Fast Turns for a Competitive Edge

In an industry in which typical lead times are as much as eight weeks, the edge Anthro Corp. ( has over competitors is that it ships made-to-order furniture in just three days after receiving an order. Located just south of Portland, Ore., Anthro manufactures ergonomic office furniture, computer furniture, computer desks, computer carts, and workstations. A vital role played in the company's success comes from its continued use of SAP ( software.

"We've run SAP for eight years now," explains David Jones, the company's CIO and Director of Supply Chain Operations. "We're currently running the most recent version of the R3 product and it's been a very good fit for us. We've grown substantially as a business during that time. The great part about having SAP is that as you increase business, you're not going to outgrow it. It's a matter of scaling it and turning on the functionality as you need."

The speed, flexibility and availability Anthro offers is not common in the furniture industry. It has setup everything from machinery through manufacturing processes to support its business model. The company has pre-determined schedules and product flows through its plant. Inventory and inbound logistics have to support the quick turn promise to the customer, so it drives a lot of internal decisions.

The three-day turn doesn't include transportation time. Transportation is a customer decision. Anthro offers a variety of shipping options, including a predefined carrier base with pre-payoffs. Too, customers are free to provide their own third party carrier. Most product moves by truck with air a possibility since 75% of product leaves the facility in a knockdown fashion.

Before its SAP implementation Anthro's transportation was completely paper based. "We had people in the transportation role and had them manually doing what we now have technology do," says Jones. "Transportation was prone to everything from human error to oversight. It leaves you exposed and it's just impossible to communicate at the same level you can with software. Customers can now tap into our web site for data and it just creates an environment of knowledge that's not possible in a manual human-based process."

With SAP, as soon as Anthro processes an order, delivery document notifications are sent directly to customers. They have traceability from that point forward. As soon as an order is complete, palletized and final processing is completed, customers are sent a notification that gives carrier and tracking information and processing instructions for the delivery.

Anthro does very limited overseas sourcing at this point. "It's a difficult strategy to support with the timeline commitments we have for our customers, from an inventory liability standpoint and then just the overall dependability of all the traffic and supply chain working overseas," Jones explains. "We've been cautious to this point to rely on that. We do the bulk of our manufacturing in our Tualatin, Oregon facility. There are some components sourced both from China and Europe, but no finished product. All finished product is assembled in Tualatin."

Sheet metal is a major part in the company's products, particularly tubular steel framework. That manufacturing is completed in Tualatin, all of which is being done from raw components. Secondary operations like powder-coating of the steel is done locally as well.

"Visibility up and down the supply chain is incredibly important," claims Jones. "We have to have a very good idea where material is in the pipeline and to provide that same level of visibility out to the carrier base that is working almost step-in-step with us to make sure that as product is finished, it's being moved to the customer as promptly as possible."

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