A Conversation about the Church’s Distribution Centers

“A Conversation about the Church’s Distribution Centers,” Ensign, Oct. 1986, 78–79

A Conversation about the Church’s Distribution Centers

The Ensign spoke recently with Kay Briggs, managing director of the Materials Management Department, about the Church’s distribution centers and how members can make better use of them.

Q: The Ensign frequently announces new materials available at the Salt Lake Distribution Center. How does an individual, particularly one who does not live near a distribution center, obtain these materials?

A: If a member doesn’t live near a center, he can mail his order to the nearest distribution center, along with a check or money order for the appropriate amount; catalogs and order forms should be available in meetinghouse libraries. At least twice during the year, the Ensign includes an order form members can use to order selected items from the Salt Lake Distribution Center.

While we do our best to process individual orders quickly, we encourage members to place their order with their ward or branch. The material ordered is then sent directly to the bishop for local distribution. Materials ordered this way can actually arrive faster than when ordered by an individual, because orders from the ward can be telephoned in and the materials mailed out quickly.

Q: How quickly?

A: Most items can be sent virtually anywhere within the United States or Canada within a week. We’ve been improving our efficiency, and we do our best to ship orders as soon as possible.

Recently, Church headquarters and the Salt Lake Distribution Center have made a major effort to see that the Saints have their instructional materials on time. As you know, most new manuals are introduced at the beginning of the year. We’ve had the supplies for 1987 ready since 1 July 1986, and the Church is now working on materials for 1988, 1989, and 1990.

Q: What are the most common mistakes members make when ordering supplies?

A: The most common mistakes are failing to indicate the quantity desired and sending checks made out for the wrong amount.

Q: What kinds of materials are distributed through the distribution centers?

A: We distribute everything from scriptures for missionaries to every kind of instructional material produced by the Church, but our stock isn’t limited to published materials. We supply materials like Duty to God pins, filmstrips and videocassettes, and specialized computer software for genealogical work. We also have a hundred garment distribution centers to supply garments and temple clothing to members.

In some areas of the world where obtaining certain supplies from local vendors is difficult or time consuming, distribution centers stock chairs, carpet, doors, blackboards, and other materials for furnishing classrooms or Church offices.

Q: How many distribution centers does the Church operate, and where are they located?

A: The Church maintains distribution centers in thirty-six different countries. These centers range in size from the small one-room facility in Iceland to supercenters like those in Mexico, the United States, and West Germany. These supercenters have both printing and distributing capabilities. The Salt Lake Distribution Center currently covers 200,000 square feet, and when its new printing facility is completed in October 1987, the combined facility will have 400,000 square feet of floor space.

Q: How much material do the centers distribute?

A: The amount of materials handled by our centers is staggering. In 1985, for instance, more than 820,000 Relief Society manuals were distributed worldwide. Some 565,000 Melchizedek Priesthood study guides were shipped, and 1,200,000 copies of the hymnbook were sold last year.

We’re now distributing materials for the Church in 96 different languages. We will soon be handling materials in 146 languages, and by the end of 1989 we hope to be stocking materials in the major language of every country on earth.

Q: What are the goals of the Church’s distribution centers, and how well are they being met?

A: The basic mission of the distribution centers is to provide for individual members and organizations the Church materials and supplies they need, on time and at reasonable cost.

As I’ve already pointed out, we’re now handling thousands of different items, many of them in vast quantities. Our delivery time has been greatly improved in recent years, although we continue to work toward being even more efficient.

We’ve also been able to control costs well. Most manuals are of high quality, yet they sell in the $1.00 to $3.00 range. Manuals of comparable quality produced commercially would be priced from $10.00 to $20.00. Our manuals are priced just high enough to cover costs; our operations aren’t designed to make a profit.

Kay Briggs, managing director, Materials Management Department. (Photography by Michael M. McConkie.)