Aug. 27 2008 03:27 PM

As the Associate Director of Supply Chain Operations for Bracco Diagnostics Inc., Kimberly Cox is no stranger to the challenges that professionals in the shipping and logistics industry face. In her position, she is responsible for customer service for US domestic distribution, demand planning, domestic and international receiving and transportation, and developing and maintaining relationships with third-party logistics providers. These duties, while varied, are all of critical importance to Braccos success, and, as often happens in the industry, challenges that threaten to thwart this success constantly arise.

But its overcoming these very challenges that make her position fulfilling. I like to solve problems, she shares. I enjoy having an open dialogue with a customer or employee to find out their barriers and what I can do to help them have an easier job. Whether thats basic automation or working with our vendors to create automated files to automate some portion of their positions, its all about helping them find a better way of doing things. It always feels good when you can walk away from those situations and have an actual problem solved. Its no wonder, then, that Cox found her niche at Bracco. The companys very motto is founded on this philosophy that if the company is easy to do business with, customer satisfaction and loyalty will increase.

Cox attended Wingate University in North Carolina, where she majored in accounting. She began her career with Bracco in 1999 as a staff accountant. After spending some time working in general accounting, she was promoted to general accounting manager. It was at that time that I was put on a project called OTC [order to cash]. We were moving order to cash functions from one 3PL to UPS. Once the project was completed, I was asked to join the Operations department full-time. I was given the role of customer fulfillment, which was responsible for managing the 3PL relationship. Once that was operating smoothly, my role expanded to include customer service and, eventually, demand planning.

The Perfect Order

The customer service side of her position is one that Cox highly values. Both she and Bracco understand the importance of satisfied customers, and it was that mindset that led to the development of the Perfect Order System. To us, the perfect order is one processed electronically from order placement to payment receipt. Its an order that ships cleanly and perfectly every time, arriving at the customers location in one piece and on time. If you can do all this electronically, it works perfectly for both the clients company and for Bracco.

To achieve this perfect order, there are 10 elements that are measured. Bracco works in collaboration with SMI (Strategic Marketplace Initiative) Forum on the Perfect Order pilot. In this pilot program, Bracco works with one of its customers to measure and attain perfect orders. The data elements that define the Perfect Order are as follows:

Order is submitted from the customer via EDI 850

Order is delivered to the customer on time

Order is delivered to the correct location

Order arrives without any damage

Invoice has the correct price

Order is delivered complete (Order Quantity vs. Received Quantity)

Invoice is sent to the customer via EDI 810

Customer submits the payment for the invoice via EDI 820

Customer submits payment on time

Customer submits payment in full

Each order that meets all of the above criteria scores 100%.  Bracco meets with the customer to review the monthly score and discusses methods to improve the process. In March of 2008, Bracco achieved four out of six perfect orders and a monthly average of 97%, Cox shares. We are continuing to drive toward perfect months.

A Patient, Not a Package

Dealing with pharmaceuticals necessitates that certain measures must be taken in order to ensure that the package arrives on time, in one piece and in the right condition. Cox notes that as long as an order is received by 4:00 PM, all of Braccos orders are shipped that same day, and they reach the entire US within three days. In pharmaceuticals, having a short turnaround time is beneficial for the patients, she comments. We really try and remember that its a patient, not a package.

But the packaging is still a crucial element. We worked with UPS to change packaging, Cox recalls. For us, for packaging purposes, it was more than just trying to prevent damages. Whether you use UPS or FedEx, the product is going on a small package line, moving at high speeds on conveyer belt, so your packages have to be sturdy. We ship glass bottles, so when that breaks, it causes a lot of problems. The packaging changes that occurred as a result of this collaboration with UPS dramatically improved the packages durability in transit.

Getting the product to arrive in perfect condition is so important I cant stress that enough, she notes.  Whether because of temperature issues or because of damages in the supply chain, its an issue that we continue to face, since Braccos product is liquid and susceptible to freezing. In 2006, Cox implemented a solution by which Bracco could determine how to ship the products to destinations that were in a freezing temperature. In this new program, Bracco purchased weather data from We load the low temperatures by ZIP Code into our system, and we adjust the shipping method for each customer every day based on the customers ZIP Code temperature. This allows Bracco to expedite product to destinations experiencing low temperatures while shipping ground to customers in locations with above freezing temperatures, Cox shares. We ended up saving $350,000 the first winter.

While these specific challenges may be unique to the pharmaceutical industry, Cox notes that there are many issues that plague all parcel shippers, regardless of their product. Customer service is such a big one, she explains. The biggest challenge is getting others to think the way that you think. Bracco has several core values, and that includes a very high level of customer satisfaction and orientation. And we need people to understand that we strive for perfection. Continuously driving any organization to say that 99% isnt good enough is very difficult. But when they finally move to the mindset that youre constantly striving for perfection, it ends up making the whole industry and organizations better.

Bracco Imaging S.p.A. is one of the worlds leading companies in the imaging agent business, with products sold in over 80 countries. Bracco Diagnostics Inc. is the US subsidiary of Bracco Imaging, which is headquartered in Milan, Italy. Bracco Imaging is a subsidiary of Bracco S.p.A, holding company of the Bracco Group, which also markets Ethical and OTC pharmaceutical products in Italy as well as Advanced Medical Technology systems on a world wide basis. The Bracco Group offers diagnosis services through the Milan-based Centro Diagnostico Italiano (Italian Diagnostic Center).