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Warehousing – a bundle of services in one

Reusing an exhibit stored in a warehouse for 362 days of each year for an annual three-day tradeshow is like greeting an old friend – an old friend most exhibitors don’t have the time or space for.

Luckily for exhibitors, retailers and anyone else with storage needs, warehouses exist for this sole purpose. When the facility offers a transportation component and other services, it could be more convenient to bundle these services than say – cable.

Sunset’s 106,000 square-foot facility in Las Vegas.
Sunset’s 106,000 square-foot facility in Las Vegas.

If in need of a warehouse for exhibition needs, companies like Sunset Transportation allow customers to store their items forever and ever – as long as they continue to pay. If the company’s customers ever get the urge to see their old friend again, Sunset also lets let them inspect their exhibits.

In Sunset’s 106,000 square-foot facility, exhibit owners are given a designated space for their booth and accessories. This is, of course, packed in crates, but customers can unbox everything and even rebuild their exhibit on the floor of the warehouse if need be.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, Sunset employees don’t know what’s sequestered in the hundreds of crates in the warehouse, according to Warehouse Manager Shaunda Peck, unless the customers tell them or the customer takes the items out in front of them.

“If something is stolen, we would know because we measure the weight of the items,” Peck explained.

If the weight — of what Sunset employees guessed was a television — changed, then this would surely tip them off. With security measures in place, Peck explained this doesn’t happen. The facility provides cameras and security personnel 24 hours of the day. Customers are also allowed to appoint their own security team to stay overnight with their items. Additionally, high-value items are locked away.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause keeping track of the hundreds of storage items is important for a number of reasons, Sunset has its own software. Its warehousing software, created through a partnership with IBM, comes as a benefit of it being acquired by Tantara Transportation Group four years ago. This in turn has saved Tantara-Sunset thousands of dollars.

“We can change what we need to accommodate customers. With other software programs [owned by someone else], you have to pay to make changes. It could cost $20,000 to $30,000 to make changes,” added Michael Montgomery, director of operations, Sunset Transportation. “Software programs are expensive – It could be $250,000 for a software program.”

Tantara-Sunset currently has three full-time programmers who can update the software anytime and can customize it to clients’ needs.

Aside from using Sunset’s facility as a long-term storage option, exhibitors often use it as an advanced facility to ship their exhibits a few weeks out from a tradeshow. Shipping exhibit material to the show site is rarely done and not easy, according to Peck. Problems at the venue can come up, such as who is going to sign for the freight?

“Everyone who is displaying a product [at the tradeshow] sends it to me. There might not be anyone at the show site to inventory the freight. It’s another method of accountability. Show management may not want to deal with [the freight], and hotels charge for using their mailing rooms,” Peck explained.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPeck usually receives advanced freight for upcoming tradeshows while working with other Sunset employees at the Cross Dock. This dock is where third-party logistics companies and other carriers drop off freight. Peck manually sorts through a variety of packages and crates and then inventories them. She is accustomed to sorting through freight for many projects at once.

The Cross Dock is also where Sunset interacts and, at times, collaborates with third-party logistics companies. Due to strict regulations about the type of vehicle allowed to enter certain locations in the U.S., third-party logistics companies may choose to drop off the package with Sunset. This allows Sunset to transport the freight to the final destination.

“There are strict regulations about the type of vehicles that can go into California. For instance, there could be Canadian transportation companies that have 2002 model vehicles, which are quality in certain ways, but may not comply with smog system, tire and wind foil requirements,” explained Rick Watts, Las Vegas city manager, Sunset Transportation.

Rather than spending $10,000-$20,000 a unit to fix these issues, according to Watts, third-party transportation companies choose to partner with Sunset.

Sunset also services general contractors, retail and other clients. Many of its retail clients in particular prefer the company’s “Pick and Ship” program. Here they can send a bulk shipment of their product line, yet choose one or two items at a time to be shipped to stores.

For general contractors working on retail projects, Sunset pad wraps and transports items, such as kiosks, to the store, unloads it and puts it in place. The company also removes the old retail kiosks or displays and transports them to a landfill if requested.

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