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Our UPS “Compass” Experience

Posted on January 7, 2009 by Jeff

Once a quarter I take a few minutes out of my day to read about what UPS is up to in their Compass publication: “The Quarterly for UPS Preferred Customers.” Each volume includes an individual success story that covers what businesses partnering with UPS are doing to integrate solutions for their everyday shipping needs. These articles generally end in quotes similar to Wil Kovacs, “There’s no doubt about it – we couldn’t have done it without UPS” (Vol. 2, NO. 2 | Spring 2008).  I’ve read these articles over the past couple years picking up useful tidbits along the way, all be it as much for a mindless moment in the middle of an otherwise busy day. Never have I felt we had a nugget to contribute along the way until we were recently approached by our account manager Kia. I’m not sure her actual name would make it past the Compass editors, but I wanted to make sure she was given credit for our success story.

To appreciate the nugget you must understand our humble beginnings. With little more than a dream for bringing customers together with everything necessary to realize their home remodeling desires, our negotiating options at UPS’s table were slim. Success hinged on collaboration between multiple shipping points spanning from west to east coasts, each with their own unique fulfillment system. This collaboration was met with a single UPS account number, in concert with UPS WorldShip allowing “installations” of our individual account number across a maximum of 13 separate shipping points. WorldShip provides our supply base the opportunity to ship directly on our account number’s which results in tracking information that seamlessly populates in our system and back to our customers.

From our inception we’ve enjoyed continued growth. It wasn’t long before we’d maximized our initial account. Additional account numbers were eagerly provided and consolidated to our original primary account number. With the number of shipping points growing, UPS ran into an interesting problem, sourcing. UPS’s visibility showed the volume for each account number’s 13 shipping points as originating from the account number’s physical address; our headquarters in sunny southern California. Now if you did the math you would realize that we had well over 30 shipping locations.  So why does this cause a headache for UPS as well?  A shipping point’s local hub wasn’t prepared for the actual inbound volume, while our southern California hub was over prepared. Meaning that as UPS was capturing our shipping data their system showed that all of the shipments were coming out of a southern California branch, when in actuality that particular branch wasn’t going to see nearly as many shipments as they were expecting based on the data.  On the flip side a UPS branch in Maryland may be struggling to keep up because of the unexpected number of packages to ship.  This not only affected the workers and resources at each individual branch, corporate was also using this data to allocate budgets to branches, again this southern California branch would be over budgeted, and another branch would be under budgeted.  Several additional issues have rose from this early solution.

Enter Kia. Once we addressed our concerns about making any changes to our shipping accounts, i.e. minimal disruption to our supplier’s processes, consolidated electronic billing (4 years better negotiating position), etc., we began creating unique account number’s by shipping point. Mind you someone from our office, that would be me, would find themselves over the course of several days traveling to supplier after supplier insuring a successful account transition; a very real cost burden. The removal of the original account number from WorldShip proved stifling. We had to insure our suppliers didn’t inadvertently ship on old account number’s lingering in WorldShip. You’d think a simple remove option would be present from WorldShip’s Shipper Editor Menu?  Surprisingly it’s not. Kia went back to the drawing board and not only provided a solution for removing lingering account number’s but did so with the help of UPS’s technicians remotely. No longer did I have to travel all over the country to resolve our current problem and implement the solution.  I spent one long day with members of their technical department working from our office remotely to transition our complete supply base over to our new account structure. Baring the normal technical hurdles experienced throughout the course of the day Adam, Enrique, and Scott successfully brought our shipping solution up to par with our current volume, provided UPS the visibility they desperately needed, as well as providing internal efficiencies without a single issue.

My Compass story would end as my email to Kia did, “We have a couple things to complete the transition, but all in all I’d say it was a success.”  A small nugget certainly, but who had the time to blog back then?


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