Here is a profile of MicroAccounting client, Surface Shields. MicroAccounting helped Surface Shields select and implement a new shipping system–xkzero Transportation Management, which resides directly within Sage 100 ERP to help manage less than truckload (LTL) shipments without having to constantly access external websites to quote, commit and track LTL freight. That is just the beginning of the benefits Surface Shields continues to experience through MicroAccounting, xkzero and Echo Global Logistics.
Surface Shields provides custom coating and converting of pressure sensitive films for carpet and hard surfaces. They are the clear leader of temporary surface protection products, and respected as an industry innovator.
As the company grew, management began looking for new ways to work smarter. Enter Echo.
In 2010, Surface Shields began working with Chicago-based Echo Global Logistics, the premier provider of technology-enabled logistics services, to simplify and streamline their freight management process. Surface Shields supplies products to the flooring, paint, building, automotive and other major markets, with headquarters in suburban Chicago and hundreds of distributors across the country.
Surface Shields had worked with a 3PL early on, when the company didn’t have much freight and needed buying power. The situation was much different when company leaders turned to Echo: Freight had become a significant portion of the cost of doing business for Surface Shields.
“Our volume had significantly grown and we needed to obtain the best possible rates,” says Jamey Behringer, vice president of Surface Shields. “We thought a 3PL could do that best.”
Behringer says the company was also interested in finding a more efficient approach for freight data management. He says, “Before Echo, Surface Shields handled freight as a manual process. Echo has been a great benefit, saving us 15 hours of data entry time per week. They are always accurate and we don’t have to worry about any errors.”
“A lot of companies are still doing data entry manually,” says Behringer. “There are some initial costs involved in setting up the automation and EDI but, for me, it came down to an investment we couldn’t afford not to make! Thanks to Echo our employees are now in a position to work on other priorities.”
The Echo business solution for Surface Shields allows the company to use technology to facilitate growth and change while amplifying control. The EchoTrak portal enables a 360o view of transportation from order entry through reporting. With all activity flowing through Echo, the process is streamlined for Surface Shields and their distribution channels.
“Echo simplified and streamlined our process,” Behringer says. “The success we’ve had with xkzero Transportation Management makes me want to go out and automate everything! Once you get your feet wet, you can look at other opportunities where you can apply the same principles. We can build on this approach to provide other efficiencies for our company.”
Working with Echo also improved the timeliness of the invoicing process for Surface Shields. We gained huge efficiencies in entering freight bills, resulting in significant time savings,” Behringer says. “We accelerated standard freight payments and went from 15 to 30 days. That’s very important for our major accounts.”
Access To Best Shipping Options
The Surface Shields model of doing business supports distributing. The company doesn’t sell directly to end users. Rather, they work with distributors and retailers around the country.
“This makes our freight more critical, because it’s handled more. Distributors are not holding it in stock. It needs to get there as quickly as possible in perfect, retail condition, says Behringer.
When balancing all the variables in shipping freight, Surface Shields works with Echo to determine the best pricing for the location needs and time constraints. Behringer says, “Echo is always open to reviewing options and will actively work with us to look at cost, service and transit times. A single day may not matter in some cases, but in others, it does.”
Continual communication is essential to the successful partnership Surface Shields and Echo enjoy. Surface Shields has learned that they can lean on Echo to handle any service challenges that arise with a carrier.
“One of the nicest surprises about working with Echo is that our team there really serves as a liaison and support when it comes to working with the carriers,” Behringer says. “Maybe I should have expected that, but it’s been very pleasant–when we have a claim or another issue–to simply email Echo and let them work with the carriers.” This saves them time and frankly, aggravation.
Behringer encourages small and mid-sized companies faced with growing freight charges to give Echo a call. “You have to realize when you need help and we definitely needed the help. Echo is an extremely professional group and I definitely recommend them. Whether you sign up or not, the process of information exchange back and forth (is very helpful). You can’t know (if they are the right fit for your company) until you talk with them and let them analyze your freight. Start the process and evaluate as you go. We have found it to be very beneficial in terms of efficiencies and streamlining.”
“Essentially, you’re hiring expertise. The people at Echo are the experts. And small to mid-sized companies (that regularly ship items in less-than-truckload quantities) need a resource like Echo Global Logistics.”
Full text: Surface Shields Case Study by Echo (PDF)
To learn more about xkzero Transportation Management (a product of our sister company) and the partnership with Echo Global Logistics, please contact MicroAccounting.
Note: As of June 2014, xkzero Transportation Management supports Sage 100 ERP and Sage 500 ERP. Development plans are underway for supporting Sage ERP X3.