Customer fulfillment in transit

Sun Microsystems Inc. recently introduced a supply chain architecture that it refers to as customer fulfillment in transit. Sun either ships direct from supplier to customer or merges in transit through a 3PL's crossdock.

“No material enters our system without a customer order for it,” notes Eugene McCabe, senior vice president-operations with Sun. “We stock a very limited amount of material.”

“That would be impossible to do with multiple 3PLs,” adds Hugh Aitken, the company's vice president-worldwide customer fulfillment.

While Sun has its own normal manufacturing processes with normal inventory, a large portion of product is manufactured outside Sun, according to McCabe. So it makes sense to move to a direct-to-customer model.

“Six months ago, we developed the ability to move product from multiple suppliers to a single customer,” explains McCabe. “So far, there's no downside. On the plus side, it's faster, cheaper and more predictable than when we used the classic store-and-fulfill-from-a-warehouse model.”

“We knew we didn't need goods sitting on a shelf,” adds Aitken. “Our lead logistics provider designed the architecture and we both worked with our customers and suppliers.”

The last six months have been positive for Sun's customers. With its new streamlined supply chain, internal measurements indicate Sun is more competitive than ever.

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