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Phone Accessories Provider Hangs Up on Stodgy Distribution

A designer and developer of colorful cases and covers for cell phones and other wireless devices found that its warehousing and distribution model was old hat. A new logistics services partner brought a new look to things.

Phone Accessories Provider Hangs Up on Stodgy Distribution

It would be difficult to argue that there is a device more ubiquitous, more used or, face it, more important than the cell phone today. You can hardly venture anywhere without hearing a ringer going off or seeing rooms full of people staring into small screens rather than conversing with one another. But the cell phones in their hands are certainly not the stodgy, black devices of old.

Phones now are exploding with color as their owners accessorize them with cases of every description. And why not? When millions of us have jettisoned paper calendars, memo pads and even watches in favor of the smartphone – complete with Angry Birds and endless other games and apps – why wouldn't we want something as personal as our phones to reflect our personalities?

Cellairis, a Georgia-based provider of wireless accessories, has been supplying customers cases and other items for their phones and other wireless deices since 2000. You want a case for your iPhone, your iPad, your iPod Touch, no problem. How about for your BlackBerry, HTC or Samsung device? Got it covered. What color do you want that in? Hot pink; well, how hot do you want it? Would you like to design your own cover – put your signature or monogram on it – done. How about chargers, ear buds or speakers; they're available, too.

The customer-facing side of the business is all about producing a very large selection of smart, sophisticated, even pretty, accessories to complement the mobile devices of today's fashionista. On the logistics side, that means there are hundreds and hundreds of SKUs; and the solutions to meet the inbound/outbound distribution and transportation issues are every bit as attractive in their own way.

In their college years, the founders of Cellairis, Taki Skouras, Jaime Brown and Joseph Brown, soon realized that selling wireless accessories was a business that would take off. In 2000, they opened stores in malls. The growth trajectory has encompassed retail merchandise, kiosks and online locations. Today, the company purports to be the world’s largest wireless accessory franchise, with 700-plus locations and products from more than 25 Asian manufacturers and 10 domestic vendors. Cellairis seeks master franchisees in 15 international markets.

However, growth brings challenges as well as success. By 2012, Cellairis approached a 700th franchise. Existing logistics moved goods, but big, complex new orders from a national retail giant, plus international growth plans, required an improved shipping strategy and world-class performance.

Cellairis ultimately partnered with UPS, tasking it with retooling the company's global supply chain and optimizing its warehouse operations in Georgia. UPS Worldwide Express Freight added an international transportation component, assuring on-time service and full visibility for pallet shipments, Skouras says.

With the efficiencies of its revamped logistics system, Cellairis was able to focus fully on ambitious franchising and international growth.

Moving Product

Cellairis develops products in Georgia, but like many Western companies its manufacturing is done in Asia. Imports to Georgia are by airfreight. There, product is warehoused in the company's distribution center until they are shipped either by  ground or air to franchisees and end users. There’s little room for error.

“Because of limited physical space in our franchised stores,” says Skouras, “one missed day of orders and products can cost the franchisee dollars and customers, and damage the brand.”

Clearly, a more efficient shipping model was needed, so UPS held a strategy session with Skouras and his team. “We asked a thousand questions,” Skouras says. “And UPS basically dissected our company to learn our business, to really understand it.”

Dissection aptly describes the process. A UPS report detailed no fewer than 19 logistics improvements to save costs and improve processes, each designed to incorporate best practices and eliminate unnecessary work.

In addition, To foster big-picture thinking, members of the Cellairis team toured UPS Worldport, the logistics company's airfreight shipping center in Louisville, Ky. “It was one of the most impressive operations I’ve ever seen,” says Skouras. “Planes flying in, millions of packages, miles of conveyor belts going 40 miles per hour. I felt like I’d drunk five cups of coffee.”

UPS Delivers

Cellairis tested UPS performance with a critical order. Mistakes were not an option –  a late delivery or misplaced pallet could cost Cellairis up to seven figures. So, UPS went to Cellairis’s factory in China to train workers on exacting shipping specifications required by the retailer receiving products.

Then came the test. UPS Worldwide Express Freight then picked up 19 pallets of assorted products in China on a Friday. Precisely packed, the shipment made it directly to the retailer’s warehouse in time for Monday distribution to 2,200 stores. UPS tracking technology let Cellairis constantly monitor its shipment.

The process came off without error, says Skouras.

Still, implementation of the new shipping model wasn't complete. Weeks later, UPS Worldwide Express Freight shipped 30 Cellairis pallets — a load to challenge the capabilities of many airfreight shippers. That shipment rolled in right on time. At that point, Cellairis handed over international shipping to UPS.

Specifically, the UPS redesign of its client's inbound/outbound supply chain saved Cellairis more than 15 percent on shipments. Warehouse optimization improved service levels, productivity, handling costs and asset utilization. In addition, UPS Buyer Consolidation for International Air Freight reduced complexity in dealing with multiple international manufacturing sources.

UPS Worldwide Express Freight gave Cellairis guaranteed on-time service for critical freight pallet shipments. The carrier's customs brokerage enabled single-source customs clearance for multiple transportation modes, with savings and recovered costs. Cellairis also had real-time location knowledge through the carrier's Quantum View Manage tool.

“We’re good at creating wireless accessories, UPS is good at getting them where they need to go,” says Skouras.

The partnership comes at a perfect time, as Cellairis fully focuses on domestic

growth and international plans. Noting that the shipping company works with Cellairis to train international franchisees, plan warehouses and draw up distribution networks, Skouras says he sees the logistics services giant as a strategic partner, and that the relationship is likely to be a longstanding one.

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