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March 18, 2020

Here’s how we improved this client’s Pan-European returns in just 5 days

Being able to react quickly, and seamlessly change supply-chain services, is an essential criteria for all high-performance organisations; and particularly so, in the context of COVID-19. Here’s a example of an implementation we’ve recently deployed which highlights just how agile are solutions and approach really are…

The design and implementation of a Pan-European solution is often thought to be a lengthy task that requires a considerable amount of preparation and communication. So, how do you react then when a large, international technology manufacturer approaches you, and asks you to get their European returns management logistics implemented and up-and-running in just a matter of days? We say yes, no problem, of course.

That’s because this is our specialty. And to be honest, I love it because it’s one of the best parts of my job.

I’m Johannes, but call me Joe. I’m the Solution Design Manager at Carousel and responsible for coordinating some of our biggest pan-European solutions.

For this project we received the request to build-up a pan-European return logistics for our client on a Tuesday. The message was simple. “We have hundreds of devices, across Europe, that need to be picked up from our customer every day and brought to our three centralised repair centres immediately. Our current setup is not working. Can you build us a reliable solution by Friday?”

I can feel you panicking, but it’s a common scenario for us. We work in high-performance industries, so the criticality is always high, meaning service reliability and consistency is always imperative. Most of the time we’re approached by organisations that have tried the ‘off the peg’, a ‘standard’ logistics solution and then realised that it just won’t do. By the time they reach us their returns are going awry, deliveries are late, SLA fines are sky high and their customers are on their last nerve. But that’s where a specialist service provider like us can add real value.

The service-logistics approach to time-critical

The way we handle this type of request is to get the client in front of our team of experts right away with everyone focused on not just one target – deliver a solution by Friday – but instead – deliver the solution our client wants by Friday.

Starting without delay, our first goal was to understand the full complexity and requirements of the client. A deep-dive analysis of the shipment profile, all product information, client locations and special Dangerous Goods requirements led to a continuous exchange with the clients’ logistics department to make sure every expectation is met.

By the end of the first day, we’d already listed and confirmed all the necessary details of the flows with our client, uncovering issues that hadn’t been considered previously. These included everything from accessibility problems at the clients’ commercial sites to transportation requirements on defective batteries. Everything was well documented in the project scope and resulted in clear actions for our team.

Seamless communication is our superpower

For set-up and the ongoing management of our clients’ accounts, communication is key.

Communication within our vast European network is streamlined and aimed at tackling unexpected impacts as fast as possible. At the end of the first day, we had already set-up implementation meetings with our regional operations specialists to involve them in the solution process and then aligned them with the requirements of the client. Having then agreed a well-structured requirement plan with our client, we immediately went into the implementation, using our own network to relieve the client from the biggest pain points. The first pick-ups were executed on Wednesday afternoon for the most pressing sites, which we and the client had identified at the initial stage.

Later, when we already had the first transports already on the run, we then concentrated our efforts on onboarding new solutions and countries for the client. By translating the clients’ requirements into clear work instructions for our European partners and colleagues, we created a standardized communication plan which gave all parties the information they needed. Involving everyone along the supply chain from the pick-up locations to the repair centres made Carousel the central communications ‘hub’ for our client, reliably answering all questions along the way.

Meeting our clients’ requirements, completely…

While one side of the team worked on the implementation of ‘quick wins’ and important milestones for the client, another part of our expert team focused on what we call the “big ugly frogs”. (These are the big must win battles that we need to achieve to ensure we meet every one of our clients’ specifications).

We used our service and technology platform, Gateway, to help us convert booking requests quickly (even turning Excel sheets into electronic orders) to offer our client a seamless track and trace capability. We also worked on implementing a process to manage all Dangerous Goods regulations and onboard the new countries in which Dangerous Goods ships were being carried out.

Our solution team consists of experts with established relationships to partners all over Europe. We continuously develop and enhance our relationships with the local heroes across all markets, giving us the tools to speed up implementation and secure the quality for our clients. It’s because of these relationships we were able to quickly and reliably install networks for our clients’ Dangerous Goods and reverse logistics so quickly across Europe, while Gateway gave our client full control and visibility. The value for the client was not only a quick set-up, but also a resilient network that can operate and adapt to client need, even as things change.

Hitting our deadline and circumventing the inevitable challenges

By Friday, we’d successfully operated pick-ups from the clients’ commercial sites and delivered the damaged and defective goods in five European countries, with a clear implementation plan for the remaining countries set for the coming Monday.

We’re making it sounds easy, but there were also strategic considerations to overcome…

Within this implementation, we factored in every detail. That included language barriers and cultural differences across our clients’ different sites; the proper handling and documentation of Dangerous Goods and briefings regarding the accessibility at pick-up sites, as well as pre-alerting commercial sites and repair centres prior to arrival.

Despite (what many would consider as) challenges however, the strength of our solution design team ensured that these bumps in the road were easily circumvented. All Carousel Project Teams are built on a clear structure, with clear communication and in-house pan-European expertise. It’s how we can consistently be agile and react to the most urgent matters for our client, while also staying focused on the big picture. This means we remained focused on what will bring the most value to our clients’ end-customer and how we can design the very best supply chain support that helps them meet this goal.

The result

For this particular project, the returned items were personal belongings, and because of that, they had to be handled with special care.

We were praised by the client for our open communication and expertise in the field throughout this process, as it enabled everyone involved to understand not only their role but also why we needed to follow such defined processes for our clients’ customer. By utilising our technology platform Gateway, we were able to create flexible and reliable network that worked seamlessly and offered our client 100% visibility and a complete end-to-end solution.

Within the first week of implementation we executed more than 250 pick-ups in nine European countries. This number rose to more than 6,300 pick-ups in the first month, doubling to north of 12,000 successful pick-ups in the second month of operation, spanning more than 18 countries.

Three months after receiving the request we had transported 25,000 Dangerous Goods shipments from 19 countries for our client. Not only that, we had also seamlessly integrated the solution completely onto our in-house service and technology platform, Gateway, seamlessly moving this fast-paced project set-up into a “business as usual” process with our client; a partnership which continues to this day.

See how we can tailor a solution to your business requirements for critical service logistics