What goes into a banner year?
For Atlas STG and Gap Inc., the answer can be summarized in one word: partnership. During 2010, Atlas STG supported Gap's ambitious drive to remodel its Old Navy stores. As the exclusive provider of blanket–wrapped logistics services for Old Navy, Atlas ensured just-in-time delivery for over 200 store remodels between January and December. Gap and Atlas have worked together successfully for several years, but 2010 saw the biggest volume of any year to date.
"When Gap begins a remodel or a new store, Atlas STG transports the store fixtures to the local Atlas agent's warehouse," says STG National Account Specialist Chris Koehl. "When the general contractor for the project orders materials, the agent provides delivery."
It sounds simple enough. But, it wasn't always so. During the last part of 2009, the partnership tackled a big push – 50 stores. "It was a mighty struggle, with a ton of challenges," says Chris.
Although the project concluded successfully, Chris says everyone involved knew the process needed improvement. So, GAP called a conference among its suppliers. They came together, hashed out the weaknesses, and looked for potential efficiencies. Each came away with a renewed sense of cooperation, and a stronger determination to make efforts more productive.
"For Atlas STG, we found that service requirements for storage and delivery weren't always clear to participating agents," says Chris. "So we created a detailed service level agreement that explains precisely what the work entails."
Meanwhile, Gap created a database, with photo, part number, description, supplier, and quantity for each item and every store. Contractors would refer to the form to place orders; Atlas agents would use it to fill orders. "This one enhancement probably made the single biggest difference," says Chris.
Likewise, fixture suppliers standardized the formatting of shipping labels in accord with the database, so all can identify parts quickly and correctly throughout the pipeline.
"Within a span of about eight weeks, we all had process improvements in place," says Chris.
|Old Navy store fixtures are ready for delivery in an Atlas agency warehouse. A typical Old Navy store remodel requires about 5,000 sq. ft. of storage |
He credits the combined actions with improving the overall efficiency of logistics ten-fold. But, he says, it could not have happened without candor and cooperation – a view shared by Ashley Mason, Gap Senior Analyst Fixture Transportation.
"Atlas and Gap have been partners in developing best practices for many years," says Ashley. "We present what we feel might pose an issue. Chris Koehl and the Atlas team respond with, 'Here's what we can do, and how we can help you with that.' It is a rare event when their suggestions are not actionable and highly valuable."
Working with Other Vendors
"Atlas is proactive, always on top of things," says National Accounts Manager Carla Coppess, Carlson Store Fixtures. "Atlas shares my outlook on customer service, not only to Gap, but to me as well. I have a great team at Atlas backing me up. Kendra Boles in particular has been great at making the seemingly impossible happen."
"We take the view that other Gap suppliers are our customers, too," says Chris. "We are all in the same boat together, serving the same customer, so we do whatever we can to help them deliver good service."
Gap understands the importance of good working relationships. It invites its vendors and employees to regularly evaluate the service providers via a "scorecard." The most recent ratings saw Atlas at the top of the list.
"We highly value our relationship with Atlas and the work they have done to date," says Ashley.
The feeling is mutual, says Chris. "I can't overstate the importance of teamwork to our success. It made 2010 a banner year for our partnership and promises more great things for 2011."