The third party logistics company Meads have chosen MetaPack’s delivery management system to complete their in-house fulfilment software MeadsConnect. MeadsConnect is their proprietary stock and order management system accessed via a simple web application. With the MetaPack integration it now takes that management all the way through to the delivery, moving MeadsConnect to a complete stock, order, despatch and tracking system. As Ian Dade, Business Development Director of Meads Group explains, “in essence MeadsConnect would have simply been a stock and order database without the information that MetaPack provide us. With this information coming into our system, it is now a customer management tool for our client through their personal logins, giving them all the information they could possibly want about an order. Some of our clients use MeadsConnect in their customer services departments (or use our Customer Service Agents in our call centre who all use MeadsConnect) as the detailed information on it gives them everything they need to answer queries on orders.”

Companies using MetaPack to manage their delivery include ecommerce giants such as M&S, Asos, DGSi and Screwfix but this is one of their first contracts with a 3PL. Prior to using MetaPack, the majority of Meads’ despatch process was a manual operation. Using five carriers meant manual input into five different despatch machines in order to produce the postage labels. Royal Mail, however, were on integrated labels on the pick sheet but they still had to do Recorded and Overseas Signed For parcels manually which proved very time consuming. “We were restricted by how quickly the operators could produce the labels. Label production was taking longer than the picking of the orders in some instances,” says Dade. He continues, “now we do all of our despatch operation from two computers regardless of carrier and all labels come from one system to a common label format and all at the scan of a barcode.” MetaPack works with 23 carriers, insuring seamless data transfer over API for automatic carrier allocation. Labels are printed on standardised label stock and have been designed to ensure that they meet all carriers’ requirements. Once the carrier has taken position of the consignment, the tracking number is sent back to MetaPack and is immediately available in MeadsConnect. “The ability to get the tracking number instantly assigned to our order on the system has been invaluable. Before if we wanted this it was a long winded process of finding the actual picking sheet, and then getting the written tracking number from it, that was of course if the despatch operative had remembered to write it on there! It took the human element out of the process,” explains Dade.

Furthermore, the ability to track parcels has proved to be a popular feature with their customers as well as having a positive impact on the number of customer service calls: “Our customers like the ability to be able to track an order and see its status at the click of a mouse from their own desks wherever they are in the world without having to call. Prior to using MetaPack nothing was visible to our customers. If they wanted to know then they had to call. That was all wrong and one of the key reason that we set up MeadsConnect. MetaPack enabled this visibility within our system and given our customers the ability to have their tracking number emailed to them so they can track their own parcel once it has left us.” Says Dade.

3PLs can use MetaPack in a number of different ways. In Meads’ case they control the system setting the allocation rules and managing each customer’s restricted log-ins. Prior to contracting with a customer, Meads discuss the delivery options available on their carrier contracts and give the customer a choice from these or the option to use their own existing contracts. Either way MetaPack still produce the labels. The other case is when a retailer controls the MetaPack system, dictates the allocation rules, and provides a login for their 3PL. In this case the system will be installed into the 3PL solely for the use of the one client. LK Bennett and their 3PL CML operate in this way.

Dade concludes, “MetaPack has completely altered our despatch operation from a very long winded manual operation to a slick, one scan automated process that we are looking at further automating with the introduction of conveyor scanning and automated parcel re-direction by carrier. I firmly believe that we would not be able to handle the amount of orders that we have now without the MetaPack system in place and I have full confidence going forward that as we expand, the system is reliable and able to grow with us.”

MetaPack now works with a number of 3PLs including; DHL Supply Chain, GSI Commerce, Clipper, Unipart Logistics and Sanglobe.

Published on: 11:54AM on 15th July 2010