By Lynette Cockerell
The Warehouse Division of Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA) now offers cotton merchants an innovative and effective program for scheduling and monitoring their shipments. Providing superior customer service contributes to the realization of PCCA’s mission to add greater value to its members’ cotton.
As the abundance of U.S. cotton and the dependable shipping infrastructure in the United States has resulted in a steadily growing demand for U.S. cotton, merchants are more anxious than ever to ship their cotton in a timely manner.
The need to keep merchants informed about their shipping agenda was recognized more than five years ago by PCCA’s sales staff and Joe Tubb, PCCA’s vice president of Information Systems. After the cooperative’s warehouses handled back-to-back record cotton crops in 2003 and 2004, PCCA decided adequate technology was finally available to put a shipping calendar into production to more effectively keep merchants up-to-date on daily warehouse activities.
“It took three people on our staff approximately one month to write the program, and then we put it into production for our own shipping department for three months,” Tubb says. “Due to the considerable size of the marketing pool, PCCA is a large shipper out of cooperative warehouses. Therefore, we had an excellent opportunity to work the bugs out of the system and install the necessary security safeguards before we released the shipping calendar for merchant use.”
Currently, calendars showing scheduling data are available for Rolling Plains Cooperative Compress in Sweetwater, Texas; Oklahoma Cotton Cooperative Association locations in Altus, Okla., and Liberal, Kan.; the TELMARK Warehouse in Memphis, Texas; and Vernon Compress Company in Vernon, Texas. However, the shipping calendar can be used by any warehouse utilizing PCCA’s warehousing software.
Available through the Internet, the shipping schedule is in the form of an easy-to-read calendar. Industry standards require each warehouse to be capable of shipping four and one-half percent of the facility’s overall capacity each week, so the calendar reflects at a glance the warehouse’s compliance to the standard. Merchants are able to quickly access information concerning the total amount of cotton that is scheduled to ship from the warehouse on any given day and are able to arrange the transport of their cotton based on shipping availability.
In addition to indicating the amount of cotton that has been prepared for transport, the calendar shows the number of bales prepared at the merchant’s request but now are past the scheduled loading date. An “over quota” amount will be noted if too much cotton is booked to be shipped on a certain day. Therefore, the merchant can re-schedule the shipments.
“In a year where we most likely will ship another record number of bales, the new shipping calendar will help the merchant community coordinate shipments with our warehouses more efficiently,” says Scott Covey, assistant warehouse manager at Rolling Plains Cooperative Compress.
Many merchants have shown interest in the shipping calendar, and several already use it on a daily basis. However, the months of January and February are the heart of shipping season, and PCCA anticipates more buyers will utilize the new calendar system as they realize its convenience and functionality.
“Basically, we responded to the merchants’ request for ‘warehouse transparency’ by baring our souls,” says Dean Church, PCCA’s vice president of Grower Services. “We threw open the doors of our warehouse operations and provided a more comprehensive shipping calendar than anyone else in the business. By offering greater customer service we will continue to be the sellers of choice to our merchants, thus adding greater value to our members’ cotton,” he explained.