Midwest Prototyping, an additive manufacturing industry leader specializing in rapid prototyping and low-volume production, implemented Descartes OzLink to eliminate laborious and error-prone paper-based processes from its order management and shipping workflows. As Midwest grew from processing ~250 shipments per month to shipping ~1,000 orders monthly, the automated Descartes solution, fully integrated with Intuit QuickBooks®, increased operational efficiency, improved ecommerce fulfillment workflow, reduced costly errors, and improved the customer experience. The Challenge: Manual Workflow Compromises Performance

As part of its quality promise to clients, Midwest Prototyping is committed to continually improving to surpass its customers’ requirements and provide better parts faster. With the company growing at a rapid pace, it became clear that time-consuming and error-prone manual order management and shipping practices were compromising its customer-focused commitment. Midwest sought to streamline shipping with an integrated, automated solution that could help the company manage explosive growth, meet rising customer expectations, and seamlessly handle unpredictable order volume spikes—including pivoting swiftly when the pandemic struck to produce personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers in need.

“By taking the human factor out of the equation, Descartes OzLink has helped us cut down tremendously on errors, saving us time, money, and administrative headaches. Despite astronomical growth and a 300% increase in monthly orders, the Descartes solution ensures we keep pace with demand and meet customers’ expectations of getting orders right the first time.”

Cheryl Kotlowski, Purchasing Manager/Shipping Midwest Prototyping

The Solution: Automation Accelerates Fulfillment & Helps Manage Demand Spikes

Struggling with unwieldly order management and shipping practices amidst accelerating growth, Midwest Prototyping implemented Descartes OzLink at multiple shipping stations in its Wisconsin warehouse, integrated with QuickBooks and multiple carrier applications, to replace paper-based, error-prone manual order fulfillment processes.

“Our fulfillment workflow was time-consuming: order details first had to be entered manually into our order management system and then again into QuickBooks. From there, it was another manual step to ship to the end customer. We were constantly cutting and pasting between systems,” said Cheryl Kotlowski, Purchasing Manager/Shipping at Midwest Prototyping, “and we knew we needed greater automation of routine tasks, especially as the business continued to expand.”

Midwest’s cumbersome three-step process was further complicated by the fact that some customers had upwards of five contacts associated with a single address. “With Descartes OzLink, we can ensure the order is shipped to the right person—a critical factor for us in delivering a superior customer experience,” said Danielle Bartow, Shipping and Logistics at Midwest Prototyping. “Plus, all orders are ‘customer-routed,’ meaning customers establish their preferred carrier (e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx) and the proper shipping labels are automatically generated.” 

When the pandemic hit, Midwest rose to the occasion. “As a company that is used to making things quickly, we answered the call and 3D-printed face shields for the University of Wisconsin hospital system, frontline workers, students, and families throughout our communities,” said Kotlowski. Midwest rapidly stood up and operationalized a third facility near its headquarters to produce Badger Shields. Using Descartes OzLink, the company easily scaled shipping volumes to ensure rapid fulfillment of critical PPE orders.

Kotlowski added, “In prototyping, we never know what industry will have a pressing need for the next new product. Because our peak demand times are unpredictable, we have to be constantly prepared to manage volume spikes. The pandemic triggered extraordinary demand and, thanks largely to the efficiency of Descartes OzLink, we’ve been able to handle the surge of orders in stride.” The Results

80% Heightened Efficiency

By minimizing the information gap between applications, Descartes OzLink enabled Midwest to streamline its order fulfillment workflow. Leveraging two shipping stations at its 18,000 ft2 headquarters, Midwest has increased shipment volumes by 300% without adding significant labor or resources.

Enhanced Customer Service

With streamlined order processing, automated generation of labels and invoices, and QuickBooks integration, the Descartes solution ensures customers receive the correct order expediently from the carrier of their choice, even during periods of peak demand.

90% Order Accuracy

By eliminating the costly errors associated with manual processes, coupled with QuickBooks integration and automating customers’ preferred carrier choices, Descartes OzLink ensures the accuracy of order data, labels, shipping charges, and tracking information.

Bottom Line Boost

By increasing fulfillment accuracy and efficiency, the automated Descartes solution reduced the costs associated with manual shipping errors and enabled Midwest to scale shipment volumes to meet increased demand and drive revenue growth.