Businesses with transportation operations are faced with increasing shipping costs, rapidly shrinking order-to-delivery cycle times, continuous changes in compliance regulations and growing complexity in meeting stringent service level commitments for customers around the globe. Manual approaches to transportation management are no longer efficient, driving up operational costs and hampering efforts to achieve greater visibility and control over the end-to-end shipment process. Learn how Robert Bosch used a shipment management solution to drive down logistics costs through effective transportation management. 

Descartes Transportation Management Saves Robert Bosch Money; Gives Greater Control of High-Volume Fulfillment Operations

The Customer
Robert Bosch Inc. Canada houses more than 55,000 Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) in its 152,000 square foot Mississauga, Ontario warehouse facility. Each business day it ships 600-700 orders to destinations coast-to-coast that range from light-weight parcel shipments to full-load tractor-trailer or rail car.

Similar to the size of its orders, shipment contents leaving the Bosch warehouse vary widely and include automotive aftermarket parts, power tools and accessories, and security systems. The customer profile is similarly diverse, according to Distribution Manager Chris Dyer.

“We ship to everyone from the corner garage to major automotive retailers, local hardware stores to national retail home improvement centers,” he says. “For example, a warranty shop might need just a couple of screws, but if they need them, their orders merit the same level of attention as does a truckload of table saws going to a national retailer.” 

The Challenge
Robert Bosch Inc. is the Canadian arm of the North American Division of the Robert Bosch Corporation, a Stuttgart, Germany-headquartered international company that employs approximately 250,000 people in more than 50 countries. To deal with its complex distribution matrix of products, carriers and customer preferences, Robert Bosch Inc has a sophisticated IT structure. An SAP system houses data for Bosch, Skil & Dremel power tools, and an IBM AS/400 system services Bosch Automotive and Bosch Security product lines.

The Problem
Orders download to the warehouse management system (WMS) for fulfillment; parcel-size orders were picked and packed and then rated and routed using a commercial shipping machine. Large orders – the truckloads, less than truckloads (LTLs) and rail car loads – were manually rated and routed, with paperwork being manually generated.

“Over time, these procedures became unsatisfactory on several levels,” Dyer says. “Software support was unpredictable since it usually came out of the U.S., which could mean slow response times. Information was not readily available to our customer service teams. And, too often, we found ourselves limited to a single carrier for LTL shipments because we did not have an expedient way to source the carrier with the most economical solution, which would also satisfy our customers’ specific requirements. It was apparent that we needed a flexible shipping solution that would accommodate all types of shipments within a single system.”

The Discovery
Finding it wasn’t so easy, Dyer says. He researched the available options and “While some systems may have satisfied some of Bosch’s operational requirements, Descartes’ Transportation Management (TM) solution, specifically the Pick, Pack and Ship module, had the best return on investment. Based on the vendor selection and review process, Descartes gave us the highest confidence level in meeting the implementation target, as well as providing ongoing timely support.” 

Additionally, Descartes’ TM could be acquired economically on an operating rental model, and it met with all of Bosch’s requirements in terms of implementation, flexibility and functionality.

The Solution
The Descartes TM solution is a multi-carrier-compliant enterprise logistics software solution that provides efficient planning and execution of shipping and warehouse activities at touch-points in the distribution process. Descartes’ TM helps support rules-driven automated routing of Truckload (TL), LTL, small package carrier, multi-modal, fleet and messenger services.

Once the Descartes system had been selected, Dyer worked with Descartes personnel to define the transition program, which involved several stages. First, they established and documented the scope of the project, including a review of the entire logistics processes. They identified the steps that represented the optimum flow of information from the SAP-AS/400 management software, where orders and inventory information were maintained, to the warehouse system, which executed the receiving, inventory management and fulfillment process, and finally to the newly acquired Descartes shipping solution. In this manner, the implementation team was able to determine what information was required by Descartes as well as the types of data that was needed back from the Descartes.

The Implementation
The Descartes software was installed on a network server and interfaced with the warehouse management system. “This provided us with a high speed exchange of data between the two systems, virtually real-time,” Dyer says. “Orders drop from the databases into the WMS and, once they are picked and packed, the data drops automatically into the Descartes software for rating and routing according to the customer’s delivery requirements and cost. Descartes performs these tasks automatically, verifying customer order numbers, shipment weights, shipping details, and choosing the most economical routing, also providing alternatives if the options programmed into Descartes are not compatible with customer requirements.”

Once the shipments are rated and routed, Descartes generates the shipping labels and carrier bills of lading. All carrier loads are manifested daily. Its electronic data interchange (EDI) module enables it to send advance shipping documentation to EDI-enabled carriers, and retrieve delivery information back on previous shipments that have been delivered by the carrier. 

The Results
The efficiencies achieved using Descartes are readily apparent, Dyer says. “Descartes can handle all of our shipping needs, from the very smallest package to the largest full loads,” he says. “We haven’t quantified savings at this point, but it is easy to see that they are significant. We’re through with handwritten documents: Descartes prepares printed, error-free copies automatically and quickly and this alone represents a major savings of personnel time.”

“At this time, the Descartes system is doing everything expected of it, but we’re not finished yet with maximizing the potential of the Descartes system. We’re currently looking at additional modules to make us even more productive,” says Dyer.

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