Delays in moving lumber products overseas can shut down production schedules for days or even weeks, costing producers millions of dollars. Canfor (Canadian Forest Products) knows this all too well, so it embarked on a program to improve transparency and accuracy within its shipping operation through a digital transformation of its supply chain.

The project, conducted with the help of visibility platform company FourKites, helped it become one of five companies to be named a FourKites Golden Kite Award winner during Thursday’s Visibility 2020 conference.

Vancouver, Canada-based Canfor, one of the world’s largest producers of sustainable lumber, pulp and paper, captured the Golden Kite for Customer Experience. The other winners are:

  • Baxter Healthcare, awarded the Golden Kite Award in the Green Earth category for an initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from product transport by 10% per ton-kilometer by 2025, and the company’s goal to achieve net-zero emissions globally no later than 2050.
  • Schreiber Foods, awarded the Golden Kite Award for Supply Chain Excellence for its use of FourKites technology to implement a new facilities detention approval process using location data to back up carrier requests. To date, enhanced visibility has reduced Schreiber’s detention requests by 15% as carriers now look at real-time visibility data to back up their claims.
  • Kraft Heinz, awarded the Golden Kite Award for Collaboration & Globalization for leveraging the FourKites platform to provide in-progress shipping information to customers, as well as to a nationwide network of food banks the company supports through the hunger prevention initiatives of Feeding America.
  • Serta Simmons Bedding, awarded the Golden Kite Award for Crisis Management, using real-time logistics tracking and exception management to manage Serta’s donation of 10,000 mattresses to New York City hospitals and temporary medical facilities to fight the COVID-19 pandemic during its early stages.
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The Golden Kite Awards recognize companies that are leveraging real-time visibility to achieve greater results.

“The global pandemic, widespread civil unrest and extreme weather events have made 2020 a year of unprecedented challenge and disruption for global supply chains,” said Mathew Elenjickal, FourKites founder and CEO. “And yet every day, countless companies and workers — from long-haul drivers to logistics teams, yard workers, merchandisers and many more — met these unprecedented challenges with true courage and grit. We’re humbled to honor this year’s Golden Kite Award recipients for their determination and ingenuity in leveraging real-time visibility to keep goods flowing, and to help their companies and partners run more efficient and effective operations.”

Canfor ships products across rail, truck and ocean, but delays in its network can cause customers — some of whom rely exclusively on Canfor for materials — painful production delays. To address this, the company implemented FourKites’ platform to proactively manage shipments.

Bob Hayes, vice president of global supply chain for Canfor, told FreightWaves that the product it moves overseas — wood pulp — can’t be stored and is a perishable, so most customers only have a few days’ worth of inventory on hand. Delays, therefore, are extremely disruptive, and have become more commonplace in recent years as the world’s container lines went through rounds of consolidation.

“We ended up having containment delays in transshipment ports,” he said. “Our customers came to us and said you owe us a responsibility to [keep us stocked]. It wasn’t enough to ship it on time.”

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Using FourKites’ Dynamic ETA product, Canfor has been able to improve customer service and prevent those costly shipment delays.

“We have customized the dashboards in FourKites to monitor the status of our priority customer pipelines in real-time. By being able to customize our thresholds for what is defined as a late or very late shipment, we can make sure that the alerts are relevant for our business expectations. These notifications trigger our supply chain team to investigate if there are any customer service actions further required,” the company explained in its award entry.

It also said that ETAs are transmitted automatically through its transportation management system and enterprise resource planning network.

“From a customer service perspective, this is very helpful as it allows us to automate reports that get sent to our customers with up-to-date information on their upcoming shipments that would have otherwise had to be manually tracked,” it wrote.

As a result of the technology deployment, Canfor is now tracking over 50,000 container shipments per year for offshore customers and automatically generating relevant and timely visibility reports that used to require manual processes.

Hayes said the technology has helped Canfor identify where its shipments are going and ensure a consistent supply chain for customers.

“We didn’t know [where shipments were going], and frankly we never bothered to look, because historically the ships went direct,” he said. “[Through container line consolidation] we ended up with a lot of containers going from Point A to Point B through Point C. It’s very labor intensive for us to look at every single shipment for every single customer because it’s thousands of shipments per week.”

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The FourKites technology has automated this process, allowing Canfor to gain a better handle on shipment movements. It also consolidated its own processes, which previously included rail, trucking and ocean tracking systems.

This insight, which Hayes said the technology “feeds us,” has allowed Canfor to be more proactive with customers and better manage the supply chain.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Brian Straight.

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