Stribling develops strategy to meet omnichannel demands

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 1,366 views 

From left, Greg Jackson, senior vice president of operations and strategic growth, and Bill Stribling Jr., owner and CEO, of Rogers-based Stribling Inc.

In the wake of Stribling Inc.’s decision to sell off its real estate assets in Rogers, two of the logistics and supply chain company’s top principals say there are no immediate plans to relocate the family-owned business.

On the contrary, the company is making plans for the next advancement in its nearly 40-year history to keep up with omnichannel customer demands.

“Stribling will continue operating our warehousing, co-pack [contract packaging] and e-commerce fulfillment operations at its current location,” said Bill Stribling Jr., company owner and CEO. “We look forward to expanding our client base with the growth of Northwest Arkansas.”

Stribling and Greg Jackson, the company’s senior vice president of operations and strategic growth, spoke recently inside the company’s 274,000-square-foot office and warehouse on North 35th Street, where they’ve gone from owners to tenants. The interview was only a few days after Stribling sold the property to California-based consumer products supplier Olivet International Inc. for $14.75 million.

Stribling said he wasn’t actively marketing the property, but industrial real estate remains a sizzling and attractive sector of the commercial real estate market.

Olivet, a Walmart supplier in more than a dozen categories, has a supplier office at 1000 S.E. Benton St. in Bentonville and a manufacturing facility at 603 Monitor Road in Springdale for its subsidiary, Ecotech Consumer Products. CEO Terry Muldoon said the 23.6-acre Stribling property would meet the company’s future expansion needs in the region.

“California is our logistics hub, and Bentonville is our sales and marketing arm. Both share manufacturing capabilities,” Muldoon said. “I do think that soon our main manufacturing hub will be in Northwest Arkansas. I’m not sure how soon that will be. But that is the plan.”

Stribling said his understanding from Olivet officials is that they won’t need the Rogers facility for at least three years. Muldoon said that’s likely the case, adding that the company has additional real estate assets in Northwest Arkansas under contract.

That’s plenty of runway for Stribling, which continues to evolve nearly four decades after its founding in 1984 by the late Bill Stribling Sr. The company provides retailers, suppliers and manufacturers various services by delivering contract packaging, custom kitting, assortment builds and package/pallet displays. Stribling also offers warehousing and distribution from facilities in Rogers, Missouri and Nebraska.

E-commerce is the company’s next frontier. For the past 12 to 18 months, Stribling has been going through a transformation as a third-party logistics provider (3PL) by adopting new technology to meet clients’ needs better.

The evolution of omnichannel fulfillment — completing orders through various channels — is changing the customer experience. Stribling is adjusting its business strategy and suite of services accordingly to offer end-to-end packaging and supply chain services. That includes technology investments to provide services such as omnichannel fulfillment, business to business (B2B) and direct-to-consumer delivery and providing customers with real-time inventory visibility.

“It’s not a blank sheet of paper, thank goodness,” Stribling said. “We have some current and ongoing business, and we continue to grow in other states. But it’s challenging and exciting at the same time. We have the facility that will support growth here. I’m excited to get out there with [customers] we’ve served in the past. Local manufacturing is evolving, too, and we can work with those companies and their supply chain. Maybe by being a hold house for their packaged goods. Being a JIT [just-in-time] provider for them. I call that the meat and potatoes of this business, but I feel like we have the horsepower to grow.”

Stribling employs about 20 full-time workers in Rogers and facilities in Sedalia, Mo., and South Sioux City, Neb. As a cost-saving measure, the company uses temporary labor for warehouse staffing.

The late Bill Stribling Sr., who died in August 2006, founded the business in 1984 as a distribution and fulfillment center and JIT provider of packaging to the poultry industry. The company experienced steady growth and became a leader in producing and distributing corrugated and packaging-related items.

In the 1990s, as Walmart suppliers established operations in Northwest Arkansas, Stribling started supporting retail packaging solutions.

During the next decade, Stribling established itself as a top local provider for packaging and pallet design, manufacturing and fulfillment needs. The Sedalia facility opened in 2003 to service the protein manufacturing industry with corrugate and packaging needs.

In 2010, the company sold off its manufacturing division to Englander dZignPak LLC to narrow its focus on its 3PL and co-packing services. Co-packing companies provide contract packaging services to product manufacturers to handle the packaging of their products.

“We do fulfillment of displays that come in,” Jackson said. “We bring in the corrugate, the supplier ships in the product that’s going in the display, and we put it all together and make it retail-ready.”

The South Sioux City facility opened three years ago to expand Stribling’s services of corrugate distribution to protein manufacturing suppliers.

Stribling declined to disclose company financials. He described the business as profitable and “very healthy.”

“Since we started this [business] model in 2010, we’ve grown the business three- to four-fold,” Stribling said. “One way I look at it is as we are adding value. It’s a different dollar than our company was before. If you can do that and do it the right way and still be profitable and come out the other side, it’s pretty good. We’ve been able to do that over the past 10 years.”

Before joining Stribling in November 2019, Jackson spent his career as a longtime supply chain executive for Walmart and Sam’s Club.

After leaving the retailer and looking for his “what’s next?” Jackson connected with Stribling through mutual friends. Like Stribling, Jackson has deep Rogers roots. His father, Gary Jackson, was an early partner in the design firm known today as Hight Jackson Associates. It was founded in Kansas in 1960. Jackson opened the Rogers branch — now the sole office — in 1974 when he relocated to Northwest Arkansas.

Greg Jackson said Stribling’s aspiration to move the business forward as an omnichannel supply chain and distribution company appealed to him. That transition to new warehouse management systems and new technology started with his hiring just a few months before the pandemic arrived.

“From a timing standpoint, that [pandemic] served us well,” Jackson said. “It allowed us to get our feet on solid ground by piloting and going through the ups and downs of the testing and learning. What to do and what not to do.”

Jackson said Stribling is emerging from the pandemic in an excellent position to serve existing customers with added services.

“E-commerce has exploded in the past year,” he said. “The pandemic pushed companies down that path a lot faster than anyone expected. Companies did years’ worth of volume in one year. We feel like we’re ready with the right technology and capabilities to take advantage of that.”

Jackson explained how Stribling secured its first e-commerce customer in the past year.

“A customer approached us that wanted to get into e-commerce [shipping] and asked if that was something we could do,” he said. “In full transparency, we said, ‘Yes, we could do that, but understand where we are at in our journey.’ They said they were OK with that. And we’re still serving them today. The first month of the process was pretty bumpy, as you might expect, but once we got things into the system and the right locations, it’s run very smoothly since then.”

Jackson said the company’s e-commerce business development efforts remain a focus in 2021 and beyond.

“I probably get a call every couple of weeks suggesting a client who’s interested in e-commerce,” he said. “We haven’t added any clients after that first one at this point. A lot of those are still in the pipeline of understanding who they are, what is their product and if it’s the right fit for them and us.”

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