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Rags to Riches

Oct. 8, 2004
Andrea Shoden It was a week before-Thanksgiving, and Andrea Shoden believed that Clip Co. had just made a serious mistake. Clip, a Kaysville, Utah, importer,
Andrea Shoden

It was a week before-Thanksgiving, and Andrea Shoden believed that Clip Co. had just made a serious mistake. Clip, a Kaysville, Utah, importer, had a big order for point-of-sale kiosks - 408 of them, six-feet tall, 175 pounds on wheels, and loaded with cell phone accessories. The trick was getting them into Best Buy stores across the country by the biggest shopping day of the year - the day after Thanksgiving.

"We were out of our comfort zone," concedes Jon McBride, managing partner at Clip. "I knew what had to happen, but didn't know the complexity of the logistics involved."

Shoden did. She's vice president of sales and marketing for Alto Systems, a thirdparty logistics provider. She knew how difficult it would be to find enough trucks on such short notice to make stops at 408 different stores during a holiday week.

And planning their routes would be complicated; so would loading the awkward kiosks to avoid damage. The paperwork alone, Shoden figured, could fill the entire time allowed for the project.

She had a good idea how to get it done, but she'd lost a bid to handle the project. And she was certain the vendor Clip Co. had selected couldn't succeed.

So she took a risk; without the knowledge or approval of anyone at Clip Co., she and her team prepared as if they had won the job.

For transportation, she called Roadway Express. While she had never worked with Roadway, she figured its strong presence among large retailers - including Best Buy --and the size of its own network would give Roadway the culture and flexibility needed for it to have any chance of reaching all the specified stores on time.

The first step was to match each store to the appropriate Roadway shipping terminals, using the carrier's distribution modeling system, says Mark King, engineering services project coordinator for Roadway. It also included use of intermodal rail transport when appropriate. "The model also enabled us to quickly group shipments and formulate a load plan ... to reduce transfer costs and expedite transit speed," he says.

Shoden adds, "We broke everything into regions to simplify pricing and meet the service requirement. If there weren't enough kiosks to fill a truck for one region, Roadway would put in additional freight so the wheeled kiosks wouldn't fall.... You had to know how to pack a trailer to ship them damage-free."

Only 21 kiosks would fit in a trailer. "We built full loads of kiosks to destination terminals when possible," King offers. "But due to lane density, we did intermingle some with other LTL.... Having other freight to mix on these lower density lanes is one of our cost advantages. We used our expedited Time-Critical Services to make sure everything would arrive on time."

Shoden arranged to get help from the drivers themselves to hand-write bills of lading, match up identification numbers and organize the kiosks for shipping.

These details took 24 hours to work out. On Saturday before Thanksgiving, Shoden arrived arrived early at Clip Co. Her competitor wasn't there yet.

"I rolled the dice...," she says. With an OK from the client, she called Jim Ferguson, the carrier's district sales manager. "Roadway had 18 trailers on standby for us; in an hour, they were there."

The result: While the other logistics provider eventually showed up with one truck, Shoden says, Alto Systems delivered 408 kiosks on time with no damages.

Clip Co. has awarded all of its fulfillment operations to Alto Systems, physically moving them into Alto's facilities. "They do what they say they are going to do," says Clip's McBride simply.

And Alto Systems continues to use Roadway. "We've built relationships with people there who look outside the box for logistics solutions. We can tweak their systems based on our need," Shoden says. "I look for that in every company we do business with."