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A Look Inside: Mason Companies, Inc.

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 7:57 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - If you live in the Chippewa Valley, you have probably hear of Mason Companies, but you might now know what they do. Mason has been around for more than a century, starting as a boot manufacturer for loggers, before re-inventing itself many times over into a business that specializes in home goods and apparel and so much more.

“Folks and a lot of our neighbors think of us as shoes and that’s good because that’s still a flagship of who we are. But today we are in the foot ware business, the apparel business, the general merchandise business.”

Mason President and CEO, Jay Berlin, says the secret behind the success of the 117-year old company has been its ability to remake itself. The director to consumer retailer, e-commerce retail has been a big way in how Mason has marketed their eight distinct businesses, driven by an 800-employee workforce.

“Diversification in retail is so critically important because there are different categories that hit their spikes and troughs at different times. So, the more diversified you can be as we are the better,” says Berlin.

Earlier this summer, Mason’s broke ground on a new 425-thousand square-foot Fulfilment Center located in the Lake Wissota Business Park in Chippewa Falls, eventually that project will grow to more than 900-thousand square feet.

“This expanded square footage is going to help us serve our customers better by having more space for product, allow us to bring new functions, process and technologies in that allow us to serve our customers faster. More than ever the consumer expects speed... I’m an old guy that’s been in this industry since 1983. There used to be a time if you got that product shipped in three weeks that was good, the customer was happy. That’s not the case anymore, but this technology helps make the process of picking, packing and shipping that much more efficient,” adds Berlin.

It’s all about pick, pack and ship for Mason customers. That speedy delivery is thanks to state-of-the-art automated technology.

“The evolution of the supply chain and getting the product to the customer has been paramount, our customers no longer want their product in three weeks, they want it in three days or less. And we followed the technology to make that happen.”

For Mike Weise, Mason Companies Director of Fulfillment, putting a small item in a large box is wasted space, wasted cardboard and wasted cost in shipping expense. He explains why this automation for packaging is a highly sought-after piece of machinery.

“We scan the product so our system knows what product this order goes with... we’re going to do a bunch of different steps where we get the dimensions of the product, and then underneath what’s happening is a fan-fold carton that is being cut to scored the right size. Machine seals up the box, sends it through a taper and then sends it out down the line, weighing it for dimensions which it already knows and then does a print and ply label to send it out the carrier based on the most efficient and cost-effective method,” says Weise.

Walking through the Mason warehouse aisles you can see the massive extent of supply waiting to fly off the shelves this holiday season. Ted Solberg, Director of Sourcing and Inventory Management says Mason Companies, Inc. has been able to navigate through the tricky waters of COVID.

“It’s a delicate balance between having too much product and to being able to work it efficiently within the warehouses and having it there when the customer wants to place the order. It’s a fun challenge to get that balance correct,” explains Solberg.

“Satisfying customer demand is a priority for Mason Companies, in fact they ship out 6-million units annually including 1.3 million during this holiday season.”

“We got started very early, we brought our inventory in well before the holiday season just so we wouldn’t get burned by some the supply chain issues. Are we fully where we want to be in terms of inventory? No, but we are in relatively good shape. For example, we are fulfilling immediately about 80 percent of our orders that come in.”

“Our team has done a very good job in being aggressive in trying to be as proactive as possible to ready for this busy time which will be the next several weeks.”

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