A new system designed by logistics company Import Services keeps track of every item it is entrusted with.
HOST is an online tracking and warehouse management function that enables clients to keep an eye on the movement of their products in real time from origin right through to the point of delivery.
Import Services manages the third party logistics operation for a number of major players in the toy and gift industry including Flair, Toymaster, Playmobil, Carte Blanche and Hallmark, and prides itself on offering an exceptional service for the client's supply chain. The purpose of HOST is to control supply chain data processing and its interpretation.
Each customer can access HOST around the clock via Import Services enhanced website, following a secure path with access codes. Supply chain information is refreshed every 10 minutes.
Mike Thomas, client services director at Import Services, said: "We re-branded and changed the look and feel of our website to provide an interactive portal five times faster than the previous facility. Clients can sign in to HOST and check the status of their stock anywhere, and at any time".
"We manage our client's supply chain from the factory - usually in the Far East - all the way to the final recipient in the UK. Being capable of tracking orders, stock levels, distribution and POD's (proof of delivery) is of prime importance in providing cost-effective logistics services.
"We deliver millions of cartons every year on behalf of our clients to all the leading retailers including Argos, Boots, John Lewis, Sainsbury's, Woolworths, Clinton Cards, Toys R Us and WHSmith as well as many independent retailers. We created HOST to be user friendly, it is menu driven and easy to navigate to swiftly find relevant logistics data.
"HOST provides an effective management tool for us and our customers and has so far processed and tracked 25,000 container loads of imported products.
Import Services places high importance on IT with hot resilience for data storage, secure, high speed data access as well as offsite back up. HOST accesses warehousing and distribution data through Mailbrain software, which is written in IBM's Uni-Data, administered by Uni-Admin. Both Uni-Admin and Uni-Data are run via Microsoft Windows 2000 Server and a UNIX operating system.
"There is a demonstration of HOST on our website, we'd encourage potential new clients to take a tour of the system to see how it could help them keep track of their goods," added Mike.
HOST manages stock and orders, barcode scanning, perpetual inventory and web integration. Import Services has 37 hand scanners and six truck terminals in the logistics provider's warehouses and distribution centres which link in real time to the system. HOST has seven key functions:
Goods Receiving shows each receipt of product into Import Services' warehouse, including information on the container number, shipping vessel name, the date the goods were received and what items were on each pallet.
The Stock Enquiry page shows the client exactly what volume of goods is available and its status.
Upload and Download is the method of transferring data to and from HOST to ensure a seamless and efficient operation with a clear view of the supply chain. Order processing is managed in this way.
Packing Text shows how an individual product will be configured for a delivery to a specific end recipient. Import Services will deliver to the consignee, for example Woolworths in Rugby, a pallet in accordance with Woolworths' specific requirements - including precise product and pallet labels, the number of items per carton and the correct pallet configuration.
Clients can find out when an order left Import Services' distribution centre, the address it was despatched to, what was sent, when it arrived and who signed for it on the Despatch Enquiry page. It also includes details of the weight of the delivery.
Movement Enquiry shows stock history between specified dates, so clients can see exactly what has happened to their products on what day.
On some occasions, goods might be returned to Import Services and the Returns Enquiry function allows clients to check what has been sent back and why.
Import Services offers its clients a seamless door to door logistics service. It provides accounting services, purchase order tracking, storage, order processing, high volume pick and pack, labelling and distribution. It has three warehouses in and around Southampton and moves all products through the city's Port.