The Challenge

Wilen never saw it coming. And it’s every company’s worst nightmare.

Wilen is America’s largest 4-color variable direct mail manufacturing facility, responsible for delivering hundreds of thousands of highly time-sensitive letter packets into customers’ hands every day. With a particular focus in the cable industry, many letters are solicitations for special events. The process feeds large call center operations. Protocols are methodically managed. A day late is millions of dollars short.

For decades, Wilen ran a smooth, predictable operation, running its daily freight through a large national LTL carrier. Seven trailers, 400 stops a day. You could set your watch by it. Life was good.

Until one day, suddenly, it wasn’t.

Without notice, Wilen received an email that their coveted LTL partner had dropped them, like a broken fork-lift.

That was Black Friday. By Monday, the backlog needed to move. So Wilen’s next move was to call Harte Hanks.

Our Insights

Every dark cloud has a silver lining. This disruption gave us the impetus to get all the eggs out of one basket and divvy up Wilen’s freight among multiple carriers. Instead of a single hub and spoke model, we determined that multiple large regional shippers afforded both cost savings and faster on-time percentages.

But first, we had to figure out how to deliver LTL freight loads to their regional distribution centers.

Our Approach

Harte Hanks Logistics maintains a database of more than 10,000 certified independent truckers. We needed to move LTL freight from a single hub in Orlando, Florida to geographies all across the U.S. That was the reasoning behind utilizing a national carrier. But single-source dependence also creates vulnerability.

So instead, we implemented a new “zone skipping” protocol. Rather than incurring high cross-country zone payments from a national carrier, “zone skipping” reclaimed control. Independent truckers would pick up loads at the Orlando center, then head out to strong regional shippers (i.e., Pitt, Ohio) where loads would be transferred for drop-off in each specific region. Harte Hanks coordinated all dispatch and deliveries, and utilized our proprietary software solution to guarantee flawless tracking.

Getting freight closer to its end destination via independent truckers created a sustainable and predictable supply chain. We opened up a second warehouse in Kansas City to serve locations in the West and Southwest. In geographies where there were no strong regional LTL shippers, we still utilized national carriers, but to a much lesser degree. Wilen was no longer dependent on the vagaries of a single national carrier.

How long did it take Harte Hanks Logistics to put this new decentralized plan together?

About eight hours. With millions of dollars at stake, in what could have been the biggest disaster ever facing the company, Wilen never missed a beat.

The Results

Despite a more complex coordinated shipping protocol, zone skipping has dramatically lowered Wilen’s shipping costs.

Our national shipper ran at about 80% on-time delivery. This new system we put into place is running closer to 98%.

Wilen’s operations are no longer dependent on a single resource. This gives the company greater flexibility and independence. Increased competition lowers costs.

There is always a “plan B” should one of our shippers drop the ball due to extenuating circumstances.

Better technology provides greater transparency for cost control and tracking.

And all is at peace, once again.