A bug's journey over international waters


For Koppert Biological Systems, time in transit matters when products have a short shelf life.

What did you have for dinner last night? It's likely that a product from Koppert Biological Systems played a part in your meal. The company provides live insects to farmers to help them control pests on crops – tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and many more – without chemical pesticides. They also supply bees to help farmers pollinate their crops.

A customized process provides consistency and temperature control, and it ensures that shipments leave Europe on time and intact 100 percent of the time.

Koppert ships insects from its headquarters in the Netherlands to more than 150 distribution centers globally, including subsidiaries in Howell, Mich., and Oxnard, Calif. Transit time and temperature control are key to ensuring insects reach their destinations in good health.

Until recently, the company's shipping process was overly long. Shipments typically left headquarters on Fridays and arrived in the United States on Mondays, when they would be cleared through customs and delivered to Koppert's Michigan facility. "We were eating up two days in transportation time before the products even got to us," says David Bonk, Koppert's assistant operations manager.

"We had to turn around and ship them out the same day using UPS overnight, and our customers needed to apply the products the same day as they received them because of the [insects' five- to seven-day] shelf life," he adds.

The previous shipping system was also prone to delays. "It was not an uncommon occurrence with freight tie-ups that we would have to replace 10 to 15 percent of a shipment," says Bonk. These delays cost $20,000 or more annually.

Streamlined shipping

Koppert turned to UPS to see how they could speed up the shipping process and reduce loss. UPS recommended a service called UPS Worldwide Express Import NA1®.

"This is a special service coming from certain origins that gives early morning, next-day delivery," explains Sherwin O. Faulk, UPS senior account executive for Koppert.

With UPS Worldwide Express Import NA1 service, when Koppert places an order they can count on receiving the shipment before 10:30 a.m. the next business day and then turning it around to their customers that same day. "Our customers get two days of shelf life they didn't have before," Bonk says. "And our loss from shipping is down close to zero."

Clearing customs

Transit time wasn't the only factor hampering Koppert's schedule. Their sensitive international shipments needed to clear U.S. customs, a process that had been taking up to four hours. "If we got clearance late in the day we would be rushing and working overtime," Bonk says. "It was hard to schedule because we never knew when [the delivery] would show up."

Behind the scenes in Europe, UPS created a standard operating procedure just for Koppert to make sure that their shipments are all loaded together, with permit information and preclearance completed.

"The procedure provides for consistency and temperature control, and ensures that shipments leave Europe on time and intact 100 percent of the time," Faulk says.

On the domestic side, UPS arranged a special Customs and Border Protection agreement that Faulk says is the only one of its sort in the nation. With it, each shipment's customs clearance information is entered in Louisville, Ky., where the product enters the U.S. But the shipment is not held for inspection in Louisville. It is allowed to continue on to a bonded warehouse in Michigan.

"We've been focused on importing for 15 years, and because of our track record of compliance, the USDA was willing to make a special agreement," Bonk says. "It shows a lot of faith in us and in UPS."

The USDA inspector comes out to the bonded warehouse at a set time to review the materials. Koppert can have workers ready to start repacking and shipping the insects at 11:30 a.m. This level of consistency provides predictability, explains Benjamin Gale, UPS international account manager for Koppert.

Faulk is pleased that UPS was able to help Koppert overcome their shipping challenges. "Working with Dave, John Davenport, logistics coordinator, and the entire Koppert team has been wonderful. With everyone's sleeves rolled up, putting in the work to enhance the supply chain, together we have been able to achieve greater success. They are industry leaders, and now they have a better system to deliver their product more effectively into the marketplace," he says.


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