The most successful supply-chain partnerships often begin slowly.
Eight years ago, Hub Group Inc. started out handling just one product line of the Guinness Import Co. - shipments of Moosehead beer from Canada into the U.S. But as Guinness's American sales grew, so did Hub's share of the business.
Today, Lombard, Ill.-based Hub is responsible for nearly all of the volumes imported by Guinness into the U.S. That means not only the famous Guinness brand itself but other popular imports, including England's Bass Ale, the Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell, and Jamaica's Red Stripe. In fact, the importer has become so diversified that it recently changed its name to the Guinness-Bass Import Co.
Hub's duties on behalf of Guinness are wide-ranging. It takes control of most imported product from the time it clears U.S. Customs, then arranges for final delivery to distributors throughout the country. Hub also negotiates rates with carriers and monitors their performance. And it provides tracking and tracing for all shipments to destination, including the ocean leg of the journey.
Hub, Guinness and the shipper's U.S. customs broker are linked electronically via a common, proprietary database, according to Nick Piscitelli, director of national accounts for Hub's eastern region. Orders are monitored from the moment they are placed at the overseas brewery. Updates are entered into the system with each change in a shipment's status.
The database also serves as an important tool for measuring performance, said Colin Funnell, vice president of operations in the U.S. headquarters of Guinness-Bass in Stamford, Conn. The shipper can keep close tabs, not only on Hub's performance, but on that of the customs broker and ocean carrier as well. Hub submits detailed report cards to Guinness on a monthly basis.
Guinness measures service in three major areas: the time it takes for the customs broker to make import loads available to domestic carriers, the correlation between published transit times and actual delivery dates, and overall customer satisfaction. The responsibility for that last factor lies squarely with Hub -regardless of who might be responsible for a service failure.
|"If you don't have the fundamentals and good information, it's very hard to build high levels of trust."
- Colin Funnell of Guinness-Bass Import
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