Yunker Industries is a top graphics and décor manufacturer in the retail market. Its customers include brands, big-box and specialty retailers, quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores. Yunker distinguishes itself by offering a fully integrated level of in-house services from design to large-format printing to complete store installations. Creating single-source accountability through its centrally located U.S. operations enables Yunker to service a nationwide customer base cost effectively.
As a high-volume supplier of retail décor and graphics, Yunker Industries delivers its products to customers by processing anywhere from 100 to 1,000 small parcel carrier (i.e., FedEx/UPS) shipments per day, and prepares and completes eight to 10 bills of lading for less-than-truckload (LTL) transport with other trucking services. In addition, the company does its own local deliveries and occasionally uses courier services. With the growing complexity of its shipping needs, Yunker saw a significant opportunity for process improvement.
“We took a good look at our workflow across our organization,” says Steve Haley, Yunker Industries’ vice president of information technology (IT) and process development. “Many of our systems had been in place for years and we knew we had inefficiencies.”
Haley points out that there were a number of time-consuming activities that a more automated workflow would eliminate. This included inefficient communication between customer service representatives (CSRs) and shipping, which included multiple phone calls, emails and other interruptions when customer service was looking for information about a shipment; manual reconciliation of daily shipments, an error prone and time-consuming process that involved cross-checking shipment records with .CSV files; and grueling collection of carrier shipment data for communication with customer service.
“We actually decided to acquire both EFI Pace MIS and SmartLinc Process Shipper, installing both together as an integrated solution,” Haley explains. “We were looking for a complete system, from estimating through accounting, including shipping, screen printing, digital large-format and our fulfillment operations. This combination fit the bill, providing the workflow we needed to take our business to the next level.”
The results that Yunker achieved were clear—an absolute success that improved the company’s operations with:
- A 40 hour per week savings in customer service.
- A 50 percent improvement in the processing of large batch distribution lists.
- A 200 percent improvement in shipping throughput.
Happier, More Efficient Customer Service Reps
“Our previous process had multiple paths to set up shipments, the tracking information was not available in real time and customer service had to scan .CSV files daily to make sure shipments actually went out,” Haley explains. “This was especially problematic if shipments spanned more than one day. In addition, there were many back-and-forth calls between customer service and shipping, which took time away from both, to get answers to simple questions for customers.
“Also,” adds Haley, “the securing of tracking numbers from the carriers could take as much as 24 hours, an unacceptable delay for our customers.”
Now CSRs set up a planned shipments queue in Pace that is accessible to everyone in the organization. This has the added advantage of forewarning shipping about workload. Once a shipment is fulfilled, shipping flags it as final shipment and it drops off of the queue using bidirectional communication between Process Shipper and Pace.
If a shipment was somehow missed, it is now very visible. If there is product to be shipped by a certain time of day and it did not reach the shipping department, shipping personnel can be proactive in seeking out the shipments to ensure they are on time.
In addition, there is real-time tracking of everything, by day, job, customer or even carton. CSRs can quickly find the information they need without interrupting shipping workflow. This resulted in a savings of at least 40 man hours per week in customer service, a conservative estimate, according to Haley.
Batch Processing Delivers Results
“True batch processing didn’t exist in the past,” Haley says. “We had a person who validated shipping labels, and when there were 50 to 100 shipping labels accumulated, two more people would cross-check them with an address spreadsheet. It was time consuming and error prone.”
What used to require three people is now done automatically in Process Shipper. Haley cites a recent example that demonstrates an additional value of the new system: “We did a drop shipment to 4,300 locations across the country, and in Canada, Mexico and Guam, using UPS. The customer wanted an estimate of shipping costs in advance. Before, we would truly have to estimate using our best guess. With this shipment, we simply ran it as a batch in Process Shipper from the planned shipments data. Not only was the cost estimate accurate to within pennies, we had the information in near real time.”
Shipping with Confidence
Finally, Haley reports that, instead of having to use multiple systems, often located in different parts of the plant, shipping personnel can work from a single shipping station with all of the necessary information at their fingertips. “Our shipping personnel can now ship with confidence,” he says. “We have an efficient batch process, data flows seamlessly back and forth between Pace and Process Shipper, everything is up to date in real time, and there is company-wide visibility to the shipping queue.
Scott Kwiatkowski is a product manager for EFI.