A 3PL's cold call leads to a cool technology solution that streamlines processes and minimizes service disruptions
Igloo Products Corp., which produces coolers, drinkware, backpacks, and other products, initially partnered with Atlanta-based logistics solutions provider American Global Logistics (AGL) to automate its purchase order process. That assignment evolved to include, among other projects, an electronic customer repository that provides greater visibility to Igloo's supply chain.
Through the partnership, Igloo cut costs and streamlined its processes. It also has been able to avoid service disruptions by working with AGL to stay ahead of significant changes in the supply chain environment, such as port strikes and the Hanjin bankruptcy.
Carolyn Glynn, senior manager of international freight and customs compliance for Igloo Products Corp., credits these benefits to the visibility AGL's solution affords. In addition, AGL's market knowledge enables Igloo to move cargo quickly to other carriers when a disruption is imminent.
Igloo launched in 1947 with the goal to bring clean water to worksites. Fast forward 71 years, and the company now sells a cooler every 1.6 seconds in roughly 70 countries. It offers approximately 500 products, including water bottles and dispensers, backpacks, mugs, and even LED-lit trick-or-treat bags. Home is a 1.8-million-square-foot facility in Katy, Texas.
Finding the Right Partner
When Igloo issued an RFQ several years ago, its focus was to automate and manage the purchase order process.
"We wanted to move away from spreadsheets and manual paper processes," Glynn says. In addition, management wanted one platform that would manage all cargo—both imports and exports. Just as important was a partner with deep knowledge of the carrier market that Igloo could tap into to help minimize supply chain disruptions.
Among the many 3PL candidates Igloo interviewed, AGL stood out. "They were able to come in and build a process around Igloo, instead of us having to change our processes and procedures to match their program," Glynn says.
"AGL provides high-tech, hands-on, end-to-end logistics solutions," says Blake Shumate, the company's chief operating officer. Rather than insist a particular AGL solution is best, he and his colleagues listen to customers' concerns and build supply chain solutions that meet their needs.
Glynn had been with Igloo for about six months—prior to issuing the RFQ—when she received a cold call from AGL.
"The pitch was a little different," she recalls. "Rather than jump into all his firm could do, the sales rep genuinely wanted to learn about Igloo," Glynn says. "Moreover, I could hear his dedication to building an efficient, cost-effective, and streamlined supply chain for us."
As a result of that call, AGL landed an initial assignment to move about 150 containers.
That assignment led to AGL's participation in the RFQ. It won the business, which Shumate credits to AGL's purpose-built platform. "To fit each client's needs, we all-out scrap and recode our system," he says.
In addition, AGL outlined a step-by-step process to move Igloo from a manual to more streamlined operation, and that provided a level of comfort when the two companies began working together. "We could see this was a well-thought-out process, and they truly understood our supply chain and our needs," Glynn says.
One key solution AGL developed was a customer repository. Igloo Products Corp. serves about 150,000 customers, and each has its own set of rules. For instance, a retailer may require Igloo to send information to specific individuals within its organization, or mandate that the signatures on certain documents be in specific places. At the time, employees searched voluminous paper files, many scattered across the organization, to find the rules governing transactions for each customer.
Through AGL's customer repository, Igloo employees can log in, pull a customer profile, and review the rules. "It removes the search component," Shumate says.
Info for Every Customer
Moreover, the solution shows all exports, imports, modes of transport, rules, and other relevant information for every account. This is key, as each Igloo customer service representative handles all transportation modes and both imported and exported products for specific customer accounts; that's in contrast to some companies that split responsibilities by imports and exports, as well as by traffic mode.
In addition, the solution displays shipments moving through both AGL's and other companies' 3PL services, providing a single point of contact for visibility.
During the initial stages of the partnership, AGL placed a team of its experts at Igloo's headquarters for several weeks. The team included a database administrator, systems architect, implementation and project managers, as well as help desk support specialists. All were focused on learning Igloo's business and day-to-day operations.
Individuals from Igloo's IT team made sure that interfaces could link. Other departments involved were the import and export teams, buyers, operations, and compliance.
AGL team members shadowed Igloo employees involved in daily operations, learning what they did, and how and why they did it. Using this information, AGL identified operational pain points and was able to develop a solution that addressed those needs.
Getting the Process Down Cold
A first step was tracking the components that come into the Igloo facility, become part of finished goods, and are shipped out. Shumate and his team isolated the processes needed to ensure visibility and capture relevant information. This information formed the skeleton of the supply chain solution AGL crafted for Igloo.
Next up was examining the same elements for direct imports. These products go directly from a factory to a customer, such as a retailer. The need for visibility and document capture remains, yet achieving it requires close collaboration with third-party vendors because Igloo never sees the product. The AGL system transforms the record, which is generated by an outside factory, to an Igloo invoice for its U.S. retail customers.
Because the AGL solution collects data from all vendors and carriers working with Igloo, it can produce key performance indicators that offer an all-encompassing overview of the company's supply chain—from raw materials to finished products, across all carriers. Among other information, it shows transit times and costs.
Having a single funnel of information allows management to identify the areas where the company needs to concentrate, Shumate says.
For the next phase of this project, AGL will more closely integrate its solution with Igloo's ERP system to further streamline processes. "As shipments are booked, documents will be automatically generated," Shumate says. Employees won't even have to pull the customer profiles to access the information they need.
Stacking Up Benefits
Since the two companies began working together, costs within the import/export function at Igloo headquarters have declined by 15 to 20 percent. That's due, in part, to streamlined processes. Employees no longer waste time hunting for paper documents. And, by consolidating information that had been scattered across departments to provide a single point of visibility, Igloo can more effectively analyze and manage its spending.
Glynn calls AGL "the good idea fairy" because when Igloo employees come up with what they consider a great idea, they can count on AGL to provide honest feedback.
"AGL's passion got them into Igloo, but their commitment to service has kept them here," Glynn says.