By the Numbers
improved planning reliability and transparency
days faster delivery of goods
delay in data transfer and documentation
From small ideas come great visions—which then lead to success stories. Such was the case for Ergobaby founder Karin Frost, who was looking for the ultimate baby carrier. Her objective: a carrier that addressed the needs of an infant’s spine and the ergonomics of carrying the child—and, manufactured under fair conditions.
Available worldwide through specialist and online retailers, and the European branch of the US specialist manufacturer, Ergobaby Europe GmbH, Ergobaby manages monthly deliveries by sea and air freight from Asia to Germany. With the company’s internal sales and marketing processes tightly integrated with the monthly goods delivery cycle, clear visibility and control of the status of the goods is essential to the success of the European business.
Innovation and flexibility were top priorities in the company’s search for a new freight forwarding partner. Riyadh Rashid, responsible for Demand Planning & Supply Chain Management at Ergobaby Europe, emphasises, “From the very beginning, we were looking for a partner who could help us transform our processes. The fact that Flexport, in contrast to traditional competitors, focuses on the advantages of a digital platform inspired us.” Ergobaby Europe imports its premium products, which are produced by suppliers and partners in Vietnam, India and China, directly to Germany. The data tied to its import logistics—from internal sales workflows to cooperation with B2B business partners and end customers to data transparency and up-to-date information on the availability of goods—are critical to the company’s success. “If there is a lack of visibility in the delivery of goods, we notice this immediately. It slows down our internal processes, Rashid notes. “To maintain carefully coordinated workflows, we need to know exactly when and where specific products are available at all times,” he explains. “That’s why price wasn’t a determining factor,” he adds. “Instead, it was about delivery transparency across the entire supply chain.”
Flexport’s cloud-based platform provided the high-level of digitalization Ergobaby was looking for. And, Flexport’s customer service team was able to provide the expertise needed, which helped establish trust. As Rashid affirms, “Usability, functionality, and stability were important indicators for us in choosing a freight forwarding partner. But the human factor behind the technology was also critical—from the very beginning.”
With a presence in Hamburg, the Flexport team quickly established chemistry with Ergobaby staff, which led to a test phase with Flexport. “After creating my account, I was ready to start almost immediately,” Rashid continues. “Minor questions about individual settings in the Flexport platform were quickly resolved with my client solution team.” To check that communication with the new forwarding partner worked not only in Hamburg, but also with Ergobaby’s international logistics processes, the supply chain manager tested the Flexport system with logistics partners in China. The results were positive, both from suppliers and colleagues in the American production department in Los Angeles that worked with the Asian production facilities.
The speed at which Flexport confirmed container capacities for newly announced consignments of goods immediately improved collaboration with the manufacturing partners, and the planning reliability for Ergobaby. Says Rashid, “We saw very quickly that with Flexport we can transparently track a shipment from origin to destination. We knew exactly where the deliveries were at any given time.” This helps the company determine exactly when consignments of goods are being shipped or at what point delays are occurring—before shipment, during customs clearance, or any other given time. And, Rashid has access to real-time detail that lets him take immediate action to keep things on track.
In the past, suppliers would email Ergobaby all the shipment details, including the contents and weight of a container in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Today, they upload this data directly to the Flexport platform. Logistics manager Rashid notes the associated efficiency gains, saying, “All data and information about a shipment are visible at a glance in the Flexport system, alongside the related communications. Now, I just click through the individual bookings for all goods deliveries and can see exactly which containers goods are in and when they are arriving. Such transparency makes it much easier and faster for us than before.” The automated PO and order management functions available with Flexport have even caught the attention of Ergobaby’s production partners. “Some of our Chinese suppliers are already using Flexport themselves, points out Rashid. “They confirm bookings for us directly in the platform along with our related POs. Clearly our partners in China have no reservations about working digitally and transparently with us and Flexport. They see that this also makes their processes much more efficient.”
Ergobaby’s supply chain manager is also repeatedly impressed by the extraordinary service that Flexport and its team provide through the platform. “For us, the collaboration has worked really well to date: As soon as a transport booking comes in via the platform, we receive the corresponding pricing from the Flexport team and can usually confirm the delivery very promptly,” explains Rashid “My daily communications with the operational team goes smoothly. And, even unusual questions can usually be clarified as quickly, regardless of the locations or local logistics partners. Complications are easily resolved, whether it’s a request for additional background information or uploading additional documents.” According to Rashid, the platform is so integral to his workday that it’s the first thing he sees when he turns on his computer and the last thing he shuts down in the evening. “The rich real-time data helps me stay informed about what is happening with our goods so I can share delivery updates with my colleagues as they occur. Flexport’s data helps me make my daily logistics decisions accurately at any time, based on up-to-the-minute situations.”
According to Rashid, transparency is essential for ensuring reliable operations throughout the company. For instance, when Ergobaby launched its new baby stroller, on-time visibility was crucial for us because its marketing activities were tightly aligned with the product shipping and arrival dates. Even product announcements via the company’s social media channels are based directly on the shipping data found in the platform. Says Rashid,”Flexport helps us to keep this flow of information up-to-date and absolutely reliable at all times - for us, this means important planning security.” The data transparency possible today enables the manufacturer to bring certain products, which are only offered online, to market much faster—because product availability can be planned in detail via the platform. In addition, the data analytics within the platform have significantly simplified the reporting routines.”
The transparency gained by using Flexport’s digital freight forwarding platform also helps Ergobaby optimize resources. As Rashid explains, “I can see that my Flexport team is working hard to secure container slots for us, which is important during tense times like Covid-19 and Brexit.” He adds, “Thanks to Flexport, we can further improve the cooperation with our suppliers during key phases. The baby carrier business uses Flexport as a full-service provider across its entire supply chain—from shipping to customs clearance to delivery. “Since we started working with Flexport, we have been able to track and report container utilization in detail for the first time and optimize our operations —something we couldn’t do before, due to a lack of data. Now, we can see the exact cost structure listed for each container, including all ancillary freight costs. It’s simple and transparent,” says Rashid, who sees further improvements in the area of customs clearance: “Before Flexport, if customs-relevant information was missing it only became apparent during customs clearance. Now we can enter all the documentation into the platform in advance.” He adds, “I’m already looking forward to the next customs inspection—with just two clicks, I will have all the documents I need immediately at hand.”
Over time, Ergobaby plans to integrate the entire Flexport system into its overall import logistics processes. The company also plans to extend communication within the platform to all relevant production partners in EMEA and APAC. Flexport’s order management tool, which is already established in the Chinese supply chain, will be introduced to suppliers in Vietnam and India. Also planned: using APIs to directly connect Flexport to the company’s ERP systems.
Reflecting on the new freight forwarding partnership, Rashid says,”Often, online forwarders are portrayed as if they rely solely on technology and artificial intelligence. But, my daily experience with Flexport proves otherwise. The value of the Flexport technology platform is just as important to us as the Flexport team of experts that support us. This combination of digital innovation and excellent service is truly unique.”
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