Magazine Article | February 15, 2008

Internet-Based Logistics Helps Business To Grow

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Vermont Teddy Bear installed a shipping management solution to provide a single interface for 20 suppliers to access orders and process shipments.
Vermont Teddy Bear installed a shipping management solution to provide a single interface for 20 suppliers to access orders and process shipments.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, March 2008

When a company grows from shipping out of one location to shipping from multiple locations, it can end up with a very complex shipping and logistics system. This is the problem Vermont Teddy Bear encountered when it added Calyx and Corolla, a luxury flower business, to its product lines. Calyx and Corolla is a direct from the grower fulfillment model, and the business line works with more than 20 different growers.

Vermont Teddy Bear, founded in 1981, is a $66 million gift delivery business. The company currently has five different business lines, including teddy bears, pajamas, gift bags, flowers, and gourmet food. All of Vermont Teddy Bear's business lines were created in-house with the exception of the flower business.

Calyx and Corolla was using an order entry system called Page Digital when Vermont Teddy Bear acquired it. Page Digital was tightly integrated with a FedEx server shipping solution. Each grower location was supplied with PCs, printers, and Internet connections to support the three applications required to process daily shipments. Vermont Teddy Bear had a difficult time managing upgrades and version control since each grower was responsible for their location. As a result, Vermont Teddy Bear became the growers' help desk. "The other problem we had with the Page Digital system is that it did not comply with our multicarrier model," adds Rick Coon, application integration manager for Vermont Teddy Bear.

Support Customer Demands By Managing Shipments Online
The company began looking at various solutions to replace the Page Digital system. The new system had to allow for the company's multicarrier model, support multiple shipping locations, and integrate with the order entry system. The new system also had to allow the growers to process shipments from any PC and printer and leverage their existing Internet backbones.

After looking for several months, Vermont Teddy Bear found Kewill Flagship DI Server API.  The system integrated with the company's order entry system and Citrix. "Flagship enables our remote grower partners to process, report, and support our business through a secure Internet site," says Coon.

The new shipping management system allowed Vermont Teddy Bear's grower partners to remotely access both the order entry system and the shipping management system through one interface. Previously, the floral growers had to access three different applications to process and ship orders. "Now, the growers can see their orders; generate pick tickets; print out the personal gift card messages, flower care instructions, and shipping labels; and prepare everything to ship," details Coon. "The system also notifies the carrier, such as UPS, that there is a shipment to be delivered."

The greatest challenge Vermont Teddy Bear encountered during the installation was the timing of the project. The company had a one-month window after Valentine's Day to be ready for Mother's Day. "We had to remove all the old equipment, install the new system, and integrate it with our order entry system at 20 different remote locations," states Coon. Two weeks of that month involved engineers from Kewill integrating the Flagship API system with Vermont Teddy Bear's systems.

Vermont Teddy Bear's installation of Flagship enabled it to meet several of its goals. First, it helped the retailer build a multilocation company after being a single location company for a long time. Second, it supports the company's goal of being carrier-independent. The installation also decreased the retailer's cost of supporting its growers, while providing them with more flexibility. "The outward vision of orders for our grower partners allows them to better plan their businesses, which ultimately allows them to support our business to the level we expect," explains Coon. Finally, with greater integration, Vermont Teddy Bear is better able to support all lines of its business as they grow, which is key for an online retailer. 


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