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When the pandemic hit in 2020 and lockdowns were swiftly imposed, Australian furniture company Freedom found its products in high demand.
Established in Australia in 1981, furniture retailer Freedom’s vision is to help its customers create a home that they love coming home to.
But when the pandemic began in 2020 and lockdowns were swiftly imposed, the company found its products in high demand for a slightly different purpose: creating homes to stay home in.
With travel off the agenda, many Australians instead focused their attention on refurbing or improving their houses.
As a result, sales of the company’s sofas, tables, beds and other items of furniture boomed. But with this thriving order book came a tricky supply chain challenge – securing enough shipping space from its suppliers in Asia to transport these often bulky items to Australia.
With the spike in demand, lead times for the furniture had risen from 12-14 weeks to 22 weeks. Customers – in particular, those who had paid in advance – wanted to receive their goods as quickly as possible. For Freedom it was key to the customer experience that the items arrived in the country without additional delays.
But at a time of extreme disruption, space on carriers was at a premium. So unprecedented times called for an agile, innovative approach to logistics solutions.
At Ligentia, we recognised that this would not be an easy task – securing space on ships for large items during one of the busiest and most disrupted periods in living memory – but our solution illustrated the value of our presence in Asia, our strong relationships with carriers and our ability to deliver innovative solutions quickly and under pressure.
Having built strong partnerships with commercial carriers in the region over the years, we were able to use our influence to secure space from ports in China, Vietnam, South-East Asia and the Indian sub-continent to transport the furniture, and deal with customs clearance.
Additionally, however, we recognised the urgency of the situation and Freedom’s need to meet its customers’ expectations, so we seized the initiative and leveraged our relationships in China to secure shipper-owned containers so we could load products onto charter vessels.
Close collaboration with our customer was key to success. Our team spoke to Freedom several times each day to determine when space would become available and at what cost, as the rates changed.
We had similarly close collaboration with Freedom’s biggest supplier in Asia. A weekly call meant that the supplier could plan its manufacturing schedule around the future availability of space, so that specific customer orders could be prioritised.
As the effects of the pandemic continued and more stock was eventually able to reach Australia, Freedom found itself with an overflow of inventory, meaning it required a flexible storage solution. We were able to source this space in Australia, avoiding the need for an expensive short-term solution at the point of origin.
Additionally, and to improve demand planning and enable an even better customer experience, we were able to implement a warehouse management system (WMS) providing inventory visibility, which allowed Freedom to view stock levels, track inbound receipts and monitor outbound movements.
The pandemic illustrated the potential fragility of supply chains, and in particular those that rely on sourcing goods and materials from overseas.
Freedom, however, was able to focus on its core business, confident in the knowledge that our expertise and relationships in Asia could help it surmount the challenges of Covid.
With the visibility afforded by its new WMS, the retailer was better able to keep a track of inventory and update its customers accordingly.
The ability to rely on shipping space being available, and the short-term storage space secured in Australia, meant the company could reduce the lead time on furniture being delivered to nearer 16 weeks. That gave it a competitive advantage over other retailers whose lead times were much longer.
But perhaps it was Freedom’s customers who felt the most direct impact from the partnership. Because in the middle of such a turbulent and concerning time, they were able to furnish their homes with the sort of major purchases that help turn living spaces into somewhere that really feels like home.
When Freedom needed ocean freight space we turned to Ligentia and they found ways to support us, they did it again when we needed emergency warehousing space. Now we partner with Ligentia for ocean freight and can comfortably rely on them to know and anticipate our needs and ensure we have the best solutions available to us.
Book a call today with one of our supply chain experts to learn more about how we can help.Get in touch