Advancing Manufacturing with CONNEX SC: A Game-Changer for South Carolina’s Supply Chain

Navigating the intricate pathways of the supply chain within South Carolina is a critical undertaking. The ability to seamlessly connect various stages of production, from raw materials to finished products, not only defines the efficiency of operations but also contributes significantly to the economic vitality of the region. In this complex landscape, one pivotal aspect shines through—the identification and collaboration with local suppliers. By bolstering the ranks of local suppliers for in-state manufacturers, this initiative not only fortifies South Carolina’s economic fabric but also amplifies the competitiveness of its existing industries.

Understanding the profound impact of supplier relationships on the state’s manufacturing ecosystem, OpExChange orchestrated a virtual presentation in collaboration with Sunland Logistics and the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP), delving into the art of navigating the supply chain. The presentation brought together expertise from Amy Sartain, Director of Business Development at Sunland Logistics Solutions, and Miranda Craig, Business Development Associate at SCMEP. Their shared insights shed light on six indispensable strategies for effective logistics navigation, providing a roadmap for businesses aiming to optimize their supply chains.

In addition to these strategies, Miranda Craig unveiled an exciting development that promises to revolutionize the way South Carolina manufacturers manage their supply chains. She introduced CONNEX South Carolina, an innovative software and database that is now accessible to all South Carolina Manufacturers. This cutting-edge tool offers real-time data and insights, empowering manufacturers to make informed decisions, streamline processes, and forge stronger connections with local suppliers. This tool also helps suppliers identify potential customers that could benefit from their products and services. Recognizing the huge benefit of this tool, the SC Department of Commerce is making this available at no cost to all South Carolina manufacturers.

This event captured the interest of the entire state, drawing participation from individuals representing 55 organizations. Participants hailed from 26 counties across South Carolina.

Logistics and the Impact on South Carolina
Miranda shared with the group that South Carolina stands as a “manufacturing powerhouse.” The state’s manufacturing industry yields an annual economic impact exceeding $200 billion, constituting around 16% of South Carolina’s GDP. Additionally, it plays a pivotal role in sustaining over 30% of the state’s total employment.

The logistical infrastructure of South Carolina is one of the criteria that the Site Selection Group ranked South Carolina as the best state for manufacturing. Amy conveyed that there are over 41,000 miles of state-maintained roads. The extensive transportation network includes five interstate highways coursing through the state. Notably, I-95 runs from North to South, traversing the entire span from Maine to Florida. Renowned as the busiest thoroughfare for truckers in the U.S., I-95 spans an impressive 15 states, encompassing more territories than any other highway.

The state’s railway infrastructure is equally noteworthy. David Gray with the Department of Transportation participated in the meeting and provided some insight into the railway system. There are more than 2,500 miles of rail track across the state with eleven railroads, including two class 1 railroads.

Beyond ground transportation, South Carolina boasts the East Coast’s deepest port. The Port of Charleston, now boasting a depth of 52 feet, remains accessible regardless of tide and time. Its new 2022 channel extension spans 40 miles, seamlessly connecting three container terminals. Widened turning basins enhance maneuverability for ships, allowing smooth passage and navigation.

The Six Strategies of Navigating Logistics
Amy began by spotlighting two of Sunland’s clients situated in upstate South Carolina, both orchestrating transformations in their supply chains, but for different reasons. Their common focus lies on the identification of local suppliers. Amidst the pandemic, one of these companies encountered problems due to disruptions in international deliveries. Meanwhile, the other enterprise is strategically relocating its manufacturing operations to South Carolina, capitalizing on the “Build America, Buy America” (BABA) initiative and the allure of “Made in America.”

Within this context, Amy delved into the pivotal role of six indispensable strategies and the intricacies woven into the fabric of logistics navigation. She discussed each step with the group, providing insights into the decision-making processes associated with each.

  1. Identifying the Right Suppliers – The search for suitable suppliers involves multiple factors, including product pricing, freight and tariffs, lead time, inventory costs, and adherence to the “Made in USA” or BABA standards. Geopolitical considerations, including nearshoring and friendshoring, also become part of this decision process. Nearshoring denotes sourcing from countries in close proximity to the United States, while friendshoring, also known as allyshoring, taps into suppliers from politically and economically stable nations with good relationships with the United States.
  2. Transporting Material – The choices between trucks, railroads, and air transportation unfurl a host of decisions. Although trucking claims the spotlight as the primary mode of transport, both air and rail options possess distinct advantages. A summarized overview of these advantages and recommendations from Amy’s discussion are captured in the table below.
  3. Storage Strategy – The dynamic landscape of storing materials, whether raw or finished goods, encompasses multifarious considerations. Central to this is the decision of whether to store on-site or off-site. Amy underscored post-pandemic considerations, such as equipment and racking availability, which now influence this strategic move. Vendor-managed inventory and consigned inventory cast additional dimensions into the decision-making mix. Amy also provided some insight into the warehousing situation across the state. There are presently over 400 million square feet (MSF) of warehousing space available in the state with nearly 30 MSF under construction. This is visibly evident when traveling on I-85 in the Greenville Spartanburg area or on I-26 in the Charleston region. Annual rent per square foot varies locally based on vacancy rates but is rising annually by about 10%.
  4. Manufacturing Location – When making choices about where to manufacture product, certain factors are pivotal. Details such as labor availability, logistical infrastructure, and proximity to suppliers and customers weigh significantly in this decision. As Miranda emphasized earlier, South Carolina scores high on each of these.
  5. Product Shipment – Beyond the parameters discussed in material movement, additional considerations factor in, including refrigeration and climate control. The need for refrigeration is imperative for certain products, and concerns arise regarding the availability of refrigerated trucks. Amy shared that there is a major manufacturing planning additional manufacturing capacity for refrigeration units in Upstate South Carolina, which should reduce this concern.
  6. Reverse Logistics – Oft overlooked, the aspect of returned products represents a noteworthy impact on the supply chain. The potential for returned inventory to serve future customers can be substantial. Streamlining this return process, coupled with accurate inventory tracking, warrants attention. Considerations such as seasonality and scalability should be considered in strategizing for this.

All these strategic factors are important when navigating logistics in South Carolina. Arguably one of the most significant is identifying the right suppliers. In order to help South Carolina with this, the SCMEP is now providing the CONNEX SC tool for manufacturers in the state.

CONNEX SC – The Tool for Identifying/Becoming a Supplier
Miranda’s passion for introducing this innovative tool to the OpExChange was visibly evident. In mid-July, the SCMEP launched the CONNEX SC platform at BOMAG America in Fairfield, SC. Note that BOMAG is a dedicated member of the OpExChange community and was recognized in December as the “Most Engaged Company of the Year.”

Governor McMaster graced the unveiling event at BOMAG and shared his enthusiasm with CONNEX SC. “It will put our manufacturers in communication with others all around the country as well as in SC, to give them new ways to get what they want,” McMaster said, “To move manufacturing forward at a blistering pace in South Carolina.” He added that it is particularly beneficial for small and medium-sized manufacturers.

CONNEX SC stands as an industry platform that unites U.S. manufacturers and suppliers within a single, precise, and easily searchable supply-chain database. Manufacturers can swiftly communicate needs, address requests, assess supply chain risks, locate qualified suppliers, and swiftly seize new business prospects.

Miranda proceeded to deliver a live presentation of the platform’s functionality. One of its standout features is its user-friendly approach to perform supplier searches. Extensive queries can be conducted, and a deeper dive into specific criteria like location, capabilities, and even equipment details can be achieved effortlessly.

From a discovery standpoint, every manufacturer will want to participate. The tool enables personalization of your searchable profile, encompassing images, videos, and comprehensive details about your facility.

There are currently 7,000 manufacturers in South Carolina. Each is being granted access to the CONNEX SC platform. Understanding the significant impact this resource can wield on the state, the SC Department of Commerce has taken the initiative to fund the platform, ensuring no costs are incurred by manufacturers to access it. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on the number of users per site. For a cost of $500, the site can have access to the nationwide database.

Supply Chain Management – Get Connected!
The effective management of the supply chain is paramount for fostering economic growth and manufacturing excellence in South Carolina. The collaboration with local suppliers, as highlighted in the discussion with Amy and Miranda, plays a pivotal role. The state’s robust logistical framework, comprising extensive road networks, railways, and a deep port, underpins its manufacturing prowess.

The delineated strategies for supply chain navigation – encompassing supplier identification, transportation methods, storage strategies, manufacturing location selection, product shipment considerations, and reverse logistics management – collectively contribute to streamlined operations.

The first step in the supply chain strategy is identifying suppliers. The introduction of CONNEX SC, a revolutionary software and database, stands as a testament to innovation in fostering connections between manufacturers and suppliers. Its provision at no cost by the SC Department of Commerce underscores its potential as a catalyst for advancement in the state’s industrial landscape.

Call to Action – Sign-up for CONNEX SC!
To sign up for CONNEX SC, visit and click the “Login/Join CONNEX SC” button at the bottom of the page. You’ll be prompted to verify your email and complete a registration form answering questions about your company. Be sure to select “Sponsored Access” on the last screen. For help or questions about CONNEX SC, please email Miranda Craig at

About Sunland Logistics
Sunland Logistics Solutions is a 3PL with over 40 years in business. We strive to improve supply chain performance & enhance customer experience across channels with lean warehouse solutions, connected technologies & value-added logistics services. Our services include warehouse management and design, ecommerce fulfillment, reverse logistics, supply chain visibility, plant and shuttle support, as well as many other value-added services. We are currently recognized as a Top 100 3PL by Inbound Logistics Magazine.

SCMEP is a private, non-profit group that serves as a proven resource to South Carolina manufacturers, providing them with a range of innovative strategies and solutions to improve competitiveness, performance, and profitability. An affiliate of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), SCMEP operates under the US Department of Commerce.

Our methodology creates the framework for successful partnerships as we collaborate with manufacturers to analyze, plan, implement and review. SCMEP provides a full suite of onsite consulting and training services in addition to open enrollment classes and online instruction.

About OpExChange
The OpExChange, sponsored by the SCMEP, is a peer-to-peer network of manufacturers and distributors in South Carolina known for generating success for members through benchmarking and best practice sharing. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If your company is interested in participating in this collaborative effort to improve both the competitiveness of your operation and South Carolina, contact Mike Demos ( More information and upcoming plant visits are available on the OpExChange website


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