Mimi Ma, recently appointed as VP Integration and Compliance, has steered Weber Logistics and its customers through the murky waters of logistics compliance, facility and customer onboarding, and systems integration for many years. In this article, we interview Mimi to discuss what supply chain professionals should know about these items for to ensure more successful 3PL relationships.
Your title is VP Integration and Compliance, which is not a title that every 3PL has. What do you do?
As head of the Integrations, Quality and Compliance Department at Weber, I am responsible for client and facility implementation. The position encompasses internal auditing and all compliance and regulatory efforts. Functions such as SOP policy management, CTPAT adherence, insurance, licensing, permitting, and registrations for all of our facilities and service centers. I also oversee compliance in our safety, security, and sanitation program and matters related to food and confectionery products as well as hazardous materials.
What are your customers struggling with right now that you help them sort out?
On the logistics compliance side, we help customers meet retail and supplier requirements to avoid chargebacks. We also assist companies – especially food and hazmat companies – to comply with audits by regulatory agencies and within their own compliance teams. For example, if they have regulatory requirements related to permitting, licensing or physical inspections, we assist in that process as necessary.
Many of our clients are also either CTPAT certified or ISO certified. So, we support our customers in meeting audits and requirements related to these certifications.
How about new project implementations?
When we begin our relationship with a new customer, all parties involved want the onboarding experience to be smooth and efficient. So it really helps our customers to know that we have a dedicated team that's going to make sure those first 30, 60, 90 days, 6 months, or however long that implementation period takes, gets executed cleanly, is organized and meets all deadlines (check out Weber’s article on the 3PL onboarding process).
Is there anything that you wish customers understood more clearly before the onboarding process starts?
Some customers don't have the resources to account for the details involved during the initial stages of implementation. For example, their account schematics or SKU characteristics may be different from what was originally expected. And so, during the onboarding period, we often find out that the product we're bringing in is not what our client development team priced or what was scoped. As a result, a change in the account’s profile could occur. That may throw a wrench in the process because we might even have to go back to the table and reprice portions of the business where information was lacking or inaccurate. No one likes or wants that, but we need to ensure we fully understand the customer’s business requirements so we can flawlessly execute on their behalf.
Will that adversely affect the success of the onboarding process?
It can, absolutely. Depending on when the change is caught, it can impact the storage layout, solution design, and facility capacity. When SKU count, profile characteristics, and/or volume is drastically different than what was intended, it can create capacity restraints on our side, whether that be in the warehouse itself or in the yard. It may also change our equipment and labor needs. So, in addition to impacting the original pricing, it can also delay the onboarding timeline.
So, what’s your advice?
Companies should take the time to accurately define their business requirements upfront, provide all SKU and volume metrics during the solution design/pricing period, and understand all of the nuances that could affect their 3PL partner. This upfront due diligence is very critical – no one wants to have last-minute surprises that disrupt or delay the implementation timeline.
Is there anything customers can do to improve logistics compliance initiatives?
A key thing is to update your 3PL immediately as new retail compliance requirements are issued by your retail customers. There is often a substantial lag between the time a retailer sends out compliance updates and when the 3PL is notified. As a result, non-compliant shipments could be sent following an important update. The longer this continues, the shorter the window becomes to mitigate retailer chargebacks. Another thing would be to notify your 3PL early in the event of known profile, scope creep or volume fluctuations. This will allow the 3PL to make adjustments in labor, equipment, and/or space with limited business disruption or decline in service performance.
Weber continues to grow significantly – especially over the past few years. What part do you continue to play in that growth?
The company continues to grow, but has managed growth effectively. There’s a lot of work that goes into putting the proper resources in place so that our growth is properly supported.
And my team has grown. We’ve added key managers for integration and compliance roles, as well as Weber’s ‘Triple S’ program (Safety, Security, Sanitation optimization) and auditing. The addition of these roles has helped reinforce a foundation for the future growth of the company.
What does your promotion to a company VP mean for you personally?
It's exciting. I am nearing 18 years with the company at the end of this month. Prior to Weber, I worked six years at another 3PL, so my entire career has been dedicated to logistics. I've been passionate about this industry for over two decades. And to get to this next level, it’s very rewarding and gratifying. Every day presents new challenges that keeps this profession fresh and motivating.
It's also extremely rewarding to be a part of Weber’s growth. There’s an energy here that’s reaffirmed my love for who we are and what we do. The entire team is invested in moving the company forward. I’m excited – we’re all excited – for what’s ahead.