September 2003 | Commentary | Supply Chain Technology

SEKO Moves Forward into IT

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The supply chain offers too much and delivers too little. This argument has been leveled for years against ERP software applications and the complexity of their implementation.

The counter-argument is that companies who use supply chain management successfully—such as Wal-Mart and Dell—have made it an essential part of their business success. These companies don't just have a supply chain application; they use it properly.

That's why it is refreshing to see SEKO Worldwide, a company normally associated with freight forwarding, developing supply chain software solutions.

SEKO builds flexibility into its IT platform, often tailoring a program to a company's specific needs, says Bill Wascher, CEO and president of SEKO Worldwide. "We have the ability to quickly make adjustments in our software to accommodate any unique IT requirements our customers may have."

For example, SEKO customizes purchase order management programs that specifically meet a company's supply chain needs. SEKO identifies a company's overseas vendors, their individual locations and contact information, as well as anticipated volumes and required transportation mode. Its software then analyzes the actual purchase order (PO) information, and makes a final determination based on the ship date.

"By determining the selected vendor's location, we can consolidate POs, which reduces transportation cost as a result of maximized container utilization for ocean freight and aggregate weight pricing for air freight," says Wascher.

Working for Importers

Additionally, SEKO Worldwide takes on the responsibility, on behalf of importers, to confirm order ship dates by personally contacting offshore vendors. SEKO enters this information into a database, along with transportation details including bill of lading, sailing date or flight date transit time, and ETA at origin. This data is communicated to the importers, who can more accurately schedule the delivery of their product to the end user.

The process is then taken a step further to include customs clearance. SEKO informs importers of the total charges and duty outlay so they can allocate the necessary funding to cover the transportation cost going forward.

"This process ensures optimal pricing on transportation and minimizes the administrative costs that the importer would have normally incurred," Wascher says. "This management tool provides the importer, as well as SEKO, the necessary information to conduct business in a cost-effective, streamlined environment."

SEKO also provides shipment tracking and tracing through SEKO.Net, accessed through SEKO's web site. It does not require any additional software or hardware.

Customers who want to track and trace a few shipments at a time can enter a house airway bill or a shipper reference, consignee reference or purchase order number. They then receive general information on shipments, including pieces, weight, pickup city, pickup date, delivery city, delivery date, delivery time, and received-by time.

SEKO customers who want information beyond the basics can request and receive a login code and password that provides them access to the secure portion of SEKO's web site. Here customers can access more detailed information for managing their supply chains. Additional capabilities on the secure SEKO.Net site include advanced status reports, proof-of-delivery reports, and shipping manifest reports. Once a customer requests one of these reports, it appears on the screen. By clicking on a specific shipment, the customer can get detailed information such as house airway bill number, ship date, origin, destination, shipper name and address, consignee name and address, shipper and consignee reference numbers and proof-of-delivery information. SEKO.Net also allows the customer to e-mail the information for a specific record, view the charges, invoice, and record remarks.

SEKO.Net also enables customers to view their billing status with SEKO. It shows a customer's account summary, payment history, and all open invoices. Additionally, the system allows SEKO's customers to design their own reports, save their preferences and run them when needed.

In this world of electronic communication, with e-mails, instant messages and the Internet, SEKO Worldwide believes in complementing its technology with the benefits of hands-on personal contact with shippers.

"The relationships developed through personal communications go a long way toward providing shippers a comfort level," says Wascher. "They know a human being is involved and cares about the progress of their shipments.

"The information we provide is accurate and timely, and the tracking and tracing functions provided by our staff are consistent," says Wascher. "In addition, our response to delays—bumping or other inherent problems—is proactive, with timely information provided to shippers. We give them the necessary tools to troubleshoot any delays."

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