While traditional manufacturing is seeing decline and struggles with industry identity, new and more versatile manufacturing hubs are springing up around the country – and no example is better than West Michigan.

Starting around a decade ago, the greater Grand Rapids area began embracing a new approach to manufacturing: A lean, creative form of production focused on smaller efforts with versatile approaches to product creation – and a diverse field, one that has grown to include plastics, medical devices, office furniture, foods, and many other consumer goods. There are currently more than 2,500 manufacturing companies in West Michigan, most with fewer than 250 employees. Together, they make up around 15% of all jobs in the area.

Companies like Sherpack welcome this growth, because they’re specifically prepared for it: Sherpack is a fulfillment service company with a focus on consumer goods, a business raised on Michigan soil and delighted to be seeing the new manufacturing trends. The third-party fulfillment field is proving especially important to this new kind of manufacturing growth. Here’s why Sherpack is particularly well-positioned to take handle it.

The Swift Growth of Agile Consumer Goods

As investments from both large and small companies continue in the Grand Rapids region, it’s becoming clear that U.S. manufacturing has entered an important new phase. Large, unwieldy operations are becoming less feasible, but smaller manufacturing establishments can more easily adapt to demand and new projects – without enduring the same losses that larger models would. The combination of high-tech production systems and more nimble models has been a winning one – and manufacturing growth in Grand Rapids has surpassed state and national average for years as a result.

That brings us to shipping. Manufacturing has very direct shipping requirements, no matter how agile their processes. New ventures and small consumer goods companies are often able to survive with in-house fulfillment, taking care of their own packaging and shipping at low costs. This works for a limited time, but once companies grow to a certain level, they must depend on larger manufacturing solutions – and those manufacturers in turn need reliable shipping partners. That’s where companies like Sherpack step in.

Manufacturing Synergy in Booming West Michigan

We mentioned that many large brands have established manufacturing plants in the area: This includes Meijer, BISSELL, Wolverine Worldwide, Herman Miller, Shefit, Boxed Water is Better, Amway, and many others. Many of these corporations have the resources to manage their own fulfillment branches and don’t need outside help. Others may want to weigh the costs of creating reliable shipping services themselves vs. partnering with a high-accuracy center like Sherpack.

For smaller manufacturing companies, the choice is clearer: Third party fulfillment is nearly a necessity at certain stages of growth, where companies don’t have the resources or experience to manage larger-scale fulfillment on their. The synergy between services like Sherpack’s and these companies is obvious – which is one reason Grand Rapids is such a great fit for them both.

Managing Costs with Localized Fulfillment

Logistical synergy is great, but Sherpack’s local services in the West Michigan area offers another big advantage: It’s simply less expensive to have fulfillment services nearby. To fully understand why, it’s necessary to understand the potential complexities of “shipping zones” that carriers use (Big Commerce has a broad rundown of the entire process)

Shipping zones are carefully mapped geographical areas that carriers use to judge how many zip codes a package must travel through from origin to destination. This allows carriers to map out the journey from any particular manufacturing center to a destination store/storage facility/etc. The package starts at Zone 1, and the farther it has to travel, the more zones it must pass through.

This creates a problem when fulfillment services are in rural areas or different regions, because it adds a whole additional shipping cost to the fulfillment process, and if goods have to pass through multiple zones these costs can become exorbitant. This is why many fulfillment services focus on urban centers where they are closer to consumer good production. Sherpack’s centralized location in Grand Rapids is an excellent example of this solution, because it allows those thousands of surrounding manufacturers an easy way to save money on shipping if they need it. This also leads to many other advantages down the road, such as faster and more reliable shipping times for customers.

Flexible Solutions for Ambitious Businesses

These agile manufacturers usually have big plans for customer experience, which means that services like Sherpack must be ready for the same. Sherpack does this in several ways – using the latest technology to guarantee compatibility with their partner systems, and offering a direct contact to your own personal consultant to discuss important shipping goals, new projects, and what exactly the company needs from fulfillment services. For those businesses that are going the extra mile, fulfillment may also include custom kitting or other packaging services that can keep up with business offerings as they continue to evolve. In markets that can move surprisingly fast at times, these solutions are more important than ever.

A Passion for a Hometown

Sherpack has another reason businesses should think about their third-party fulfillment solutions – they actually care. They care about their clients’ growth, and they care about their community. Sherpack embraces the option to operate out of its hometown, and takes pride in helping the community – and economy – grow through its services. It’s a comforting addition for manufacturers in the region who want a partner that really cares about the results because of personal investment.

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