Visibility Makes Service More than Bearable

Nov. 19, 2007
One of the things we knew right off the bat was that we understand gift delivery but we recognized that our grower partners are the experts at shipping
“One of the things we knew right off the bat was that we understand gift delivery but we recognized that our grower partners are the experts at shipping quality flowers.”

Often used for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s gifts, Vermont Teddy Bear Co.—the largest manufacturer of American-made teddy bears—does offer more, including a PajamaGram, TastyGram, Gift Bag Boutique, and flowers from its Calyx & Corolla, In fact, acquisition of the floral delivery company in September 2003 led Vermont Teddy Bear not only to successful management of remote fulfillment but has given it a number of other benefits as well..

Standing between the end customer who places orders through the company’s web site or by calling its customer service group and the 16 Calyx & Corolla growers, the need for visibility is critical for Vermont Teddy Bear explains Rick Coon, the company’s Application Integration Manager. Currently all of the company’s growers are domestic, however they have a presence in different countries. Although some flowers may come to them from offshore, they are listed as the grower and are a direct-from-thegrower business.

“One of the things we knew right off the bat,” recalls Coon “was that we understand gift delivery but we recognized that our grower partners are the experts at shipping quality flowers.” During the three peak shipping days prior to Valentine’s Day, bear and pajama shipments will run between 48-50,000 packages each day. At its peak, Calyx & Corolla may make 10,000 deliveries a day. “It was important to us to give the growers as much visibility as far out as possible to allow them ability to manage operations in order to meet their expectations, our expectations and our customers’ expectations.”

To get visibility for its growers, Vermont Teddy Bear uses Flagship from Kewill ( The solution supports high performance and high volume shipping. Typical Flagship shippers are those with 1,000 to 100,000 daily parcels. The solution supports activities from multiple locations, a critical Teddy Bear need.

Since Flagship extends visibility to suppliers, they can plan their future business. “Growers can look at demand and select what’s going to ship that day,” says Coon. “They get an integrated pick ticket from us that contains a personal gift card, packing list and shipping label. Because a carrier is pre-determined orders can be printed by carrier as well.”

It wasn’t always that way. Previously Vermont Teddy Bear had very few carriers. Now, with multicarrier support, there is a greater range of parcel and less than truckload carriers available. The multi-location aspect of the software has been important, too, since the heavy volume of bears and pajamas had all been shipped from the one Vermont location.

After Calyx & Corolla was purchased, Coon toured grower locations around the country. What he found was a variety of computers used to support a grower’s different customers. Coon wanted the Calyx & Corolla system to be the one growers would like to use. “It was important to give them something better than the others,” he notes. “They can only physically ship so many packages a day from their facilities, so we want them to be shipping mostly our orders. It’s to our advantage to have a system they feel is easy to use. For us it’s good not to have to support a number of computers and a variety of applications.”

When Vermont Teddy Bear purchased them each grower had equipment and Internet access provided by Calyx and Corolla. Each computer had three separate applications needed to fulfill orders for that day. Vermont Teddy Bear developed a system requiring no equipment beyond a computer with an Internet connection. “They can use just about any decent printer they want,” explains Coon. “They come into our system and only have to deal with one application. Inside the application they can look at future orders and select those they want to process that day. In working with them we are able to control how far out they are actually able to future pick.”

Because it’s gift delivery, the consumer decides when it is to arrive. Neither the grower nor the consumer chooses the carrier. All of that is contained in a calendar presented on the

web site. The rate shopping mechanism of the shipping solution takes the desired delivery date and the address information and provides the service, carrier and rate needed.

Once an order is printed, Vermont Teddy Bear assumes it is going to ship. If something doesn’t ship, at any point in the process the grower can scan the order numbers back in, initiating a process that voids the shipment from that day’s manifest. Customer service is made aware that it isn’t going to ship and if necessary a call may go to the final customer. The visibility goes both ways.

Ontario’s Ideal Supply Co. has made most use of its visibility tool to monitor its trucks as they move shipments from its one distribution center (DC) in Listowel to its 25 stores scattered across the Midwest of the Province.

Handling 1 million SKUs, the DC replenishes each of its branches with stock orders on a nightly basis. Ideal Supply has three divisions. Automotives include NAPA auto parts and machine shops that handle everything from engine rebuilding to crank grinding to specialty maintenance. Ideal Supply is a member of Affiliate Distributors that is a large amalgamation of several different electrical suppliers. In its Electric division the company represents manufacturers such as Leviton and Schneider Electric, among others. The Ideal Supply

Industrial division not only handles specialized marketing, it adds an automation component with representation of companies like Rockwell Automation.

The supplier has a fleet of 100 vehicles, mostly smaller trucks, although it has a number of larger trucks as well. Operations are fairly straightforward. Orders come in, are consolidated and loaded at night for delivery to end customers the next day.

Until Ideal Supply moved to install Roadshow from Descartes (, it used a purely manual, paper- based system. “Drivers would discuss among themselves who would go to which stop on a given day. It was pretty chaotic,” recalls Chris Moon, the supplier’s Logistics Coordinator.

The first step was territory planning. Since some of the branches are located relatively close to each other, the company sometimes had vehicles from different branches competing with each other in the same geography. “We put customers on a geographical map and ran different models to determine if there were more efficient ways to service given areas,” explains Moon.

“Based on the computations, we split our market into seven distinct regions,” he continues. “Each of those regions works with a central dispatcher to run all deliveries. We have some 10,000 customers that have accounts with us. The fleet averages 2,000 deliveries a day. Without technology it was costing us more money than it should to service our trading areas. There are parts of the Province where we have more vehicles on the road than Purolator or UPS.”

Visibility is accomplished in two ways. Drivers have hand held Global Positioning Systems (GPS) Java-enabled Motorola cell phones used to inform about arriving and departing from customer locations. “The Roadshow package resides on a local machine and ties all of the information together,” notes Moon. “It gives a visual representation. In near real time we can see little trucks moving on the map.”

For exceptions, the cell phones are text enabled. If there is a problem the Descartes solution will take the text message from the phone and email it to a dispatcher indicating a delay. “Also because the system runs in near real time,” says Moon, “if we are get GPS data back showing the truck is not traveling where we expected it to be on the time line, it will actually put an exclamation point beside that stop in our route right away to notify the dispatcher that there is an exception about to occur. We can proactively take measures to resolve the problems.”

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