The Route to Success
Third-party logistics company helps Crabtree & Evelyn customize freight movement
Moving product along the best route from distribution centers to stores can be a complicated process. Manufacturers and retailers want carriers that can deliver great service at good rates. Distribution also involves volumes of data from multiple sources that must be tracked and evaluated. Many companies are turning to web-based transportation management systems as their tool.
Crabtree & Evelyn has been selling home and body products around the world for nearly 40 years. The company, whose U.S. headquarters is located in Woodstock, Conn., has more than 100 retail outlets in North America, most on the West and Northeast coasts.
Until recently, Crabtree & Evelyn was performing its own carrier selection process, says Director of U.S. Distribution Donna Young. Keeping selection in-house took a lot of time and did not always provide access to the best available freight rate or carrier, however, so the company decided to make a change.
“We reviewed numerous solutions from third-party providers, narrowed our list to three and evaluated these companies to see which negotiated the best carrier rates, had the best web-based tools to route, generate bills of lading and reports, and had the willingness to customize the solution to meet our needs,” Young says. “We felt comfortable working with Transportation Insight and their enterprise logistics solution.”
Transportation Insight is one of the largest third-party logistics companies in North America. It works with more than 400 clients, using logistics solutions customized for each client’s needs.
Crabtree & Evelyn and Transportation Insight co-manage carriers and vendors. The retailer is asked to review the request for quotes before Transportation Insight sends it to carriers to make sure that it will be a good fit. Once the retailer approves the request, Transportation Insight negotiates contracts with carriers.
Saving time and money
The system provides Crabtree & Evelyn with the best carrier rates within a 24-hour period, Young says. It also allows for additional users like vendors to use the carriers at the same rate. The system also permits more than one person to access distribution information, which helps speed the process.
Transportation Insight’s freight inventory and audit system has reduced the number of reports Young’s staff must work with. Instead of daily invoices from numerous carriers, they now work with a single invoice per week. “This is a big savings in time,” she says. The company has also realized savings in postage and administrative fees.
Transportation Insight customizes reports for each client. By using the logistic company’s automatic bill of lading system one standard format can be used in all areas of the business.
“By utilizing the bundled freight payment and audit solution, we now have just one file and reporting structure,” Young says. “We are better able to analyze freight movement from the distribution center to stores and determine cost by store.”
Analysis of Crabtree & Evelyn’s distribution system showed the company could save on freight expenses by shipping bi-weekly. A surface map showing movement from Crabtree & Evelyn’s distribution center, located near company headquarters, to vendors and stores was assembled based on data from the enterprise system. The map verified the advantage of moving to bi-weekly shipments.
The system is used for more than one category of distribution. Vendors ship product to Crabtree & Evelyn’s distribution center, which then ships to stores. The distribution center also sends product to vendors.
“When we began using Transportation Insight’s system, a standard operation procedure was created and we sent a letter to vendors and anyone who might ship goods to our facilities and stores,” Young says. “These entities were told to use the transportation tool to ship to us so that the shipping would be via preferred carriers. We also use this at the head office when we ship to vendors or stores and found no additional staff was required.
“The biggest change we’ve seen is in the volume load request process,” she says. “Time is important in this retail market, and by having the best carrier identified so quickly we achieve more positive results than in the past. We pride ourselves on moving shipments as soon as possible.”
Finding the best route
“There is no limitation or cap on the number of loads per day or week that our transportation management system can handle,” says Transportation Insight COO Laura Easley. “Some companies might have 1,600 loads per week, some might have 400 in a single day.”
Immediately upon engaging with a client “we conduct an in-depth assessment of their current carriers, shipping regulations, customer requirements — what their goals are,” she says. Transportation Insight wants to understand the requirements of the client’s company before creating a solution and developing a detailed request for quotes to send to carriers. Clients can realize their return on investment in the first year, Easley says, and this continues over the life of the partnership.
There are 200 data points on each freight bill, which Transportation Insight stores in its data warehouse. “We customize key performance indices to go over with the client,” Easley says. “Reports are personalized according to what the client wants to see.”
As clients build historical data with Transportation Insight, the company uses the data to determine if vendors are using the recommended carriers, as well as to track costs and other issues. At one point last year Transportation Insight sent 2,000 different reports to clients. “Our metrics help in projections of future possibilities,” Easley says.
Transportation Insight has a new web portal called Insight Fusion that Easley calls “ground-breaking.” Clients can easily access data across different systems. Insight Fusion is accessible from any device with Internet access. “With this new tool, clients can review trends over any period they choose or drill down to examine one location,” she says.