Alan Dorich, Knighthouse Media
When customers go to DMW&H, they can not only count on receiving the unique distribution solution they are looking for, but also the guidance of its experienced staff. Today, “We have folks that have cracked 45 years with us,” Jim McLafferty says. “They’ve lived through the ups and down and they know the pulse of the market.”
McLafferty is the director of post and parcel sales for the Fairfield, N.J.-based company, which combines its Shiraz Warehouse Control System software with manufacturers’ material-handling equipment. Founders Frank Hoenigmann and Kent Warner started the company in 1964 as Warner & Hoenigmann to serve New York’s garment industry.
In the 1970s, the firm moved to New Jersey and expanded into other markets, including retail, wine and spirits and parcels. But in December 2015, Dearborn Mid-West Co.’s material-handling division acquired the company and rebranded it as DMW&H.
Today, McLafferty says, the company is a leader in its services, particularly in the wine and spirits market. “Although we came out of the retail apparel sector back in the 1960s, we moved into wine and spirits with innovative ways of handling that product,” he says.
These not only include software but also processes and methodologies that have allowed DMW&H to gain a 60 percent share of the market. “Our customers include the top five distributors in the United States,” McLafferty says, noting that its clients range from mom-and-pop distributors to larger organizations in the wine and spirits industry.
On the retail side, DMW&H’s client base includes Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), which specializes in outdoor products. Two years ago, “We did a warehouse with them that was their first LEED Platinum certified facility,” he recalls.
“By working with us, [they were able] to put together a high-tech, cutting-edge facility,” he says, noting that DMW&H looks forward to its next project with REI.
“We’re looking at the newest technologies to use, such as drones and robotics, so we’re not just resting on our laurels,” he says. “You’re going to see them as commonplace in the distribution marketplace in the next five years. There’s lots of opportunities there.”
A longtime veteran of DMW&H, McLafferty joined the company in 2007 in its sales department. “I spun off and took over our customer service group (PSG), which is our software support maintenance organization,” he explains.
In 2016, he moved back into sales to start its post and parcel division. Today, he credits the success of DMW&H to its people. While it has many who have longevity with the company, “We have a lot of newbies that are hungry for work,” he says. “They’re interested in learning.”
This is important because DMW&H does not take the role of a manufacturer. “We’re buying the equipment from someone else,” he says. “We have to create the better mousetrap and that comes out of the brains in the people in the office.”
McLafferty also takes pride in how the company has grown over the years. When DMW&H celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, it employed a staff of 70 workers. “We’ve more than doubled since then,” he says, noting that it currently employs 150.
“The old guys like me are really proud of what’s gone on here,” he continues. “We’re forward focused. There’s so much cool great technology we’re looking at [and we’re trying] to find the right way to implement it that we’re evaluating to see where it fits in our solutions
Over the years, DMW&H has watched the needs of its clients change. Years ago, McLafferty says, they used to concentrate on cost savings and ways to reduce labor. “It’s now more focused on meeting customer service requirements,” he states.
With the rise of Amazon and e-commerce, people are expecting orders to arrive at their doors in two days. “Our customers from the distribution side have to figure out how to make money with all these orders,” he says.
In fact, its parcel clients are seeing such an increase in volume that they are having to add facilities. “The market has been up for a couple years now and it’s not going to down,” he says, noting that a recent report from Deloitte predicts that numbers will keep going up.
“Between now and 2023, they expect 850 million square feet of more facilities to be built,” he says, adding that this will drive the construction of more warehouses as well as an increase in the amount of product that has to be picked.
But, McLafferty says, the labor force needed to do that will not be available. “Right at the recession, the warehouse employment was at 630,000 employees nationwide,” he recalls, noting that it is currently at 1.2 million today. “By 2023, it’s going to be at 1.9 million.”
Many, he notes, will have to turn to automation for the facilities needed to support e-commerce. Although some distributors can have a difficult giving up their older models, that is where DMW&H can lend a hand.
“We’re going to help them meet their business expectations of delivery,” he says, noting that this is particularly true for its clients in the parcel sector. “They need systems to get products out.”
But it is critical that these companies adopt automation sooner than later, McLafferty notes. “There is a lot of evidence that shows that when people avoid the adoption of automation, it’s tough to catch up on later,” he explains.
“What we’re seeing is that obstacles are going to get bigger,” he continues. “If you avoid automation and fight it all the way, you’re going to be so far behind that it’s hard to catch up.
“You have to look at your own operations and decide what works,” he advises. “[You shouldn’t] avoid it like many companies did and have gone belly up.”
McLafferty sees a strong future for DMW&H, which is in growth mode, particularly when it comes to its customer base. “We are actually actively evaluating different market segments,” he says, noting that the company is looking at those that traditionally and non-traditionally handle distribution.
In addition, “We are focused on what we know,” he says, noting that the company expects to see a boom in the parcel sector. “We’re keeping our eyes on where it’s going to increase and we’re looking at that from a strategic side.”
McLafferty also expects wine and spirits to keep the company busy, as well as experience a rise in its retail business. “We’re going to look at where it’s going to occur,” he says. “We’ve also started a strategic initiative to look at the market better so we can analyze where we’re going to be.
“The good or bad of the situation is the entire industry is busy,” he says, noting that this can make it difficult for the company to evaluate its business. “We’re trying to step back a little bit and do a long-term tactical [analysis].”
He adds that the company will soon start work on a very large project for a major carrier. “They’re expanding one of their strategic hubs,” he says. “It’s an incredibly large, cutting-edge facility.”
DMW&H hopes to use the lessons it learned from the REI facility on this new project. “We’re looking at opportunities to replicate that model from the standpoint of even the people building it,” he says. “We work with so many different parties from the management to the worker level.”
One of the Best
DMW&H has won awards for its work, including Modern Materials Handling naming it as one of the top 20 Material Handling Systems Suppliers in 2017. McLafferty adds that the company also has been named one of the “Best Places to Work in New Jersey” by NJBIZ for six years in a row.
The company has accomplished this achievement by nurturing a positive work environment. “We’re not just in it for the money,” he asserts. “Everyone feels involved with the success of the company.”
DMW&H also has shown its generosity through Commitment to Community, an internal program through which it has operated several fundraisers and performed work for local charities. For example, “We did three days of work for Habitat for Humanity,” McLafferty recalls.
The program also has raised funds for Make-A-Wish Foundation. “Everybody in the company also has individual charities that they work with,” he adds.
Sidebar: Making It Easy
One software product that DMW&H offers is its Shiraz Warehouse Control System (WCS) – The Order Fulfillment Engine. According to the company, it provides an interface for automated storage and retrieval systems, carousels, conveyor systems, sortation systems and palletizers.
“Shiraz easily integrates with order fulfillment technologies, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and warehouse management systems (WMS),” it says. “In fact, it operates like your automated distribution center’s brain, communicating among the WMS and the material handling equipment and process for efficient distribution.”
The software also directs operations to ship and manifest, pack, label, consolidate orders, manage labor and tasks, sort packages, pick orders and handle returns. “Its flexible fulfillment capabilities can pick slow, medium and fast-moving products, and then pack them using manual, semi-automated or automated packing procedures,” it says.