Staying the course

Specialized shipping teams, latest technology key in American Orthodontics’ success

Posted on Jan 11, 2019 :: Plant News
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Logistics plays a vital role in American Orthodontics’ success.

The Sheboygan manufacturer of orthodontic treatment supplies, such as brackets and arch wires, ships more than 600 orders daily to destinations around the globe, with 96 percent of orders mailed within 48 hours of the customer placing the order. A robust in-house shipping process makes that possible, says Mike English, supply chain director for American Orthodontics.

“We handle all aspects of shipping in-house,” he says. “Medical devices need to be tracked down to the individual parts, so it is critical we track everything. Our supply chain needs to be fast and dependable, so we can deliver to our customers.”

The company’s shipping department is divided into two areas: domestic and international. English says the split allows workers in different departments to become experts in their particular market.

“We ship to more than 100 countries, and every country has its own rules when it comes to shipping. We need to make sure we’re navigating them all correctly,” he says, adding American Orthodontics ships more than 55 million items annually.

More than 100 employees work on the company’s shipping team — American Orthodontics employs about 700 workers overall — and team members have an average of 15 years of experience working in the department, English adds.

“We pick, pack and ship highly customized orders to meet our customers’ requirements,” he says. “We also do some light manufacturing, such as custom welding band orders. We are definitely known in the industry for being very fast and dependable.”

The shipping department uses the latest technology to ensure the right products are going to the right customers, English says.

“Tracking is so important, and we have a dedicated, talented workforce that helps us meet our customers’ needs,” he says.

Founded in 1968, American Orthodontics initially shipped to customers in the United States and Canada. That changed in the late 1970s when the company began selling its products internationally.

Today, American Orthodontics sells its products directly through fully owned subsidiaries in 35 countries and through exclusive distributors in more than 75 other countries. Those international sales account for approximately 60 percent of the company’s total revenue, says Chief Operating Officer Jaume Mesalles.

“Rising global standards of living combined with our solid distribution network will certainly contribute to growing our international business,” he says. “But our future sales growth in countries around the world also lies in our ability to be flexible and adapt to each country’s unique needs.”

The company’s e-commerce site — AO Direct — provides customers a customized online catalog to order products from, English says. That means nearly no two orders are the same.

By manufacturing a complete line of products, including items such as dental instruments, bracket adhesives and even marketing materials, American Orthodontics aims to become a one-stop shop for orthodontists. The shipping department manages 13,417 finished good items and 21,435 total items.

English says 90 percent of American Orthodontics’ manufacturing takes place in the United States, with nearly all of it in the company’s 280,000-square-foot headquarters on Sheboygan’s south side.

“Supply chains are complicated, and we deeply care about fast delivery,” he says. “We have a relentless focus on the end customer.”