In late 2015, San Ramon, Calif.-based Omron Adept Technologies Inc. faced a major logistics challenge: how to move the entire shipping process for the company's industrial robots in-house. In the past, the task had been outsourced to a third-party logistics service provider (3PL). But following the robot maker's acquisition earlier that year (Adept Technologies was acquired in October 2015 by Omron Management Center of America Inc., a subsidiary of Japan's Omron Corp.), a decision had been made to handle shipping internally.
Problem was, there would be more to the transition than a simple handoff of responsibilities. There were regulatory implications as well. Omron Adept's autonomous industrial robots run on large-format lithium ion batteries, which are considered dangerous goods for transport purposes. That meant the company's staff would not only have to get up to speed on shipping but also be trained to comply with stringent hazmat transport regulations.
As any hazmat specialist knows, dangerous goods transport is a high-stakes endeavor. If a company fails to package, label, mark, or document its shipments properly, it could face fines or penalties. Given the consequences, Omron Adept decided to bring in professional help. On the recommendation of a freight forwarder, the company contracted with Labelmaster Services for consulting support. Chicago-based Labelmaster specializes in helping companies—large and small—comply with the complex and ever-changing regulations governing dangerous goods/hazardous materials.
What tipped the choice in Labelmaster's favor was the depth of its offerings, according to Wes Watson, director of logistics for Omron Management Center of America. "Labelmaster was an ideal choice because of its software package and ongoing [training and] support services," he said in a prepared statement. Other vendors only offered online certification classes and no personal training, he explained. "We wanted person-to-person support because of the recent acquisition and because we had many new employees in the facility."
Once the deal was struck, things moved quickly. Labelmaster's first step was to conduct an audit of its client's current processes and compliance levels. Within a week, a Labelmaster team headed by senior consultant Mike Pagel came back with a complete audit report that included recommendations for the transfer of responsibilities and the steps needed to maintain ongoing compliance. Along with the report, Labelmaster provided a shipment processing guide, with detailed procedures for every type of battery Omron Adept ships across all modes of transportation—ground, air, and sea. The guide included instructions on how to properly package and label the cargo and how to complete required documentation.
Following the audit, Labelmaster conducted training sessions for Omron Adept staff to ensure that workers in the facility were certified to ship and transport dangerous goods. (Ultimately, 12 Omron Adept employees were certified.) Around the same time, Omron purchased Labelmaster's Dangerous Goods Information System (DGIS), a software solution for managing dangerous goods shipping. A Labelmaster software consultant visited the plant to conduct individual training sessions for platform users.
With the training complete, Labelmaster representatives observed the team handling and processing the shipments to make sure all procedures were performed correctly. A month after Omron Adept first contacted Labelmaster, the in-house shipping program was fully up and running.
As for how it's all working out, Watson says he's very pleased with the support from Labelmaster. To begin with, he and his team appreciate the ease of use of the DGIS software. "DGIS is very intuitive with prompts for everything needed, and the warehouse staff has an easy time working with it," Watson said in the release.
Watson also says he's happy with the regulatory updates Labelmaster provides. "Labelmaster keeps us notified regularly about new and changing regulations that apply to our business," he said in the statement.
But perhaps most important of all has been Labelmaster's role in ensuring that Omron Adept is able to ship products to customers efficiently and in full compliance with the various hazmat regulations. "We have not had any compliance issues yet, and I don't think we will," said Watson. "With our current system in place, I think we will be in great shape for a very long time."