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.
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.
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.
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!
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.