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A shipping solution

Sep 1, 2000 12:00 AM


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The John Roberts Co. is a full-service commercial printer that has earned its sterling reputation the old-fashioned way: by doing quality work at a competitive price and providing outstanding customer service. The Minneapolis-based printing company was established 48 years ago. Today it produces everything from glossy, four-color brochures and annual reports to menus, catalogues, and specialty projects for domestic and world distribution.

The printer's state-of-the-art equipment includes mammoth 200-line screen web presses that process print runs in the millions. Once the ink is dry, that's a lot of outbound printing orders. The printer uses a wide variety of carriers: regional LTL carriers, Roadway for larger, widespread national LTL deliveries, and UPS for small packages. Carriers are chosen by route destination, availability and, above all, their commitment to meeting required delivery times.

FROM THREE TO 20 TRUCKLOADS

According to Tom Zornig, shipping lead for The John Roberts Co., "Some days we ship as many as 15 or 20 truckloads of print orders, and some days just two or three." One thing never changes, however: Most customers want their printing orders yesterday. "This is a very time-sensitive business," says Zornig. The company's reputation for meeting tight turnaround times has proven to be an important competitive differentiator.

A few years ago, it was clear that The John Roberts Company's shipping process needed upgrading. "We were doing everything by hand," says Zornig. "We did hand bills, we had a UPS system with a scale where you had to enter the zip code, and so on. Everything was processed by hand and then hard copied to our accounts receivable department. Then they'd have to transfer the same information to their computer system."

The process was inefficient and very time consuming. The company made inquiries into a variety of systems from other transportation solutions providers, but was disappointed by their half-hearted responses - until it saw TranScape's approach. Says Zornig, "TranScape was willing to be a real partner."

TranScape (Bloomington, MN), is a Pitney Bowes company. It provides logistics management software and services that support and manage shipping and mailing operations.

TranScape begins by learning the customer's business processes and IT requirements. Service often includes customization of software applications, software installation, user training, ongoing updates and help desk service.

The John Roberts Co. served as a beta site for TranScape's then-new logistics management software, Conquest. Conquest is a modular shipping management software that provides comprehensive packing and shipping system integration, management and reporting. The Windows-based system is designed to interface seamlessly with the host business system. The result, according to Zornig, is a streamlined shipping process that saves The John Roberts Co. and its customers time and headaches, especially in the areas of job tracking and delivery cost estimating.

"Because everything is on file now, we are able to track our shipments much more quickly," says Zornig. "We can go into the program, check the shipment, get the pro number, and immediately confirm the shipment with our customer. It is a big improvement over the old days when we needed to manually search for all the shipping data."

CASH FLOW KEEPS MOVING

Real-time access to accurate shipping information is a genuine sales advantage that the Minneapolis printer's customers appreciate. "Now if a customer calls our estimating department with a last-minute request for freight estimates, we can estimate their freight costs to within one- or two-percent accuracy, right on the spot," says Zornig.

Zornig and his team of shipping clerks can easily operate the system themselves, electronically preparing all the shipping documents they need. "All you do is enter the consignee name on the computer screen, select the carrier, enter the shipping data, and your shipment is processed, with a record automatically going to accounts receivable," says Zornig. "The best part of the whole thing is that it's all done in real time, and the billing can be sent out the very next day. It keeps our cash flow moving."

While the printer currently uses the shipping module of TranScape's Conquest system, the system offers a range of integrated packing, shipping and integration features that can save shippers time and money. Conquest includes order fulfillment pack verification, carrier selection and shipping, vendor compliance labeling, international export documentation, reporting and integration modules.