Awana is a global, nonprofit organization that works to engage and encourage Christian-based youth groups around the world through products and activities that make religion fun. So it only makes sense that the ministry would share its expertise in order fulfillment to help other Christian organizations reach an ever-wider audience.

“Order fulfillment has become a core competency of Awana, so much so that other nonprofits are seeking us out,” said Steve Hale, warehouse operations manager for Awana. “We tell them, ‘Let us handle your orders so that you can focus on your ministries.’” 

Awana’s own footprint is vast. In just two years, its order fulfillment has doubled to 6.4 million pieces per year. Its gospel-centered curriculum reaches nearly 2.5 million youth each week—the equivalent of every man, woman and child living in Brooklyn. The 2,200 products range from books to T-shirts to teambuilding activity kits. 
Over the course of a 30-year relationship, Wynright has helped Streamwood, Illinois-based Awana grow its own business and expand to be a third-party logistics provider for other nonprofits with similar missions. Wynright helps Awana maintain streamlined, standardized processes, even as the business grows more complex.

“We’re bringing sophisticated supply chain best practices to an industry that never had it, thanks to Wynright,” Hale said.

Shifting Spaces
Until recently, Awana served 25,000 churches worldwide. Within the past couple of years, that number has surged to more than 34,000 churches in 108 countries. The Awana ministry distributes about 3.2 million pieces of product a year. 

On top of its own inventory growth, Awana now fulfills 10,000 book and DVD orders annually for a prominent Christian nonprofit and 35,000 Sunday and Bible school-related products for another. Both are based in Illinois. 

“I can’t imagine doing it without Wynright,” Hale said. “They’re the experts when it comes to layout and design.”

Awana and Wynright’s most enduring work has revolved around an 82,000-square foot building in Schaumburg, Illinois, that includes a 60,000-square foot warehouse that previously housed mobile phone products. When Awana acquired the warehouse in 2003, it needed to be reconfigured for its own unique distribution requirements, which include everything from print and video products to apparel and club uniforms.

Awana was moving from a large facility in Streamwood, Illinois, that also served as design inspirations as Wynright developed solutions for the new, larger warehouse in Schaumburg. Because of space restraints in Streamwood, Wynright had engineered and installed a system that involved shelving situated above the conveyor—a configuration Hale likened to a salad bar, which would be repeated in the new facility.

For the Schaumburg warehouse, Wynright designed a similar system that would make the space function as efficiently as possible while keeping in mind future growth. Working with Awana’s desire to minimize costs, Wynright included a mix of both new and used equipment, incorporating nearly all of the existing equipment from the Streamwood facility.
“Our model has always been to find the best, most cost-effective solution,” said Don DeSimone, Wynright’s director of warehouse equipment sales. “We are not there just to supply equipment but to come up with a smart engineering solution.”

Because Wynright designed the solution so seamlessly, Hale said the new warehouse was fully functioning within 72 hours after shutting off operations at the old facility. He considers the project a remarkable success and a personal career highlight.

Thinking Bigger
Wynright has helped Awana continually grow, adapt and refine the space over the past 11 years as its business evolves. Most recently, Wynright installed a new conveyor pick line and racking, moved the tote return line and expanded the product storage footprint from 3,300-square feet to 5,000-square feet. 
The conveyor was preplanned as an area for growth once Awana reached a certain capacity. The warehouse now includes half a mile of conveyor split among three lines. With the addition of the new pick line, constant upgrades in the system and in conjunction with Awana’s state of the art voice pick system, the number of lines picked per person per hour nearly doubled from 115 to 219. 

Yet while its order fulfillment has increased so tremendously, Awana has only had to add one more employee to the warehouse to accommodate the influx.
Because Wynright has so closely watched—and helped—Awana’s order fulfillment capabilities grow over many years, it has a deep understanding of its long-term distribution center goals and the best way to achieve them. Wynright recently even integrated six custom-made packing/work tables, developed by Wynright’s award winning Structural Solutions group, so Awana can better process the wide range of orders from different ministries more efficiently. 

Awana doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. Its goal by 2020 is to reach 10 million children globally each week—and Hale is confident that Wynright will help Awana reach that milestone.