How Gerber Gains End-to-End Supply Chain Visibility and Savings with Flexport
Product units shipped
Reduction in total costs
A Plumbing Fixtures Leader Optimizes its Flow of Supply and Demand
Founded in 1932, Gerber is a leading manufacturer of both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures. Headquartered just outside of Chicago in Woodridge, Illinois, Gerber imports thousands of container shipments a year from its suppliers in China and Mexico into the United States. Once they’ve cleared customs, Gerber’s products are moved through its distribution centers and directly to customers across North America.
Demand for Gerber’s products ebbs and flows. And with the vast majority of its supply shipping over the ocean, maintaining visibility of the supply chain to manage customer expectations — as well as its warehouse staffing requirements — was an ongoing issue for Gerber. At the same time, with several trusted local trucking partners handling last-mile delivery, Gerber sought greater visibility into what was driving its accessorial costs in order to optimize performance on the road and in its warehouses.
Through Flexport’s advanced technology and data analytics platform, Gerber was able to connect all parties in its supply chain and keep them informed in real time. This afforded Gerber the visibility and control it sought over its inventory — as well as higher levels of personal service at both origin and destination. Partnering with Flexport, Gerber also contributed to the development of warehouse and trucking applications to drive even deeper visibility, assure strong vendor performance, and reduce logistics costs, from end to end.
Choosing a New Way Forward
For RoxAnne Thomas, Gerber’s U.S. Transportation Manager, operating the company’s supply chain is a continuous balancing act of supply and demand: what’s being manufactured, what’s in the kiln, what’s on the water and the rail, what’s in its warehouses, and what’s getting shipped out to customers. All while maintaining as little footprint as possible, in order to keep costs low for buyers.
“When I began to look for a freight forwarding partner, I was looking for greater visibility and service,” says Thomas. “Our biggest issue is always visibility of the supply chain. We didn’t have great data around it, and we didn’t have solid KPIs. So it was very difficult for us to know if we were getting what we paid for, or if our rates and timelines were competitive.”
What drew Thomas and Gerber to Flexport was, “the modernity of data and the analytics...the ability to reliably get our products on the container, as well as finding a new way to do it with better visibility and control of our supply chain. Moving to Flexport has given us the ability to pivot, sometimes mid-route, to meet customer demand.”
As a result, with Flexport helping to ship more than 9.7 million units, Gerber realized a 10% reduction in total costs in its first year — with less than 1% of its cargo rolled.
Communication, Collaboration, Peace of Mind
With Flexport, all stakeholders across Gerber’s supply chain have been connected through Flexport’s cloud-based platform – 26 unique users in all, including RoxAnne Thomas and her logistics team, her suppliers in China, her domestic warehouse teams, and all of her local trucking partners. On the back end, Flexport helped integrate the platform with Gerber’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Through this integration, shipment milestones are transmitted automatically, giving Gerber real-time visibility into the estimated arrival of its containers.
To RoxAnne’s delight, Flexport’s in-app messaging feature has helped align Gerber’s teams at origin and destination – and to facilitate real-time exception handling and task management. “I have direct access to my team and Flexport’s teams in Asia, which is something that is very hard to come by. I can just tag anyone I need to reach at Flexport right in the platform. I don’t have to play telephone through another rep. That’s really important and that’s something that I haven’t found with any other freight forwarder.”
As much as Thomas values Flexport’s technology, she says her favorite part about working with Flexport is her Squads – her dedicated teams of operations and data experts in both the United States and China. “There’s a certain trust and reliability there to get things done. I can trust the people that are on the ground in Asia, because they are not agents, but actual Flexport employees.”
“Our Flexport Squads helped us find ways to make our own supply chain better by getting the people at origin and destination to work together more effectively, and ensuring my team doing allocation here in the States is in alignment with what the factory in China can actually put on a container, in any given period of time. With Flexport, I can trust the data and I can trust the people.”
End-to-End Visibility Realized
Gerber has gained end-to-end shipment visibility, with key milestones logged through the Flexport platform. What’s more, Gerber has adopted Flexport’s warehouse and trucking applications to provide deeper visibility from pick- up at port to empty return, and to deliver real-time tracking on deliveries and accessorials from Gerber’s trucking partners.
“The flexibility and control we’ve seen with Flexport – both with the shipping platform and now with the warehouse app – comes from our warehouse team being able to log in and look ahead, at least as far as two weeks, and plan their staffing accordingly,” shares Thomas. “We can not only plan staffing to get the containers unloaded, but we can also change our outbound loads to raise or lower them based on the amount of people needed.”
Thomas adds, “The warehouse app has been key for our warehouse staff to move away from spreadsheets and manual updating of data that gets emailed back and forth to something that’s shared between the warehouse, our drayage partners, and Flexport. So, everyone is on the same page about where our containers are, what the status is, when they are available to be picked up and returned, and if our draymen are actually meeting the KPIs that we’ve given to them – and if we can improve on those.”
Less Time and Cost, More Satisfied Customers
Partnering with Flexport has empowered Thomas to focus less on her freight and use that bandwidth for more strategic initiatives, including domestic vendor management that’s resulted in lower rates and implementing a new transportation management system (TMS). She says, “Before Flexport, I was spending more than five hours per week dealing with reporting or some sort of accessorial management. Now, I spend so much less time worrying about what’s on the water, what’s coming in, when it’s going to be here, and managing the communications between our team and Flexport’s team.”
Most importantly, Thomas believes that Gerber’s customers are benefitting from the visibility Flexport enables. “Being able to know what is actually going to arrive at each of our distribution centers at any given time, plan around it, and pivot as needed has allowed us to make sure that the right product is at the right place, at the right time, so we can fill large orders. For the customer, it’s seamless.”
Reflecting on her partnership with Flexport, Thomas says, “Our first year was all about showing us the missing links in our supply chain. Flexport helped us find them, fix them, and streamline them. We saw significant savings, and next year we plan on further optimizing those savings.”
Expanding Visibility and Impact with Customs
Gerber is seeking even greater visibility and control of its supply chain costs by also partnering with Flexport for its customs brokerage services. “Because we’ve seen how well Flexport works for our reporting, I’m looking forward to having all of the data related to our landed costs in one platform. Soon, I’ll be able to see at a glance what it actually costs to get our product into the U.S. and, along with our TMS, what the total cost is to deliver to the customer.”
With economic and regulatory uncertainty continuing to escalate, Thomas is also looking to Flexport to help drive Gerber’s risk mitigation and growth strategies. “As international trade becomes more and more volatile, I look forward to partnering with Flexport to further diversify our supply chain, and open procurement in new regions of the world.”
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