L&R Designs the ‘Ultimate’ Shopping Experience for its Customers’ Customer
The distribution firm focuses on the success of its merchants by investing in technology and innovation.
When employees go to work each day at L&R Distributors, they look for ways to solve clients’ problems. This is important, CEO and Principal Marc Bodner says, because its clients’ challenges can change daily.
“We have to be understanding of what those are and how we can solve them,” he says. “Our mindset is focused on how do we continue to be U.S.E.FUL to our customers every day.”
With its headquarters based in Brooklyn, and distribution centers spread across the United States, L&R distributes more than 35,000 health and beauty care, general merchandise and cosmetic products to merchants in the supermarket, drug, military, e-commerce and retail sectors. “Our vision statement is we are designers of the ultimate shopping experience for our customers’ customers,” Bodner says.
The company is so focused on being of use to its customers that it has even formed an acronym with the word “useful,” U.S.E.FUL, that reflects this vision. “It’s another way you can say ‘Ultimate Shopping Experience to Foster Ultimate Loyalty,’” he explains. “They get ultimate loyalty from their shopper.”
A Supply Symphony
One way that L&R focuses on solving its clients’ challenges is by investing in technology and innovation. “That is uncharacteristic for companies like ours,” Bodner notes. “We’ve done a lot of it.”
L&R demonstrates this dedication to technology at its new distribution center in Monroe Township, N.J. The company consolidated the operations of its centers in Brooklyn and Deer Park, N.Y., into the new location.
The Monroe Township center, Bodner notes, is completely paperless and fully automated with robots that allow L&R to better serve its clients. For the project, L&R worked very closely with Dematic, a provider of automated system solutions.
“We have the ability to process 40,000 split-case line items per day,” he reports. The center features Dematic multi-shuttle systems that deliver items to a goods-to-person (GTP) operator so they can be packed into a carton.
In a typical warehouse, workers would have to carry items around, but the systems eliminates those time-consuming steps. In addition, the system ensures the merchant receives the right order thanks to its improved accuracy.
“The picker doesn’t have to think about what box to pack items into,” he says. “The [GTP] system is telling them what order is going to be filled.”
Bodner praises the work of L&R’s operations and IT staff, and Dematic’s team of systems designers, programmers and engineers. Together, they worked closely on the project. “It gave us the ability to grow,” he says.
Watching the entire operation in action is “almost like watching a symphony,” Bodner raves, noting that the system helps L&R achieve its vision. “Our customers can really get what they need in today’s world of disruption.”
Bodner not only credits the success of this initiative to L&R’s associates, but also Dematic, which served as its technology partner on its new order fulfillment system. “I cannot give enough praise to Dematic in their willingness through our project to stick with us,” he says.
Dematic helped L&R cope with inevitable start-up issues when the system went live. “They did not stop until we were completely satisfied and we were able to operate on our own,” he recalls. “Failure in implementing this technology was not an option for us.”
But thanks to the work of both companies, the order-fulfillment system has proven to be a profitable bet. “We are currently exceeding our return investment,” Bodner reports. “The accuracy is great and, ultimately, we’re invisible to our customers.”
‘The Back Engine’
L&R enhanced its omnichannel capabilities with the launch of LR Fulfillment Services (LFRS), which can store inventory for customers and deliver the product to the end-user. “That’s us being the back engine for direct-to-consumer fulfillment for our categories,” Bodner says.
As part of its service, LFRS can integrate its content into the merchant’s site, or create a micro e-commerce site for end-users. After its clients make a sale, LFRS will take the purchased product from its inventory and ship and deliver the product in custom packaging that is specific to the merchant.
So far, LFRS has delivered for high-profile clients that include Kroger and Walmart. “If you were to order something from Walmart.com, it will say, ‘Shipped and delivered by Walmart,’ but those items are coming out of an L&R distribution center,” Bodner says.
L&R’s business continues to grow. “Eight months ago, we were processing 500 direct to consumer orders a week,” he recalls. “Today, we’re processing 15,000 direct to consumer orders a week. We are providing the capability for [retail clients] to be able to sell products online without having to stock them.”
Bodner sees a strong future ahead for L&R as new brands enter its markets. One area that is being especially affected is the beauty sector. “That is being particularly disrupted by start-up brands,” he says.
But this is an area where L&R can help by determining “which brands make sense for our stores to be carrying,” he says. “We can say if they should be taking out the older brands.