Responsible for Procurement & Logistics, DoriJo “DJ” Yates makes sure we don’t run out of items that can bring production to a screeching halt. These items include everything from buckets and raw materials . . . to coffee.
“You really don’t want to run out of coffee around here,” she says. “No one can start the day properly without it.”
An employee with UI since 1998, DJ started as a receptionist answering phones; at that time, only 12 people worked in the plant, which was less than half its current size. Over the years, she was promoted to Inventory Control and then Procurement & Logistics – “a fancy name for shipping and receiving,” says DJ.
Her job, however, is quite important, because she’s the person who ensures your durable urethane parts arrive packaged as if they were china teacups.
CM: As logistics manager for custom manufactured and sometimes extra-large or oddly shaped parts, I’m sure there are challenges to receiving/shipping. What has been the biggest challenge?
DJY: Believe it or not, the biggest challenge with shipping our products isn’t the oddly shaped parts, it’s the extra-long parts. A standard-size skid is around 48” x 40”; it’s when we have to ship the 60” to 96” length rollers and other parts that it becomes a difficult challenge. If we’re lucky, the customer will supply a longer skid, or even a specially made crate for their order, but if we’re not so lucky, then we have to be creative.
CM: “Many of the parts UI ships require special handling. How do you prevent breakage or shipments arriving at the destination in broken or crushed boxes?”
DJY: We have a saying in the shipping/receiving department: “pack it like it’s a newborn delicate premature baby.” As silly as this sounds, it’s quite accurate.
Proper packaging is everything. Bob, our CEO, jokes that I send a free roll of tape with every box I ship because I put so much tape on the outside of the box. But I’ve never had one of my boxes come up with parts missing because it wasn’t taped enough.
Our philosophy is, if you value your rollers or wheels enough to send them to us to be recovered, we value our work enough to make sure your parts arrive back in just as good as condition, if not better than, how we received them. (You’d be quite surprised how we’ve received shipments in the past from some of our customers.)
CM: Over the years, how has what you’ve learned about shipping custom parts translated to saving money for UI customers?
DJY: Shipping custom parts means we need a variety of ways to properly package customers’ products. This means instead of one or two sizes of boxes, we have over 50 sizes of boxes to ensure the perfect fit for all the different things we produce and ship.
We also use different materials – paper, foam, cardboard sheets, etc. – to ensure parts are packed tight inside the box. We’ve learned loose parts tend to break the box open more often than parts that are packed tightly.
We want our parts to arrive at their destination in as perfect condition as when they left our facility. Why go through the whole production process just to have the parts damaged in transit? That costs a lot of money – both in terms of shipping and replacing the parts as well as lost production time on the customers’ end.
CM: How do you organize and prioritize so many shipments?
DJY: We ship products out daily through UPS and LTL (less-than-truckload) carriers. We have areas set up in the shipping department for small outbound shipments as well as large. These areas are kept separate to avoid any type of confusion or mishandling.
What dictates the priority of shipments are customers’ due dates. If we have an overabundance of shipments ready to ship out on the same day, we make sure the ones that are due first, ship first.
CM: Last question, which factors do you consider when determining shipment methods?
DJY: Several different factors go into the process of determining shipping methods for a customer’s order:
- The size of the shipment. If the weight is under 150 lbs, that’s usually a UPS shipment; if it’s over 150 lbs, then it’s an LTL carrier.
- Customer’s preferred method. The saying “The customer is always right” definitely applies here. If they want a 50 lb box to ship by an LTL carrier, then we ship the 50 lb box by an LTL carrier. We explain UPS would probably be a lot cheaper, but ultimately, in the end, it’s their decision.
- Shipping Costs. Most customers don’t want to pay a lot for shipping if it isn’t necessary. We always try to provide our customers with all the options when it comes to shipping their order. They may say it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get here, just do it at the lowest possible cost.
- Transit time. But then there are some customers that have to have their parts by a certain date and cost isn’t a factor. That means sometimes it’s better to go with a better transit time than a better cost.
Shipping will always play a part in our daily activity, and now we have so many options. At one time, the post office and UPS were the main mailing/shipping options; now there’s FedEx, DHL, and so many others.
Snail mail used to take days; now there’s next day delivery and even same-day delivery. These are a few of the changes I’ve seen while working here at Urethane Innovators. I can’t wait to see what options are available in the future: maybe “prior day” delivery for those who call and say, “We needed these yesterday?” You never know!