Industrial Manufacturing

Startup mosaic manufacturer gets a logistics makeover


MassChallenge program finalist takes five smart steps with UPS.

Artaic founder Ted Acworth admired the beauty and longevity of mosaics he saw while traveling through Europe. When he wanted to include the art form in his own home, he learned that commissioning custom mosaics was time-consuming and expensive. He put his mechanical engineering background to use and found that with modern technologies – design software and a robotic assembly system – he could create affordable mosaics. Artaic was born.

"[With UPS,] we've seen a 25 to 40 percent time-savings in the fulfillment of raw tile," says BlakeGoodwin (pictured), Artaic's director of operations.

To get a lift, the startup applied for MassChallenge, a Boston-based startup accelerator program, in 2011. The company earned a spot as a finalist and received office space, funding and meetings with venture capitalists, law firms, technology companies and other mentors, including UPS. That connection helped forge a relationship between UPS and Artaic.

Artaic's shipping is complex. The raw materials – glass, stone and porcelain tiles – arrive from manufacturers in India, China and Turkey. Tile samples ship to sales representatives and designers in the United States and around the world. And the completed, ready-to-install mosaics need to arrive at far-flung hotels, restaurants and residences.

Evaluating and prioritizing
UPS held a whiteboard session with Blake Goodwin, Artaic's director of operations, to examine the company's logistics needs.

"We brought the entire [Artaic] team to the session and said, ‘Here are 25 things we think we can offer you. What four or five or six do you want to implement?' We had them rank and rate every solution we offered," says Mark Wright, a UPS small business marketing manager. Here's what they came up with:

1. Fast delivery of raw materials. One solution became apparent right away when the teams mapped shipping steps on the whiteboard. Artaic's primary product line comes from overseas into Florida and then on to Artaic's headquarters in Boston. UPS was able to reroute the shipments directly to Boston, cutting weeks from transit.

"We've seen a 25 to 40 percent time-savings in the fulfillment of raw tile," Goodwin says.

2. Improved visibility. Goodwin also appreciates the visibility he gets from UPS – he knows where his packages are, whether they're on time, and whether there's an issue with customs paperwork.

"When we were using small brokerage companies for international shipments we didn't have the visibility we would like," he says. "The communication between UPS and us is a huge benefit. Having a partner take care of things is big."

3. The speed fits the need. For both international and domestic shipments, Artaic can choose from UPS's wide range of options to find the solution needed. Time is often the top priority: A delivery needs to arrive by 8 a.m. the next day regardless of cost. Other times a slower, less-expensive method is the best choice. Artaic uses a mix of UPS ground, air and freight services to strike the best balance between speed and cost.

4. Dedicated shipping station. At the whiteboard session the group also spotted a need for a computer and scale. Artaic set up a shipping station with a PC running WorldShip®. "This dedicated computer can be integrated with their internal systems and it's tied to a scale, so when they weigh a package it automatically shows up in the system," Wright says. "They can process a lot of different packages in our system and everything is automated." With this dedicated PC, employees have one place to go to manage their shipping.

5. In-lobby drop box. Another tool that made a big difference? A UPS Drop Box was installed in the lobby of Artaic's building, allowing for late pickups. Before that the closest drop box was in the lobby of a nearby building that locked its doors at 5 p.m. After 5, employees either had to travel to another pickup location or wait for the next day's pickup. "The drop box allows them about two hours more time to process packages each day, which results in better service," Wright says.

By using the dedicated computer, consolidating shipping with UPS and adding a drop box in the building, Artaic saves an estimated eight hours per week. "That's eight more hours a week they can spend on customer service and pursuing new business," Wright notes.

What's next?
As Artaic grows – it is opening sales channels in Qatar, Paris, and Panama – UPS can support that growth. "We stay in close touch with Artaic, and we understand their supply chain," Sheila Eddy, UPS account manager, says.

"A lot of small businesses don't look at UPS. They think we're here for the big businesses. But you can look at a number of solutions and they all are scalable. Small businesses can save time and save money," Eddy says.

By leaving logistics to UPS, Artaic can focus on serving its customers. "Speed is one of our key competitive advantages given our design and fabrication technologies, and we need our supply to come in accurately and on time for the entire model to work. With UPS we know that it will," Goodwin says.


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