With the pandemic-era burgeon, boom and bustle of e-commerce creating a dire need for speed, the once-rote industry of storage and fulfillment has entered a new Golden Era of opportunity — and a chance for the budding business to be grabbed by veteran hands.
Founded in 1980, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.-based specialty contractor McMurray Stern enjoyed an aptly-timed surge to the future when the company was acquired by Valore Ventures and Grays Peak Capitol in 2018.
“When we bought the company, it was purely static storage, things like lockers and mobile shelving were the base core of the business,” says Kenney DeAngelis, president of McMurray Stern and principal of Valore/Grays. “And we saw so much potential in building the business, coupled with what’s currently happening in the business of industrial warehousing.”
Such vision was fueled by automation and improved workflow.
“With a base of a great company and great clients already in place, we thought we could use that to bolster the existing business and upsell our automation products,” DeAngelis says. “This is an exciting time for the industry; I’m very bullish on the industry as a whole.”
Since the acquisition, the past three-plus years have seen McMurray mature into a domestic leader of fully-integrated design, custom storage, micro-fulfillment and custom shelving solutions.
“In just the past seven years or so, automation went from pretty mundane stuff – like basic conveyor systems – to growing leaps-and-bounds,” DeAngelis adds of the industry’s recent history. “And COVID has accelerated the trend. For example, even pre-pandemic, warehousing was experiencing labor shortages and it was, truthfully, hard to recruit people to work these jobs. People just didn’t want those jobs.”
Working with clients large and small, McMurray’s purview includes providing cost-effective storage and applicable solutions to a diverse group of industries, including: health care, military, universities, public safety, agriculture, libraries, retail, museums, grocery and athletics.
Examples of diversity in respective industries includes McMurray client companies such as Kaiser Permanente, B. Braun, Amgen and Oakley.
“When COVID hit and many people were forced to work from home, we’ve all seen the boom in ordering things online, which accelerated our business even further,” DeAngelis says. “And companies still need to get goods, whatever they may be, from A-to-B. So, companies that weren’t looking closely at automation before – they’re certainly doing so now.”
Focusing on the Western U.S., but looking to soon grow beyond, McMurray Stern is projecting double its sales from 2020 with aims to double its business by ’22.
Such growth finds power in partnership, evidenced by McMurray’s exclusive distributor deal with German firm Schaefer — among the top material handling firms in the world – and a recently-announced partnership with global leader, FANUC Robotics.
“The time window keeps getting compressed; people want that efficiency and that speed,” DeAngelis says of customer expectations in micro-fulfillment. “On the warehousing side, it’s about getting quicker, and that’s where the automation really comes in.”
Amid the diversity in projects, McMurray is currently working on a sizable cold storage design in Washington State and, in SoCal, the firm has reached final stages of project at LAX for LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports), which includes design and installation of 1,800 personal storage lockers in prep for the city’s hosting of the 2028 Summer Olympics.
With many clients, DeAngelis helps weigh the Greenfield and Brownfield scales, discerning, essentially, if a project design is more economic and efficient by leaving or remaining at an existing work site.
“There are solutions for staying and for leaving,” DeAngelis says, also noting the current complexities of considering industrial rents in SoCal. “Our job is to provide solutions for both. For example, we recently had a company come to us and say, ‘Hey, we like where we live, and we don’t want to build a one million-square-foot facility out in No Man’s Land in California and have a two-hour commute. How can we make this work with our current facility?'”
At a time of industrial, warehousing and fulfillment flux, McMurray Stern’s veteran hand would appear to have a grip on future solutions. “Crisis creates opportunity, and can change consumer behavior forever,” DeAngelis concludes. “To do that, we provide the picks and shovels, the solutions and infrastructure, to turn those once pie in the sky dreams into a reality.”
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