Beyond the Dock: How FLEXcon is Pursuing Logistics as a Competitive Advantage

LeanCor-FLEXcon-logosHeadquartered in Spencer, Mass., FLEXcon is a global leader in coated and laminated films and adhesives used in graphics applications, manufactured goods and new products. Customer and relationship-driven from the core of its business, FLEXcon has always valued product innovation and continuous improvement in order to provide customers with a competitive advantage.

When its leadership team recognized an opportunity to better serve customers from a delivery and efficiency standpoint, they knew they needed a logistics service provider that went beyond just moving products once they got to the dock.

They needed a strategic partner that would improve how products actually arrived at the dock and were loaded onto a truck.

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FLEXcon partnered with LeanCor Supply Chain Group in order to think through its entire supply chain, ensuring its upstream processes that lead into the shipping department could support delivering better customer service. 

LeanCor's VP of Supply Chain Solutions, Derek Browning, sat down with FLEXcon's Chief Financial Officer, Aimee Peacock, to explore FLEXcon's journey to building a best-in-class logistics system to deliver higher value to its customers.

DEREK: What problems were you observing in your logistics processes?

AIMEE: Customers were complaining about the cost of transportation. We had inefficient inter-plant transportation and couldn't recoup those costs. Transportation was more of an afterthought vs. a strategic link to the customer.

We also were ineffective at problem solving. Without a standard logistics process, we had nothing to measure as a baseline to see gaps in the process -- and what types of issues were causing us to be late on internal and external orders.

Freight type was also having an impact. Many of our customers choose to use collect vs. pre-paid. We realized we could help them understand the impact of collect and converting them to prepaid. But that wasn't something we had considered while we were focused on more tactical things.

DEREK: What have you learned so far in the transition to LeanCor?

AIMEE: Before we went live with LeanCor at the end of 2019, we spent a good six months together mapping out our current processes to find areas for improvement that could be implemented right after kickoff.

One example was how we load our trucks. We had been loading trucks with a single layer of product, and LeanCor helped us determine we could double stack the product where appropriate and create more capacity. This would ensure we weren't leaving anything behind at the dock.

We started color coding our inventory at the dock with visual indicators to help make sure it gets out the door on time.

We increased our ability to predict how many pallets will be produced and need to ship, so we could understand capacity of the trucks each day -- as well as where bottlenecks exist and how to eliminate that.

DEREK: Yes, you all have made great progress in a short amount of time. What do you most look forward to in the coming years?

AIMEE: Being able to have visibility to when the product is delivered to the customer. In the past, we only knew when the product shipped from our dock. We never knew when it actually arrived to the customer's facility.

I look forward to providing greater visibility to the customer, and tracking both on-time delivery to promise, and on-time delivery to request.

I also look forward to building a complete, end-to-end supply chain view from raw material ordering through customer receipt. We can then impact those upstream and downstream processes using pull systems and kanbans to reduce our inventory and improve On-Time-In-Full (OTIF). 

DEREK: Considering how logistics connects to the supply chain, how do you expect your supply chain to change in coming years?

AIMEE: From that perspective, I recently just took over supply chain organization. So I have a lot to think about! Our supply chain and manufacturing functions are very intertwined; people wear multiple hats. For me, it's about de-coupling those processes and creating a supply chain organization that's not just focused on purchasing material, but on the end-to-end value stream (planning, production, logistics, distribution, etc.) 

DEREK: How do you see logistics and supply chain as competitive advantage for new customers?

AIMEE: I envision us as the Just-In-Time (JIT) provider. Our Tier 2 customers don’t want to hold a lot of inventory; they want to receive it the same or next day and put it right on the press and convert that material. Right now we can provide next-day or two-day delivery for a subset of our products. Our eventual goal is same-day delivery of standard products. I envision us having strategic, integrated suppliers on both sides of the supply chain. For example, our raw material supplier will deliver the material to us JIT, and we'll in turn be able to deliver JIT to our converter customer. 

DEREK: How has the LeanCor on-site support manager benefited FLEXcon?

AIMEE: Before LeanCor, we didn't have internal logistics support and solely relied on our 3PL. Having a go-to logistics support person on site at FLEXcon has been critical for guidance, training, and problem solving to propel us forward. 


DEREK: As you de-couple parts of your supply chain, you're breaking down silos to create more accountability, collaboration, and velocity. Can you tell us about how this is impacting FLEXcon team members?

AIMEE: Decoupling the supply chain functions is helping us create horizontal, end-to-end thinking - vs. just functional tasks people are performing. People are starting to understand the impacts of their daily actions upstream and downstream, and how that impacts suppliers and customers. 

For example, our  customer service team has great insight on how to speak with and teach customers on prepaid freight vs. collect and potentially switching to prepaid in order to get their products faster. We're finding this has benefits for both sides: the customer doesn't have to interact with brokers or play the middle man to resolve issues. LeanCor is able to secure competitive freight rates and make sure we're not overpaying. As we move more customers to prepaid, we can leverage more volume discounts and pass on that gained savings with the customer. 

DEREK: Last question. Any surprises along the way while working with LeanCor?

AIMEE: The FLEXcon-LeanCor relationship is extremely positive. We've worked through several issues from a systems standpoint to make sure it's been a seamless transition for our customers. On "go-live" day, I heard nothing -- which surprised me. Everything was smooth and well planned. 

As LeanCor continues to engineer and manage our transportation network, I look forward to uncovering more opportunities to integrate and continuously improve our end-to-end supply chain.

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Posted by Derek Browning

blog author

As VP of Supply Chain Solutions, Derek directs a portfolio of end-to-end supply chain projects for companies in a wide array of sizes and industries. He's trained thousands of professionals in lean, six-sigma, leadership, and supply chain through LeanCor and leading education partners. Derek complements his experience with an MBA, a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and several professional certificates.

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