Modern Woodmen of America is the nation�s fifth largest fraternal life insurance society. The organization was founded in 1883 and today provides life insurance and annuity products for more than 750,000 diverse members throughout the US. Its members demonstrate their fraternal spirit through camp activities and a variety of social, civic, education and fraternal programs designed to bring families together.
Founder Joseph Cullen Root chose the name �Modern Woodmen� when a minister described the work of the �pioneer woodmen clearing away the forest.� Root felt this was a fine analogy for the task of eliminating a family�s financial burdens in the event of a death.
Modern Woodmen�s life insurance policies in force total $26.6 billion. But as a not-for-profit organization, it has a special imperative to demonstrate fiscal and fiduciary responsibility to its members in every cost center � including shipping and warehouse management. Cost efficiencies and productivity are never far from the thoughts of Dennis Overturf, shipping super-visor at Modern Woodmen�s Rock Island, Illinois headquarters
(pictured below).
�We spend over $400,000 annually on small parcel shipments from our warehouse here � that�s the bulk of our shipments,� says Overturf. �Most of our shipments are insurance forms, policies and related materials to our 1,800 agents around the country. We also ship some unusual items � from golf balls to lawn chairs � that are sent as prizes for various social events.� Overturf uses two carriers for the small parcel shipments: UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. And, until two years ago, Modern Woodmen relied on an aging MOS International system for its manifest applications. The UPS began requiring package level detail (PLD) files. �Our system wasn�t capable of producing those files, and it couldn�t be upgraded, so we knew we had to do something,� he recalls.
After analyzing four different shipping systems, Overturf felt that Pitney Bowes� Ascent offered the best combination of features and value. Modern Woodmen now relies on Ascent to process and track the shipment of approximately 350 small parcels per day. �Ascent has been great for us,� says Overturf. �I like the fact that it�s a multi-carrier system. Now, we don�t need to waste time and space using two different carrier processing systems.�
Ascent is Pitney Bowes� integrated, multi-carrier shipping solution that fully supports online carrier automation including UPS, the Postal Service, RPS, FedEx, Airborne Plus and DHL. Ascent users benefit from fast electronic connectivity to carriers, along with required barcode labels, at-a-glance delivery criteria, e-mail shipment notification, electronic package tracking and a wide variety of reporting tools.
Ascent is integrated with Modern Woodmen�s own custom-designed WMS � an internally developed program that�s tied into the organization�s main database. When an order is received by the WMS, it removes the items from inventory, prints out a shipping order and automatically generates a reorder notice.
The fact that Ascent is easy to customize was also a big selling point for Modern Woodmen. Overturf says, �Our agent data is stored in our mainframe database. We wanted Ascent to access that data to retrieve agent barcode information for package scanning � without allowing outside access to that same information. Ascent made it easy to do by customizing our shipping screens.�
Now, the shipping department can print shipping orders with PDF barcodes and scan the coded information to meet UPS labeling requirements. Overturf uses Ascent to customize batch work as well. �Sometimes we have 400 identical packages going to 400 different addresses. By importing a disk, we can quickly generate 400 shipping labels, and we don�t have to scan each one. It�s a big time saver.�
Modern Woodmen also puts Ascent�s reporting features to work. A variety of reports help the department monitor and control shipping volume and costs as well as carrier performance. �We�ve customized reports to break down the number of packages and shipping costs daily, by department,� says Overturf. �Then I download that report to our mainframe for department billing. It�s been extremely efficient.�
Overturf uses another report to track carrier performance. �I always need convincing that carriers are in fact meeting their promised delivery dates,� says Overturf. Ascent provides automated carrier package tracking through online connections with carriers. The reports give Modern Woodmen the leverage it needs to ensure that carriers meet their commitments, and they only charge for the level and service actually provided. �We�ve practically paid for the system with the money we�ve recovered on shipping costs,� he states.
�Ascent has worked very well for us,� says Overturf. �It�s saving us time and money,� which is something every company appreciates.
Bruce Beatty is director of Strategic Marketing at Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions. For more info, visit