Mountain Rose Herbs, based in Eugene, OR, was founded in 1987 and today sells herbs, essential oils, and teas directly to the home consumer. On average, over 1,000 shipments a day leave their warehouse, and approximately 300 of these packages fall under HAZMAT classification. These shipments were creating issues for their operations, shares Kris Mitchell, Shipping Manager for Mountain Rose Herbs, and it was the company’s approach to solving these problems that led to the PARCEL Forum Advisory Board selecting Mountain Rose Herbs as the 2019 Game-Changer of the Year award winner.

“We sell a large assortment of essential oils and herbal extracts with a variety of flash points, most of which fall within the ‘flammable’ or ‘combustible’ HAZMAT categories,” Mitchell explains. “Both categories have very different requirements for packaging and shipping the HAZMAT products. It has been a challenge to comply with FAA and DOT regulations as well as each carrier’s packing and shipping requirements, including weight and packaging restrictions.”

The main problem caused by these differing requirements was that it was difficult to ensure the packages met all the necessary HAZMAT regulations and requirements.

“With so many different Hazmat regulations and requirements with different carriers and government agencies, it was impossible to regulate each package,” Mitchell shares. “The shipping staff did their best to try to ship the packages as required but it was very confusing and time-consuming.” For example, both flammable and combustible liquids form a vapor above the surface which can ignite and burn. The main difference between the two designations is that flammable liquids can ignite and burn at a lower temperature (100-139 degrees), whereas combustible liquids ignite at a higher temperatures (140-199 degrees). Mountain Rose Herbs must handle the flammable products with more care to ensure the transport is handled safely by limiting the amounts they ship per package and determining on a case-by-case basis whether it can go via ground or air. Shipments of combustible liquids are less restrictive, but USPS still requires special labeling for this class (although UPS does not).

USPS and UPS also have different weight limits for ground/air shipments as well as requiring different labeling on the outside of the package. For example, USPS does not permit shipping more than one ounce of flammable liquid in the air system, while UPS will allow this with shipping papers and a fee.

Streamlining the Process

The company knew it had to make some changes to its processes in order to streamline shipments getting out the door with the correct packaging and designation. Mountain Rose Herbs created a new code in its internal ERP system for each essential oil and herbal extract. This code defined how many fluid ounces can be shipped in one package and which carrier to use to ship that particular HAZMAT product. “The code is passed to our shipping system so that packers and shippers know an order contains HAZMAT products with special shipping requirements,” Mitchell says. “During the packing and shipping process, they can implement the proper procedures to ensure we are following the carrier’s requirements. Our company upgraded its shipping system to ShipExec, which gives us the ability to restrict which carrier can ship our HAZMAT products.”

In addition, Mountain Rose Herbs created a core group of about 10 specially trained employees that are trained and certified to pack and ship HAZMAT packages, and the system routes these shipments exclusively to this small group of employees to prepare and ship. The system restrictions prevent employees who have not been properly trained in HAZMAT from accidentally packing or shipping these packages incorrectly. “ShipExec also allows us to create popup windows for the shipper to quickly verify that all steps have been followed appropriately and they serve as a final check to ensure no mistakes have been made in packing Hazmat shipments,” Mitchell elaborates. This process also helps new employees avoid errors since the requirements are programmed into the software from the time of order entry through the completion of the shipping process.

The results have been overwhelmingly positive. By implementing this solution, Mountain Rose Herbs avoided shipping packages that did not meet the FAA, DOT, and the parcel carriers’ regulations and requirements, ultimately avoiding huge fines. Furthermore, “We are 100% in compliance and have impressed our HAZMAT experts and auditors who have visited the facility,” shares Mitchell.

Congratulations to Mountain Rose Herbs for their recognition as the 2019 Game-Changer of the Year award winner!

This article originally appeared in the January/February, 2020 issue of PARCEL.