Logistical support may not seem like a common charitable contribution. But for the MS Society of Greater Delaware Valley, the logistics expertise provided by NFI is one of the reasons the group's annual bike ride event to benefit those living with multiple sclerosis is so successful.
Nearly 7,000 cyclists participate in the MS 150 City to Shore, an annual post-Labor-Day tradition in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region where NFI is headquartered. The two-day tour starts and finishes in Cherry Hill, N.J., with an overnight stay at the shore resort of Ocean City, N.J. It takes 1,000 volunteers along the 150-mile route, creating a massive need for logistical expertise.
The route, which snakes through southern New Jersey's Pine Barrens, blueberry farms and coastal plains, is ideal for bikers, but had proven to be a logistical challenge - so many bikers, so much distance, so many variables such as where to put water stations, how to assist riders who need medical care and so on.
"We have come to depend on NFI for handling the entire logistical side of the event," explains Jeff Brody, development director for the MS Society of Greater Delaware Valley, noting that the event accounts for nearly half of their annual budget. "Aside from the riders and volunteers, management of our supply chain is really the third major concern, and NFI's involvement has completely revolutionized our capabilities."
NFI uses the same logistics solutions it does for its manufacturer and retail clients. In addition to dropping off supplies to the refreshment stations that are every 15 miles along the route, NFI also handles the transport of luggage, bikes and equipment from the starting point to Ocean City and back.
About half of the company's resources for the event are specifically dedicated to the tracking, warehousing and shipping of vast quantities of food, beverages and supplies needed to support the efforts of the riders and volunteers.
"This year, we employed a drop-and-hook system for relaying goods between Cherry Hill and Ocean City," explains Tina Brown, vice president of customer experience for NFI and a driving force behind NFI's charitable endeavors. "We push to have a high level of this in our day-to-day operations, and for this event we really thought it would be ideal strategy for expediting the limited window of resources and workforce."
In all, NFI dedicates 20 employees and 9 trucks and trailers, with internal planning stretching months before.
"We have a group of core planners that meet monthly starting in May, determining when products should start arriving in the warehouse and begin getting in touch with vendors," says Brown, adding that as the event approaches, the task becomes a daily one.
The genesis of the company's involvement with the MS150 came about in 1999 when a group of employees formed a team and began riding in the event. This year, a team of nearly 100 riders comprised of NFI associates, friends and clients and NFI's CEO participated.