Lifeway's Supply Chain Mission

7 Supply Chains to Look Out For in 2007

Nashville-based Lifeway Christian Resources is the largest Christian publisher and retailer in the world. But as Mike Harry, the company's chief supply chain officer, claims, "Our competition is really less about other Christian players than 'How do we get people engaged in the Word?' instead of going to Las Vegas. The competition is all the other ways people entertain themselves. We're trying to offer something with a bit more internal value."

Lifeway has a broad customer base includes Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. Its books are sold by Barnes & Nobel, Borders, Waldenbooks and other book retailers. "Our customers range from an individual to a church to a trade book store," says Harry

Lifeway's product line includes furniture, clothing, music CDs and books. It has two web sites: www.lifeway.com and www.lifewaystores.com. In addition to the web sites and 131 retail stores it has four call centers because each of its business channels operates independently.

"As the supply chain organization, we sit in the middle of operations," notes Harry. "Everything comes to us for transportation and delivery. About 80% of our movement is small package. Approximately 15% is made up of LTL and shipments of the remainder are spread out to our core carrier group, air carriers and the postal service."

Although Lifeway's systems could theoretically handle more than 130,000 SKUs (stock keeping units), since a great deal of their business involves just in time delivery or print-on-demand it usually has only around 30,000 SKUs on hand. Because of the nature of its products, Harry says that people are often surprised to learn that Lifeway processes 2.3 million shipments a year. The company has 600,000 square feet of distribution space.

"We are a very large player in the market," he says, "and are trying to be as technologically savvy as possible."

Lifeway uses a pick-to-light operation for its main business lines. It has a sophisticated warehouse management system developed by its internal IT group. "We're very happy with it," notes Harry. "It's a mixture of a package and home-grown software. We are also a very heavy user of a HK TMS transportation management system."

UPS (www.ups.com) is the largest of the company's core carriers. Harry says that Lifeway makes use of its transportation and distribution data to work with its carriers to help improve service levels and see what they can do to reduce costs for all parties. "We partner with our carriers as much as possible," he says.
Roger Morton.

Lifeway Christian Resources Statistics:
Annual revenues: $433 million
Main facility: 600,000 sq. ft.
Products stocked: 30,000 SKUs

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