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A New Integrated Logistics Paradigm

by John E. Brereton

Unigistix Inc. provides electronic-commerce-based third party logistics (3PL) services and support to Canadian corporations. When the Company was founded in 1995, the concept of logistics outsourcing as a highly dynamic process that provides transparent, integrated and flexible support was relatively new. At the time, numerous transportation and bulk warehousing organizations were repositioning themselves as logistics management providers. But the old economy paradigm still held sway. The transportation and storage approach was a dominant model for the industry.

Unigistix was formed on the proposition that if seamless intelligent 3PL solutions were available, the market would be there. Our experience over the past five years has vindicated this vision. Our company has just moved to a new 230,000-square-foot facility on Airport Road in Brampton, Ontario. The fibre optics-equipped facility consolidates and expands operations previously run from two separate locations that provided a total of 70,000 square feet.

The $20 million state-of-the-art facility offers 28-foot clearance, 27 docks, more than 15,000 skid locations and space uniquely dedicated to reverse logistics, production/assembly and business to consumer (B2C) fulfillment. The logistics management processes it deploys are ISO 9002 registered. The facility employs 120 people in highly flexible teams on a three-shift, 24-hour-per-day basis, as required. It is designed to support a rapidly expanding e-commerce-based business-to-business (B2B) and B2C operation which grew at an average annual rate of 87% between 1995 and 2000, achieving fill- and accuracy rates of 100% and 99.92% respectively. Annual throughput is expected to triple to 30 million pieces over the next five years.

The company has an unparalleled ability to organize its space, equipment and storage systems into flexible e-commerce-based logistics management solutions that can be reconfigured to perform a very wide range of tasks. A major advantage of this flexibility is that it enables such a precise degree of fine-tuning that fixed costs are no longer a factor. Clients pay only for the support they receive.

In fact, Unigistix’s ability to fine-tune and meld with client systems is so complete that client relationships become de facto business partnerships that extend beyond the technicalities and limits of formal contracts.

The company’s operating philosophy embodies the principles of partnership. It requires our teams to approach assignments as full members of clients’ organizations. They are required to develop and implement solutions that reflect a detailed understanding of client business objectives.

The execution of assignments is supported with electronic data interchange technology that allows full integration with clients’ in-house systems and those of their suppliers. It also enables detailed capture and processing of the information client organizations require to operate efficiently and profitably.

These capabilities are effective in the high-growth, short-delivery-cycle environment most companies face. They were especially helpful in our successful bid to secure a large integrated logistics management contract with a major mobile telecommunications supplier.

The Canadian company wanted to find a 3PL provider that, in concert with its in-house telemarketing team, could rapidly develop and implement a more efficient B2C logistics management solution. Previously, the company had outsourced its direct fulfillment activities to an independent telemarketer whose systems and processes were complex and cumbersome.

The company had recently launched a Web-based program which provided direct online access to its activations and billing system. It mandated Unigistix to develop a solution that would provide a direct electronic systems link to its existing online product order entry system, while allowing simultaneous access to and use of the new activations system.

As it turned out, the requirement was almost made-to-order for Unigistix’s proprietary logistics management system. With it, we were able to provide a highly flexible connectivity platform which served as an ideal integration point for the two systems.

We worked closely with the client’s IT staff to identify and define specific systems requirements. As a result, we were able to integrate fully our system with the client’s within a week, thereby providing its telemarketing group full access to the activations and billing system via the Internet. The access enabled the group to place orders online and to have the information flow instantly and seamlessly to the B2C fulfillment team in place at our new facility.

The next step involved gaining access to the activation system. We accomplished this through our high-speed Internet connection. An important element in this step was the training that our B2C fulfillment team received to understand the client’s instant activation system and how to work with it. The training was carried out at the client’s offices. It also involved instruction in product knowledge including how to program different makes and models of wireless communications devices with the assigned customer mobile numbers.

The end result has been a B2C fulfillment team equipped to act as a virtual dealer for the client. In addition to performing the fulfillment function, the team can add rate plans and features to customer accounts and activate wireless devices as well.

The support includes: assembly of material for collateral kits; customizing receipts with pricing information; support for special promotions such as holiday offerings; direct online links with the product delivery company, which eliminates the need to re-enter address information; lock codes for phones; and reverse logistics support, which includes phone testing, customer crediting and management of the entire RA process. We act as a virtual extension of the client, enabling it to free up time and resources for more productive purposes.

The relationship is a very good illustration of the kind of integrated logistics partnership that can now be made available and that companies increasingly expect.