When shipping has you over a (Crate and) Barrel—the case for intelligent data management

When shipping has you over a (Crate and) Barrel—the case for intelligent data management

Intelligent data management is what’s next. Spend your time focusing on working smarter instead of harder.

Expertly created data management solutions are the key to unlocking your organization’s potential. This article is part of The Ultimate Guide to Process Reengineering.

Everyone knows Crate and Barrel sells a tremendous amount of household items all over the world. But pretend for a moment that it is your job to make sure the shipping costs for all those thousands of pieces are exactly what they are supposed to be.

Simply sending a box of family heirlooms to Austin, Texas can be a challenge and expensive. Can you imagine predicting, controlling, and checking the contractually agreed to shipping costs for thousands of Crate and Barrel products located in various distribution centers—all with different rules and pricing—while ensuring that they are all accurate for each and every shipment? Needless to say, a slight overcharge here and a slight overcharge there adds up in a big disastrous hurry.

That was the challenge that Crate and Barrel faced as they handled domestic ground shipping every day.

Maximizing the power of technology (and the potential of people)

As a first stab at solving the problem, Crate and Barrel hired a company to do the freight auditing work for them, but the results weren’t satisfactory. Even though this wasn’t a typical content services project, they turned to IOS and asked one simple and daunting question; can you figure out a way to do this for us?

Even though IOS had never done this sort of project before, Crate and Barrel trusted our team based on prior projects we have accomplished successfully for them, including the implementation of a document management imaging system. They needed a customized solution built from the ground up that was far better than what they had. Or what they could buy or hire.


As a corporate mantra, the driving theme for our work at IOS is that it is the idea that matters. When a client comes up with an idea that is challenging, creative, and even remotely possible, the folks in the IOS Professional Services Group finds it very hard to say no, regardless of degree of difficulty. And, this one was off the scale.

Our work started with understanding the varied pricing rules of multiple distribution centers and creating master tables that are self-updating so they reflect current and accurate rates for each distribution center.

As a next step, the IOS team set up a system to scan every single freight bill of lading document while applying optical character recognition, turning the freight charges on the shipping document into values. We made sure that all of those values hit against the correct table. If any bill of lading isn’t priced correctly, it is rejected and sent into an exception queue.

We also created workflows for the non-paper electronic bill of ladings and made sure that all of it marries up in Crate and Barrel’s accounts payable and costing center.

The pay-off? An intelligent data management solution that works smarter instead of harder.

Intelligent data management at its best

Crate and Barrel’s creative, custom solution included:

  • Automated electronic workflows to eliminate manual data entry
  • Time-saving paperless electronic invoice and payment mapping
  • Built-in calculations and double-checks
  • Customized audit and reporting workflows

When companies consider what can be accomplished with Professional Services in a standard data management context, the results are predictable and vanilla; implementing a system where scanned documents reside in a retrieval system, document searching and retrieval far faster than sorting thru stacks of paper files, nothing can be lost. All highly valuable, but also ho-hum.

Intelligent data management changes everything

When companies, such as Crate and Barrel, make the leap and crossover to explore new ways to reengineer broken processes that are costing money, it's both great management and challenging fun for IOS Professional Services.

There was no RFP, no RFI, no check the boxes. There couldn’t be as this was brave new world. This was partnering in the most authentic sense of the word.


Looking back, it was simply: “Hey IOS. This is the issue. It’s complicated so pack a lunch. Become an expert on it, get your team to know it as well as we do, and then try to come up for a way to fix it for us. If you do, we will be your best friend.”

We did, and they are.

At IOS, it’s the idea that matters.

download the ultimate guide to process reengineering

Information is currency. The smarter you are about managing it, the more confidently you’ll be able to move your business into the future.

Learn more about Crate and Barrel’s story, as well as other IOS partners who embraced intelligent data management:

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