Seeing the Potential of E-Commerce

Apex Logistics is one of the freight forwarding companies that understand the potential in servicing the growing e-commerce industry.

To accommodate this new type of customer, the owners of Apex purchased a warehouse, and their team evaluated warehouse management systems (WMS). Ms. Shu-Chun Tsai who works directly with the managing director, Elsie Qian, is responsible for software and meeting the EDI needs of their customers. Ms. Tsai discussed the company, their operations, their choice of Magaya for a WMS, and their future plans.

Managing Imports into Los Angeles

Apex Logistics International headquarters was formerly located at LAX, but their new warehouse is in Compton, which is close to the airport and Long Beach. They are a full-service logistics provider with a strong focus on high-tech, garments, and perishables. For those clients who require U.S. Customs services, Apex operates an in-house U.S. Customs Brokerage Division.

As a part of a larger group based in China, Apex benefits from the volume shipping the group does and the carrier rates this gives them. This is a competitive advantage especially during the peak season leading up to the Christmas holidays and during the heavy snows and weather delays in the Midwest U.S. states in the winter of 2013/2014.

Another challenge for Apex arises during the Chinese New Year, Ms. Tsai explained. Manufacturing plants across China typically shut down for about two weeks as people travel from the industrial towns back home to celebrate the festival. Without goods to ship, cargo airlines don’t fly.

“There are fewer flights during the holiday because there aren’t many shipments, so airlines cancel flights. Then, as everyone returns to work, there are a lot of shipments waiting so it’s hard to get a flight after the holiday as the supply chain tries to catch up.” The ripple effect reaches all the way to warehousing in the U.S. “For example, this year we stayed late, waiting to receive cargo. Over 20,000 kilos of cargo arrived at our warehouse at about 11 pm. The customer needed it repacked to go out at 9 am the following morning. Our staff worked very late that night to make sure the customer’s needs were met and everything was ready to go the next morning. That’s the kind of customer service we pride ourselves on.”

Improved Receiving Operations

The day-to-day operations of the warehouse are the responsibility of Jason Chen, the warehouse supervisor.

Apex started using Magaya WMS in 2011. Prior to that, they received cargo by manually entering item data. When the inventory was counted to compare it with the customer’s packing list, the numbers didn’t match. “If three people counted the same inventory, we got three different numbers,” Mr. Chen said.

Since they started using the Magaya WMS Mobile bar code scanner, Mr. Chen said. “We have better inventory control. We wanted to eliminate human mistakes in the warehouse that caused discrepancies in the shipment information. After implementing the scanners, there has been a significant improvement in the receiving process. Now I have a report I can present to the customer, and we are 100% certain that our report is correct.”

The receiving process is faster and more accurate because the SKU’s are entered in advance of the cargo arriving, Mr. Chen said. “When the cargo arrives, the warehouse workers just scan the package bar codes to receive the items, and the system updates the item status as ‘Received.’ Then I compare what we scanned to the customer’s list to verify it’s correct. We also scan bar codes when we receive items from FedEx and UPS and save the tracking number.”

Expanding into E-Commerce

An example of the new direction into e-commerce that Apex is taking is the pick and pack they do for one of their customers, a chef who creates canned buttermilk and sells it online. The cans are stored in the Apex warehouse.

“Every day she sends us a list of customer orders, and we fulfill the orders,” Ms. Tsai said. The cans arrive in large boxes of 12 cans each, but the online customers usually buy only one or two at a time. So Apex purchased smaller boxes to package the items for shipping. Mr. Chen explained the process: “We pick the cans and repack them into the small boxes. We weigh them and apply the label. We use the Cargo Release function in the software to ship out the orders. The system keeps the inventory updated which the customer can see. Next, we print the Cargo Release and put it in the package for the customer. Finally, we send the packages via FedEx or UPS to the customers, most of whom are in the U.S.”

“We are looking forward to the FedEx integration into Magaya software because we don’t want too many different software programs. We want to keep it simple and easy for our customers,” Ms. Tsai said.

Magaya is enhancing its plug-in called Express Link by adding a connection with FedEx. The plug-in is currently connected to UPS for domestic pickups. With the plug-in, customers are able to use the rates they have contracted with FedEx or UPS to arrange pickups, print labels and manage returns.

“We see the potential in the e-commerce industry,” Ms. Tsai said about growing Apex. “We are expanding by adding a variety of services. If you only offer freight forwarding services such as air freight, there are only so many customers to serve. Since we added in-house services such as the warehousing, we have gotten more e-commerce customers. We also see the potential for adding a courier service to handle small packages.”

Giving Customers the Information They Want

“We send the Warehouse Receipt to the customers for every shipment received and a Cargo Release for each release,” Mr. Chen said. “My goal for the system is to have it 100% accurate when compared to what’s inside the warehouse. The Magaya system is very useful to me because I use it to keep track of everything in the warehouse. I know where everything is and how many pieces we have left. I also like the fact that I can pull out data in XML. Not all my customers want to go to LiveTrack or see a PDF; they want a spreadsheet. Magaya enables me to do that for my customers.”

Another advantage of technology to meet customer needs is the available API offered by Magaya for Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). “Many of our customers want EDI, and I know Magaya has that, so I’m very confident of our ability to offer that to our customers,” Ms. Tsai said.

Business Expansion

Besides offices in Los Angeles, CA (which is using the Magaya system), other offices also using Magaya include Chicago, IL, and Miami, FL. They also have offices in New York, NY; San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA.

During the first quarter of 2014, Apex expanded its office network in key US markets in Dallas, TX, and Apex began full-service logistics operations in Mexico.

The Magaya Los Angeles office serves Apex Logistics by providing training and local logistics advisors. Ms. Tsai and Mr. Chen both emphasized the value of a local office to them. “This office is in our time zone, so that helps us when the Miami office is closed,” Mr. Chen said.

“I appreciate the support from Magaya,” she continued. “They really worked with us when we were first using the software, and that made me decide that this is a company I want to work with. In addition to the software features, I want the customer service. I also see how we can grow together.”

About Apex Logistics

Apex Logistics is a freight forwarding company based in Los Angeles, CA, that is part of a larger group that is headquartered in China. The group includes Wuxi CTS Xinqiao International Forwarding Co. and Beijing Global Sky-Horse (GHS). Apex Logistics is a licensed OTI and NVOCC and are members of IATA. Apex also has offices in Chicago, Miami, New York, and other US cities. Services include LTL, LCL, trucking, air and ocean, warehousing and customs.

 

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