With annual revenues of $50 M-plus, DSI is flying high

TRAVERSE CITY – If you’ve ever gotten off a flight and headed to the baggage carousel only to discover that your luggage didn’t make it, Traverse City-based DSI may have orchestrated your rescue.

Founded in 1990 by David Mathia, a Detroit native with over 25 years of experience in the transportation industry, DSI designs, implements and manages distribution systems for airlines and pharmaceutical companies. Its revenues are in excess of $50 million annually.

It’s the willingness to find solutions that has driven DSI’s success, measured in part by the addition of four new clients within the last year–Pfizer, Pharmacia, Eli Lilly and American Airlines–as well as average annual growth rates of 70 percent in the past three years and the addition of 15 employees since January 2000.

“The staff understands their goals and objectives and finds their own way to get it done,” Mathia said. “But the common thread is: always do what’s right for the client.”

For pharmaceutical clients, including Merck, Pfizer, Pharmacia and Eli Lilly, DSI will take product–drug samples–and arrange bulk shipments between 130 to 150 cities in the United States and its territories. The client’s sales reps arrange for their individual delivery from local delivery companies. Local carriers, both large and small operations, have a two-hour window on the requested day of delivery to get the samples to the rep.

If it’s late, it’s considered a “service failure” and DSI would have breached its service guarantee to the client, explained Mathia. Not much room for error, considering that a sales rep being out of territory waiting for a delivery costs pharmaceutical companies in excess of $1,000 per hour. DSI’s clients average 4,000 reps, with one as high as 8,000. All tolled, DSI serves between 20,000 and 25,000 pharmaceutical salespeople every month.

Dennis Garrow, now director of airline business, joined DSI in 1995. With a background in air freight, he quickly saw the similarity between residential deliveries made on behalf of pharmaceutical companies and the residential deliveries of separated baggage on behalf of airlines.

After a two-year sales process, common in DSI’s field, Delta Air Lines contracted with DSI to design and implement a Separated Baggage Delivery System for the 140 airports it serves in the United States, explained Garrow.

Since then, U.S. Airways has contracted with the Traverse City company and American Airlines came on board this year. Another major carrier is in talks with DSI. “We’ve saved the airlines hundreds of thousands of dollars managing their vendor base,” explained Garrow. “The airlines were working with 150 vendors and paying them all separately. We send the airline one bill twice each month for all the airports they serve. And we provide them with service performance and cost reporting they never had before.”

That’s crucial since airlines have made a commitment to the Department of Transportation to deliver misrouted passenger baggage within 24 hours of the passenger’s claim.

DSI was recently awarded Delta Air Line’s prestigious APEX Small Business of the Year Award, at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA. Delta selects top performing vendors in various categories to receive their annual APEX (Achieving Performance Excellence) awards.

DSI’s exclusive and innovative Separated Baggage Delivery Program is currently in place in over 140 airports for Delta Air Lines nationwide. It has simplified, standardized and fully automated a previously paper intensive environment.

“This program, first implemented with Delta Air Lines in 1997, provides key FAA measures of delivery performance to the airline industry,” said Dennis Garrow, DSI’s Airline Director. “We are honored to receive this award from Delta.”

For the third consecutive year, DSI will host a solutions conference, entitled “Continuing the Journey,” this June in Traverse City for clients, vendors and industry guests. The first conference, Creating Pathways, held in June 1999 had 38 participants; and the second, 90. DSI anticipates 125 or more at its upcoming event.

“This is unique in our industry-where clients, vendors, DSI, and potential customers (who fully participate in sessions), all come together as a team to find solutions,” said Pat Lott, director of business development.

To reach the company, call 947-4430. BN