November 2000 | Case Studies | I.T. Toolkit

Keeping it in the Family: ODW Logistics Gets Personal

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ODW takes customers into the future by being flexible and implementing solutions that meet their needs.

ODW Logistics, Columbus, Ohio, started in 1972 as a family-owned public warehousing company providing only warehousing services. Today, ODW Logistics has developed into a third-party logistics company that offers five distinct services:

  • Integrated logistics
  • Import/export/foreign trade zone services
  • Transportation/motor carrier
  • E-commerce fulfillment
  • Third-party contract services

In 1999, ODW Logistics introduced an e-commerce company called ODWebShip.com, providing e-commerce-based solutions for retailers and manufacturers doing business online. ODWebShip complements back-end solutions with a combination of new Internet software development and strategic partnerships with front-end companies. ODWebShip offers web site integration, real-time inventory management, on-time processing and delivery of e-orders, an interactive Internet-based customer service program, and an e-returns system.

"We apply much of our technology across the gamut, but ODWebShip drives our move forward," says John Ness, vice president and principal of the 28-year-old company. "We want to grow our business through services that we deliver on time and on budget, within our customers' requirements and parameters."

How it Works

The company has developed tools to manage the fulfillment process. ODWebShip's order capture process takes an order from its source and funnels that order into its order fulfillment system.

Here's how it works. When a customer places an order online, it is received by ODWebShip.com, picked up from inventory, packaged accordingly, and shipped to the customer quickly and efficiently. During fulfillment, ODWebShip uses systems processing and pick area layout to maximize picking efficiency. For customers, information is just a click away on the ODWebShip site, with up-to-the-minute inventory status. Even if a customer sends a package back, ODWebShip can design an e-returns program that meets the online retailers' requirements.

ODW Logistics also provides 3PL services that utilize its technology capabilities.

"Similar technologies and functionalities go into both ODWebShip and ODW Logistics," says Ness.

The Limited Branches Out

Chris Robeson is senior manager of international transportation for Limited Logistics Services, a $10-billion company in Columbus, Ohio. Limited Logistics Services provides in-house 3PL service to the various brands of The Limited stores, supplying services and international transportation management.

"ODW Logistics uses new technology to provide Internet-based information reporting," says Ness. "Customers such as Chris Robeson can go online anywhere in the world and check any shipment at any time. No elaborate EDI or systems configurations are involved."

Limited Logistics Services has worked with ODW for 12 years. Three years ago, Limited Logistics Services needed new options for its container freight services (CFS) operations.

ODW is developing an operating system to handle Limited Logistics' CFS flow. ODW has its own warehouse management system (WMS) to run its 3PL operation, and will use this to design a system to wrap around Limited Logistics’ CFS operations.

"We have had experience with three different CFS operators and they don't have the consistency that ODW has," says Robeson. "Most don't have the kind of interest in data systems we're trying to develop.

"We need information availability, and ODW enables us to go into its system and look at data fields to decide what we want. We stay in control," he says.

"With ODWebShip, we are going a step further," says Ness. "We actively receive orders in an e-commerce environment through the Internet, put those orders through, and move that information back on to the Internet for our customers and suppliers."

ODW uses Internet capabilities as an effective way to communicate information to its customers and trading partners. The company has integrated its WMS to provide real-time customer service tools, online information, and access to specific shipment information.

"From an operating standpoint, ODW can really nail the fundamentals," says Robeson. "It has the right kind of team and right people to perform core functions. They can see where we want to go from an IT standpoint."

People and Flexibility Make the Difference

ODW prides itself on providing good customer service, and adapting to customer needs.

"People and service set us apart," says Ness. "We have a number of management-level associates, supervisors, and executive managers who have been in the industry and with the company a long time. They're proficient at what they do. They bring a level of expertise and care to the job that is not frequently found at other companies.

"The on-site management team gives customers an advantage," says Ness. "Other companies might put a general manager or a facility manager at a new location—and they may only have five to 10 years of expertise. We could bring our entire resources, our entire management expertise, to the forefront on any specific project."

In the Future

"What's impressive about ODW is that it has undergone a service revolution. Sure, other 3PLs may be static and stable, as long as you want what's on their service menu," says Robeson. "ODW is willing to adapt its business model to meet customer needs. The company has great longevity and stability, and is focused on human resources. It's the people who are willing to go to extra lengths."

ODW plans to grow its WebShip business, according to John Ness. "E-commerce is a new venture for us," he says. "We're excited about the kinds of customers that are signing on."

To learn more about ODW Logistics, visit www.odwlogistics.com. For more information on ODWebShip, go to www.odwebship.com and see a free demonstration.

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