Aug. 8 2006 06:01 PM

Some companies have 20/20 vision when it comes to anticipating customer needs. CooperVision, Inc. is one such company. A global leader in contact lens design, materials and manufacturing, the company was rewarded for its customer focus with 38% revenue growth in 2002. CooperVision is a unit of The Cooper Companies, a specialty medical products company.


Located in Rochester, New York, CooperVision pioneered the contact lens industry when it was founded in 1959. Today, most of its orders come from eye care professionals who prescribe lenses for their patients. About 15% of its daily orders come from the practitioner section of its Web site, with the remainder flowing in from its EDI system, telephone or fax orders.


As Vice President of Logistics for CooperVision, Joe Stannard and his team of 200 distribution employees are a focal point for customer service. They ship contact lenses, displays and marketing materials to doctors offices and send contacts to patients homes. The team works hard to keep CooperVision customers bright-eyed and satisfied by ensuring that incoming and outgoing shipping activities are accurate, complete and timely.


A Surge in Shipping Volumes

Stannard has seen his share of changes and dramatic growth in the nine years hes worked there. Just a few years ago, shipping volumes averaged around 3,000 parcels a day. At that time, parcels were processed using a Pitney Bowes meter machine and nine separate terminals. We actually had to type in the mailing address at the meter machine, then move to a different machine for labels, recalls Stannard.


Shipping volumes have grown threefold since then, reflecting impressive demand for CooperVision contacts. Most days, Stannards team ships from 10,000 to 12,000 packages, with shifts · working around the clock. Systems and processes have had to change to accommodate the surge in growth. We wanted a shipping system that would save time and reduce ZIP Code and address errors by eliminating the need to manually key them in, says Stannard. The company looked at many automated shipping systems. We chose Pitney Bowes Ascent because we liked its automation features, he says. CooperVision now has 15 Ascent workstations.


Streamlining Shipments, Integrating with ERP

Ascent is Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping and Mail Center Management system. It is a Windows-based multi-carrier system designed to meet the needs of medium- to high-volume shippers. Ascent manages the companys large volume of detailed shipment information with ease. Its integrated with CooperVisions Baan enterprise system to ensure a streamlined flow of accurate and timely information. Ascent generates a shipping label and sends the data to our ERP system every 15 minutes, explains Stannard. A file is created, and every shipment is assigned a tracking and service number for follow-up. The computer can tell us which shipments have been shipped and which orders we can invoice often on the same day theyre shipped.


One Percent Error Rate

We brought our address error rate down from five percent to one percent by automating with Ascent, says Stannard. The department is saving time as well. Now, with just one key stroke, I can get complete and accurate shipping labels of any length and any barcodes we need all in about a second-and-a-half, he says.


Ascents software maintains and updates rates for nearly every known carrier, which greatly simplifies life for Stannard and staff. Ascents rate tables allow the generation of unique labels. And it saves shipping costs by letting us consolidate same-carrier shipments in one big box, says Stannard. The systems ease of customization and flexibility also saves the department steps and time. We can generate mailing labels at any time on any Ascent station, he says. That gives our packing people more flexibility they can move to any carrier station and still stay productive.


Convenient Tracking, Useful Reports

With 24-hour shipping activity and such massive volumes, any business could lose sight of employee performance and lose track of some shipments. Ascents tracking and reports features help keep CooperVisions management and its customers informed.


Before Ascent, Stannard and his staff fielded calls all day long from customers inquiring about shipment status. Now the companys 55 customer service reps can take the heat off of the shipping department by quickly referencing the package tracking number and reporting on the shipment status or even letting customers track their own packages via the company Web site.


Stannard uses Ascents reporting feature to track package volume by workshift, which helps gauge productivity and plan workflow and staffing. The company also generates some manifest reports from their tables used for couriers or large accounts in addition to the manifests produced for the U.S. Postal Service.


The contacts that CooperVision has made with Pitney Bowes have helped this dynamic business keep a clear focus on efficient operations and responsive customer service. Its been an excellent partnership for us, says Stannard. Were very happy with the system, and we always get great local service.


Vicki Javner is director of Communications for Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions. For more information, please visit