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Thomas Scientific Case Study

Despite 300% increase in demand, this company’s international shipping strategies averaged between 8–10 days transit time from vendor to door.

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Thomas Scientific Adopts International Shipping Strategies to Augment Growth in Demand

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas Scientific experienced an extremely sharp increase in demand, essentially overnight. Like many organizations, they experienced this growth while also dealing with the added challenge of tight market conditions. Their high-priority items—like personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing supplies—needed to ship fast. With C.H. Robinson’s global scale, suite of services, and information advantage, Thomas Scientific secured the space they needed and maintained faster than average delivery times throughout the pandemic.

Situation: Growing demand to ship PPE and other critical items

Since 1900, Thomas Scientific has been providing the latest in equipment and supplies to the science community. Their extensive product lines span from laboratory instruments and chemicals to safety equipment and supplies. With products closely tied to health and safety, Thomas Scientific has played an invaluable role during the pandemic.

Thomas Scientific experienced several waves of demand growth. The first pandemic-related increase in demand centered on PPE like masks, gloves, and other items used to protect individuals. Soon after, Thomas Scientific dealt with another wave of growth for swabs, transport media, tubes, and supplies related to COVID-19 detection tests. Over the course of 4 months, orders increased by more than 300%.

Expedited shipping services in a tight market

Faced with such tremendous demand for products, Thomas Scientific needed to secure capacity that could deliver products quickly and efficiently. “At the onset of the pandemic, speed was the primary factor for us,” explained Randy Gilliland, vice president, purchasing, pricing and transportation at Thomas Scientific. “It was about finding the right capacity solution. One that could deliver quickly—either air or ocean service—while balancing service and costs.”

Prior to the pandemic, Thomas Scientific worked primarily with domestic suppliers in the United States for their products. But as demand spiked and their product offerings expanded, the company was soon working with more international vendors.

“Given that we were less experienced moving international freight, we weren’t aware of all our options,” shared Randy. “We wanted a flexible logistics provider to help, especially during ramp up. One that could scale with us as our needs grew.”

Solution: Taking advantage of experience, data, and scale to increase efficiency

Thomas Scientific turned to C.H. Robinson. “Having a knowledgeable logistics team at C.H. Robinson made it possible to develop successful strategies that could be shifted quickly to meet the demands of a wildly dynamic marketplace,” explained Randy.

Maintaining shipment speed through flexibility

Initial demand growth during the pandemic emphasized the importance of fast deliveries. “At first, we had to ship fast. Cost was secondary. C.H. Robinson helped us understand a willingness to change our initial plans at various points of the supply chain would help us ship faster and at more competitive prices,” explained Randy.

By trusting C.H. Robinson’s information advantage and market insights, Thomas Scientific avoided flying into primary cargo terminals on the U.S. West Coast that were facing heavy congestion and long delays. This strategy instead used several less prominent terminals to circumvent potential disruptions, keeping orders on track.

Solving capacity challenges with creative air freight options

As speed was an immediate priority for Thomas Scientific, C.H. Robinson and Thomas Scientific developed and executed on several creative supply chain ideas that helped the company secure capacity when space was hard to find.

One of the most successful tactics for securing air freight was chartering flights. For Thomas Scientific, air charters were a fast shipping option that offered a great deal of flexibility for last minute demand shifts.

As travel restrictions meant fewer travelers were flying, C.H. Robinson leveraged vast capacity relationships to secure the space Thomas Scientific needed. One strategy involved working with airlines to charter passenger planes that had the seats removed for cargo flights, which opened more shipping options for Thomas Scientific.

Emphasizing collaboration and communication

By focusing on Thomas Scientific’s needs, markets, and products, the team at C.H. Robinson truly understood what the company was trying to achieve and worked collaboratively to help them achieve it.

“C.H. Robinson not only had the knowledgeable experts and ability to help our company, but their willingness to really get to know us and understand our needs and the needs of our customers went beyond our expectation and really gave us the ability to excel,” explained Randy.

With daily cross-functional meetings, C.H. Robinson and Thomas Scientific developed more robust, tailored solutions for a variety of challenges—from developing processes with new vendors and securing special permitting and USDA approvals for customs filings to finding creative ways to maintain the temperature of large volumes of sensitive products.

Outcome: An agile international supply chain ready for any market

As Thomas Scientific adapted to new freight market conditions and higher demand for products, many new doors opened for them—from new vendors and products to more customer contacts and market opportunities.

Randy noted, “Previously, we felt somewhat dependent on U.S. vendors. Now, with C.H. Robinson’s help, we better understand international supply chains and the nuances associated with shipping globally.”

Balance of price, service, and speed to support revenue growth

By aligning a product’s shipping needs with the correct service for current market conditions, C.H. Robinson improved the efficiency and performance of Thomas Scientific’s supply chain.

Throughout the pandemic, Thomas Scientific was able to maintain a fast speed to market despite tight market conditions. Even during their highest demand peak, the company averaged between 8–10 days transit time from vendor to door on international shipments.

Higher demand for PPE and COVID-19 testing supplies meant Thomas Scientific more than doubled their annual revenue. C.H. Robinson’s tailored, market-leading solutions helped Thomas Scientific deliver shipments quickly while avoiding peak transportation prices when possible, supporting the company’s revenue growth rather than depleting it.

A foundation for the future

“C.H. Robinson’s flexibility and information advantage helped us ship fast when demand was tremendous,” shared Randy. “Collaborating openly with our team helped us stay agile against risks. Now our most pressing challenge is answering the question about what demand will look like going forward.”

While demand growth became more methodical, with institutional contracts helping achieve better short-term planning, it has remained relatively steady, with only a slight decline. Thomas Scientific and C.H. Robinson continue to collaborate on new ideas to secure space in advance, improve space planning at various facilities, and reduce costs.

“We’re more agile in our international logistics strategy thanks to C.H. Robinson’s ability to help. We’ve been faster to market with greater supply chain predictability,” summed up Randy. “Not only does this help us better manage risks with international vendors, it gives us a solid supply chain foundation to build on for years to come.”

To learn more about Thomas Scientific, visit their website.

To learn more about C.H. Robinson’s programs, call 800-323-7587 or connect with an expert.

Challenge

Thomas Scientific experienced an extremely sharp increase in demand for high-priority products during the pandemic.

Solution

C.H. Robinson’s information advantage led to creative supply chain solutions that helped secure capacity amid volatile market conditions.

Result

Thomas Scientific improved the efficiency and performance of their international supply chain while managing costs in a wildly dynamic marketplace.

Having a knowledgeable logistics team at C.H. Robinson made it possible to develop successful strategies that could be shifted quickly to meet the demands of a wildly dynamic marketplace.

– RANDY GILLILAND
VICE PRESIDENT OF PURCHASING, PRICING AND TRANSPORTATION

Previously, we felt somewhat dependent on U.S. vendors. Now, with C.H. Robinson’s help, we better understand international supply chains and the nuances associated with shipping globally.

– RANDY GILLILAND
VICE PRESIDENT OF PURCHASING, PRICING AND TRANSPORTATION

We’re more agile in our international logistics strategy thanks to C.H. Robinson’s ability to help.

– RANDY GILLILAND
VICE PRESIDENT OF PURCHASING, PRICING AND TRANSPORTATION