This article originally appeared in the March/April issue of PARCEL.
The commonwealth of Virginia has played an important role in shaping America’s history. It wasn’t until farmers of Virginia could not find quality seeds in 1923 that the farmer’s cooperative known today as Southern States Cooperative (SSC) was formed to provide high-quality agricultural products.
Today, SSC generates close to $2 billion in annual revenue through distribution of a widespread range of products from feed and fertilizer to heating oil and hundreds of retail locations. Southern States’ strong relationship has depended heavily on the relationships forged over generations between not only its loyal customers, but strong supplier relationships.
Like many companies in today’s challenging business climate, SSC has sought strategies to reduce costs to their clients. Warren Miller, Logistics Manager at SSC, strongly suspected inefficiencies in inbound shipments. “We knew there were areas for improvement on our inbound shipments, but we did not have tools to know how to fix the problems.”
The metrics that Miller and SSC were looking for included enforcement vendor routing rules. “SSC needs to know when vendors are making errors which cost our customers money so that they can stop.” Miller said. “We owe it to our customers to provide the highest quality product at the best price available.”
SSC chose ClearView. “We met ClearView Audit and knew they were the right tech team to build the tool the industry was missing. ClearView’s intimate knowledge of the carrier networks and the real-time TMS technology coupled with auditing was like nothing we had seen. We needed to identify vendor exceptions before the shipments even leave the vendor’s dock.”
SSC has deployed a real-time dashboard that reports vendor shipments that violate small parcel shipment routing rules spelled out in the SSC Vendor routing guide:
- Label Compliance: Are the vendors entering the PO # on the shipment in the reference fields?
- Late Shipments: Which SSC POs shipped after the due date on the PO?
- Dimensionless Shipments: Which shipments do not have dimensions entered and thus the amount listed on our invoice is less than the final, landed cost?
- Weight Exceeded: Which products are being shipped in quantities greater than ordered on the PO?
- Unexpected Address: Which POs are being shipped from locations other than our Vendors Distribution Centers and consequently cause greater shipping costs than expected?
- Routing Exception: Which shipments are being shipped on the SSC account in method other than optimal method?
The new Southern States vendor compliance dashboard for small parcel shipments has helped Southern States Cooperative to strengthen vendor relationships by quickly identifying operational breakdowns of their vendors. “Our vendors have been sensitive to the impact of the shipping errors they have made that cause SSC extra shipping costs. We have found that vendor exceptions and routing guide errors are down to a handful of instances each month.”
Finding the right technology was difficult. “We gave up. We looked at small parcel auditors. We looked at Parcel TMS companies. Nobody understood what we were asking for,” Miller said. It took cutting edge solutions, written in the latest and most advanced technologies, to make Southern States’ dream a reality. “These real-time statistics could never exist in an antiquated SQL database environment. There are not many companies in the world with the infrastructure to pull this off, and ClearView is years ahead of anything else we have seen in the market,” Miller said.
The future of supply chain is real-time visibility of all shipments. Southern States has leveraged the power of a centralized control tower for all inbound shipments and are exploring strategies to expand this cutting edge technology to other areas in its supply chain. ”Without real-time visibility to shipments, we would never know when shipping errors are happening, let alone how to fix them. We had no idea how many shipments were coming in each day until the UPS truck backed up to our dock.”