At the time, Catlin's goal was to straighten out operations of his father's large and successful packaged media company, which was 100 percent B2B through major retailers. Within six months, Catlin turned around the business' DVD inventory and operations model, where multi-disc finished goods were assembled in "just-in-time" fashion. Once things were in full swing for his father’s business, Catlin set out to develop AMS into a truly holistic third-party fulfillment company. Slowly, AMS started to win new business and expand its service offering to become a one-stop shop for all facets of eCommerce and retail/B2B fulfillment. Today, the company continues to win clients as a leading third-party service provider for order management, warehouse management, and fulfillment services.
Fulfillment in the age of COVID-19 has been an incredible challenge, but one that AMS has navigated successfully on behalf of their clients and employees. When the coronavirus first hit, AMS focused on maintaining a safe workplace and engaging with employees to ensure their health and well-being was the number one priority, while at the same time doing all that was necessary to deliver on behalf of their clients with an intensive rise in eCommerce order activity. “Our leadership team really came together when the pandemic hit to find solutions that met the safety needs of employees while supporting a rise in activity for our clients,” says Catlin. In 2021, Catlin explains that while the same challenges exist for safety and supporting robust fulfillment activity, there are new challenges in play related to global and national supply chain constraints. “Surging costs, constraints and delays in supply chain logistics have had a dramatic impact on our clients as they struggle to move inventory into our fulfillment operations. Domestic carriers are facing capacity constraints as well.” Catlin notes that the competition for labor has been a challenge as well, as so many businesses are vying for workers. “AMS is a company that truly respects employees and I’m thankful that we’ve managed to bring in new team members despite the competitive landscape,” says Catlin.
Addressing all these needs, AMS positions itself as a holistic fulfillment company that provides services including warehousing, inventory management, shipping, and returns processing.
A brand just needs to get its product manufactured and delivered to our warehouses, and we can manage the rest
Communication is the Key
MS has developed administrative expertise in all facets of B2B and eCommerce order processing and fulfillment. The company collaborates and shares knowledge with clients to help them manage and avoid operational challenges. "Our clients often come to us with questions or challenges, and we are often in a position to coach them through these challenges, or solve them on their behalf," explains Catlin. For AMS, communication is the key. It starts with internal communications from floor operations to the client services team, where the company identifies challenging situations and shares opportunities for continuous improvement. AMS also employs standard contact management routines to discuss opportunities and challenges, along with upcoming promotions or changes that must, in turn, be communicated to floor operations. "We've had a team effort in our 19 years of existence between all departments, and the end result is a sound warehouse management platform that we rely upon every day," says Catlin.
AMS has a robust system integration process and a strong client portal and dashboard. It allows clients to log in to access information, check order status, and make changes to orders. AMS starts its system integration process by understanding how its clients manage their businesses. Catlin explains, "Most of them have their own ERP, whether it's NetSuite Full Circle or SAP. Our goal with every system integration is to pass as much order and inventory data back and forth between our systems to the fullest extent possible, including new SKU additions and purchase orders for inbound product deliveries."
AMS' dedicated logistics shipping division audits every transaction to ensure that clients are not charged for invalid fees and only pay for packages that arrive within the guaranteed delivery time. The company often challenges its shipping and logistics department to work with the carriers and create plans that ensure that clients' packages are actually making their way into the stream and getting delivered, even during the holidays. "We have great rates with major carriers such as UPS, DHL, FedEx, USPS, and Passport for international shipping, and bestin- class3rd party systems to support our shipping processes, including ProShip (manifest system)," says Catlin. Beyond this, AMS also handles backoffice customer service for its clients, supporting customer interactions via web chat, email, and phone. "In short, a brand just needs to get its product manufactured and delivered to our warehouses, and we can manage the rest," states Catlin.
Customer Centricity at its Best
To AMS, developing the most impactful solutions for clients comes down to having tremendous leadership across the board, effective use of data analytics and business intelligence, communication at a grassroots level to understand the opportunities and challenges in execution, and engaging proactively with clients.
"We have bright fulfillment professionals managing and leading us through successful execution of processes," states Catlin.
The success story of one of its clients best exemplifies AMS' value proposition. This particular fashion brand went from having less than 1,000 SKUs to having over 13,000 SKUs in a very short period of time. "This massive growth in SKUs made it extremely difficult for both parties to manage available-tosell inventory," explains Catlin. AMS developed custom code for managing the lifecycle status of a SKU, including identifying those getting replenished, seasonal SKUs and discontinued SKUs as well SKU velocity categories. This enabled the inventory team to effectively manage storage on the floor. The company also implemented an automated put-to-light system that enabled the client to get through a very busy holiday season. As a result, the client was able to efficiently manage a peak of 13,000 SKUs and over 24,000 orders per day with close to no delays. This is merely a single page in AMS' exceptional order fulfillment solutions and distribution services book.
Our clients often come to us with questions or challenges, and we are often in a position to coach them through these challenges, or solve them on their behalf
As a Certified B Corporation and a social enterprise, AMS continually invests time and energy into its community, employees, and environment. "Our mission is to 'do good' as a business. We define workforce success as helping individuals develop skills and advance in their careers," Catlin adds. The company runs educational programs to teach employees vital skills applicable in life as well as in fulfillment business, like Lean Six Sigma, Excel training, and leadership."
Envisioning a Bright Future
Being at the forefront of resolving fulfillment complexities, ranging from pre-sale to post-order services, AMS is poised to invest more into automation going forward. The company has already seen tremendous success with its investments in automation by meeting the volatile volume demands of its clients. In that quest, AMS has developed a new shipping solution with overhead print and apply, which launched in July of this year. "Our employees will be able to set packages on a conveyor while the system reads the barcode, finds the order, and applies the shipping label onto the carton automatically," says Catlin.
While adopting advanced technologies like the above, AMS always tries to maintain and ensure that its service levels for clients exceed industry norms. As part of that, the company has embraced a more organic and controlled growth strategy. AMS became a bi-coastal operation in 2018 and then officially acquired its east coast operations partner in January 2020. "In the next five years, we will launch another regional operation, at a strategic location in the center of the country. This will serve as a strong foundation for us delivering to the entire US population in 1-2 days via ground service," concludes Catlin.