Horizon Group, headquartered in Warren, N.J., is a leading supplier of crafts, toys, activity kits, stationery and home sewing products to mass and specialty retailers. With a major global sourcing office in Shanghai, it imports approximately 3,000 containers annually and has two distribution centers in the U.S., one on each coast.
When Chief Operating Officer Tony Donofrio was charged with building better command and control of the company's supply chain, he went to market with "a pretty rigorous" request for proposal. "We wanted better cost management, we wanted to improve service, we wanted flexibility and we wanted visibility," Donofrio says. After looking at seven suppliers, Horizon decided to partner with Ultra Logistics, Elmwood Park, N.J. "I had previous experience with Ultra Logistics when I had worked for other companies," he says. "They had done a good job for me in the past and I believed that would be able to help me in the future. Their services are best in class."
Central to those services is Ultra Logistics' transportation management system, UltraShipTMS. The company, which had started in 1996 as a non-asset-based third-party logistics provider, developed its own TMS software in 2001. "We had been working with other TMS packages out there and we thought we could build a better mousetrap," says Nicholas Carretta, CEO of Ultra Logistics. UltraShipTMS was built as a web-based system and is delivered as a hosted service.
"The beauty of this is that I get my upgrades automatically," says Donofrio. "I think that software-as-a-service (SaaS) is definitely the way people will go in the future."
One of the first things that Ultra Logistics did for Horizon was to implement a quick quote process, says Donofrio. This is basically a process where Horizon can quickly get quotes on shipments that it wants or needs to take to market, rather than have that freight move under its regular contracts. "I enter an order for air, ocean, land - whatever - and Ultra puts it out and gets quotes for me right away," he says.
Carretta explains that Ultra Logistics has a database of 16,000 carriers that it is continually updating. "These are carriers that we have done business with over the years and, because of our volumes, we often are able to get very competitive rates," he says.
Donofrio says he has gotten "incredible rates," using this system. One example is on the infrequent occasions when airfreight has to be used for an expedited shipment. "If I have to move something from Shanghai to New York, there may be 25 planes and I don't know which ones have capacity," he says. "Ultra is able to get me the best deal."
The quick quote process also has proved helpful in situations where spot rates are needed to handle spikes in demand or where capacity is tight. It also can provide additional opportunities for savings when market rates are falling.
In some cases, Ultra also provides transportation management services. "We may provide regular transportation for Horizon in a lane that the company uses on a regular basis, if we are able to offer rates that are competitive with their existing carriers," says Carretta. Ultra also steps in to help with product returns. "Horizon will quite often ask us to run returns because they often don't have a carrier base in their return lanes."
Another feature important to Horizon is the easy configurability of UltraShipTMS. "I didn't want a system that is supposed to be a one-size-fits all," says Donofrio. "Usually, one-size-fits-all means it really doesn't fit anyone."
When Ultra started developing its software, "we realized how important it is to shippers to have a system with flexibility, so it can be made to fit specific business needs without having to rewrite all the code," Carretta says. "We did this basically by incorporating toggle switches that allow features to be turned on or off." In addition, he says, because the software was built from inception as Web-based, the database on the back end can easily be reconfigured to, for example, alter the name of a field or the order of information. "This allows companies to set up the system for current state and then to easily change it to future state as their conditions change, he says.
While all these are important, the "overarching capability" that drove Horizon's decision to partner with Ultra was the supply chain visibility it acquired. "Not only did we get the best combination of price and performance, but we got the visibility to build that command and control around it," says Donofrio. One key aspect of this visibility is the supplier portal that UltraShipTMS enables, which allows vendors to easily send order status messages.
"Once a user has those regular status updates, he can go to one source and do a search on an order or a specific SKU," explains Carretta. "Or he can look at a command-and-control view, where he can see what is going into each distribution center, what is on time and what is delayed - that enables the command and control that Horizon was seeking. The ultimate goal is to have it where 95 percent of the freight gets handled untouched and you are only managing 5 percent of the exceptions on that freight."
"Our partnership with Ultra Logistics has given our global logistics team a significant leap forward," says Donofrio. "I feel very good about our success and can see expanding our relationship in the future."
Ultra Logistics, www.UltraLogistics.com
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