Bonded Logistics, Inc. is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. While it has steadily progressed into the 21st century, keeping pace with the many changes in the logistics industry and new developments in technology, there is one thing that remains the same: Family.
“We’ve always been a family business,” says Barbara Carr Woodall, executive vice president and co-owner, who works alongside brother Scott Carr, president of the company. “This company is an extension of us. We have always had one mission: To make sure that everything we do is handled with the highest quality and service level.”
The two are the second generation operators of this Charlotte-based global, third party logistics (aka 3PL) outsourcing company for warehousing, shipping and packaging. Their parents, Jim and Robin Carr, started the business in 1972 under the name Bonded Distribution, Inc.
“We primarily perform services for companies that are looking to outsource their distribution and storage needs. We provide secure warehouse space and maintain staff and equipment to handle any of our clients’ distribution or packaging needs,” explains Carr. “Ours is a true outsource model. Our customers pay for only the services they utilize in either labor or space.”
Bonded Logistics operates out of 1.2 million square feet in Charlotte at several different locations. The company also has contract warehouse space in South Carolina and a 4PL relationship with a warehousing group in Los Angeles.
An Extended Family
“On any given day, we will receive product, process orders and ship product out to our clients’ customers.” The company doesn’t take title to any product but, rather, is the contractual steward of it. Product generally arrives in full truckload quantities and is shipped out in less than pallet quantities or case pick. “There is a lot of labor involved,” emphasizes Carr.
With its own full-fledged transportation brokerage and close proximity to the ports of Charleston and Savannah, Bonded Logistics guides 80 to 120 trucks including 20 to 30 sea containers in and out of warehouse properties during a day’s activity. “We believe the expansion of the Panama Canal will only increase the number of containers we handle in any given day as more product is shipped directly to the east coast ports,” Carr highlights.
“Some customers have their own means or trucking fleets but when they don’t, we coordinate an alliance with local area companies such as Epes Transport or Cargo Logistics to serve them,” adds Woodall. The company also coordinates movement of product by ship container and air freight.
“We have a footprint in the global market with clients from all over the nation and some in Europe,” says Carr. “We also ship to Europe as well as to South and Central America.” A west coast alliance advances Bonded Logistics’ shipping capabilities. The company sets up fourth party logistics groups (or 4PLs) to distribute across the country.
“Collaboration is key in this industry,” notes Carr. “It might not make sense to go to another city and open up a building or a smaller account, but we can still contract with a peer group that is a good partner and can provide services at the same level we can. We’re very particular about those we partner with, and in those instances we maintain total management of the client account.”
Carr adds, “Not only are we a regional and national presence, but we also do things locally as we are plant support for local factories, storing raw materials coming in from overseas and holding them until needed for plant production. We see the expansion of the airport as an opportunity to capitalize on Charlotte’s location and really make this a premier distribution hub for the eastern region of the United States.”
Bonded Logistics’ clients come from many different industries including consumer packaged goods, food grade goods and home construction. It is most heavily vested, however, in medical devices and supplies. It services business-to-business (b2b) and business-to-consumer (b2c) needs for clients. Additionally, it ships to all of the major retailers and has staff members trained in the retailer compliance vendor guidelines.
“Once you establish the stringent controls required to bring in medical devices, we can apply those lessons learned to all clients,” emphasizes Carr. “There are a lot of guidelines and regulations.”
There are regulations at the federal level including those of the Food and Drug Administration and the National Fire Code, the state level including the N.C. Department of Agriculture, and the municipal level—for example, Charlotte/Mecklenburg for hazmat concerns. Sanitation audits are conducted by the American Institute of Baking. Additionally, in order to handle medical devices, strict inventory controls are in place including lot control and recall capability.
Security also demands constant vigilance. Entrance onto company premises is through a monitored gate. Everyone on site must wear identification badges. Staff members are well trained in inventory risks, particularly because of the high resale values for electronics and pharmaceuticals.
“There is a crime component out there,” says Carr. “We are in our eighth year of ISO 9001: 2008 certification.”
Bonded Logistics packaging division, Bonded Pac, is a contract packaging group which has been part of the company for 19 years. Workers there package bulk quantities using manufacturer’s specific requirements for individual store displays. Bonded Pac provides POP design services—including display design, product sourcing and display building—and dedicated staff to manage each project from concept to final design and product delivery to the store. In addition, Bonded Pac provides liquid fill and shrink wrapping, sleeving and bagging.
“Technology is a huge part of the business now,” says Carr. “We’re automating as much as we can. Clients have secured Web access to their inventory and can watch its movement in real time. Companies can predict with much greater accuracy their need for safety (back) stock, so they are not storing more than is needed at a given time.
“We’re really focused on exchanging information and data. This is more and more important out in the market place because expectation is very high and time is a very important commodity.”
Carr describes how off-site servers utilizing cloud computing are monitored 24/7. Redundant backups assure performance in the event of electrical problems or other things than can cause IT systems to stall.
The siblings’ father, Jim Carr, started the business in 1972 under the name Bonded Distribution, Inc. He had been working in distribution for General Foods in White Plains, N.Y., and was sent to Charlotte to set up a distribution center. He liked the South so well, he took a job with Jack’s Cookie Company as director of distribution and moved his family to Charlotte.
Soon an opportunity presented itself to purchase a small warehousing group off Palmer Street and he decided to establish his own distribution business in a 30,000-square-feet building. He subsequently built his first building on Graham Street in 1986 and the second in 1996. Then, in 2002, he turned ownership of the business over to his son and daughter.
Scott Carr was 10 when the family moved to Charlotte and warehousing became his ongoing part-time job throughout his teen years.
“I started at the bottom— swept floors, drove trucks,” remembers Carr. After graduating from Western Carolina University in 1981 with a degree in marketing, he returned to work in the family business.
“Part of it was timing. When I came out of college, there was opportunity here. I’ve now been here for 31 years,” he says. Carr is married and has three daughters and a granddaughter which he touts as “the focus of my personal time.” Carr is also very involved in his church. Another family tradition—tennis—is one that he likes to pursue as time allows, but admits, “It’s a challenge with trying to grow a business.”
Woodall was born in Charlotte and she, too, spent many weekends at the warehouse. As an adult, it was not her intention to work in the business, opting instead for a career in travel. But, after years as a travel agent, she came to work with her family, starting in the warehouse office in 1986 as a clerk.
“From there it was on to customer service; then to computers. I was doing a little of everything. That’s what I saw my mother doing,” Woodall remembers.
“Our parents instilled a good work ethic in us,” Woodall says proudly. “Both of them still come into the warehouse once or twice per week. They built the basics; we hope we have moved it along.” Woodall has one son attending Clemson University, and enjoys baking and keeping up with her tennis.
The Company Family
More than 140 permanent employees, most of them cross-trained for different functions, call Bonded Logistics their workplace. An additional 60 to 70 temporary employees are present at any given time.
“We can’t determine what the workload will be until at most the night before, so our relationships with staffing companies and temporary workers are very important,” says Carr. “We’re fortunate to have a fairly stable temporary workforce so we don’t have to train each time.”
It’s not unusual for the company to transition temporary employees to permanent ones when there is a predictable steady workload, according to Carr. Inside the warehouse there are management positions, IT workers and developers, clerical staff, warehousemen and packers.
With an average tenure of 10 years, the company has enjoyed excellent employee retention. Carr and Woodall attribute this to Christian ethics. “We are very committed Christians and we try to run our business with Christian ethics,” says Carr. “We treat our employees and our clients fairly.”
“It’s not just a statement. We keep a mindful eye toward treating our employees well. Working through Corporate Chaplains of America, the company provides a chaplain to every employee on a weekly basis, although being Christian is not a requirement for employment.
“We have employees of other religions and we don’t discriminate in any fashion,” says Carr. “Everybody understands humanity and ethics.”
Because of its age, Bonded Logistics is currently transitioning through a relatively high number of retirements among key positions. “We’re bringing new people into the business to work in areas of demand to accommodate growth and technology. It’s a time of both challenge and restructuring.”
Carr and Woodall have seen more than their share of industry challenges.
“In our business, a recession has a big effect,” says Carr. “In commercial warehousing, we get paid to bring product in and move it back out; what we call cycles or turns. When the economy recedes, we are hurt when there is little to no movement with the products. This is what we saw in 2009,” Carr explains, and says that Bonded Logistics guards against this by working with industries that are recession-resistant like food stuffs and medical supplies.
“Nothing is absolutely recession-proof,” he admits.
Surprisingly, Carr says the company was fortunate during that time to actually expand. “It wasn’t dramatic growth but it was growth,” says Carr. “Our attention to detail and the reputation we have for matching our clients’ sense of urgency and compliance paid off. Our staff goes above and beyond.”
Both Carr and Woodall predict that as the economy rebounds, there will be increased need for warehousing logistics. Carr acknowledges, “Charlotte—which is a great place to do business—is growing and the need for logistics is growing nationally, as well.”
Carr and Woodall give serious attention to finding ways to give back to the community. Carr serves on the board of Samaritan’s Feet. The company also works with A Child’s Place, an organization that assists homeless children. Charlotte/Mecklenburg School System, Salvation Army, local food banks and Susan G. Komen are all examples of organizations which the company supports.
“We’ve created our own in-house angel tree during the holidays to anonymously help employees who may be dealing with a hardship,” says Woodall. “We’re just getting started,” she says with a smile.
“In terms of the future, our mainstay is setting our infrastructure for growth, making sure we have the right people, and making sure that as we grow we continue to service our clients very well,” says Carr. “We just want to be recognized as a very competent, premiere company for warehousing and packaging.