Winter—specifically the holidays—is undoubtedly the busiest season in the shipping and logistics industry. Incidentally, it also happens to be one of the most challenging due to a number of factors that come into play. Unpredictable weather, frigid temperatures, unsafe driving conditions for truckers, inevitable shipping delays, and product shortages are just some of the many challenges that supply chain managers have to deal with during this time of year. As the orders keep piling up, figuring out innovative and effective methods of meeting the high demand for product becomes increasingly difficult. Despite the fact that these winter challenges are completely foreseeable, some shipping and logistics companies still fall victim to them.
This year, the challenge of meeting the high demand for shipped products will be even greater, which is why it’s important to prepare well ahead of time. Logistics and shipping product is, for the most part, a numbers game. It’s estimated that the shipping industry loses anywhere between $2 billion and $3.5 billion every year due to insufficient preparation for the challenges that come with shipping product during the winter months.
But you don’t have to be a part of that statistic because we’ve prepared a list of five foolproof tips that will help you be fully prepared for the season to come and overcome the challenges associated with it.
5 Tips to Prepare Your Supply Chain for a Successful Winter Season
Winter is a tough season for a variety of industries, particularly those that require a great deal of travelling in order to deliver items to patrons. Every year, the shipping industry suffers significant losses due to unavoidable factors related to inclement weather conditions, frigid temperatures, and supply shortages. Here are five tips to help your supply chain overcome these challenges and make your shipping process as seamless as possible even amidst harsh winter conditions and a global pandemic.
1. Prepare Your Supply Chain to Deal with Winter
In the logistics and shipping industry, preparation is key no matter what time of year it is, but it’s especially crucial during the winter months when inclement weather conditions can put a big wrench in your shipping schedule. Despite heavy snowfalls and other unsafe driving conditions, customers still expect supply chain workers to work miracles and deliver their products on time.
To accommodate for uncontrollable weather conditions, it’s important to plan your shipments as far ahead as possible. Map out multiple routes, including contingency routes in case the main one becomes inaccessible, and keep a close eye on changing weather conditions. Keep in mind that various states and provinces have varying winter climates and this should be accounted for when mapping out your shipping routes.
2. Efficiently Utilize All Shipping Resources
As a logistics and supply chain manager, you have access to a number of important and useful resources to help you ship products to your customers quickly and on time. Use them. Use all of them—and often. Partner with leading freight transporters that are adaptable, experienced, and offer fair and competitive shipping rates. When it comes to running successful supply chain operations, transparency is vital. You need to work with a third-party supply chain distributor and freight transportation company that has all the right networking connections to get your products delivered efficiently without risk of damage or loss. Plus, you should be granted access to the shipping process so that you can ensure your operations are running smoothly at all times.
3. Communicate Effectively
Effective communication mechanisms are imperative to the success of a logistics and supply chain operation. Different factions of the operation need to be able to contact one another at all times to ensure that the entire process is kept on track from start to finish. Open channels of communication are even more imperative in times of distress when delays are inevitable. Circumstances outside your control, including inclement weather, vehicular accidents, and other conditions can inevitably slow down supply chain operations.
Setting up a reliable communication system using state-of-the-art technology ensures that all levels of the supply chain system are promptly updated when and if delays do occur. Vendors and end-customers also need to be kept in the loop at all times. If you can foresee any shipping, processing, and receiving challenges in advance, you should let them know at the time of the order placement, so that there are no surprises along the way and they know exactly what to expect. It’s better to prepare your customers for the worst-case scenario than to make grandiose overreaching promises that you can’t guarantee. This will only lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction in the end and it could even dissolve the working relationship altogether.
4. Prepare for Inevitable Delays
Winter comes with a unique set of challenges that other seasons don’t necessarily present. Regional climate differences, dangerous driving conditions, icy roads, and frigid temperatures can all cause inevitable delays. Even if you’re shipping items from one warm region to another, the transportation process may still involve travelling through colder regions in order to get those items to their destination.
Inclement weather conditions such heavy snowfalls, snow squalls, ice accumulation, and various weather warnings in certain regions can cause massive shipping delays. Also, the holidays are the busiest season in the shipping industry, which means a higher number of destinations need to be reached throughout the shipping process than during any other time of the year.
We recommend preparing for these inevitable delays by:
- Having a contingency plan
- Mapping out your shipping dates and routes well in advance
- Offering a shipment tracking system
- Offering expedited shipping for urgent products
5. Collaborate with a Reliable Service Provider
Working with a reliable and well-connected third-party logistics and supply chain service provider like Lean Supply Solutions can help you overcome the many challenges winter brings to the shipping industry. We offer full-service cost-effective order and e-commerce fulfillment along with warehousing and distribution, 4PL contract logistics services using a variety of sophisticated network connections and technology. Contact us today to learn more about our supply chain and distribution services.
- Published in Blog
Blind and double-blind shipping are two common practices that, when effectively employed, can increase your business’s profit margins and boost your distribution momentum. Here is everything you need to know about blind and double-blind shipping.
What Is Blind Shipping?
Blind shipping is a supply chain strategy that’s gaining a lot of popularity in the e-commerce sector. It allows businesses to covertly ship their products directly to their customers without revealing the identity or location of the manufacturer or distributor. Usually, the supplier knows the identity and location of the supplier.
What Is Double-Blind Shipping?
Double-blind shipping also relies on operational confidentiality, except it’s double-sided. This tactic involves concealing both the identities and locations of the customers and the suppliers. The supplier ships the product to the e-commerce business warehouse. From there, it’s shipped directly to the customer and the customer is none the wiser that the product came from a third-party manufacturer or supplier.
Blind Shipping in E-Commerce
Blind and double-blind shipping are both common supply chain operational strategies in the e-commerce sector. The idea is to help protect the identities of the customers while also maintaining a strong competitive edge for the brand.
If your customers learn the identity of your suppliers or manufacturers, there’s nothing stopping them from purchasing your products directly from the manufacturers at a much cheaper cost. By keeping this information confidential, you’re protecting your business interests, retaining control over the supply chain, and ensuring customer loyalty by establishing yourself as a key player in the game. Customers will appreciate the convenience of purchasing the products they’re seeking out from a reputable and sustainable source rather than having to seek out third-party sources they know nothing about.
On the flip side, if suppliers learn the identities and locations of your customers, they can then reach out directly to your customers and offer the same products at cost, which effectively eliminates you—the e-commerce business and middleman—from the picture altogether. Double-blind shipping can help you protect your assets by preventing your manufacturers and suppliers from going behind your back to directly reach out to your customers.
How Can You Set Up a Blind or Double-Blind Shipping Operation?
To set up an effective, efficient, and affordable blind or double-blind shipping operation, you need to have a good working relationship with your freight forwarder.
For a standard blind shipment, you need to instruct the freight forwarder to remove the original bill of lading which contains the supplier’s information. When the package arrives, the customer will only see your company’s information on the shipping label.
Double-blind shipments require the freight forwarder to take the additional step of providing an alternate incorrect or “dummy” address to the supplier, so they don’t learn the end-customer’s actual name or location.
Throughout the entire process, only the shipper and the freight forwarder know the shipment’s full journey trajectory from start to finish.
What Are the Advantages of Blind Shipping?
Setting up a blind or double-blind shipment supply chain operation is like running a well-oiled machine. Proper planning and execution of all intermediary processes ensures that everything will go smoothly from start to finish. Most importantly, it guarantees that the shipment will arrive exactly on the date specified to the customer within minimal risk of loss, delays, or revealing confidential information to either the end-customer or the supplier.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of advantages to employing blind or double-blind shipment processes throughout your supply chain operations. Here are just a few advantages to consider.
Protect Your Assets and Maintain a Competitive Edge
Aside from preventing the formation of a direct manufacturer-customer relationship, blind shipping also prevents competing businesses from poaching your customers and suppliers by keeping their identities, locations, and contact information confidential.
Blind or double-blind shipments help you protect your business assets while also taking on an ethical approach to product delivery that gives both customers and suppliers peace of mind when it comes to preventing identity and product theft.
One way to protect the identity of your distributors and manufacturers and prevent shipment losses or delays is to integrate dropshipping. Combining blind or double-blind shipping operations with dropshipping is an effective end-to-end solution that streamlines the entire delivery process with optimal business benefits. The product goes directly from the supplier to the end-customer and eliminates the need for warehouse storage during transition, which helps cut down supply chain costs while maintaining anonymity on both ends.
Client Retention and Quality Control
Through double-blind shipping, you can keep your distributors’ and manufacturers’ identities a secret from your customers. This anonymity prevents customers from purchasing products directly from one of your sources at a fraction of the cost and ensures their reliance on your business. This is the very definition of supply and demand. Customers demand a product that, from their perspective, can only be supplied by your business.
Establish Brand Consistency
A strong and well-planned out blind or double-blind shipping strategy allows you to maintain consistency throughout all operational levels of your brand. From back-end operations to customer service and right down to supply chain operations, you can ensure high-quality and reliable services at all times that yield favourable results for your business. Customers will be able to easily identify your products because only your logo, brand name, address, and contact information will appear on the shipping labels.
Increase Your Profit Margins
Gaining brand awareness and establishing yourself as an industry authority figure is the name of the game. Once you’ve laid the groundwork and established your brand as a force to be reckoned with, you can make necessary supply chain operational and pricing adjustments to facilitate future growth.
Lean Supply Solutions provides full-service and cost-effective warehousing and distribution, order fulfillment, and e-commerce fulfillment, as well as 4PL contract logistics services for an international supply chain market. Serving a wide range of businesses from large multinational manufacturing companies to e-commerce and retail businesses, we build effective end-to-end supply chain strategies for our clients. Contact us today to learn more.
- Published in Blog
Small business owners have a lot of responsibilities, from running their backend operations to hiring the right personnel to help them realize their business goals and provide excellent customer service.
In the modern age, e-commerce is the natural next step to growing your business. But you have to plan your e-commerce venture carefully to ensure that it’s successful—this is not a space that you can or should just dive into without a plan or safety net. As a novice small business owner, you’re not expected to know everything right off the bat. And you’re bound to make a few mistakes along the way. Nonetheless, you should try to come up with a tangible plan to help see you through the more challenging times of running your business.
Nowadays, customers simply expect more from the businesses they support—accurate package tracking, faster shipping timeframes, a special unboxing experience, and ultra-sanitary shipping conditions, just to name a few. Essentially, they expect total supply chain transparency. Given the current state of the world, they’re entitled to it. It’s important to not only understand these needs, but to do everything in your power to meet them and show your customers what you’re doing to improve their experiences with your company.
With that in mind, let’s delve into the top five things you should know about the logistics and product shipping side of business management.
1. Order Volume
Small businesses typically have lower overhead costs than large enterprises because they carry fewer products. However, the cost of shipping products can be significant for small businesses because they don’t have access to the same resources as larger businesses do. Figuring out the logistics of shipping your products out to your customers is extremely important.
Start by contacting distributors and negotiating shipping rates to see if you can cut down the costs. Shop around to a few different distributors until you find one that can work within your budget and logistics strategy. That way, you can fulfill your order volume and charge your customers a fair shipping fee.
2. Take Packaging Precautions
Packaging is another important aspect of the logistics side of your business. It should be unique and branded, so that customers can instantly recognize the shipments they receive from your company. The packaging should also reflect the nature of the product that’s being shipped.
Fragile items require a little extra packaging like different internal compartments or packing peanuts and Styrofoam to secure them in place and prevent breakage during transportation. If you’re shipping products nationwide or internationally, remember that different regions have specific product and packaging regulations that must be met.
The type of product you’re shipping also influences the dimensions of your packaging. Small items can usually be shipped in bubble-lined envelopes for protection, whereas larger items should be shipped in boxes. Make sure your shipping and logistics budget accounts for the different types of packaging you may require for your various products.
3. Product Shipment Tracking
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are relying on online orders for their basic needs including clothing, groceries, etc. While this trajectory was always on the horizon, the pandemic has accelerated the need for greater supply chain transparency. With more people depending on online orders and deliveries, it’s crucial to give your customers and your staff the ability to track product shipments.
Customers want to know exactly when they can expect their products to arrive at their destinations. They also want to know what precautions are being taken to ensure their products are shipped safely and completely intact without any delays or issues. Supply chains and distribution centers are considered essential services and many have been operating overtime just to meet their tight deadlines. Product shipment tracking is mutually beneficial to customers and supply chain personnel. In case of a delay or problem with the shipment, each package is assigned a specific order number that can be electronically traced, so that the location is always made available.
4. Get Comprehensive Insurance
A comprehensive order shipment policy protects your business and gives your customers peace of mind when they purchase a product from you. Make sure your insurance policy is clearly stated either on the online order form or during the ordering process, so that there are no surprises. Your insurance policy should be clear and concise. It should state exactly what steps customers can take in the event that their order doesn’t arrive on time or if it somehow gets lost in transition.
Package tracking is one form of insurance in the sense that it reassures customers that they can find out the exact whereabouts and stage of the shipping process their parcel is in at any given time. There’s always the chance that something can go wrong during the shipping process. Packages get misplaced, lost, or stolen. As a small business, you have the option of either purchasing product shipping liability insurance or you can offer this to your customers for a small additional fee during checkout.
5. Delivery Timing and Destination
A major part of transparency and product tracking is letting your customers know when their orders have actually been delivered. Package tracking technology allows customers to check the trajectory of their orders, but sometimes they can forget to log in to the application.
As your business continues to grow, you can start sending out automatic text or email notifications every time a package is delivered, so your customers know when to pick it up from its designated destination.
Trust Lean Supply Solutions to Deliver Your Packages on Time
As a privately owned corporation, Lean Supply Solutions is committed to providing innovative logistics, distribution, and supply chain solutions to all of our customers on a national and multinational level. We incorporate a unique blend of lean processes, cutting-edge IT systems, and applications of world-class quality systems to deliver quantifiable value for our clients. To learn more about our state-of-the-art logistics processes and how we can help you expand your supply chain, contact us.
- Published in Blog
The packaging process is an important part of the shipping and freight industry. Without the right packaging, items will not have the right protection and support during transportation and delivery. This can lead to damaged goods, wasted materials, and unhappy customers.
By optimizing how you package your products, you can see tremendous efficiency and cost benefits to your business and supply chain. How does packaging optimization improve your supply chain? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Packaging Optimization?
Packaging optimization makes the packaging process more economical and efficient to the supply chain. Product retailers seek package optimization to help them pick the right kind, size, and quantities of packing material in order to achieve cost savings throughout the supply chain. This is one of the most critical factors for brand perception and image. Companies like Apple, Starbucks, and Cadbury’s are all considered premium brands for the care they put into product packaging.
Over the last few years, e-commerce has become a staple for many businesses. This is especially true in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, where you must have an online presence to be successful and to sell products to your customers. The primary purpose of packaging in the e-commerce industry is to protect the product from the point that it leaves your warehouse to its delivery point at the customer’s doorstep. Packaging not only protects the product but can also help in creating a great first impression with the customer.
Reports say that businesses have seen a 30% increase in consumer interest when they pay close attention to how they package their products.
Benefits of Packaging Optimization in the Supply Chain
One of the most obvious and immediate benefits of packaging optimization is that you can get amplified cost savings. These amplified cost savings are possible because even a small reduction in package sizes can lead to tremendous savings throughout the supply chain. Not only are you saving on material costs, you are also saving on weight for transportation.
It only takes a quarter of an inch reduction in the primary packaging to translate into savings along the supply chain. This reduction means more boxes can be bundled into one shipment instead of needing several truckloads. When you can accommodate more boxes in secondary packaging, this leads to fewer trucks, less transit miles, less fuel use, less packaging materials, and more.
Reduction in Damages
Package optimization helps retailers choose the right packing materials to protect the products they ship to customers. This leads to a reduction in damages because fragile items placed in the wrong type of packaging can be damaged during transit. Even a single damaged SKU can lead to extra costs including replacement, additional logistics support, packaging waste, and administration.
Depending on the types of products you distribute, you may be able to use the same size box for all your products. This will reduce complexity of your packaging process. However, if you have a variety of products, this won’t be an option for you. Trying to use the same sized boxes for your different products will lead to wasted space and reduced efficiency in your delivery process. It is important to find a balance between the complexity of your products and the efficiency of your packaging solutions.
By reducing the number, size, and shape of shipping containers, you can achieve substantial savings in your supply chain.
Minimal Carbon Footprint
Materials like plastic, Styrofoam, and even cardboard are proven to be harmful to the environment as they produce a lot of waste and take years to break down. In fact, one of the biggest causes of environmental degradation is the waste of plastic that is used in packaging. Unfortunately, materials like plastic are the most flexible, durable, and reliable options and they meet the needs of quality primary and secondary packaging.
Although it is unlikely that we will ever eliminate plastic use around the world, it is possible to reduce how often you use it with your product packaging. You can reduce the size of the packaging, limit the use of non-biodegradable substances, and opt for more eco-friendly products when you redesign your product packaging. Not only will these changes minimize your carbon footprint and help the environment, but you will also win points with your customers, especially those who are environmentally conscious.
By proactively thinking about how your packaging can support your product design, you can save thousands of dollars every year. Swedish furniture retailer IKEA saves approximately $1.36 million every year by rethinking product designs from a delivery perspective. By separating their furniture products into several components, they can reduce packaging size by up to 50%. Customers will then assemble the components to full-sized products in their living spaces, which makes the shopping, delivery, and assembling process a win-win solution for both parties.
Let Lean Supply Solutions Help You with Packaging Optimization
If you are looking for the right team to help you optimize your packaging, look no further than Lean Supply Solutions. We have decades of experience in all aspects of the supply chain, from our manufacturing connections, to our courier services. With our software and lean methodology, we efficiently manage inventory, warehousing, and distribution processes, so that you can get the most from our third-party logistics services. We ensure that your customers get their products at the right time, and offer you consistent, accurate, and quality results.
Our services include contract logistics, manufacturing support, consulting and project management, product and order fulfillment, warehouse and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, pick and pack, and more. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you improve your packaging process!
- Published in Blog
Inventory management is one of the most vital aspects of running a successful e-commerce business. As your business grows, your products will be flying off the shelves and you may find yourself in a situation where you have tons of orders to send to your customers. You will need to reorder and replenish your stock at the same rate that products are shipped out, but without the right support you may find it difficult to keep track of each item that moves along the process. With optimized SKU, you can improve your ecommerce business. Here’s how.
What Is a SKU?
SKUs or Stock Keeping Units are alphanumeric codes used by retailers that allow them to efficiently organize inventory and track individual items in warehouses and stores. Each figure in the code represents different product characteristics including model, size, brand, colour, location, and more.
SKUs operate differently for each retailer, but the basic purpose is to help identify items quickly and easily based on these features. The information contained in a SKU is ordered from the most important features to the least.
Why Are SKUs Important?
SKU management provides great value to e-commerce retailers, order fulfillment centres, and warehouse managers. SKUs allow you to keep better track of inventory and trace levels, so that you can identify when you need to reorder certain products.
Here are some of the benefits of SKUs.
Benefits of SKUs
Improves Sales and Tracking
SKUs contain valuable information that can help you improve inventory tracking and increase sales. Information like brand name, category, subcategory, size, colour, and style can all help you identify which products are in highest demand.
Helps You Avoid Out of Stock Situations
With SKUs you can set points to reorder that trigger alerts, so you can restock and maintain your inventory levels. You won’t have to stress about low stock levels, as you can automatically replenish stock with this information.
With the right levels of stock always on-hand, your customers won’t be looking at your competitors to find the merchandise they need.
Speeds Up Inventory Tracking
A well-planned SKU management system can help you avoid many of the challenges associated with manual warehouse management. You can track inventory in real-time and conduct stock counts with ease. SKU management also eliminates the need for manual full inventory counts or cycle counts, which waste time, disrupt the flow of the warehouse, and often result in errors.
Improves Warehouse Management
You can make your warehouse management much easier when you are able to distinguish individual products and their variations quickly. SKUs make this possible by keeping your warehouse organized and helping your staff identify specific products, so that your customers get exactly the items they ordered. With the ability to identify products, responsibilities like picking, packing, and inventory tracking can be done while saving time and avoiding errors.
Reduces Risk of Errors, Theft, and Damage
Errors, damage, and theft are some of the main reasons why items from warehouses get misplaced or go missing. SKUs help resolve this problem by tagging your items immediately as they arrive in your warehouse. You will know exactly where each item is, and where they go. From the time your items hit your shelves to the point that they reach your buyers’ doorsteps, you can track your items along the way. This avoids costly mistakes and reduces the risk of items being stolen, damaged, or lost.
Allows for Informative Reporting
SKUs allow you to generate better reports that are more informative and clearer. You can accurately track stock levels, sales, shrinkage/loss, slow-moving stock, and more. Plus, you can receive information that is right down to individual variations from colour, to size, to style, and more.
Makes Marketing Easier
Product SKUs can improve your marketing and remarketing techniques. You can track data that shows you which products your customers are looking for the most. You can use SKU codes to reach your customers with targeted ads and ensure you are not losing opportunities to make sales.
Improves Search for Your Online Store
When customers look for a specific item, they are likely to use certain details such as colour, size, and style. This helps them narrow down their choices and home in on search results that are most relevant. Repeat customers that want to buy the same product again are also likely to copy and paste product SKUs from their email into a web browser search engine.
If you don’t use SKUs, your store will not appear as one of the results for the product your customer is searching for. On the other hand, if you use them, your store is likely to show up with your better offers, so that you can be the one to close the sale.
Get Inventory Management Help from Lean Supply Solutions
Starting from scratch to provide SKUs for all your products might seem like a daunting task for a small- to medium-sized business. But as your business grows, especially in today’s e-commerce climate, you can’t postpone a change like this much longer. SKU implementation can transform the organization and communication within your company and with your supply chain partners. Instead of trying to adopt these changes on your own, you can tap into the services and benefits of a third-party logistics provide.
If you’re looking for the right 3PL partner to help you implement this inventory management solution, look no further than Lean Supply Solutions. We can help you if you are looking for a 3PL company with the latest technology and cloud-based software systems. Our 3PL and 4PL services include pick and pack, inventory management, delivery, and more, and we are dedicated to helping you achieve consistent, accurate, and quality results.
To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL distribution team, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
- Published in Blog
Shipping a package isn’t complicated, but you should know that there are certain requirements when shipping boxes to customers. One of these requirements is a shipping label. These labels are the only way you can get a courier to deliver your products, as they provide the necessary information to get the job done. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about shipping labels.
1. What Are Shipping Labels?
Shipping labels are identification documents that present information about the shipment. They are attached to boxes when orders are sent out for delivery. Every e-commerce seller must have shipping labels on their boxes to get their shipments to their customers.
The labels will differ depending on your courier of choice but will always show important information such as the recipient’s name and address, the weight of the shipment, and the tracking barcode. This information is required for any courier to deliver your package from its starting point at your warehouse to its destination.
Along with this important information, shipping labels also specify the contents of the package. This is especially the case for international shipments. They also include details about the method of shipping (standard or express).
Shipping labels can only be used once; a new one must be issued each time a new shipment is sent out.
2. What Is the Ideal Structure for Shipping Labels?
Every shipping label must have certain information on it for your courier to deliver the package to your customer. Here is the structure of shipping labels regarding the information you must provide.
- Return Address: This is valuable in cases where the package cannot be delivered. This address should be of your third-party logistics provider’s (3PL) warehouse or home (if you run your business from a home office).
- Destination Address: This is the address of your customer to inform the courier where the shipment needs to be delivered. The postal code or zip code should always be included to make it easier to accurately route the shipment.
- Shipping Date: This is the date the shipment needs to be sent out for delivery. It helps couriers confirm that the shipment is moving along the line following the right timelines.
- Package Weight: This is another vital piece of information that should be included on the shipping label. The weight determines the cost of shipping and impacts how the courier sorts the packages.
- Shipping Class: This feature is an important determiner of how long it will take to deliver the item. The names vary, but they communicate the speed (standard, express, next day, etc.)
- Barcode and Tracking Number: This information helps track the movement of packages during shipment.
3. Where Do I Get Shipping Labels?
There are a few ways to get a shipping label, depending on where you are purchasing your shipping service. If you use a shipping service, you can easily get a label directly from your dashboard. Or, you can generate and print packing slips and customs declarations for shipments on your own by visiting your courier’s web site.
4. Can I Print Shipping Labels from Home?
Shipping labels can be created from the comfort of your home. You can simply download and print your shipping labels directly from your courier website or dashboard. This is the easiest way to create your own shipping labels at home if you run your ecommerce business from there.
If your business is growing, however, you may want to reconsider how you manage your logistics. There are 3PL providers that not only handle shipping labelling and delivery, but they also take care of multiple responsibilities, so that you can focus on sales and marketing.
5. Do I Need a Special Printer to Print Shipping Labels?
In general, you will not need a special printer to print shipping labels. You can download these labels directly from your courier’s website or your dashboard and print them on any printer. However, you will need to purchase clear, plastic stick-on envelopes to put the slips inside and adhere them to the boxes. Or, you can tape or glue them to the package. There are special printers that can print self-adhesive shipping labels for you.
6. How Can Lean Supply Solutions Help Improve My Shipping Process?
Shipping labels are one important factor to ensure you have right when sending deliveries to customers, but there are more details to address before the labels are slapped onto your boxes.
With the help of an experienced 3PL partner like Lean Supply Solutions, you can access the right shipping company that gets your products to your customers safely and on-time. As a 3PL partner, we have the services you need to exceed your customer expectations, get better tracking of your inventory and supplies, prepare and forecast changes, and more. When it comes to your shipping process, there is little room for error if you want your business to grow and profit. This is why working with a 3PL partner is an unmatched solution.
If you are looking for the right company to partner with, Lean Supply Solutions is the answer. We rise to the challenge of meeting our clients’ needs through our services, which include product fulfillment, warehousing and distribution, e-commerce fulfillment, warehouse pick and pack, order fulfillment, shipping, delivery, and more. To learn more about outsourcing to us, or to ask any questions, contact us today.
- Published in Blog
Fourth-party logistics (4PL) providers have a huge role within the supply chain. Not only do they assume many of the same roles as third-party logistics (3PL) providers, but they also take on a bigger responsibility in helping the business clients reach their goals.
The main difference between a 3PL vs. 4PL provider is the level of accountability and control. 4PLs are more like trusted advisors and the customer often relies heavily on their data and services to grow and meet their business goals. Depending on your business size and goals, one of these options will be right for you. For a deeper look at the difference between these two types of logistics management, here’s what you need to know.
What Is 4PL?
Fourth-party logistics is a model in which manufacturers outsource both the organization and management of their supply chain to an external provider. 4PL offers a higher level of effective supply chain management to customers, which allows manufacturers to completely outsource their logistics process to external professionals for better management.
For example, the manufacture of a product will outsource aspects such as logistics, packaging, warehousing, and delivery of their products to a 4PL company. A 4PL company will then take control all these operations so that the manufacturer or retailer can focus on other aspects of their business.
These services include:
- Freight sourcing strategies
- Analysis of transportation expenses
- Analysis of carrier performance
- Effective 3PL management
- Business planning
- Project management
- Management of inbound, outbound, and reverse logistics
- Coordination of a wide supplier base
- Network analysis and designs
- Analysis of capacity utilization
- Inventory planning and management
Advantages of 4PL
- Wider Management of Operations: Shipping, distribution, warehousing, physical sites, and information flow are all managed by the provider.
- Information Technology: Software and automation are processes included in 4PL services to improve communication across the network. Providers can offer valuable information technology and software that increases visibility on a real-time basis.
- Solution-Oriented Methods: 4PL providers aim to design the solution first to meet the business’ requirements. They have expertise of end-to-end operations that relate to warehousing, distribution, freight, and information technology, and provide the best solutions for the client.
Disadvantages of 4PL
- Less control over fulfillment and logistics processes
- Possibility of being cost-prohibitive for start-up organizations and small businesses
What Is 3PL?
Third-party logistics involves a manufacturer maintaining oversight of their supply chain but outsourcing transportation and logistics operations to a 3PL provider. This model is similar to 4PL in many ways, but 3PL providers focus on logistics such as inventory storage, inventory management, customs brokerage, freight forwarding, contract management, picking and packing, crossdocking, and IT solutions. Unlike a 4PL, 3PL providers will not oversee the entire supply chain and organization.
Advantages of 3PL
- Resource Network: A 3PL provider has a large resource network that provides advantages for in-house supply chains. They will manage all the logistics for a business from beginning to end. With their relationships and discounts, they can save you money on overhead and provide you with faster service.
- Save Time and Money: A 3PL provider will eliminate your need to invest in warehouse space, technology, transportation, and staff to execute the logistics process. They can also manage billing, audits, training, staffing, and optimization.
- Scalability and Flexibility: 3PL providers can also scale space, transportation, and labour according to your inventory needs.
Disadvantages of 3PL
- Less inventory control
- Costly expense if customer orders are low
- Suitable for small-to-medium businesses, but not large ones
- Limited control over the customer experience and fulfillment
The Main Differences between 4PL and 3PL
The main difference between a 3PL provider and a 4PL provider is that a 4PL handles the entire supply chain, while a 3PL focuses on logistics. Each one provides its own advantages depending on your situation, so understanding what you get with each provider will help you make the right decisions for your company.
Here are some of the key differences between the two options:
- 4PL providers are better for medium-to-large businesses, while 3PL providers are more suitable for small-to-medium businesses.
- 4PL providers function at the optimization and integration level while 3PL providers focus more on daily operations.
- 4PL providers may own assets like trucks and warehouses while 3PL providers generally don’t typically own these assets.
- 4PL companies can effectively coordinate the activities of 3PL providers.
- 4PL providers provide the highest level of logistics services for a great value while 3PL providers are more focused on one-off transactions.
- 4PL providers maintain a single point of contact for every business’ supply chain while with 3PL providers, businesses often need to manage certain aspects of the supply process internally.
Choose Lean Supply Solutions for 3PL or 4PL Services
If you have a start-up or small to medium-sized business 3PL services will be the better option for you. They will help you manage your warehousing and distribution so you can focus on marketing and sales as your business grows. However, if you need a wider range of services for your medium to large-sized organization a 4PL provider will be better suited to you.
The good news is that Lean Supply Solutions offers both. We offer 3PL and 4PL services, depending on what works best for our clients. While you get the logistics support you need, we will also ensure you get a return on your investment.
Our services include contract logistics, e-commerce fulfillment services, inventory planning and management, supply chain management and optimization, pick-and-pack services, freight and warehousing, reverse logistics management, and more.
We rise to the challenge of understanding our customers’ needs and providing customized solutions to help them succeed. To learn more about outsourcing to our 3PL or 4PL services or to ask any questions, contact us today.
- Published in Blog
If you’ve been working in the order fulfillment industry for a while, you’ve probably heard about technology like chatbots, auto-email replies, barcode scanners, customer management software, robotics, and more. Automation is everywhere, and many of your competitors are taking full advantage of this technology to optimize their supply chain. If you want to learn more about how automated shipping can benefit your organization, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Automated Shipping?
Automated shipping is the automatic process of ensuring commercial shipping procedures are performed as new orders are placed. This includes picking items from inventory, packing boxes, and delivering packages to customers.
When it comes to fulfillment, speed is one of the major advantages that companies seek. With an automated shipping solution, you can automatically get orders in cue and eliminate several manual tasks involved in the process. You can introduce robots to take over manual tasks, add a layer of software to your system, or install conveyor belts to move products through the warehouse.
Benefits of Automated Shipping
Improved Order Accuracy Rate
An automated shipping system can significantly improve your order accuracy rate. It achieves this by automatically checking the existing cube and weight of a carton against the expected cube and weight of an order. If any carton that is processed shows that it is following outside of the expected range, it will be diverted for manual checking and reprocessing. In the long run, this translates to fewer errors, fewer returns, and happier customers who are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.
Automated shipping systems lead to significantly faster turnarounds. Since tasks like packing, adhering shipping labels, and sorting or counting stock levels can be time-consuming when handled manually, automation can help you perform these tasks faster. A streamlined shipping process helps you increase production, which lets you cater to more orders in less time. The ultimate benefit of automation is that it helps you drive sales and boost your profits.
For example, you can use barcodes to speed up processes. As you scan items, it automatically updates counts and data in your warehouse management system. Similarly, you can send tracking information in real-time to your customers using GPS location on your delivery trucks.
Optimizes Supply Chain
The process of optimizing your supply chain aims to consolidate your data in one place. This makes it easier to track orders and manage inventory, and even provides you with data to improve demand forecasting.
An automated warehouse helps businesses fully integrate inventory management through the ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. This includes all fixed and current assets and goods available. Automation provides access to important information such as your customer address book, the introduction of fuel charges, and other types of automatic storage. With accurate and updated information such as this, it will help you eliminate significant errors that can be costly.
With manual data entering, the risk of errors is increasingly high. This can have many negative financial consequences especially as your business changes and grows. Some of the consequences of these errors include increased delivery costs, maintaining excessively high availability, improper planning and coordinating, future penalties for documentation errors, and more.
With the right freight management software, you can optimize your entire logistics business. You may be surprised to find out how many aspects of your operations can be integrated to bring peace of mind to your warehouse managers and your customers.
Automated shipping systems can help your business find significant reductions in shipping costs. This is a huge advantage for organizations that work in this industry because shipping costs tend to account for a huge percentage of total fulfillment costs. Some of the savings you will find through automation include the labour savings mentioned before, but also includes the benefit of fewer dimensional weight surcharges.
Automation reduces dimensional weight surcharges, thus keeping the costs lower. This is accomplished in numerous ways, but the most common method is cartonization. Cartonization is the process of using software to ensure that orders are shipped in the best sized packaging for the items inside. This ensures that shipments do not fail the dimensional weight calculation test.
If a shipment fails this test, it is flagged and redirected for repackaging into a more appropriately sized carton to eliminate or reduce the surcharge. Over time, these savings can have a major impact on your bottom line.
Choose Lean Supply Solutions to Automate Your Shipping
An automated shipping process can help your business grow and save money at the same time. Although automation is usually reserved for large enterprises, e-commerce merchants and small businesses that partner with third party logistics providers (3PLs) can access automation to help them save on shipping costs as their business grows.
At Lean Supply Solutions, you can benefit from quality and accurate software and automation solutions that help you make wiser decisions about optimizing your supply chain. Our Lean Methodology helps our clients eliminate any operations, equipment, personnel, or resources that do not add value to their supply chains. We do our best to ensure that you consistently deliver the right products to the right customers at the right time.
Ready to get long-term savings, customer satisfactions that deliver the best return on investment, lower operating costs, improved focus, high-end technology, and more? We’re here to help you. In addition to automated shipping, our services also include warehousing and distribution, pick and pack, repackaging, integrated solutions with companies like Amazon, labelling, online reporting, and transportation. You can trust us to provide consistent, predictable, and quality results. Contact us today!
- Published in Blog
For many companies, their e-commerce sales have outperformed those of their brick-and-mortar store sales. Now, in light of the global pandemic, companies are seeing their online sales skyrocket to new heights. In 2020, after merchants closed their doors and adapted to online retail avenues, many quickly realized the difference between delivering products to customers and having them come to the store.
The fulfillment process has never been more important to retailers. Each order placed online needs to be picked from available inventory, packed in boxes, properly labelled for shipment, and physically delivered to the customer. There are retail fulfillment costs that come with this process, too.
If you want to truly embrace what it means to be an omnichannel business, you’ll need to improve your retail fulfillment process and get professional logistics management to help you with the heavy lifting. What is retail fulfillment? How can a logistics provider help you scale your e-commerce business? Here’s everything you need to know to optimize.
What Is Retail Fulfillment?
Retail fulfillment involves the assembly and shipment of a customer product order. Instead of a customer going to a physical store to buy the items they want, they can visit your website and purchase the items they want. The e-commerce platform allows this notification to arrive to the fulfillment centre, where they will ensure the correct products are picked, packed, and delivered to the customer.
The Importance of the Retail Fulfillment Process
Retail fulfilment is important to your online because it directly impacts customer satisfaction and profits. Although you may be an excellent salesperson, you still need to consider the costs and time to pack orders, ship them out, and deliver them to your customers within an acceptable time frame. If you cannot deliver on these guarantees each time your customers place orders, they will happily move on to a retailer that can.
Working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to manage your retail fulfillment process is necessary to helping your business grow. Their efficient processes and management of customer orders will help you scale as demand increases, so you can also make more profits.
Workflow of the Retail Fulfillment Process
Receiving New Inventory
As products leave your inventory to go to your customers, you will need to order more. If you have an e-commerce system in place, you will likely get a lot more orders than your local shoppers. With a retail fulfillment provider, you will be more equipped to manage reorder quantities and have a deeper understanding of inventory forecasting.
When new inventory comes into your fulfillment centre, each SKU will get a storage bin, shelf, or pallet, and will be organized into the physical and digital system with proper documentation. A warehouse management team can help you implement the right organization, infrastructure, software, and processes to track your inventory.
After the inventory is stored, the next step is to use those organized products to fulfill customer orders. Your stock levels will need to be monitored to ensure that you replenish items as they are sold to prevent stockouts.
Picking and Packing
When a customer places an order and it has been processed in your queue, a picking list is generated. This list is given to warehouse workers to retrieve the products and prepare them for packing. Most deliveries are sent in durable cardboard boxes or poly mailers. These containers may be filled with stuffing to protect the products from bouncing around and getting broken during delivery.
The last step in the fulfillment process is shipping. The item will be shipped or delivered to the customer and should arrive before the estimated date as posted on your website after they checkout the item. A 3PL provider that has great relationships with shipping companies and drivers can ensure that your products will arrive to your customers on time.
Retail Fulfillment Optimization
Selecting a Fulfilment Centre
The closer your fulfillment centre is to your customers, the more affordable and simpler your shipping process will be. But even with international customers, you can help customers get their orders faster while reducing shipping costs if you choose a fulfillment provider with strategic locations.
Integrated Fulfillment Software
When choosing your 3PL partner, be sure that they have integrated fulfillment software and technology. Their software should seamlessly integrate with the e-commerce platform and online marketplace to better manage orders across sales channels.
As soon as an order is placed online, your fulfillment staff will get the alert to pick, pack, and ship the right items to the customer. Then, tracking information can be sent to the platform or marketplace and shared with your customers when you ship their orders.
Amazon’s lightning-speed two-day shipping is the new expectation, so customers want to know that they won’t have to wait long between the time they checkout a purchase online and receive the item at their door. Choosing a 3PL provider with strategically located distribution centers will save you big time on delivery and shipping. You can reduce your fulfillment time without paying for expedited costs.
Choose Lean Supply Solutions
If you’re looking for quality retail order fulfillment support and want to partner with a company near you, Lean Supply Solutions is your solution. We offer extensive e-commerce solutions to a wide range of retailers around the world and provide an assortment of services to help your business grow. Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your supply chain operations.
- Published in Blog
As you’re probably already aware, the world is still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact that things seem to have slightly calmed down. An increasing number of countries are successfully mitigating and reducing the amount of viral transmissions by enforcing stringent health and safety policies. However, worldwide e-commerce fulfillment operations are still being severely impacted by the wake of the coronavirus. International border closures and warehouse lockdowns have caused massive delivery delays and disruptions across the supply chain, logistics management, and distribution industries on a mass scale.
Despite all of these setbacks, however, many order fulfillment and supply chain operations are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Innovative e-commerce solutions such as third-party logistics (3PL) operations can help you get your supply chain and logistics management systems back on track.
What Are End-to-End e-Commerce Solutions? How Can They Benefit Your Business?
Third-party end-to-end e-commerce solutions offer invaluable support to help your business stay competitive no matter what challenges you and your industry are currently facing. From creating effective marketing campaigns to processing transactions to handling delivery services, end-to-end solutions encompass a vast array of services that aid in order fulfillment. Most importantly, end-to-end solutions streamline your business process and ensure that you can fulfill your direct-to-consumer processes as efficiently and accurately as possible.
Outsourcing end-to-end solutions to 3PLs can help you save a great deal of time, money, and resources that you can then allocate to other more or equally important aspects of your business while still minimizing financial and labour-related risks. Ultimately, the goal of end-to-end business and e-commerce solutions such as 3PL is to provide your business with the robust technological networks it requires to achieve your customer satisfaction goals and uphold your company values.
What Are the Different E-Commerce Services That Are Available?
When it comes to logistics management, there are a variety of palpable e-commerce service options that are available to meet the unique needs and standards of both your business and your industry at large. Considering all of the options that are available to you, there’s no need to compromise on any level of service. You have the option of choosing from a robust and unlimited list of e-commerce solutions that perfectly suit your needs and adhere to your company’s mission statement.
Here is an overview of some of the different types of e-commerce services that are currently available, but keep in mind that the industry standards are constantly evolving.
Building Strong e-Commerce Platforms
E-commerce platforms are online tools that you can use to build your custom business website. Alternatively, they can also be integrated into your existing website if you already have one. These innovative online tools can help you enhance your website by adding unique features to keep your brand competitive and set you apart from other companies in your industry.
Building a website can be expensive and complex but using the right e-commerce platforms and website building tools is an excellent starting point to help you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Secure Transaction Processing
Another benefit of integrating the right e-commerce solutions into your business model is that they provide secure transactional tools that are easy to use and manage. These tools include online order forms, contact pages, etc. Customers can use these tools to place online orders, make general inquiries, or to simply contact your business. E-commerce platforms provide safe and secure networks for your customers to complete transactions on your website without the fear of having their sensitive payment information hacked or intercepted.
You should also invest in secure cloud-based network management and security systems to give your customers further peace of mind and build trust.
Improve Inventory Management Processes
One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses of all sizes and industries is how to effectively and accurately manage and store inventory. Whether you have one or multiple warehouses and storage facilities, keeping track of your entire inventory is essential to both sustaining and expanding your business while minimizing cost.
Working with the right third-party logistics company can streamline and simplify your inventory management process, helping you save a lot of money, time, and resources—all of which are valuable commodities in the supply chain and retail industries. Robust supply chain companies have access to unlimited warehouses, storage facilities, and distribution centers in addition to strong relationships with countless retailers around the world. Partnering with logistics management and supply chain company allows you to focus on other pertinent aspects of running your business, so you can leave the logistical side of things to the experts.
Boosting Order Fulfillment Rates
From managing inventory to distributing and shipping products out to customers, order fulfillment is a vital part of running a successful e-commerce business. At the end of the day, customers expect their orders to be delivered within the specified delivery period. And, if they paid extra for same-day or express shipping, the customer satisfaction stakes are a lot higher.
Sometimes delays that are out of your control do happen and that’s perfectly understandable, especially given the-pandemic related obstacles faced by the supply chain industry. But there are ways in which 3PLs can streamline your order fulfillment process while still working within the confines of those restrictions and making sure products are delivered to your customers in a timely fashion. Customers can track their orders in real time, and they’ll be notified immediately if there are any delays.
Customer Support and Return Management
Customer support and return management are two branches that are intertwined on the supply chain tree. As your business continues to grow, so will your need for a robust and experienced team of customer support and return management team. Take this as the sign of success that it is.
3PLs can ensure that all customer needs are resolved amicably and that returned products are processed in a timely manner so that they can be inspected for damages and resale value.
Need supply chain and logistics management support? Lean Supply Solutions offers extensive e-commerce solutions to a wide range of retailers around the world. Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your supply chain operations.
- Published in Blog