BENTLEY WORLD-PACKAGING

BENTLEY WORLD-PACKAGING

DATE OF AWARD:

"E" Award in 1990.

WHY THE AWARD WAS GIVEN:

Bentley World-Packaging received the award for excellence in providing boxing and crating for overseas shipments, as well as ocean container loading services.

COMPANY DATA:

Chief executive: Thomas Bentley III, owner, director and president.

Headquarters: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Employees and plants: Bentley World-Packaging is family owned and operated. Thirty full-time employees, including many skilled carpenters and transportation experts, load, block and secure shipments each week. The company also uses transportation consultants.

Basic business: Bentley World-Packaging provides packaging for goods shipped overseas. Its clients are both military and commercial. The Department of Defense is an increasingly important client.

"Packaging for the military involves meeting very strict specifications, down to the nails used on each crate," said Michael Braam, company vice president. "They (the military) are about the most demanding customer you can imagine."

For private industry, Bentley manufactures boxes for exports, designs custom wood boxes and skids, and directs ocean container loading. It offers consulting services for major U.S. corporations and is especially active in the Midwest.

REASON FOR EXPORTING:

In 1969, technological advances in transportation convinced Mr. Bentley to establish a separate firm devoted strictly to packaging.

"The world was going global and and the trade was becoming more sophisticated," he said, "Not only were there more options for the shipper, with the advent of air freight and modular steel containers, there were more rules and specifications. Organizations were creating and constantly updating regulations.

"At the same time," he said, "The U.S. was finding new exportable products and shipping them to new markets," he said.

EXPORT SUCCESS:

After a flurry of activity during World War II, the Bentley family largely abandoned the export packaging business. But in 1969, when only one employee remained in the packaging division, Mr. Bentley saw the boom in world trade and the revolution in transportation technology and acted on it.

By 1990, Bentley was handling more than $140 million in international traffic.

At present, about 85 percent of the company's revenues come from providing packaging for transportation of military and commercial shipments abroad.

"Between containerization, air commerce and the new, unprecedented levels of world trade reached each year, packaging could no longer be done by lumber yards and part-timers," Mr. Bentley said. "The export community needs specialists who have encountered every situation."

Frank Sinatra's oil paintings, oil generators for George Bush's Thanksgiving Dinner last year with U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, tractors, race cars and Miller beer are among the host of items packaged by Bentley.

For Miller Brewing Co., Bentley helped ship containers of "Genuine Draft" beer to Israel. "With every product there are different considerations. Beer in a container can explode when a vessel vibrates and rocks," said Michael Braam, vice president.

Bentley currently is bidding on a project to ship prefabricated homes to Israel for Soviet immigrants.

"The more projects you work on, the more familiar you are with every situation," Mr. Braam said. "Two years ago a local hospital shut down and we helped ship the entire contents - the operating tables, the lab equipment, even the beds - over to the Philippines."

MARKETS:

Bentley World-Packaging does not sell its packaging materials overseas. Rather, it packages overseas-bound shipments for U.S. companies.

The company's traditional market has been exporters in Wisconsin which, according to company literature, export more than $5 billion in goods annually.

Its client list includes Colt Industries-Beloit, Oshkosh Truck Corp. and Waukesha Engine.

"Our strategy in the next few years is to maintain our export business while building our military business," said Kristin Hayes.

In the Persian Gulf war, Bentley helped ship water purification devices, missile launchers and other supplies.

THE BENTLEY WORLD-PACKAGING LTD. STORY:

Three years before Thomas Bentley was born, his family's construction yard business almost died.

"When World War II came, it took all the construction opportunities with it," Mr. Bentley said. "Eventually, we were put to the war effort. Bentley & Sons devoted its yards to manufacturing export boxes for military shipments."

Mr. Bentley III, a fifth generation Milwaukee contractor, said many of the modern shipping standards were developed during the war, but after the war his family returned to domestic contracting.

"International trade was dead after the war," he said.

By 1969, the world had changed considerably. Wisconsin businesses were going overseas to find markets for their products and Mr. Bentley followed.

"I looked at the other firms that made export boxing and they seemed to be in it only as a sideline," Mr. Bentley said. "We established a separate entity - Bentley World-Packing Ltd. - that would solely address the concerns of exporters."

Mr. Bentley said his business learned to adapt itself to the advent of containerism. "Some firms don't need the same specialized service and subsequently we have to reach out a little further in our client base.

"But the needs of shippers are still growing considerably, with customers demanding faster movement of cargo and just-in-time warehousing," he said. ''In this respect, the need for dependable, expert packaging is only growing."