By Karen E.Thuermer, AJOT
North Carolina has long been associated with home furnishings. While much of the production moved offshore years ago, the Tar Heel state still is grand central for many of the imports coming from overseas.
Take Excell Home Fashions, for example. With operations in Goldsboro, NC, this company deals in items such as rugs and draperies and sources 99 percent of its products from overseas. These are then sold to all of the major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart, and Sears.
“We own a manufacturing plant in China and utilize dozens of other suppliers in China and at various locations around the world,” reveals Jeff Moore, the company’s director of supply chain.
Those other suppliers are located in Europe, Turkey, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Shipments primarily come to the United States via North Carolina’s Port of Wilmington. Those from Asia are shipped via all water service through the Panama Canal. Shipments from India come through the Suez Canal.
“Since there is no service to Wilmington from India, we are forced to bring these shipments through the Port of Norfolk,” Moore says.
Although the current capacity crunch in ocean shipping is posing some challenges to the company, Excell Home Fashions tries to utilize two services offered by steamship lines that are part of the CKYH Alliance that call at the Port of Wilmington.
The CKYH Alliance encompasses COSCO, Yang Ming, K Line, and Hanjin.
“One service calls North China and the other calls the South China - Hong Kong - Yantin area,” he says. “Most of our goods are coming out from Yantin and the Hong Kong area.”
In years past, Excell Home Fashions was able to utilize Alliance’s services entirely. “But with the current capacity crunch in ocean shipping, we have been forced to bring some goods through other ports,” Moore says.
Supply Chain Strategy
Usually Excell Home Fashions receives 15 or 20 containers a week at the Port of Wilmington. The company prioritizes those containers based on its stock positions and customer orders. Such prioritization is then communicated and coordinated closely with the company’s drayage partner, a licensed port hauler.
“They pull shipments out in that order and bring those containers to our warehouse in Goldsboro,” he says.
That warehouse facility encompasses three buildings totaling 500 million square feet.
When the drayage company drops the container, it then takes an empty back to the seaport.
While steamship lines also offer drayage service, Moore comments that Excell Home Fashions has found many benefits to using an independent company. Most are based on its need to prioritize shipments and the amount of communication involved regarding which empty containers need to go back before the steamship line starts charging usage fees.
When the containers arrive Excell’s operations in Goldsboro, all shipments are warehoused.
“Of course, how long they are warehoused depends on how urgent the goods are needed by our customers,” he says. “In general, however, we stock goods here.”
Last year, Excell Home Fashions combined operations with another company also owned by same people who own Excell. This business, a wholesaler of bedding and window fashions, has about 200,000 square feet of warehousing space in Oxford, NC. While that company deals in separate product categories, Moore explains it has the same customer base.
“We operate jointly and combine their goods and our goods,” he reveals. “This helps us fill containers and avoid costly loose freight fees or less than truckload (LTL) shipments.“
How the goods are delivered to customers, however, varies by each company. “Some shipments go to distribution centers and some are shipped directly to retail stores,” Moore explains. “But the greatest part of our outbound freight is directed through those customers’ transportation management systems.”
Consequently, Excell tells its customers how many pallets it is shipping, as well as their size and weight.