If you scored one of the first Xbox 360s to hit the market on Tuesday, Nov. 22, you have DHL to thank. The express carrier/ global logistics company collaborated with Microsoft to whisk 1.5 million videogame consoles across three continents and into stores for the Nov. 22 launch of Xbox 360 in the United States and the Dec. 2 rollout in Europe.
Launch planning began in November 2004, when the two companies mapped out shipping strategies and began developing the information technology network that would serve as the project's central nervous system. They also hashed out schedules." Microsoft set specific deadlines and promised the world it would meet them," says Jane Sabin-Pass, global customer manager for DHL Global Customer Solutions, which handled the launch. That meant preparing for every possible contingency. "Microsoft challenged DHL ... to anticipate the unpredictable scenarios that often accompany a major product launch during peak season," she adds.
By August 2005, with the first of the Xbox 360s ready to ship, the project had shifted into high gear. EDI messages from production sites in southern China enabled Microsoft and DHL to monitor the Xbox 360s as they rolled off assembly lines onto barges bound for Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport. As workers loaded the game consoles aboard charters, DHL's system automatically triggered Advance Ship Notices to notify the U.S. and European distribution centers when the shipments would arrive, so they could arrange for added security and plan the final deliveries.
The launch may be over, but the joint program remains in place. Charters continue to arrive in the United States and Europe. DHL, which has also purchased significant ocean freight capacity to move consoles and peripherals (headsets, controllers, cables and the like), will continue to support the Microsoft rollout of Xbox 360s around the world. The partners are also working together to open a new warehouse in southern China to fill orders for Xbox 360s in Asia during 2006 and beyond.
This was not the first collaboration between DHL and Microsoft. They also worked together to launch the first Xbox in 2001, a launch Sabin-Pass characterizes as much more challenging because of a transportation capacity shortage, difficulty forecasting demand, and the need to maintain high security at multiple manufacturing points. Things went much more smoothly this time around, she reports. Microsoft has evidently decided DHL's got game. "We see DHL's solution as an enabler of future success," says Bill Best, senior logistics manager at Microsoft, "and we envision a deep integration of DHL into our processes as a result."