The WSI Wire

Reliability Matters

Client Service Representative Sue Tennessen demonstrates WSI’s commitment to building long-lasting customer relationships - May 2017

Sue Tennessen, who currently helps manage customer set-ups and special projects at Enterprise Drive in Neenah, Wisconsin, started with WSI in 1978.

During our 50th anniversary celebration and beyond, we wanted to take some time to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many hardworking and loyal employees that embody WSI’s vision of absolute reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to the community and dedication to the balance between work and life.

Sue Tennessen, who currently helps manage customer set-ups and special projects at Enterprise Drive in Neenah, Wisconsin, started with WSI in 1978. She has built a storied career at WSI, spending her service to the company in customer service roles. When she started at WSI, Sue focused on supporting chemical customers. At the time, the Home Office was unofficially based on Brighton Beach Road in Menasha. Sue moved locations every few years to support different major pulp and chemical customers. Sue praises her team, her co-workers and the company’s structure and philosophy for making WSI such a fantastic place to work.

“I love the centralized team idea,” Sue said, referring to WSI’s Centralized Client Service Representatives team at the Enterprise Drive location in Neenah. “I love that you can go and share ideas with somebody, right there. If you’re busy, you can ask for help. If you’re slow, you can lend a helping hand. I also liked learning new accounts.”

 Sue currently works on the administrative side at Enterprise Drive. Sue noted the strength of the relationships she has built with customers over the years, saying, “I developed relationships with the customer service representatives at the pulp companies I worked with – actual friendships – even though, in some cases, they were in Canada and we were here in Wisconsin. It was fun talking to different people from around the world.”

Given that she has been with WSI nearly 39 years, Sue’s extensive experience with customer service at WSI has allowed her to see the company move from an entirely paper-based operation to a technologically oriented company.

“39 years ago—we had no computers back then. Everything was done manually. Inventories were done every month for all customers, in pen and paper,” she said. “Now, it’s gone all paperless.”

 Sue described some of the fulfilling challenges brought on by these changes in technology and the customer service environment. “When we first started using E1 (JD Edwards Enterprise One, WSI’s dedicated Warehouse Management System), we were working 12 to 14 hour days, learning new systems and ways of invoicing,” Sue explained. “We were using dual systems for awhile, the manual way and the technical way, until everyone was trained and on board.”

 Despite the rapid changes in her work environment, Sue was able to adapt easily to the technology and said she still loves what she does for WSI. “It’s still challenging and fulfilling!” she said.

 Sue also described how much she loves WSI’s focus on family and emphasis on life-work balance.

 “I like that they consider family first. The company is willing to give, and you work a little harder to give back,” she said. “If my kids were sick while they were growing up, I was able to come in a little later. As the kids got older, now I may have to take care of my own parents. I can still count on that flexibility.”

 On a more personal note, Sue enjoys gardening, cook-outs and visiting her cottage up north near Antigo. She said she loves “anything outdoors” that she can squeeze into her summers, including night walks, campfires with her family and drinking coffee in the mornings on the shore of the no-wake lake at her cottage. 

Sue’s commitment to WSI, her family and her WSI-fostered friendships is inspiring. Thank you for your continued service, Sue!

WSI Facility Manager Joe Countney Champions WSI Ethics of Teamwork, Absolute Reliability - Feb 2017

Joe Countney, who manages WSI’s Ehlers, Janssen and Martin Drive facilities in Neenah, Wisconsin, started with the Van Hoof Companies as a 16-year-old summer worker at Pacon.

During our 50th anniversary celebration and beyond, we wanted to take some time to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many hardworking and loyal employees that embody WSI’s vision of absolute reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to the community and dedication to the balance between work and life.

Joe Countney, who manages WSI’s Ehlers, Janssen and Martin Drive facilities in Neenah, Wisconsin, started with the Van Hoof Companies as a 16-year-old summer worker at Pacon. He was then hired in May of 1985 by Vicki Romenesko to support the WSI Media Center at Brighton Beach. He has built a storied career at WSI, with some breaks taken to pursue other career opportunities. Those opportunities ultimately enriched his ability to smoothly manage the SCA and Clearwater accounts – two of WSI’s largest paper customers. Joe praises his team, his customer and all his WSI friends for making WSI such a fantastic place to work.

“I really like my job, our customers and the people I work with. It’s kind of like quarterbacking the winning football team. Preparation meets opportunity. It’s easy to go the extra mile for really good customers that appreciate the efforts of all of us,” he said. “For example, SCA personnel know a lot of our team members on an individual basis. They were here to help us and assist us when we took over the handling part of the operation at Martin Drive in 2013. A kind of bond developed going through that process together to build that relationship of trust.”

Joe said he works with WSI veterans that have been with the company between 30 and 40 years, some mid-career employees who have been with the company 10 to 15 years, and some operators with one to three years of experience. He works with approximately 40 team members in total across the three facilities. “And they’re all exceptional employees,” he said.

From warehouse lead and manager jobs in the Fox Valley, California, Fond du Lac, Racine, Denver and with Pacon, Joe has seen it all. He smiled recalling when WSI started a new trucking operation in the Fox Valley area.
“While Merle Verhagen, Bill Romenesko, Fred Mader and the rest of the guys were running around in 18-wheeler trucks, I was taking care of some of their buildings,” he said, referencing a close group of WSI friends he has been in touch with both on and off the job for more than 30 years.

Joe left WSI for a few years to pursue distribution manager jobs, namely for apparel giant Fruit of the Loom, where he managed between 500 and 800 people. All the while, Joe said, he stayed in touch with friends like Joe Romenesko, Fred Mader, Mike Kilbane, Gary Liebhauser, and Tom Kiesow – a group of individuals he has been close with for most of his adult life. In 2002, Joe came back to WSI, working for Joe Romenesko in Racine.
Since taking over the SCA account, Joe has tackled some interesting and fulfilling challenges. In 2013, when WSI took over the labor on the SCA account in Neenah, Wisconsin, the SCA employees vacated the warehouse at 6 a.m., and WSI employees walked in at 6:30 a.m. WSI, led by Joe, took over the 400,000 square feet-24/7 operation. He was supported by a few administrative people from SCA and a transition team that included Bill Romenesko and Glen Mitchell. Thanks to months of planning, the transition went smoothly.

In March 2015, Joe coordinated the movement of 1,400 truckloads of paper rolls and finished goods that needed to swap buildings in less than two weeks. The move was incredibly seamless and smooth, he said, “due in large-part to our terrific Lead Crew (Chris Hupf, Jane Buelow, Bob Rogers, Tommy Howard and Scott Schnese).”

Joe and his team incorporated lean methodology into the operation and have saved WSI and SCA approximately half a million dollars, both in customer cost savings and cost avoidance, all the while retaining strong employees.

On a more personal note, Joe met his wife 10 years ago. Joe and Cindy will be married seven years this summer. They have a “caring, polite, kind” six-year-old son who loves to read and a “feisty, opinionated, cute-as-a-button” four-year-old daughter. They share their 5.5 rural acres with a beautiful, rare Norwegian Fjord horse. Joe has spent the past 1.5 years building a horse barn on their property.

Countney’s commitment to WSI, his family and his family of WSI friends is inspiring. Thank you for your continued service, Joe!

Carson, California Location Prioritizes Both Safety and Life Balance - Dec 2016

Our Carson, Calif. team, which handles some of our customers’ highest-regulated, most-hazardous chemical materials, started up the Los Angeles-area facility in 2011.

During our 50th anniversary celebration, we want to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many hardworking and loyal employees that embody WSI’s vision of Absolute Reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to community and dedication to the balance between work and life.

Our Carson, Calif. team, which handles some of our customers’ highest-regulated, most-hazardous chemical materials, started up the Los Angeles-area facility in 2011. Chris Reynolds and Karl Hamilton specifically work on tank car loading and unloading, delicately handling rail cars filled with chemicals. Adan Herrera, Cruz Ibarra and Jorge Gutierrez are material handlers, and Felix Aragon and Gabriel Guardado are Client Service Representatives. This powerful combination of employees includes long-tenured WSI employees and newer faces.

Damon Rickenbacker, Carson’s facility manager, praised his team’s self-starting and attention to detail.

“I have key eyes in key places, and those eyes understand what they’re doing,” he said. “I have synergy; I’m not putting out major fires in operations. These guys are independently working in accordance with the Responsible Care program and local, state and federal regulatory guidelines.”

On Damon’s last trip for WSI work-related responsibilities, he was gone for 10 days and said the Carson facility employees ran the building flawlessly.

“Our company provides excellent training for handling dangerous goods. My guys maintain strict adherence to company policy and procedures, which allows for smooth warehouse operations,” he said. “Those leads and CSRs handle every customer and every operational task with no issues.”

Damon’s current warehouse lead, Adan Herrera, is working closely with Damon on the administrative side of the job, including managerial responsibilities, financials and reporting tasks. Damon contributes to Adan’s professional development by exposing him to multiple facets of warehouse operations. However, true to the WSI ethos of work-life balance, Damon ensures his employees find needed personal time.

“A couple of my guys are young enough that they’re in their first years of college,” Damon said. “I try to encourage continuous education and achieving personal academic goals.” He works with his employees’ work schedules to ensure both their work obligations and higher-learning pursuits can be met.

Damon indicated that the culture of safety at Carson is one of his proudest achievements at WSI so far. Aside from making significant strides in efficiency improvements by automating many activities at the facility, Carson is an active participant in Responsible Care, a national standard for the safe handling of chemicals.

“Responsible Care and the high standards it requires of chemical-handling 3PLs invokes the need to constantly self-improve, constantly evaluate, constantly look for opportunities to be safer,” he said.

Carson’s dedication to safety, productivity and smooth operations is second to none. Thank you for your continued service!

Accounts Payable Employee Ann Dailey Exemplifies WSI Spirit - Sep 2016

Ann Dailey, Accounts Payable at WSI, started as a Client Service Representative in 1992.

During our 50th anniversary celebration, we want to take some time to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many hardworking and loyal employees who embody WSI’s vision of absolute reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to the community and dedication to the balance between work and life.

Ann Dailey, Accounts Payable at the WSI Home Office, started as a Client Service Representative at Specialists Avenue in Neenah in 1992. She has been with the company for 24 years as of May 2016. In fact, the feature of our first 50th anniversary profile, Joe Romenesko, was her first manager. Mike Coenen and Tom Breaker were her later managers. We sat down with Ann earlier this month to discuss her roles at WSI, her dedication to her family and her commitment to instilling in her daughters the same incredible work ethic and high moral fiber that Ann herself exhibits, and her thoughts on WSI’s bright future:

“I worked on a few different accounts, including Pelican Paper Products and Appleton Papers,” Ann said, continuing that she transferred to Martin Drive’s facility in Neenah after the first few years on the job. “Then, I had my first child, and when I came back from maternity leave, I was able to float a bit from position to position, until the Accounts Payable position opened, and I applied for it.”

She is excited to use her accounting skills to manage WSI’s finances, including paying bills essential to the company’s existence and continuing livelihood, like rental payments to warehouse landlords and utility charges. Now, she’s added payroll and Attendance Enterprise to her list of responsibilities, helping coordinate weekly paychecks for the company’s nearly 1,000 employees. Splitting the payables role with Allene Waybright and payroll with Joanne Wolff, Ann handles paychecks for American Warehouse, WSI Transportation team and Fulfillment Specialists of America. As the Accounting Department experiences a few retirements and gains new hires in the next year, Ann is excited for new challenges and opportunities this may bring.

She says what she loves most about her job is the variety of challenging and stimulating tasks she completes on a daily basis, including coordinating warehouse managers, vendors and internal customers, dealing with certificates of insurance and Attendance Enterprise.

In the past few years, Ann said she’s enjoyed the melding of minds that came with moving into a consolidated Home Office. “We can work together more, instead of separately, and eliminate some of that back-and-forth that used to happen when we were spread out at different locations,” Ann said. “I can walk over to Becky Blair’s desk and give her information about communicating with vendors for certificates of insurance, if she needs it, rather than taking the extra step of emailing.”

She spoke highly of her three daughters, ages 14, 17 and 20, saying they were all “very different from one another” but all three share extremely conscientious and high achieving behaviors and lifestyles.

“I also love the flexibility WSI offers. I can balance my family and their band and doctors’ appointments,” Ann said. “Family comes first at WSI, which is so important to me. My daughters have some health issues, and I can still be at the hospital working from my laptop from afar, if needed.”

Her incredible dedication reaches as far as working offsite from a hospital bedside! Thank you for your continued service, Ann.

Former Employee Joe Romenesko Embodies WSI Vision and Mission - Sep 2016

While Joe Romenesko is technically no longer a WSI employee, his long service to the company, enduring spirit, and commitment to his community and family make him the ideal embodiment of the WSI vision.

During our 50th anniversary celebration, we want to take some time to acknowledge, thank and highlight a few of the many hardworking and loyal employees that embody WSI’s vision of absolute reliability to the customer, enthusiastic service to the community and dedication to the balance between work and life. In the WSI Vision  we state, “We will recognize the importance of each individual’s personal needs.” Discovering the personal balance between work and life helps our workforce better serve the company, their families and their communities.

While Joe Romenesko is technically no longer a WSI employee, his long service to the company, enduring spirit, and commitment to his community and family make him the ideal embodiment of the WSI vision. When we first called for nominations for employees to feature as part of the WSI 50th anniversary celebration communications, Joe’s name came up several times. We sat down with Joe earlier this summer to discuss his past roles at WSI, his life-changing stroke and subsequent recovery, and his current community involvement. His views on work, life and service were nothing short of inspiring:

“I really grew up in the warehouse,” Joe said, referencing that he is the son of one of the original WSI founders, Don Romenesko. “I started raking lawns at age 12 outside the warehouses at Brighton Beach in Menasha. Then, I started working legally at age 14 in the Media Center,” where he made copies, stapled manuals and provided general odd-job support.

When he graduated from high school and turned 18, Joe became a warehouse worker, performing maintenance duties and eventually operating lift trucks as a material handler. By 19, he was a warehouse lead.  As Joe took on more responsibility throughout his many years of service, he became an operations director, leading many of WSI’s biggest facility start-ups around the country: Portland, Jenks, Allentown, Sauk Village and more. Joe loved the pace, the day-to-day challenges and the excitement of starting new warehouse facilities to move the company forward.

Joe’s life changed dramatically one evening in 2010, after leaving the Sauk Village facility, he began feeling unwell; a gradual, creeping paralysis on his left side and dizziness rendered him unable to drive the rest of the way home. His co-pilot and start-up team member Dewey Bates ended up driving the rest of the way back to Appleton, but not before encouraging Joe to stop at a hospital on the way. However, Joe felt more comfortable getting home to his local Appleton provider, where he was familiar with the doctors and other caregivers. When Joe arrived at his hospital in Appleton, it was clear he had suffered a massive stroke.

The effects on his body and ability to maintain daily life activities were sudden and significant. He experienced extensive paralysis on his left side, lost the vision in his left eye and no longer has full use of his left arm.  But, as Joe had proved time and again in his start-up work, he was not willing to give up, even with the devastating effects of a stroke. He laser-focused his energy on slowly but steadily regaining his physical capabilities in the same way he used to concentrate all his energy on moving WSI facilities and projects forward.

The often slow physical progress forced Joe to cease working at WSI entirely and seek other activities in which to channel his intellectual energy and passion.

“Moving away from that was devastating for me,” Joe said. “I had to relearn how to spend time in my community and with my family, and find that balance between work and wellness and family and community.”

Now, Joe names the stroke as a defining moment for him, and says he ultimately is glad the subsequent restructuring of his life happened. He went from “go, go, go” to volunteering part-time, becoming a frequent volunteer at a local food pantry. He maintains his ties to WSI, as well; a few months ago, members of the WSI family helped his family move all their belongings into a house that can accommodate his physical needs.

While he still misses the fast-paced culture of working in warehouses and operations, he knows he is putting forth time and energy into issues that matter to his community.

“I miss it every day, but throughout the process of recovery, I realized there are also other things in life that are important,” Joe said, reflecting on his rich and varying friendships with WSI personnel, fellow volunteers and food pantry frequenters.

We miss Joe’s presence in the warehouses and offices at WSI, but value his continued role as an informal mentor to many WSI employees. Thank you for your past service, Joe.

More Blog Entries

This Just In

Working Alongside Robots: No Longer Science Fiction - May 2017

Working alongside robots in warehouses is the way of the present, rather than the way of the future.

Working alongside robots in warehouses is the way of the present, rather than the way of the future.

The recent ProMat and Automate conferences, in Chicago, featured robotics and automated materials handling equipment. “Solve for X,” the theme of the conference, emphasized the need for manufacturers, warehousing and third-party logistics companies to embrace change to stay relevant. Rather than focusing on the technological capabilities of these high-efficiency robots, our team attended ProMat & Automate with an eye toward the changing workforce. As we strolled the aisles, observing robots in demonstration booths, we reflected on the results of the 2017 MHI survey. The
MHI survey, the fourth in a series of annual industry reports developed in conjunction with Deloitte Consulting, focused on “Next-Generation Supply Chains: Digital, On-Demand and Always-On.” The survey received 1,100 responses from manufacturing and supply chain industry leaders. Approximately 80 percent of respondents to the survey said automation will dominate the logistics industry in the
next half decade. Even more relevant, 61 percent of MHI survey respondents indicated that they view robotics and automation of warehouse materials handling equipment as either a disruption or an advantage in the supply chain industry. For comparison’s sake, 39 percent of respondents to the 2015 MHI survey reported this view on robotics and automation.

According to the survey respondents and other research, using current logistics methods in urban areas is unsustainable. Sorting robots that use flights and pushers within a small warehouse footprint, such as in a tight-spaced urban setting, will maximize efficiency. Small unit robots in warehouses, like Amazon’s Kiva robots, and delivery botpods, like Skype founders’ new food delivery venture Starship Technologies, will be key to reducing congestion and gaining efficiencies both inside and outside the warehouse. In addition to well-known retailers like Amazon and Skechers, at Under Armour’s manufacturing facility, humans and robots already work alongside one another, to a much greater extent than at most other manufacturing facilities. Technological disruptions are generally considered positive for industries. However, for those in the materials handling workforce, a robotic disruption could seem  threatening.

We want to help assuage those concerns about potential diminishing warehouse job openings. Instead, warehouse employees should look forward to easier physical labor, less stress and more intellectual stimulation on the job. Robots can take the pressure off of warehouses and 3PLs during seasonal surges. Robots can take shifts during the hottest or coldest parts of the day and drastically reduce the amount of walking humans need to do on a daily basis picking orders throughout the warehouse.

A New York Times Magazine article published the week of Feb. 23, 2017, emphasized that most robots working alongside humans in warehouses are not eerily human-like, but machine-esque. The reporter implied it is less unsettling to work alongside machines than it would be to work alongside animatronic bots. In this observation, the Times addresses and then debunks a common fear: that robots will replace all human workers. Materials handlers should rest assured that there will always be work that needs to be done by humans, namely work that requires observing and anticipating needs in social situations and work that demands emotional intelligence. Customer service situations, like communicating with a major manufacturer about space needs and limitations, inventory shortages or damage, still require abundant human interaction and interference.

Moreover, a Los Angeles Times article published Dec. 4, 2016, points out that, while fewer warehousing jobs are being added for materials handling tasks, the new job positions pay more, due to the higher skill set required to monitor automated lift equipment. In the coming years, new automation technology should create approximately 15 million jobs, according to Forrester, a research firm. With
these new jobs come important consideration factors. For example, lights-out automation would be much more possible with robots, creating a new set of safety considerations, such as creating adaptive zones, complying with new regulations and providing both bots and humans with clear instructions on how to operate within the designated zones.

Has your organization implemented automated lift technologies yet? How much have you saved in operational efficiencies and utility bills? (Automated lift trucks can work in the dark.) The future is now

Shopping for a Transportation Management System: Factors to Consider - Apr 2017

Is your organization seeking to replace its current Transportation Management System (TMS) or obtain a TMS for the first time? Besides the obvious factors, such as overall cost, functionality that meets your requirements, and the ability to integrate with your current system and trading partners, below are five points to consider when shopping for a TMS.

Is your organization seeking to replace its current Transportation Management System (TMS) or obtain a TMS for the first time? Besides the obvious factors, such as overall cost, functionality that meets your requirements, and the ability to integrate with your current system and trading partners, below are five points to consider when shopping for a TMS.

1. Understand how the software works.

Do your homework and define your requirements! Does your company need a cloud- or premises-based technology? Similarly, whether you seek an auction-based TMS, a TMS based on your preferred carriers, or a combination of both, each TMS provider you consider should have a website with accompanying marketing materials. Read the website content, including digesting any available case studies and/or whitepapers offered about similar customers’ successes with the product. Above all, be sure to view any marketing or demonstration videos the company has made about their products. If you do not come away from a marketing video without at least a cursory understanding of how the company’s TMS product works, move on to stronger options with clearer explanations. If you have questions about the TMS features, be sure to reach out to your contact at the TMS provider. A strong provider will respond with prompt and thorough information.

2. Seek a partnership rather than just a product.

A company with a solid website, informative videos, and detailed case studies typically will have a long history of customer partnership. Your organization will cherish this partnership when onboarding the RFP. Rather than simply choosing a “plug-and-play” TMS, consider providers who are able to understand your business’ unique rules and needs. If you work in procurement for a small to medium-sized organization without a robust, dedicated IT department to onboard the product, a friendly, professional relationship with your TMS provider is paramount. For example, should your volume suddenly escalate, you will need open and effective communication lines with a provider that can quickly and accurately respond to your needs and adjust the product’s rules. A good TMS partner will teach you how to adjust the unique rules in the future, adding to the product’s utility and convenience.

3. Prioritize scalability.

Similarly, the partnership you seek with your TMS provider should allow you to scale up—and down—according to your business needs. If you need to integrate the new TMS with an Enterprise Resource Program (ERP) or an existing Warehouse Management System (WMS), the TMS should be able to deliver integration with little fuss. A customizable solution is best, especially if your organization merges with another, is purchased as part of an acquisition, or simply grows in size. TMS providers with dedicated, in-house developers can respond to these needs quickly, adding features to optimize the product for your organization’s needs.


4. Seek value-driven options.

Consider TMS companies with cost-per-transaction pricing models. Some customizable TMS programs cost as little as $1 to process an order. A low pertransaction cost, combined with customizable scalability and a communicative vendor partnership, equals the best value for your buck when it comes to TMS products.


5. Consider the value of quick implementation.

A customizable product with low cost—what’s the catch? Often, custom products require a steep learning curve. To reiterate point No. 1: “Understand how the software works,” and, if possible, try before you buy. A dedicated TMS partner will take the time to demonstrate the product for you, or it will have resources you can use to try the product by yourself before committing to a purchase and contract. The onboarding process for a new TMS should not be painful; prioritize a simple interface and the software’s ability to integrate easily with your existing systems. If anything feels or looks unintuitive to your eye during the set-up process, point it out to your provider. A truly custom solution will change those screens or buttons to appear exactly how your
organization wants them to appear.

Best of luck in your comparison shopping for a new TMS! When you do begin researching, be sure to evaluate each TMS equally on these 5 factors.

WSI Releases New Logo, Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2016 - Oct 2016

Appleton-based WSI, one of the largest privately held third-party logistics providers in the United States, released a new logo last week, in conjunction with celebrating the company's 50th anniversary.

Over the past 50 years, WSI has grown from a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Combined Locks, Wisconsin, to a fully integrated logistics provider with more than 15 million square feet and 1,200 employees working throughout the U.S.

"Moving into WSI's second fifty years gives us an excellent opportunity to update our logo to reflect the many services our company has to offer," said Bob Schroeder, WSI CEO and President.

Those offered services include warehouse storage, fulfillment, bulk handling, specialized chemical handling, transportation services and more. The new logo and the "WSI" name represent the entire WSI family of companies, which includes Warehouse Specialists, LLC; American Warehouse, LLC (AWC); Material Logistics & Services (MLS); Fulfillment Specialists of America, Inc. (FSA); and WSI Transportation, LLC.

In the coming months, the new logo will be rolled out across the organization and to WSI customers.

The new logo introduced in late October 2016:

 

The former logo used by WSI for more than 20 years:

About WSI

WSI is a leading third-party logistics company providing warehousing, distribution, transportation, import/export handling and fulfillment services.  WSI utilizes cutting-edge technological capabilities to deliver efficiency that goes unmatched, and customized solutions to fit customers’ needs.  The company excels in handling multiple product verticals, including paper, chemical, consumer packaged goods, building materials and more. Visit www.wsinc.com for more information. 

Complying With Big-Box Retailer Requirements - Aug 2016

Complying with big-box retailer regulations is not a one-person job for 3PLs. An integrated team approach is the best way to ensure your company, as a logistics provider, is able to be absolutely reliable to the retailer. Specifically, customer service, compliance, and transportation and operational services equally aid in the assurance of complying with big-box retailer regulations.

Complying with big-box retailer regulations is not a one-person job for 3PLs. An integrated team approach is the best way to ensure your company, as a logistics provider, is able to be absolutely reliable to the retailer. Specifically, customer service, compliance, and transportation and operational services equally aid in the assurance of complying with big-box retailer regulations.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Serving big retailers starts upfront with strong information technology infrastructure. An integrated warehouse management system executed by highly trained customer service representatives with the ability to work on a number of different customer software systems will keep retailer orders coming. Whether your company uses RedPrairie, Manhattan or some other robust WMS, valuing and thoroughly training your CSRs are essential actions to build and maintain retailer relationships. CSRs are the first point of contact between a customer and your company, and they need to understand retailer guidelines as or even more intimately than
your compliance department. These friendly faces, or voices, if they communicate primarily by phone, of your company help ensure, for example, that boxes with slight mislabeling issues get relabeled in a timely fashion. They move the daily operations of your retailer accounts along smoothly, navigating bumps in the road with ease and a smile, if they are valued, trained and challenged appropriately. They are the human faces behind the efficiency-driving EDI transactions your company relies on to function: order processing, invoicing, pick-up and delivery data.

COMPLIANCE

If you have not hired or assigned a dedicated compliance professional in your company to help with labeling and ensure on-time deliveries and shipping, you’re doing it wrong. Often, as a 3PL, you will find the retailer itself is not your customer. Your customer is a small manufacturer or consumer packaged goods company that wants to attract or retain big retail customers. What now? Your dedicated compliance professional – should they be motivated – will find a key retailer contact with whom to build a relationship. This key contact at the retailer can help your 3PL monitor changes in requirements. A key contact can even give your company a heads-up on major transformations, like a sneak peek of the retailer’s new supply chain strategy or put in a good word for your 3PL to provide more third-party logistics services.

Similarly, the precise labeling and packaging requirements of large retailers can be daunting. Assigning at least a part-time compliance professional to handle these details will serve your business well. That professional can populate, maintain and update a vendor compliance intranet site, listing all labeling, packing and transport requirements for each retailer. That same person can make sure your company offers detailed tracking. Have the ability to provide box-level detail to your customers and their big-box retailer customers through the use of unique package identification standards from the Uniform Code Council (UCC).

TRANSPORTATION AND OPERATIONAL SERVICES

Efficiently routing products and meeting big-box retailers’ strict must arrive by date requirements are essential steps in compliance. At WSI, we like to say, “When your product is delivered to our warehouse, that’s where the inspection starts.” Item number set-up in our WMS is verified there, the labeling and packaging are inspected and any irregularities are worked out before the product ever is loaded on a truck headed to a retailer. The use of advanced warehousing in many of our facilities with retail accounts, like RFGen, pick-to-voice and scan audit stations, eases the process of picking and shipping.

“Be extremely detail-oriented and cover all the bases, from customer service to transportation to the labor pool,” said Mark Weum, a leading WSI retail account sales manager. “It’s a total team effort.”

Additionally, being proactive about labor considerations is important. If Walmart gives your hair product customer another $1 million in logistics business because the big-box store is happy with your 3PL performance, make sure you know ahead of time where your company will get the additional people needed to work in the warehouse. Proactive considerations for a tight labor market include offering full-time positions to part-time or temporary warehouse workers with strong performance, and giving those full-time employees benefits. Finally, if you make mistakes, own up to them. Examine your operational processes and design them with compliance for big-box retailers in mind. If you stick to their requirements—and keep up on them in your frequently updated intranet—your 3PL should be able to challenge chargebacks with detailed historical
reports of what you did correctly. Complying with big-box retailer requirements isn’t always easy, but it pays off in the result of a cohesive 3PL team, satisfied employees and continued business.

Become an Extension of Your Client's Brand - Jul 2016

As entities responsible for brokering appropriate carrier rates, ensuring accurate quantities of orders, and guaranteeing high quality of products, third-party logistics providers are extensions of companies’ brands. The functions 3PLs perform help shape their clients’ outwardly facing reputation. Here are the most effective ways to become an extension of your client’s brand.

As entities responsible for brokering appropriate carrier rates, ensuring accurate quantities of orders, and guaranteeing high quality of products, third-party logistics providers are extensions of companies’ brands. The functions 3PLs perform help shape their clients’ outwardly facing reputation. Here are the most effective ways to become an extension of your client’s brand.

COST SAVINGS

Carrier Brokerage – Save your client money so it can pass along savings to its own customers. Your 3PL can do this by brokering the best possible carrier rates for your client, whether your business uses an effective, built-in Transportation Management System (TMS) that automatically sets up auctions for carriers to bid for business, uses load planners to broker carriers, or some combination of both. Carrier brokerage is a win-win for your 3PL and client, adding profit to your 3PL’s bottom line, saving the client on overall transportation spend, and securing future business with the client, provided the carrier performs well. Regarding carrier performance and accountability, a TMS with capabilities to track and report carrier performance, including actual delivery and pickup times, can provide value for both your 3PL and your client. Consider a TMS with these functions.

Deliveries and pick-ups made on time, accompanied by a friendly demeanor and professional attitude, reflect your client’s ability to handle last-minute and well-ahead-of-time requests.

Storage Space – Be willing to accommodate a client’s need for multiple pricing options, such as storage costs by the pallet, square foot, linear foot, or pound. The flexibility might make the client’s rate contract more complicated, but it will allow the client flexibility it can pass on to its own customers when fulfilling orders. Today’s competitive retail market demands that companies fulfill orders rapidly and accurately. Allowing a company latitude in their storage space options helps it remain competitive—and well-branded—in the e-commerce industry.

EFFICIENCY

Product Put-away – A 3PL’s greatest asset is its employees. Material handlers who care about their jobs will commit to putting products away safely and accurately, using “First-In, First Out” methods, directed put-away technology, advanced barcode scanning, or some combination thereof. Treat your employees well, providing them with a fulfilling, safe, and profitable workplace, and they will treat your customers’ products as if they were their own. Equally important is the concept of instilling in your employees the urgency with which products need to be put away in safe storage spaces. Careful handling results in high-quality products shipping out to the client’s customers, cementing your client’s reputation as a reliable brand.

Order Fulfillment – Similar to careful product put-away, quick-acting and motivated employees will work hard to ensure the client’s customers receive their retail products as soon as and in the best condition possible. Provide employees with the technologies they need, like hip-mounted shipping label scanners and printers, RFGen, touchscreen tablet inventory systems and more, to fulfill orders. Some e-commerce companies promise customers same-day shipping—or even same-day delivery! These changing expectations in the retail industry put additional pressure on 3PLs and their employees to fulfill orders in an organized and appropriately prioritized fashion. Your e-commerce customer will thank you when its customers write glowing online reviews praising the company’s prompt delivery times.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Saving your client money and fulfilling its business rules arguably are the biggest components of the company’s customer service, allowing your client to brand itself as a competitively priced “rapid responder” in its respective industry. However, your 3PL’s own face time with the client is important, too. Provide your clients with dedicated client service representatives, account managers or both. These professionals can help your client change aspects of its supply chain that are not working, such as observing flaws in its order entry system or noticing defects in shipping materials the client uses to ship orders. Communication and a pair of human eyes–or several–watching over clients’ inbound and outbound products, whether virtually through an Order Management System or in person as a warehouse facility manager, add personal touches to your relationship with your client. Additionally, automated programs can catch mistakes but lack the analytical ability to determine why mistakes are happening and prevent them from occurring in the future. Less shipping and storage mistakes deeper in your client’s supply chain, starting with your 3PL’s services, mean happier end customers touting your client’s name as a leader–“the best”–in its industry.

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