Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Expansion logical move for distribution firm

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A local warehouse/distribution firm is in the midst of a major expansion of its Prairie operations, including a move into a much larger facility here, as it strives to handle a steady growth in its business volumes.

CWS Logistics Ltd. has seen its business grow by an average of 10 per cent a year over the last eight years, co-owner and executive vice-president Shawn Bergen said in an interview.

To accommodate that growth, the 16-year-old firm has had to beef up its operations. That includes building a new packaging/warehouse/distribution centre in Saskatoon and expanding its warehouse/distribution centres in Regina and Calgary -- all to between 120,000 and 150,000 square feet -- and purchasing a warehouse/distribution facility in southwest Winnipeg which is more than triple the size of the 40,000-square-foot space it has now.

Bergen said the new 145,000-square-foot facility at 1664 Seel Ave. is big enough to enable CWS to consolidate all of its local warehouse/distribution operations under one roof. They now operate out of two locations, one a leased premises near the airport and the other a building it owns on Clarence Avenue in Fort Garry.

There will also be room in the Seel Avenue building for the company's head office, which currently operates out of leased space on Scurfield Boulevard, and a new diesel mechanics shop the company is setting up to service its fleet of 60 highway tractors and 160 dry-van trailers.

Bergen said doing its own repair and maintenance work, instead of contracting it out, is going to save the company money. So, too, will having all of its operations in a single, company-owned building.

He said CWS purchased the Seel Avenue building last fall for about $9 million, and is spending about $3 million to renovate and upgrade it. The diesel shop and the warehouse/distribution operations should be moving in within the next six to eight weeks. But it will likely be six to eight months before the head office space is ready.

"The (old) office area has basically been gutted," he explained, and will be rebuilt to suit their needs.

CWS employes about 225 people, including about 40 in Winnipeg. Bergen said the company expects to add 15 more employees to its local workforce by the time it moves into the new building. That includes eight workers for the new shop.

CWS, which relocated to Winnipeg from Regina in 2003, warehouses, packages and distributes a variety of farm and non-farm-related products.

The farm products -- mainly seed, fertilizer and herbicides -- are distributed to about 600 retail clients in Western Canada, including all of the major grain companies, Federated Co-operatives Ltd., UFA Co-operative Limited, and a host of independent farm supply outlets.

The non-farm products it distributes include beer, soft drinks, furniture, building supplies and food products. Those clients are also scattered throughout Western Canada.

Bergen said agricultural products account for about 70 per cent of the company's overall business. He said both sides of the business have been growing over the last eight years, but the agricultural-products side has accounted for the bulk of the growth.

Bergen said he expects growth will continue, which is why the company plans to keep its Clarence Avenue plant.

"It's a long-term thought that we'll eventually be operating out of both locations," he said, so the plan is to lease out the space until it's needed. Although the building is about 120,000 square feet in size, CWS has only using about a third of it for its warehouse/distribution operations.

CWS history

HERE are some of the highlights from CWS Logistics history:

1997 -- Launched a packaging and distribution business in Regina.

1998 -- Doubled its warehouse space in Regina to accommodate a fast-growing customer base.

1998 to 2003 -- Added new warehouse/terminals in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary, and a fertilizer trans-load facility in Belle Plain, SK.

2003 -- Re-located its head office to Winnipeg.

2006 -- Purchased a new warehouse, terminal and packaging facility in Regina.

2011 -- Built a new warehouse/distribution centre in Saskatoon.

2012 -- Purchased a larger warehouse/distribution centre in Winnipeg and began extensive renovations and upgrades to the facility. Also began expanding its warehouse/distribution centres in Regina and Calgary.

2013 -- Will be consolidating all of its local operations in the upgraded Winnipeg facility.

-- source: CWS Logistics Ltd.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 B4

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