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A “quantum leap” for shipping

Since 1997, the Schmersal Group has relied on the multicarrier shipping software from Heidler Strichcode, and since 2006, the latest version HVS32 has been in use.

Simplify logistics processes or stick to the traditional way of working? The Schmersal Group from Wuppertal, which specialises in the development and production of innovative safety switchgear and systems, has reacted to the increasing demand for logistics and relies on the scalable HVS32 shipping system from Heidler Strichcode – an important factor in the continuous growth of the global player.

For Roland Ebing, Head of Outbound at K.A. Schmersal, the reasons for the 25-year successful cooperation with Heidler are obvious: the fast integration of the shipping system in the running process, a short way to ROI on investment costs as well as a wide range of customisation options through extensive customer support. “Heidler Strichcode makes a lot possible and always finds solutions for changing requirements,” says Ebing.

With time savings to ROI Since 1997, the Schmersal Group has relied on a shipping system solution from Heidler, and the latest version HVS32 has been in use since 2006. As with more than 1,300 other customers, it simplifies extensive distribution processes. Quite the opposite of everyday life at the end of the last millennium, when Ebing was looking for a turbo for its in-house logistics: “You have to imagine that back then parcel labels were typed with a typewriter. That was a bottleneck for our shipping department and a thorn in my side personally.” Ebing finally came into contact with the Wolfschlugen-based company Heidler Strichcode via the parcel service provider DPD and initiated the integration of the shipping system. A change that immediately had noticeable effects, as Ebing reports: “It was a real quantum leap for our processes. Since then, relevant data for the transport are transferred from the Host-system and we can print the address labels directly via the respective barcodes – without an employee having to do anything by hand. This has noticeably shortened the working time per parcel.” According to Heidler Strichcode, the HVS32 can save up to 30 per cent time in the dispatch process, which in turn can be invested in accepting new orders. Valuable working hours that the Schmersal Group also used profitably.

“Another important factor in the decision to go with the shipping system from Heidler Strichcode was the amortisation rate of the acquisition costs,” explains the outbound manager. The third-generation family business achieved the return on investment within a year – just like over 50 per cent of the HVS32 users.

For about a quarter of our customers, profitability is even achieved within six months. Full support for rapid deployment In order to get to know the work processes in detail and to relieve the on-site staff from the first day of use, the implementation of the dispatch system is preceded by extensive preparation. The requirements and areas of application are defined in a joint workshop with the customer. Thanks to existing interfaces to various merchandise management, warehouse management or shop systems, the HVS32 can be easily integrated into the existing workflow. Depending on the interface technology used, not only data but also functions such as daily closing, list printing, label reprinting and cancellation calls can be controlled. “In the next step, the employees receive training for the intuitive system so that all functions can be exploited to the fullest,” says Arndt Fromm, project manager and authorised signatory at Heidler Strichcode. Fromm has accompanied the cooperation with the Schmersal Group since the beginning and is still the first contact person. Accordingly, he also supported the relocation of the logistics centre in Wuppertal in 2013, which involved far-reaching changes in the internal processing.

“As a rule, we plan for such projects with about half a year’s lead time. Together with the customer, we elicit the new conditions and implement an extensive test system on site. Our employees run through all what-if scenarios and prepare the HVS32 for use so that important supply chains are not interrupted,” says Fromm.

Around 300 carriers at a glance In daily work, the shipping system offers a variety of aids for the staff, as Ebing clarifies: “Possible restrictions of the logistics service providers are stored in HVS32 and can be added manually, so there are no nasty surprises when it comes to billing.” In addition, the overview of the shipping costs of different carriers has proven itself: “The tariff values and elementary factors such as the transport duration can be seen at a glance. This simplifies the decision-making process enormously as to which service provider we use for shipping.” Thanks to tracking links and parcel status data throughout the entire process, a high level of transparency is guaranteed for both sender and recipient at all times. Around 300 carrier modules are already stored in the basic version, which noticeably simplifies the outbound processes – also thanks to the partnerships with industry giants such as DHL, GLS and DPD. In addition, the HVS32 is one of the few systems to be UPS Ready® certified, which means that, among other things, input errors are a thing of the past.

The number of carriers can be easily expanded if required, and the addition of a new service provider takes place within a short time. Increasing requirements for a growing market During operation, numerous further adaptations of HVS32 are possible: “Due to the modular structure of the shipping system, there are often already existing plug-ins for upcoming change processes. If a required extension does not exist yet, individual programming is possible at any time,” emphasises project manager Fromm. An important feature in times of increasing requirements, as Ebing confirms: After all, “more and more service providers are pushing onto the market. In addition, our shipping volume is growing every year.” Currently, the Schmersal Group sends about 180,000 parcels per year with the HVS32, and the trend is rising. Due to its worldwide presence, the global player faces special challenges:
In addition to the sites in Wuppertal and Wettenberg and the subsidiaries Safety Control in Mühldorf am Inn and Böhnke + Partner Steuerungssysteme in Bergisch Gladbach, production takes place in Brazil, China and India. In addition, 19 foreign subsidiaries operate from Finland to New York and Tokyo.

“We ship to over 64 nations, including many third countries,” says Ebing. The supplement for all logistics facets To ensure an optimal overview of the freight cost situation in the company, the independent supplementary software Heidler Freight Cost Management System (HFMS) offers the user additional modules. With the comprehensive tariff system, costs can be managed on a client- or carrier-dependent basis – variables such as weight-based price classes, volume weight, loading metres or toll surcharges are calculated directly via the HVS32 or fed into the company’s own system thanks to the integrated REST interface. A comprehensive basis for selecting the most suitable carrier with the best price determination. Thanks to the extended invoice verification of the HFMS, invoice data of the carrier can be imported afterwards, compared with the pre-calculated conditions and, in case of discrepancies, reported directly to the freight forwarder by e-mail. “Extensive invoice statistics also help in the evaluation of expenses and create the basis for the comparison of new carrier offers in the tariff simulation,” explains Mr Fromm.