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UPS Throws Out a Line to Skirts Plus


Founded in the mid-1980s, Skirts Plus is a Minnesota-based wholesaler of fishing lure components. Known as a fishing skirt, the product resembles a hula skirt and is attached to bait.

The company sells its products directly to businesses including hook and lure manufacturers in the United States and around the world.

In 1986, Skirts Plus introduced silicone-based skirts. They are superior to their rubber-based predecessors in color, clarity, flexibility and use in extreme temperatures.

"These attributes make a big difference for fishing lures," says general manager Tim Link. "With silicone, you can color it, embed glitter, and even print on it. Now other businesses that were producing natural rubber skirts are following this new trend by switching to silicone ones."

Skirts Plus takes in about 10 orders a week, with an average of 25,000 pieces per order. That translates into 250,000 skirts per week. With only five employees, the company relies on its dedicated partners to help get the job done.

Untangling the supply chain

In the mid-1990s, Skirts Plus decided to move its manufacturing process to Vietnam. Because deadlines are tight and orders demand a quick turn around from customers, Skirts Plus has to ship its products via air freight from Vietnam to the United States.

"Once the orders are placed, they need to get out the door," explains Link. "Our customers can't accept a long lead time because they need our product in order to complete their own."

Skirts Plus' previous air freight carrier would fly each individual order from Vietnam directly to the customer. This meant that Skirts Plus had to pay for international shipping and customs fees on every single order. Skirts Plus needed a better way to manage costs and lessen the headaches of mounting paperwork on each order.

Fishing for new possibilities

In 2008, Skirts Plus turned to UPS for help. The company relied on UPS for domestic ground shipments ever since it started, but then realized that UPS could handle its international shipments as well.

Today, Skirts Plus is using UPS Trade Direct Air to import from Vietnam to the United States. The new service allows Skirts Plus to consolidate multiple orders into one shipment, resulting in faster customs clearance, reduced shipping costs, and a streamlined distribution process.

"Trade Direct helps us be more competitive in our industry," says Link. "Now our products are flown via air freight to one central facility in Chicago. Then they're divvied up, put on trucks, and shipped ground freight from Chicago to our customers."

Instead of an average of 25,000 skirts per shipment, now there are roughly 200,000 skirts in each international shipment. What Skirts Plus used to do in eight international shipments, it now does with one. UPS consolidates the orders in Vietnam, manages customs brokerage and transports them to the United States. They arrive at a UPS facility, where the bulk shipments are broken down into individual orders and promptly delivered directly to customers via the UPS Freight ground network.

Skirts Plus also uses UPS's technology solutions, like UPS WorldShip and Flex Global View. With WorldShip, Link can prepare shipments quickly and easily right from his desktop. In fact, Link estimates that he saves at least an hour a day by using this automated shipping system.

"We use WorldShip exclusively because it just makes it so much easier," says Link. "It spits out the shipping label, and then you stick it on the box and forget about it because it's a done deal."

Flex Global View helps Skirts Plus keep track of its supply chain. With this tool, Skirts Plus is able to view the status of air, ocean and surface freight shipments, warehouse inventory, purchase orders and customs entry detail. Previously, the company couldn't see the shipment until it arrived at the door; now it can "see" every shipment, whether it's in the warehouse, at the customer's doorstep or on the other side of the world. With the click of a button, Link can view information on every shipment for any particular customer and keep them informed about the status of their orders.

UPS also simplifies account processing since customs brokerage, duties, transportation and delivery charges are all on one bill. What's more, Skirts Plus can manage its bills online, eliminating the need to manually compile and process invoices.

Skirts Plus makes a great catch

Link estimates that Skirts Plus has saved 15 to 18 percent on shipping costs since switching to UPS. With one carrier to handle its international air freight, customs brokerage and domestic small package and freight delivery, Skirts Plus has also streamlined its supply chain and simplified its distribution process.

Skirts Plus is looking to grow and diversify into other hunting and fishing products. Equipped with the international expertise and reliability of UPS, the company will look for opportunities to expand its manufacturing base in Vietnam and branch out into other industries.

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