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10 Tips To Master Greener Pick & Pack Warehousing Plan

October 17, 2014

In any typical warehouse, picking and packing are no doubt the most essential activity, and it plays a very great role in customer satisfaction as well as in analyzing the overall supply chain performance. Pick and pack warehousing is part of the entire management system of a supply chain commonly used in product distributions There are various picking and packing plans and one of the best and recommended is the eco-friendly green warehousing plan. It costs nothing more than regular shipping methods but it has more healthy and safe picking and packing solutions. For one to realize a greener and eco-friendly pick & pack warehousing strategy, they should ensure that they:

Use eco-friendly transport

This should be preferable via ocean transport for oversea distributions or via eco-friendly freight rail if possible. For local distribution, consider rail transport since more than 90% of domestic pollution comes from vehicles while rail is responsible for only 0.6%

Use intelligent lighting

This includes incorporation of sensors, which reduces power consumption in as much as 10%. You could also prefer solar energy which provides natural, safe and eco-friendly energy and lighting.

Store in natural aerated rooms

Ensure that the products relax in facilities that are naturally ventilated or if not possible ones that are powered by green power; more specifically wind power. This reduces the amount of carbon dioxide from most power sources that finally contaminate the products. A megawatt of wind energy has over 2600 fewer tons of carbon dioxide.

Use forklifts that don’t emit carbon monoxide or other noxious emissions

Most forklifts are powered with propane, which poses a risk since it gives off fumes that sink into the packaged material thus contaminating them.

Use recycled and eco-friendly packaging boxes

Fresh and eco-friendly boxes will always ensure that the product is safe, while recycling saves cutting down of trees and at the same time reduces waste thrown around.

Use 100% recycled paper to make the packing slips

This reduces the amount of natural resources used up and reduces the amount of chemicals used in the process.

Electronic invoices

Instead of using paper for invoice, prefer electronic invoices to save on the paper used. This is eco-friendly since it reduces trees wastage.

Use green tape for securing your packaged boxes

Keep your products safe and secure in the boxes by using recycled security tapes. They reduce the amount of waste thrown around thus keeping the environment clean.

Prefer automated methods for moving products

The more you move products about manually, the more they get contaminated with dust and other gas pollutants. However, with a conveyance belt, you can move them about easily and safely.

Use a green roof

Incorporation of a living roof in the warehouse or workplace is not only a wonderful experience but also a better way of saving energy. It reduces indoor temperatures by up to 4 degrees thus saving on energy used up by fans and other cooling devices. Embracing a green pick and pack warehousing plan is a great way to take care of our planet as well as ensuring that your consumers receive safe and uncontaminated products.

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Mobile sales: they’re growing, and they won’t slow down

October 7, 2014

Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to find too many people that don’t own a smartphone of some kind: almost everyone seems to be carrying an iPhone, Android or Windows phone. And, on their phone, they’re sure to have countless apps, from social media to banking, games to emails. And retail companies are reaping the rewards, too, with dozens of the country’s biggest names like Asos and John Lewis each with their own app offering a new way to browse products and make purchases. This article takes a look at how mobile is one of the best platforms for commerce, and how you can cash in on it.

What’s it all about?

For a few years now, mobile apps have been gaining momentum as one of the leading platforms on which sell products. The inception of apps started with the launch of the iPhone back in 2007, but only in the last few years has the true retail potential of the app been realised. And it’s not only apps where mobile sales have been increasing. The majority of large companies, whether retailers or not, have optimised their website for mobile; what this means is that viewing their website on the small screen of a mobile phone shows a different, more streamlined site, making it easier to see the content and ultimately more appealing to look around and buy something. All this has led medium and small businesses to think about how they can get involved with mobile. There’s clearly money to be made in the placing your products quite literally into the palm of a customer’s hand, and more and more companies are realising it.

How can you take advantage and gain more mobile sales?

As it stands, you have a website. This website may or may not be optimised for mobile – if it isn’t, then to do so requires editing the code that the website is built on. If you have an agency that runs your site then get in touch with them first. Or, if you run it yourself, a quick Google should help you understand what needs to be done. Now, onto the subject of the app. Apps are built by Developers (digital builders), and can require a lot of testing and development. In order to create an app for your venture, the best thing to do would be to get in touch with a digital agency or app developer – sometimes, this is the same company that runs your website. They should be able to offer you a quote for building and maintaining your app., and talk you through the process of designing, building, testing and launching your new ecommerce platform.

 A final word

There’s no question that creating an app for your ecommerce business is the right way to go. A well-built app will allow customers to purchase goods directly through it and change your stock levels automatically. This data can then be sent to your pick and pack fulfilment provider who will ship the products to the paying customer. Apps and the sales they provide will only continue to grow, and failing to get on board at the right time could see your business lose out.

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On your doorstep: how mailing campaigns can hit home with potential customers

October 1, 2014

Choosing to try new approaches to reaching new customers is a big step to take: it often involves a great deal of research into that approach to find out its strengths and weaknesses, to see the true results that it can give. When it comes to mailing campaigns, that’s no different. A mailing campaign is a method that quite literally puts your company and the services it can offer on the doorstep of a potential customer, so its little wonder that time after time, London businesses see the value of these types of campaigns. In this post, we take a look at how a fulfilment company can help you grow your business using a campaign of this type, and unpack what a mailing campaign entails.

Fulfilment companies are here to help

Fulfilment companies specialise in providing businesses solutions to the distribution of their goods. Their work is varied, but often involves larger-scale pick and pack fulfilment, in which items are distributed to customers in a range of order sizes, but can also involve distribution of another type: marketing material. In this case, the fulfilment company’s offer to your business becomes not about getting your goods to your customers, but getting you to customers.
The mailing campaign service that a fulfilment company can provide is large-scale and tailored to the geographical areas you believe will yield the highest quantity of new custom. It involves providing entire areas with material that explain who you are and what you can offer your customers, all in a professional, efficient manner. It takes the pressure off from your shoulders, too, as a key piece in marketing your business to the city of London is done for you, leaving you time to focus on growing your business.

How can mailing campaigns help your business?

As with any new approach to add to your business, it’s worth understanding as much as you can about that approach. When it comes to mailing campaigns, though, there isn’t as much as you might expect to get your head round. The method of reaching potential customers through a mailing campaign rests on the impact of volume. What we mean by this is that the more published material you deliver, the higher the number of new clients to your business. This is, of course, due to the simple fact that more people will see your business and the benefits you can bring to them.

In addition to this, though, there are things that can be done to yield even greater numbers of new customers through a London mailing campaign. One of these is in the material itself: it’s all about making the item that your potential customer sees as eye-catching as possible. Make it stand-out from everything else they’ll read that day, and really pick out the highlights of what your business can offer.

The other major practice to maximising your chances of new customers is employing a professional fulfilment service to perform the mailing campaign for you. And that’s something we can help you with.

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Top Packaging & Posting Tips

September 23, 2014

Any good fulfilment company will do their utmost when transferring goods from one customer to another. They are aware that first impressions count, and that no matter how excellent the product is, the memory of how it was delivered will remain in the psyche of the client long after the product has perished or died.

If you run an online shop and are looking to deal with the picking and packing and posting of goods here are a few tips for you

You can help ensure that your parcel arrives in the same state that it was when you last saw it.

Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Whether you own a small business or are part of a large concern, the wisest course would be for you to put yourself in the shoes of your buyer. How would you like to receive your package?

Fold, Roll or Bundle

This all depends on the item of clothing, together with your personal choice. For T-shirts and trousers you would fold, then roll, whereas socks you might just want to fold them together and not bother with the roll.

Fragile, Handle with Care

Put heavy items at the bottom. Seems a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t do this.

 It is all very well writing “FRAGILE, HANDLE WITH CARE” on your parcel, but once it is out of the hands of the individual and in a mail bag or package cage your goods can tend to be knocked around by other parcels. It’s best to pack them securely to start with.

If you are sending crockery or glass, be sure to wrap each item individually with bubble wrap. Otherwise, even if they don’t break, they can chip each other.

  • Double up on the containers.
  • Try to use a corrugated box for the outer container.
  • Bubble wrap is an excellent commodity to surround the inner container.
  • Please use reinforced packing tape generously, we can’t stress this enough

Sharp & Dangerous

Items This is where the reinforced packing tape comes into play again. If you are exporting anything sharp like knives, wrap them tightly with bubble wrap and use plenty of the tape until you cannot feel anything sharp and feel sure that the item won’t protrude through.

Delicate Items

Items such as picture frames and mirrors can be easily crushed in transport. Make sure that you protect the front and back with corrugated cardboard and that it is larger than the item. Put bubble wrap or cloth between the glass and the cardboard. This will reduce pressure, preventing breakages.

Perishable Items

Things like food should be transported in paper maché trays. Again, we suggest you use corrugated cardboard for the outside. As with the fragile items these foods and such should be labelled as perishable goods.

Fulfilment companies such as ours specialises in the safe deliverance of products on behalf of their customers so if all the above seems like too much to handle for your company, then why not consider outsourcing your order fulfilment to a company with expertise in this area.

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The Major Dangers of online retailing and how to combat them

September 17, 2014

As we all know, outsourcing the warehousing and distribution end of your business can yield fantastic results for your business. Finding professional logistics services that can take your supply chain to the next level will only serve to improve your customer service, keeping your buyers loyal in a marketplace that is becoming increasingly competitive. In this article, we take a look at some of the dangers that online businesses large and small face, and the solutions that can be put into place to combat them.

Major danger number 1: Getting stung by undercutting competitors

The first potential threat to your business comes in the form of your competitors’ approaches to pricing. It’s a buyer’s market, and your competitors know it. That’s why they’ll often set their prices just lower than yours in an attempt to undercut you, giving you a couple of options: you can choose to lower yours, too, but the downside of this is the decrease in your margins.

The true alternative to this approach is offering your customers greater customer service for the money they’re already paying, i.e. more for their money. When it comes to online retailing, though, there aren’t many ways of doing this: one is to ensure your website is up to scratch. Perhaps more importantly, though, is perfecting the distribution of your products to your customers. To do this, think about your current offer: are you providing multiple delivery options, such as Next Day or collection from a Customer Collect location? Remember, everyone has different needs: some customers want their goods ASAP, others are happy to wait. Talk to your Pick and Pack service provider to see what customer delivery options are available for you to offer or visit

Major danger number 2: Mastering social media for your online shop

The second threat we’ll talk about is all about marketing what you can offer in the most attractive way possible. Failing to do so undoubtedly leads to falling sales, giving your competitors the edge. This doesn’t mean you have to spend heavily on a professional PR and Marketing service, though. These days, the tools for effective promotion of your goods and communication with your customers are quite literally at your fingertips, and you’ve probably been using them in some capacity for years. We’re talking, of course, about social media.

Social media is divided into a number of separate platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These platforms are used by businesses of all sizes across the globe to reach their customers and promote their products in many different ways. Take a look at some large companies and their social media and you’ll notice some common themes: simple, powerful messages.

Keeping it basic is key: talk about the products you offer in easy-to-understand, friendly ways. Promote what sets you apart from the rest, whether it’s the quality of your products, a compelling company story or the great customer service you offer. And make sure you promote your efficient distribution service: nobody wants to find an exciting new retailer through social media only to discover the products they want aren’t available when they need them.

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Smarter online selling – The golden rules

September 8, 2014

Providing efficient distribution can often be the deciding factor between customers that return and those that don’t. Getting fulfilment right every time is a must for online selling. Follow our golden rules to online trading and you’ll be making sure those customers buy from you again and again.

Distribution revolution

Some customers are content with receiving their items a week after they buy; some want them the very next day. Providing a number of delivery options (and the prices to match) means that you’re catering to even more of your customers’ needs.

Checking in 

When an order arrives from your supplier, it’s easy to make mistakes with checking the products in. For a professional fulfilment service, though, that’s no concern. With an experienced team, numbered stock locations and a reliable stock management system, checking-in mistakes can be a thing of the past.

Lay waste to wastage

One major headache for retailers is losing stock through theft and loss. Keeping your goods in a secure location is one of the most important safeguards to make. Pick and pack firms offer such security as part of their service – your items, stored in a secure fulfilment warehouse, remain there until a customer orders them.

Keep in touch with your customers…

Bring your customers into the fold with regular email communications. Keeping them up-to-date with new products, promotions and news will keep their interest, and provide valuable marketing data to find out who’s actually buying your stock.

… but don’t forget to say ‘thank you’

Reward your customers’ loyalty with a promotional code every now and then. If your customers are signed-up to regular communications, think about giving them a one-off discount as a reward and your business a quick boost in sales.

Worldwide shipping

With the internet available on just about every corner of the planet, you don’t want to miss out on potential customers who want to purchase your products but can’t due to restrictive distribution. Get those goods available to them through offering international shipping.

Discounting down the days

Retailers know the time of the year their customers expect to find a cut-price sale. Give your customers a nice surprise with a short-term ‘flash’ sale – it’ll clear that leftover stock, increase brand loyalty and set your sales on the increase.

Get the logistics of your stock right

To keep customers happy, the products they need have to be available when they need them, meaning your supplier needs to be on the ball. So, keeping supply chain management as efficient as possible is top of the agenda. Getting your stock delivered straight to a fulfilment centre for storage and distribution saves time, and your customers get the products they need as fast as possible.

Trust is difficult to build, but easy to lose

Just like your customers trust you to deliver the products they need, you can trust a professional pick and pack service to get your products to those customers when they need them. Getting that bit right is something that Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics can assist with.

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Ecommerce Stores – Supply chain management for your Christmas orders

September 3, 2014

Christmas is coming! Good supply chain management now can prevent the problems so many ecommerce merchants had last holiday season

Much ink has already been spilled over the delivery-by Christmas debacles, both the embarrassing high-profile disasters in the US, and the less notorious but more personally damaging failures here in the UK. Nonetheless, it is time for those of us in supply chain management to ask ourselves what we will actually be doing differently this year.

Investments some companies have already made in supply chain management

Both large and small operations, both merchants and fulfilment companies, have made significant investments in supply chain management in order to deliver credible claims of fast, reliable delivery of last minute Christmas gifts. Some of the more common changes include:

  • Upgrading communications and call centre capability, both in-house and outsourced, especially ensuring that customers have reliable and fast access to the status and current location of their orders.
  • Increased automation of existing distribution facilities and assets, or expansion of their facilities.
  • Planned outsourcing of certain segments of their fulfilment for the duration of the holiday rush – essentially adding extra temporary capacity.
  • Planned ‘pop-up’ distribution or call centre facilities and temporary employees for short-term use

What supply chain management professionals can expect from the 2014 season

Many have cited the compression of the 2013 holiday season as part of the problem. It was a mere 26 days, after all. That does not mean that it will not be a problem this year. The 2014 season is short as well, only 28 days, and those extra two days of capacity are likely to be taken up by the increase in demand most merchants expect.

Much of the debacle last year was simple bad supply chain management – failure to get orders out the door in time, and over-committing resources by several parties in the chain. This year, it is hoped, we have all learned to say ‘No, we can’t deliver another order on time, and we are unwilling to try’. Still, expect some disappointments, and make sure all of your suppliers and carriers are on board with the realistic strategy. It only takes one bad link after all.

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Pick and pack tips to reducing the cost of order fulfilment

August 27, 2014

Ecommerce is a very competitive industry, and nine times out of ten a new customer will pick the least expensive provider of a good or service, regardless of any other factors. Order fulfilment, and specifically pick and pack can be responsible for a lot of your overhead, and making efficiency advances there could help your overall profitability quite a bit.

Kitting can improve your pick and pack performance and reduce costs

Kitting is essentially bundling certain items together before hand, and assigning a single SKU to the new ‘kit’. Of course this relies on having accurate order predictions, but if you know that a substantial number of orders that include Product X also contain Products Y and Z, your pick and pack people can use slow periods, night shifts, or other less in demand time to pre-bundle a portion of your inventory together.

The kit can be packed as part of a larger order, or shipped as is with only the addition of a label, depending on how you choose to package it. Kitting has been shown to improve the efficiency of both in-house and outsourced pick and pack operations. Many suppliers will even kit items before delivery to you, for a small fee.

Reassessing your packaging options could keep your pick and pack process competitive

The ‘pack’ half of pick and pack is too often overlooked in terms of efficiency efforts. Efficient packaging is a balance between the flexibility of large boxes, and the added costs of shipping empty space and bubble wrap.

At a minimum, you should review your packaging decisions every year, and perhaps more often. Shifts in buying patterns, discontinued product lines new pick and pack options could make your current system inefficient, or provide newer, better systems at any time.

Make sure you address the purchase cost of your materials as well as the transport inefficiencies. It may still be more efficient overall to buy and ship 10,000 large boxes than 5000 large, 4000 medium and 1000 small.

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What can a Labour Management System do for your Fulfilment Warehouse?

August 21, 2014

Every Fulfilment Warehouse feels the pressure to improve efficiency and service, and to streamline operations as much as possible. Often when it is time to expand operations, managers begin to consider bringing in a LMS to help them keep track of the performance and statistics of larger numbers of warehouse workers without adding more managers.

At what point does a Fulfilment Warehouse need a LMS?

The first sign that you may need to automate your labour management more extensively is that you have trouble keeping tabs on your workers individually. A LMS lets you define the metrics most important to your fulfilment warehouse or other facility, and which are most central to your own management philosophy. It can them put that information at your fingertips, either on a department or individual employee level.

Many fulfilment warehousing or merchants who support their own distribution centres look to LMSs when they take their first steps into omnichannel marketing or ecommerce. It just becomes too expensive, in terms of time and wages, to track performance data manually. The LMS then frees up the manager’s time for strategic and direct personnel management.

How can Fulfilment Warehouse managers take best advantage of a new LMS?

Much depends on the size of your operation, and the extent of automation you need. Ease of implementation is by far the most important consideration, though. An extensive LMS involves a massive paradigm shift for even a small operation.

Many merchants instead opt to hand their entire fulfilment warehouse function over to a 3PL or fulfilment partner who has an established LMS already operating, and who can easily link it to the merchant’s own systems. Often, the expertise they bring to the table is worth as much, or more, than the reduced price per order most offer.

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Benefits of Outsourcing Logistics

August 12, 2014

Logistics management refers to the process of planning, executing, controlling efficient, effectual flow and warehousing of goods, services and associated information from the place of origin to the place of consumption with an aim of meeting the customer needs. When you let another person, specialised in logistics offer these services, it is termed outsourcing logistics.

Why consider outsourcing logistics?

There are a number of benefits that businesses can reap by outsourcing the supply chain management to a third party logistics. Third party logistics provides an all-in-one solution as far as assembly packaging, warehousing, and distribution of goods are concerned. Making use of third party logistics offers your business with dependable vantage logistics leading to optimization of profit integrating resources and knowledge. These benefits include:

Vast resource network: the extensive network offered by third party logistics services is advantageous compared to the in-house supply chains. With this resource network, each of the supply chain steps is carried out efficiently and cost effectively leading to lower overhead costs.

Optimized services: these logistics service providers have all the resources needed to fine tune each link in the supply chain or even restructure the whole supply chain. Using technology and the resources at their disposal, they ensure that an appropriate amount of goods are transported to where they are required effectively, efficiently and in a cost effective manner within the shortest time possible. The highly advanced management software these logistics service providers use is capable of analyzing and monitoring the entire process which helps to detect and remove any inefficiency so as to streamline the supply chain- this amounts to a constantly improved and optimized logistics.

Saves time and cuts costs: employing services of a third party logistics company saves the time you would have taken to execute the supply chain yourself; this time can be used to do other things for the improvement of your organization. It also helps you save money meant for warehousing, transportation, and the personnel to execute the logistics process. It also eliminates the issues of paperwork, auditing, billing, training and most important, the optimization necessary for your goods to reach where they are required in a timely and efficient manner.

Flexibility and scalability: with the third party logistics services, you do not need to be worried especially if your business is seasonal having its low and high seasons. This is because you can scale for warehousing space, transportation and other logistics in accordance to the need at the moment, that is, scale upwards during the business’ high season and downward during the low season.

Reaching new markets: these services enable your business to grow into new markets. With their distribution centre and warehouses placed at strategic places to enhance swift shipping of goods to any part of the world, reaching out for new markets and growth of your business is made possible.

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How to reduce your pick and pack costs without compromising performance

August 7, 2014

Omnichannel sales demand an efficient order fulfilment process, and your pick and pack operations are one of the most important parts to optimise. Making the jump to an automated pick and pack process can increase the volume each picker can handle dramatically. No automated system can yet replace all of your pick and pack workers, but the best can make them much more effective.

Most pick and pack workers spend 90% of their time walking or searching

That leaves only 6 minutes per hour of actually picking and packing. A top of the line automated assistance system can cut the walk and search time of each employee to 24%, and improve their actual work output some 250%. How much is the other 2/3 of your workforce costing you?

The flowthrough of your pick and pack process could be 500% what it is now without adding more employees of the space they take up – but volume isn’t the only improvement. Automation systems such as bar code scanners, advanced information displays ad pick to light systems can improve the accuracy rate of your pick and pack employees to as much as 99.99%. Better still, the presence of automated resources can remove the need to bring in as many temporary people over the holiday rush.

Gain the advantage of an automated pick and pack system without the investment by bringing in a fulfilment partner

Many businesses will not feel that this is the time to be making large investments in automates pick and pack processes or other logistics programs. In fact, many are divesting more and more of their logistics function to 3PLs. These companies may actually be faster to respond to the needs of omnichannel sales because they can seek out a 3PL who has already made these changes.

No matter how retailers gain access to automated pick and pack solutions, the competitive advantage is clear.

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Order fulfilment in London: what growing companies need from their providers

July 30, 2014

The ability to provide an early delivery date is one of the biggest factors in providing customer satisfaction. In the most recent UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, fully half of online consumers have cancelled an order at the ‘shopping cart’ stage if there were no timely delivery options available or if no solid delivery date was available on the website. Delivery time is central a factor of customer satisfaction, and had become the most important ‘deal breaker’ for online sales. Worse still, 27% of those polled said that a late delivery was likely to stop them from using that retailer again.

Your London order fulfilment partner’s role in achieving timely delivery

Many retailers’ first instinct is to look to their carrier to ensure fast and reliable shipping. While it is true you need a good carrier, finding a better order fulfilment partner in London may do you a lot more good. A desirable order fulfilment partner will become invested in your businesses’ success and vision. Furthermore, their specialisation should give you the fast and reliable delivery options you need. As your company grows, your third party logistics provider should be able to scale up as well. Just keep in mind that not all London order fulfilment providers are created equal.

Capabilities to look for in an order fulfilment provider in London

Flexibile Processes

Even with a location in London, order fulfilment can be a messy business. Whenever timely delivery is vital, flexibility is the way forward. A facility with flexibility can make adapt to emergencies and changing circumstances without losing you those hard-won customers.

Familiarity With Your Needs

If your fulfilment provider understands your business deeply, they know not to compromise on anything you’ve based your branding and reputation on.


Obviously, a London-based order fulfilment company is ideal to serve the largest population centre in the UK, but where in London? A well-located warehousing facility can receive shipments easily and get them to your customers rapidly.

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3 Tips for efficient ecommerce subscription fulfilment

July 22, 2014

Ecommerce’s popularity and market share continues to grow, and consumers all over the world have gained an unprecedented degree of comfort with online and mobile shopping. As they become more willing to explore alternative online retail options, consumers are turning to ecommerce subscription services (and related automatic renewing services) in greater numbers than ever before.

It is easy to see why – the convenience is huge. Every month, perhaps every week your staples turn up at your door. For me it’s a bag of Columbian coffee, a bottle of milk a loaf of bread and a half dozen eggs. In an earlier generation the grocer’s boy would have delivered the same riding a bicycle. Another service sends me a different bottle of wine every month. Perhaps the grocer’s boy wouldn’t have been trusted with that.

And of course, just about anything that is convenient for shoppers translates into increased sales for the merchants (online or otherwise) who support it. If properly managed, ecommerce subscriptions can be more efficient and less costly from an order fulfilment perspective because they are regular, repeating events. A good fulfilment partner should be able to arrange discounted service for regular, reliable ecommerce subscriptions in high enough volume. It costs them less, so you both make more money.

The following are a few ways to make ecommerce subscriptions even more effective for you both.

Automated order management for ecommerce subscriptions

The way you handle your subscriptions can make a huge difference. Quite a few online retailers still use manual order management for ecommerce subscriptions, and that is a shame considering that they are among the most efficient orders to automate, and the ones that will lose you customers the fastest if they are forgotten or delayed.

Most ecommerce platforms and shopping carts already support automated order management and ecommerce subscriptions. Recurring orders can be generated and customers notified completely automatically, or pending operator approval if you’re a bit of a technophobe. Most let you configure the delivery interval pretty freely, have discounting options, and support a degree of customer subscription and billing management, taking even more of the administrative burden away.

Pre packing and labelling for ecommerce subscription orders

One of the ecommerce subscription model’s greatest strengths is its predictability. In terms of fulfilment, predictable orders are more efficient and less expensive.

If you (or your fulfilment house) knows that you’ll be shipping 1000 recurring orders of product A each month, and where they will need to be shipped to, you have a lot of new options. You can use spare moments to get ahead on your packing and labelling, or on a larger scale assign it to an underutilised time or even schedule more people specifically to get it all done ahead of time. No matter which option you choose, you’ll likely be able to get the ecommerce subscription orders done with less expense and faster than an equal volume of unscheduled, random orders.
Of course, this will work better for some types of ecommerce subscription than others. If the product mix varies unpredictably with each order cycle pre-packaging would be quite a bad idea, but this is rare amongst ecommerce subscription models. Even offering a different assortment of goods every month can benefit from pre-packaging and pre-labelling, so long as the decision of what products to send is made some time in advance, and does not them vary.

Cost effective shipping options for ecommerce subscription orders

Beyond pick and pack, the ecommerce subscription model supports several efficiencies in shipping, especially if your fulfilment partner knows how to deal with them. Since these orders generally have at least a week of lead time, fulfilment can start early to take advantage of any slack periods the carrier may have, or be timed for maximum efficiency in terms of other factors. It also gives you the option of using slower, less expensive shipping options like consolidation.

On that note, if you do select a slow shipping method, consider the impact of your cancellation policies. For example, it is possible an order will already have been handed to the carrier when the customer cancels.

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Courier logistics – why no other option comes even close!

July 17, 2014

Businesses all over the world are increasingly benefiting from the fantastic services that the courier logistics industry has to offer.

And it’s not just big companies benefiting from courier logistics either

Have you ever got home from a really tough day, only to find a card on your doormat saying that an undelivered parcel has been returned to a depot miles away?

Have you pulled your shoes back on and cursed to yourself, as you head back out of the door, when all you want to do is put your feet up?

Or how about a birthday gift for a distant relative? At one time people put money or a cheque in a card, but now that is considered far from sensible!

With the worry of an important parcel going missing or a card turning up minus the cash, what else is there? A bank transfer? Hardly the most thoughtful, inspiring and heartfelt gift ever!

If you add this to Royal Mail’s price hikes of recent years, it’s no wonder that, in our cash strapped and busy lives, huge numbers of businesses and individuals are seeing the advantages of using courier logistics.

So why are more businesses using courier logistics companies?

Some of those reasons are obvious – most decent logistics companies will offer guaranteed reliability with a same day or next day service as standard, for instance.

They may even come to collect your parcel for you at a time decided by you – meaning no more post office queues or restrictions on your time!

You can also guarantee that, no matter what shape or size your parcel is, it will be taken and treated with the utmost care from front door to front door.

In the past, using a courier service was considered a luxury. Something to only be used on very special occasions, because it was such a costly and bespoke service.

But now, at a time when cost is all important, the charges made by most courier logistics companies more than rival those of their competitors.

In many cases they beat them hands down. So why not make the most of this luxury at a price we can all afford?

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Shipping and logistics services should include specialised reverse logistics support

July 15, 2014

All too many companies select a fulfilment partner without first ascertaining their abilities with reverse logistics. Reverse logistics is that part of shipping and logistics services dealing with the movement of goods back from consumers, usually as a result of product returns. Not every return is a complete write-off of course, and a good shipping and logistics service provider should be able to process returns in such a way as to recapture the maximum value from them.

The goal of most reverse logistics procedures is to get the returned goods back into the normal supply stream as quickly as possible, usually by verifying their good condition and repackaging them at the fulfilment house so they can be delivered again quickly and inexpensively.

Returns, ecommerce, and shipping and logistics services

Ecommerce is growing rapidly, and online purchases are becoming the norm for more and more consumers. Many kinds of online goods, especially shoes and apparel, must expect very heavy rates of return because their fit or suitability is difficult to determine online. The more that is purchased online the more will be returned, and shipping and logistics services must be prepared to do so efficiently.

A recent study indicates that 85% of consumers said they would stop shopping with a company whose return policies were inconvenient. In the same study, 95% of those who responded said they would continue to use a company whose returns were easy. Clearly, encouraging returns provides a vital competitive advantage, and the more your business model relies on the ability for easy returns, the more vital it is that your shipping and logistics service provider has efficient value recapture systems in place.

How should a shipping and logistics services provider handle returns?

The returns process should be as streamlined as possible to keep your customers happy.

First, keep it easy for the customer. Once it was standard procedure to force customers to jump through a few hoops before a return would be accepted, and many were rejected outright. Those days are long gone. Many ecommerce merchants now send return labels with every shipment, just in case. After all, the cost if the sticker is unused is virtually nil.

Next, settle on a formal returns policy. If your process is clear and unambiguous, your customers will know what to expect from you, and most will respect your process. Make sure your internal team, your shipping and logistics services provider, and your customers all have access to the written policy. Make it prominent on your website, and consider printing it on the reverse of the shipping documents or invoice.

If your 3PL does offer enhanced reverse logistics procedures, find out what they are, and ask how they can be adapted to your products and procedures. Many can offer management of the returned products, and inspect, repackage or even repair/replace parts to make the product resalable. Many can also take charge of the recycling or disposal of unsalable or destroyed merchandise or coordinate returns to your vendors. In any case, get to know what your shipping and logistics services provider can offer in terms of reverse logistics.

In this economy, none of us can afford to abandon the value of returned products.

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Value Of Supply Chain Management and ERP for your business

July 10, 2014

Supply chain management applications help you in creating plans and developing strategies for your business in a more efficient manner. It enables you to assess your manufacturing capabilities with well thought out logistics by planning and carrying out the necessary tasks. Profit generation largely relies on these two aspects because by managing these properly you will dramatically increase the efficiency. There are a number of links in the chain in business therefore by missing or not staying on top of one part this may cause an unnecessary waste of resources.

Supply chain management is a tried and tested method but Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has aided in reducing the inaccuracies and improved the performance of the supply chain. ERP and Supply Chain Management is a way of planning all the resources in the business enterprise effectively. The organisations determine which operating systems and operating performance will assist them in managing the business operations and meet the objectives of the business. ERP and SCM also includes the trading partners of the organisation which are the customers and the suppliers. It is for the companies who are looking to generate rapid improvement in their operations. The assessment of ERP and SCM depends a great deal on the size of the operations and takes about three to four days. The organisation’s intent, implementation and effectiveness of the existing operations are assessed based on an ERP model.

ERP and Supply Chain Management for the Manufacturing Industry

ERP and supply chain management have greatly helped the manufacturing sector. The shortcomings of this process in the manufacturing supply chain however often need to be improved in order to make it more effective.

Managing you supply chain effectively ensures you stay on top of your competitors, lower your costs and improve your customer service by getting your products to customers on time. The advance of technology now enables you to electronically track your shipments and merge this information into your management systems making the SCM process an area providing advantageous opportunities.

 Avoiding bottlenecks at various stages proves for an effective supply chain management. There is simply no point in having a fantastic component in the supply chain, when an awful part in the chain weakens the complete structure elsewhere.

It’s also advisable to compare ones own supply chain management system with the competitors to find out what can be done to help reduce various wastage’s in the system.

Today a market is flooded with supply chain management and business forecasting software as vendors are in constant pursuit to separate their products from the rest. But not all of them deliver same amount of efficiency. While selecting a business forecasting software solution, as a user, you must ensure it is adaptive and appropriate for your business size.

Risk management for your business

Risks must be minimized to avoid loss and costs. Supply chain management deals with very complex process that a “broken link” stirs up a chain of risks and problems. A lot of the risks can be minimized or totally eliminated through inventory control, efficient and effective monitoring and tracking, back up plans or alternative options, and maintaining the quality of packaging and moving items handled.

Customer care is in the top list of priorities. When you deal with providing service, your reputation will depend on how you deal with your customers. Surely, customers prefer logistic companies who provide easy and convenient access to their tracking system one that is updated in real time. Customers require updates especially for delays and reason for the delays must be communicated. Some delays are beyond the control of supply chain management. One of the examples here is when a package sits in the customs for few days for inspection.

The overall strategy that will be followed in the distribution network, the supply chain management systems need to be very well thought out so that they can be used as a source of competitive advantage, this would also make them a profit center rather than a cost center.

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Are direct mail services a valid marketing technique for today’s businesses?

July 7, 2014

Many fulfilment houses now provide admail services, sometimes known as direct mail services or advertising mail services. That is, essentially, arranging delivery of adverts or marketing material to existing or potential customers, usually through the post. All too often dismissed as ‘junk mail’, direct mail services are one of the most effective and efficient ways to communicate with your market. Direct mail services are the most common form of direct marketing, used heavily by businesses small and large, non-profit organisations and charities all over the world.

As email and electronic communications handle more and more of our day to day interpersonal communications, the little mail we still get grows in importance. While we once separated all mail into ‘bills’ ‘junk mail’ and ‘real mail’, now we see incoming mail as consisting of simply ‘bills’ and ‘not bills’.  In fact, the delivery of direct mail advertising is becoming a large part of the postal service’s business in many countries, especially the UK and US. As fewer private letters are sent, post offices around the world are becoming much more welcoming to direct mail services, and eager to do more business with them.

How direct mail services are targeted

Direct mail services can consist of catalogues, promotional CDs or DVDs, coupons for local or online goods and services, advertising circulars, or even fully produced guides to local services and businesses supporting advertising and coupon content. The key to making this all pay is making sure it gets to a high proportion of people who are likely to use your goods or services. Many direct mail campaigns are highly targeted, and should not really be thought of as a ‘mass mailing’ at all.

The target group could consist of pre-selected known addresses (current customers, sales leads, or other known potential customers). Alternatively, certain geographical locations can be targeted rather than individuals. Most post offices will contract to deliver advertising content unaddressed, simply depositing one with each valid address on one or more delivery routes or neighbourhoods, working hand in hand with the direct mail services to do so.

When targeting individuals, a database of valid addresses and associated personal information is analysed and a list of individuals judged most likely to buy the goods or service, or respond positively in some other way, is generated. Limiting the mail shot to known valid addresses of potentially interested recipients cuts down on cost, bit more importantly the bad feelings often associated with untargeted ‘junk mail’. This is considered an example of database marketing.

When neighbourhoods are targeted, they can be selected for their proximity to a particular brick and mortar store or distribution network, or they may be chosen for a particular demographic profile which corresponds well to that of known customers.

The content can vary between recipients as well, with for example male targets receiving a different package of offers to females, or those households with children receiving a different catalogue than single households. Known customers can be sent different content than potential customers. The details can vary widely at this point, depending on your direct mail service provider.

The cost-effectiveness of direct mail services

The uninformed often assume that direct mail services are wasteful or inefficient. The fact is, though, that admail can be extremely efficient and highly effective, so long as it is professionally targeted. Business intelligence assets such as the databases mentioned above and effective strategy reduce both waste and the overall cost of the campaign, and iteration based fine tuning such as split testing and Nth name selects make the campaign performance improve over time, and from campaign to campaign.

Of course, some campaigns are not sales oriented, so their cost effectiveness cannot be analysed in the same way. Political campaigns are big users of direct mail services, targeting whole electorates or particular subgroups of voters depending on the particular campaign goals. The same targeting techniques can be used though, and the same gains in effectiveness can be expected.

Certain organizations and individuals have become known for their prowess in direct mail, including in the US, the Free Congress Foundation in the 1970s, Response Dynamics, Inc. in the 1980s, the National Congressional Club, and Richard Viguerie.[16] With the advent of the Internet in political campaigns, direct mail became just one of many campaign management tools, but still played a significant role.

Business to business direct mail services

B2B direct mail services target other businesses rather than homes or individual customers. B2B direct mail campaigns work in two general ways. The first is a direct sales attempt, avoiding the use of an in-person sales force or retail location. This is most popular for products that are more or less fungible or require little in the way of demonstration. The second strategy is to use the mailings to generate leads for a traditional sales force, either face to face or telesales oriented. It is best used for high price-point items that require demonstration or that profit from generating a pre-qualified audience.

One method of direct mailing used in B2B is known as “bill-me”. In this direct-mail marketing offer, the buyer is shipped the product prior to payment and then is sent an invoice later

Environmental impact of direct mail services

One of the strongest objections against direct mail services is their perceived large carbon footprint. Here in the UK the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimated that in 2002 direct mail and similar promotions used approximately 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of paper, only 13% of which was recycled. The Direct Marketing Association worked with the government to set recycling targets for the industry, setting the recycling target at 55% by 2009. Though actual performance fell short, the carbon footprint of modern, targeted direct mail services is in fact much smaller than that of the mass mailing campaigns of twenty years ago.

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Smaller contract logistics companies are becoming more attractive for consolidation, as large scale providers struggle for market share

July 4, 2014

The Contract Logistics sector has seen a lot of merger and acquisition activity in the past few quarters. What information we have from large 3PLs and contract logistics players indicates that this is likely to continue for at least the immediate future, and be a major factor in the profitability, or lack thereof, in the sector as a whole.

Large scale mergers and acquisitions were common before the economic recession that is just beginning to pass. This time last year, many would have speculated that as investment money becomes more fluid again, large scale takeover bids would once again be the norm. However, in the aftermath of UPS’s failed takeover bid for TNT, consolidation is likely to continue on a more selective, careful fashion. Smaller organisations are more likely to be targeted for takeover or merger, especially those operating in niche industries or peculiar geographic regions.

Takeover of a smaller contract logistics company may offer a beachhead in new markets

Rather than large companies merging (on polite, hostile, or somewhat ambiguous terms) to combine their holdings and assets into an ever larger empire, we can expect to see specific, relatively self-contained operations which can add both territory and a great deal of synergy to the larger operation to be the preferred targets.

FedEx’s acquisition of southern African contract logistics firm Supaswift last year is a good example. At the time, it represented a very large operation moving to incorporate a new geographic territory along with a great deal of specialist knowledge and experiencing serving that territory in one package. Another example is CH Robinson, a US firm traditionally involved only in its own domestic market, who bought out a Polish logistics operation called Apero in order to spread its own influence to new markets. Last year CH Robinson opened an Istanbul office, so it seems to be working.

Other analysts point out that this shift to smaller targets may not be purely due to voluntary factors. It could be more important that there are fewer large scale contract logistics companies in particularly attractive markets, or at least few that are vulnerable to takeover on terms ‘good’ for the acquiring company. The developing Asian, and particularly Chinese market is one that seems like it would be ripe for large scale takeover bids, but there are few if any large scale contract logistics operations to be found, and none that offer multinational concerns (or would-be multinationals) many of the things they want in a contract logistics beachhead.

The Chinese contract logistics market is highly fragmented, with each solid player limited to a particular geography or niche industry, and often both. There aren’t really any national providers yet. On the other hand, many of these smaller operations have begun to consolidate amongst themselves, so that may soon change. Once a few national or international consortiums form in and around the Chinese market, much will depend on whether they make themselves vulnerable, or deliberately attractive to, international contract logistics interests.

The contract logistics market in Europe and the UK

Closer to home, European and UK contract logistics operations are beginning to attract interest from big players in the US, despite the slow economic recovery in the region. This shouldn’t really be surprising. Analysts are quick to point out that the European and UK contract logistics market was listed as the largest single such market in the world by the FTA’s Global Contract Logistics Report in 2013. This market accounted for more than 1/3 of the amount spent on contract logistics worldwide, solidly ahead of Asia (with 31%) and North America (at 27%).

This is expected to change only slightly in coming years. Experts predict that Asia will be the largest contract logistics market by 2016 (with 36%) followed by a still significant Europe (31%) and North America (with 28%). It is important to remember that a loss of 7% of a rapidly growing global market is still a prediction of substantial growth. This kind of stability is bound to be attractive to American organisations who are having to look farther afield for promising opportunities every year.

The global contract logistics market remains fragmented, and profits remain low

The contract logistics industry remains fairly fragmented on a global scale. DHL Supply chain is still the largest operation by far. Its 2012 revenues were more than £10 billion, well in advance of the next largest, CEVA, whose contract logistics takings were just over £3 billion, much closer to the third and fourth place holders Hitachi Systems and Kuehne & Nagel (2.9 billion and 2.8 billion, respectively). Nonetheless, DHL Supply Chain only accounted for 8% of the global market last year, and only 12% of the European market. Even combining the top ten contract logistics firms together would account for only 22% of the 2013 global market.

The industry hasn’t been fantastically profitable lately, either. The fact is that the contract logistics industry is still struggling to shrug off the lingering effects of the last recession. Before the downturn, average profit margins in the industry were around 4%. At the deepest point of the recession they were barely 1%. Now they average little more than 3%. Industry leader DHL’s profits were -1% at the worst point, and are still less than the industry average. They may not be in a position to expand at all.

Profits are so low that many investment professionals question the long term sustainability of the industry. This is another factor arguing against large scale consolidation, as expected profits don’t argue in favour of large investment at this time.

The trend will most likely continue with larger forms snapping up profitable, well-places smaller contract logistics companies, and eschewing mergers with other larger companies.

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Mailing House Provider Considerations for businesses

July 2, 2014

If you’re a company who needs to reach clients through mailing campaigns, or distributing products then the most feasible way of doing this is by having a mailing house provider. This saves your time, your money and other vital resources. The question is though, what do you look for in a mailing house provider and what are the benefits?

Choosing the most appropriate direct mailing service provider

The most appropriate mailing house provider will depend largely on what it is that you want to mail. There are, however, a few general guidelines which you should look for when selecting a mailing house: of course you are seeking competitive pricing as well as flexibility, but reliability and quality need to be paramount.

Initially, you need to ensure that the mailing house you check out does have the correct capabilities to manage all of your mailing needs. Has it worked with companies of your size previously? Has it experience in your mailing products of your kind? If you are wanting to mail simple letters and parcels then this should be a given, but what if you will be mailing more unusual products which come in varying shapes and sizes, can they accommodate this?

Where your mail needs to be distributed will be is another item that requires huge consideration. An ideal mailing house will have offices both in the UK as well as overseas, preferably with partnerships in other countries. The UK one needs to be connected with Royal Mail, this is imperative due to Royal Mail always being the final provider for letter post in the UK. Your mailing house needs to have a vast network of postal routes, with probable postage discounts during the fulfilment stage. This brings benefits to both you and your profits, as well as the customer who can be supplied a lower overall cost boosting your company’s desirability and reputation.

Should you choose an end-to-end mailing house company?

A mailing house which will hold the most benefits is one which will have a full end-to-end service, this could include digital or laser printing, data printing, inkjet addressing, data management, envelope printing and poly-wrapping. Finding a provider who can manage all of your mailing needs therefore offering a complete service will save you on vital resources such as time and money.

Looking for a mailing house which has been in the industry a long time, not only hosts the benefits of them having adequate experience but it also means that they will have a visible heritage. This will mean that you can investigate their previous projects, customer testimonials and accreditations – giving you an insight into how they operate and what you can expect. Maybe you want to have a direct mail campaign, if so the mailing house you choose should be DMA (Direct Marketing Association) approved. You will be providing personal details of your business as well as your targeted audience and customers and so confidentiality needs to be secure, this means that the mailing house must also be registered under the Data Protection Act.

So, in a nutshell you need to look for from a direct mailing service:

  • Competitive Pricing - never pay more than you need to
  • Capability - satisfaction that your requirements are manageable
  • Reliability - reassurance that your mailing will be delivered on time, and correctly
  • Scope – both national and international routes are accessible
  • Value added services – selections of fulfilment, management and printing facilities
  • Recognition – industry recognised accreditations
  • Feedback – previous project and client testimonials.

Conclusion Finding a mailing house that performs a direct mailing service covering all your needs, for a competitive price is gold. This is the difference between making huge profits by utilising small resources, making smooth transactions and retaining business – or simply not doing. Building a good relationship with your provider is key, this means that you will be provided with bigger and better discounts over time with the more business you put there way. It’s a relationship, which when works well, works for everyone involved.

Many mailing houses will include everything you need for marketing campaigns such as a network of graphic designers for brochure and catalogue needs as well as the functions to complete the task and then mail it out. This cuts costs all the way down the line by having all of the requirements in one place, as well as making the process much more simple and saving on your valuable time resources.

It is estimated that nearly 80% of people will welcome mail if it

a) Looks good; has a clear design and is designed well and

b) Holds useful information.

This means that your direct mail house needs to know how to portray your messages across efficiently in order for people to take note and subsequently become a customer. This is another reason why you need a mailing house which is experienced, which can provide a complete service and which has stood the test of time with accreditation’s to show for it.

You should be able to strike a balance between feeling confident enough to leave your mailing house to it, as well as feeling comfortable about making suggestions, ideas and alterations to their packages. This is why flexibility is essential, you don’t want to be stuck with one marketing campaign which consists of one design; your products may change, you may develop promotions, new deals and a range of offers over time which need to be easily including in your campaigns and the mailing provider has to be able to adhere to this.

 Another very important factor in determining the most appropriate provider for your company is to decide on what contract length you prefer; some people stick with the one mailing house forever whereas others will want change – maybe they were originally UK based and now want to branch out overseas or maybe their products have changed from simple letters to more awkward mailing paraphernalia and this needs to be considered before agreeing to lengthy contracts. Ensure that the mailing house has the options to expand when your company does and can accommodate any needs that may come up.

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Choosing a contract packaging company

June 27, 2014

Many manufacturers have taken to outsourcing their packaging tasks these days, as they find it more cost effective, and it takes away the headache of dealing with all the issues associated with different designs, packaging solutions and planning. So how do you know when to start looking for a packaging solution outside of your own warehouse?

There are many “red flags” that should warn you that you really need to start looking to outsource, and just a few of them are mentioned below.

Why you may need a contract packaging company

  • Your manufacturing lines are struggling to cope with your packaging demands. This can happen often, intermittently, or gradually, and can have a marked effect on your production so you should keep an eye on the situation, and if you feel that your staff are not coping, you should try to look for a solution outside of your building.
  • You have a new short term need for packaging that you would prefer not to use your in-house staff for, as it would take people away from your longstanding packaging needs.
  • You have a short packaging run for a new, test or seasonal product. Utilising your current packaging equipment wouldn’t work, so you would have to invest in new.
  • Your promotional packaging or inserts (intended to market your company) require non-standard packaging and are quite labour intensive.
  • Environmental or regulatory requirements dictate that your company complies with sometimes-expensive investments, which you are not prepared to undertake in house.
  • Your in house staff cannot cope with a heavy workload, and you require help to ensure that you get through this particularly busy period.
  • Your product is sold overseas, so can be shipped to the destination in bulk, and then each unit can be packed locally. This will save transportation costs.
  • You have the need for a packaging form that your current staff or machines are not equipped to handle.
  • You have a chronic shortage of staff
  • Your machinery needs maintenance, and needs to be shut down for some time.
  • You want to downsize.

Of course when you are considering outsourcing your contract packing solutions, you need to draw up a clear plan of action. Make sure to go through in detail what you’ll want to achieve, and remember to ask everyone on your current productions line (if you have one) for any opinions/issues they might have so you have covered all basics. Once you’ve done this you can then give a full brief to your prospective contract packaging services supplier and they can tell you whether or not they’ll be able to fulfill your needs.

How to choose a contract packaging service provider

It’s important to remember when looking to outsource your contract packaging services, that you’ll need a contract packing company that matches your ambition. You should certainly consider some or all of the following criteria when choosing your packaging partner.

Where are they based?

 If you’re nowhere near your contract packing company, then you’re going to struggle in an emergency situation to get a result if such an emergency should arise. Having a contract packaging company close by to your manufacturing and distribution partners, or facilities can make a real difference when it comes to saving time, and can also ensure your freight costs are lowered. Of course, if your business is located in an area with high overheads, such as property prices, this cost may be offset. Take a careful look at prices vs. location and decide which is more important to you.

How long have they been trading?

Whilst it wouldn’t be fair to say that a business in it’s first year of trading cannot offer you something you need, many businesses prefer to go with a contract packaging services company with a good long-standing reputation in their field and if they offer a wider range of products and services because of this, then you may end up getting everything, and more covered. They may even be able to offer you advice and products you have not yet considered which could be of further benefit to your company.

How much will it cost?

Sift through the quotes you get and work out what’s included and what’s not. Different companies offer different services so quotes will vary greatly. Its important to remember that the cheapest quote will not necessarily be the best, so work out what you’ll be receiving for your money and weigh up the value of any extra’s you may have been offered. It’s also important to read the fine print on any quotations.  If you don’t you could well be in for a nasty shock along the way.

How good is the communication

However good the solutions are, the thing that really matters is how well you can communicate with your co-pack company, and how well they communicate back. You should have contacts you can speak to on a regular basis, regular reviews and the opportunity to ask questions at every step. You’ll also need to ensure there is a hierarchy in place for any complaints or issues as they arise, in order to make sure that you’re able to make changes quickly if needed.

 How big is the company?

 Are they large enough to cope with the demands of any expansion? Every business owner wants to think that their business will expand, and if there are grand plans further down the line, you need to know that the company you’re dealing with, will be able to cope with that growth and even grow alongside you. On the other hand, you want to be important to your contract packing company. As a small fish in a large pond, you may not get the level of service you would with a larger company. This is entirely up to you to get a feel by asking the right questions to prospective contract packaging partners.

Do they have references?

A company you want to work with long term will have been trading some time, so they should have a list of clients you can contact for references. Be sure to double check their references by telephoning a couple of those clients and asking some probing questions about how well the company has handled their account. Whilst doing this, you may want to check the list to see if there are any competing companies utilizing your prospective contract packaging company. Could there be a conflict of interests?

Once you’ve chosen your contract packing company

Make sure that you and your prospecting contract-packing partner are on the same wavelength when it comes to the finer details of any operation.  Speak to your contract packaging supplier often during the set up process to ensure they have all of the correct procedures in place and ensure that you work to the same guidelines in order to make communication, problem solving and analysis easier. This will ensure that everyone knows what they should be doing and avoids any miscommunication.

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Fulfilment: What Affects Businesses That Require Pick and Pack Services?

June 24, 2014

First impressions of your pick and pack services:

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and with business relationships this is extremely apparent. For online retailers the first thing potential customers will see, in order to gauge a feel for your company, is your website and so this must be flawless. A good website will include an overview of your company, your services and products, you must have easy flow content and the ability for smooth transactions. The other side of the coin is how you work in conjunction with your pick and pack provider for your fulfilment. As flawless as your website appears for clients and potential clients, the data behind the scenes needs to flow just as well to produce straightforward transactions every time. If your website doesn’t grab the attention of potential clients and produce sales, then your relationship with your pick and pack provider will suffer as a result.

Third Party Fulfilment Centres

Online consumers, on average, will place orders for one or two products. Those purchasing for business purposes are likely to order many products in high volumes. This difference, along with the fact that there are more than 200 million Internet users around the world, means that the frequency of orders in smaller volumes can be astronomical. Warehouses, traditionally, are designed to handle medium to large order volumes, they are to have the ability to process small and large orders with the same efficiency and so your chosen warehouse needs to have the required functionality to support all fulfilment operations. This could mean things such as expanding existing facilities or modifying existing operating procedures. There are many things involved in the structure of an effective fulfilment operation, with the three main being picking, packing and returns. On the whole, establishing operations that will be the most effective for fulfilment operations will include:

  • Having a high-frequency picking area
  • The use of innovative and advanced picking technologies – i.e. voice recognition
  • Achieving orders through a one-day cycle
  • Providing special packing services – i.e. gift wrapping available
  • Operating an effective reverse logistics process – for returns
  • Overseeing an accurate inventory

If your fulfilment centre is not operating as it could be then your business can suffer greatly. In today’s Internet world, consumers want their products yesterday! They don’t want delays, they don’t want damaged or faulty products and it will be your reputation that rests on this – not your fulfilment centres. The chances are that whatever your products are, there are hundreds more companies out there selling the same thing and so for you to stay ahead – your fulfilment centre needs to be doing all it can to be in front of the competition.

The Critical Ingredient – Order Picking

An order picking process needs to be efficient; this is a critical ingredient in ensuring a quick turnaround and smooth process from order to client. If this part of the fulfilment is not conducted accordingly, then regardless of how productive all other areas are, your business could be greatly affected. There are many issues requiring consideration when looking into a picking process:

  • Storage Equipment: There are a variety of products that need to be determined with the main being your storage solutions. Using the incorrect materials for certain products could have a huge effect on the productivity of sales, for example using wooden pallets for food products could result in contamination with the worst case scenario meaning a customer will become ill. You need to ensure that the storage equipment used by your fulfilment company will be appropriate for the products waiting to be picked.
  • Picking Technology: To increase the production of the picking aspect of fulfilment, technology needs to be integrated with storage and handling equipment perfectly. For the most effective picking technologies you could look at radio-frequency terminals, pick-to-light systems and wireless speech recognition. This is the innovative technology, which saves on all resources such as time and finances as computerized machinery takes over manpower, providing the best solution with the lowest risk.
  • Slotting Strategy: The slotting strategy used by your fulfilment company is a critical factor within an efficient picking process. In layman terms, slotting strategy means assigning products to a location. There are a catalogue of benefits to this being done correctly, such as; reduced product damage, reduced injuries, improved labour utilisation and better cube utilisation. The items which are to be the most active i.e. the top 20% of products purchased, should be placed in the middle of the picking levels to reduce the risks associated with this task to employees and also to improve picker productivity. The slotting strategy which is applied by your fulfilment company to your picking operations can either make or break the success of your ecommerce company.

Packing – Upgrades Are Essential

Traditional warehouse requirements have recently undergone many upgrades; your fulfilment provider needs to be able to function with the adaptations by upgrading from standard, non-adjustable packing stations to more flexible workstations. There are now many various small shipping cartons, bags and envelopes that are in use to cope with the demand of sales in an efficient and cost effective manner. There are many options for packing with the objective being that all products will be thoroughly protected during transit – if products arrive at their destination, damaged, not intact or faulty then it’s your company that will be affected by this. You will be responsible for replacing the product, apologising to the customer and facing the detrimental effect it could have on the reputation of your business.

Returns – Handle Well For Repeat Custom

A significant factor, which determines whether or not a customer will continue to use your company, will be how your returns are handled. On average, over 30% of all Internet purchases are returned. This is put into perspective when considering fewer than 10% of offline products are returned. Your fulfilment company needs to be able to handle returns on your behalf, effectively to prevent a detrimental affect on your own business, in ways such as:

  • Customer Credit Process: A customer’s account needs to be credited promptly after a return is made in order to preserve a strong customer basis. This will require advanced systems to support a short cycle of no longer than 72 hours to keep customer satisfaction.
  • Quality and Control: Is your fulfilment company able to deal with the reasons for returns? For example, if the item is returned because it was faulty, are they able to rectify this to resell? A good fulfilment company will have a strong network of after-market dealers or recycling providers in order to maximise the value of any returned goods.
  • The Use of Technology: This could mean sorters, racks, conveyors and modular workstations to support the anticipated volumes within the returns area. If a returned order cannot be dealt with in quick succession this could produce a detrimental affect to your business.

Having a fulfilment company who are able to deal with the entire process of picking and packing is essential in today’s internet world with the increasing demand for online products, with as much importance on being able to establish a good final impression. It is important to acknowledge that when making transactions online, the success of this still boils down to physical movement of products to consumers.

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No time to wait: At the cutting edge of pick pack post, cloud solutions take too long to respond

June 19, 2014

Even top-quality cloud-based warehouse management systems have a measurable lag time when transmitting instructions to your sortation system. When a warehouse has to act on tens of thousands of tiny decisions every day, and depend on split second timing for their efficiency edge, even a small delay can make the whole system somewhat ineffective.

Most experts agree that there is a definite need for warehouse control systems (WCSs) and warehouse management systems (WMSs). The fulfillment industry has experienced a great deal of change recently, and expects to see as much or more in the years to come. The ecommerce and omni channel distribution movements have made the supply chain substantially more complicated, and the IT industry has responded by providing solutions that can act on these new levels. Simple ‘pick pack post’ fulfilment would not be simple at all without these modern control and management systems.

Still, they are not without their problems. Many of these have more to do with the way these systems are implemented than with the systems themselves. Some experts feel that too many distribution centre or warehouse managers have adopted cloud solutions too quickly, rather than choosing a more traditional warehouse management system, installed on their own, local servers.

At the moment, most users of cloud-bases WMSs are smaller warehouses with basic equipment, often little more than lift trucks, handheld barcode scanners or RFID devices.

Cloud-based solutions are appealing because of their lower up-front costs. Upgrades and maintenance are also avoided, at least as separate expenses, as that is all part of the SaaS package.

The downside of cloud delivery for a pick pack post facility

These cloud-based systems are hosted remotely, by the vendor or a third party, and delivered exclusively by the internet. It is not uncommon for the warehouse and server to be on different continents, and for support staff to be operating in a vastly different time zone. This leads to a lot more unavoidable down tome than can be expected from a locally run system. Some workers will also have a certain amount of mistrust of distant, essentially faceless support departments.

There is also the subscription fee, which may in the end be higher than the licensing, upgrade and maintenance costs of an on-site system, though this is certainly not always the case.

The real problem is the response time, though. A cloud-based WMS is a transactional modality. It can be thought of as a slow freighter moving across an ocean. In this analogy, a WCS is more of a speed boat. It only has to cross form one side of your facility to the other, and does so with a lot of agility.  Both the freighter and the speed boat do different jobs well, but they struggle in the wrong roles.

Higher volume distribution centres with a pick pack post, B2C focus have had to deal with a nearly exponential growth in the number of SKUs they handle lately. In this context, the WCS has a strong advantage because of this agility, response time, and (if properly administered and maintained) higher potential up-time.

The WCS and WMS both have their place in a modern pick pack post facility

To prevent delays and slowdowns, a very robust and reliable warehouse control system is absolutely vital. A WCS, which again is usually installed within the warehouse itself, can act as the local agent for the more remote WMS.  The slow part is the actual downloading of the information on what items need to be picked from what location in inventory and sending the information to the pickers. A WCS stores and processes this data on-site, so there is essentially no delays or communications disruptions.

A WCS will generally execute instructions which are provided by a host system. This might be an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning System) or it could be a WMS. WCS software will often provide various advanced management options such as order management, resource scheduling or inventory control. The most popular WCSs are highly modular, so they can easily be configured and are mostly platform independent. They feature a very scalable architecture which satisfies the needs of warehouses of nearly any size.

There is a great deal of confusion in the industry as to when one should adopt a WMS solution, or if it is better to use a more traditional WCS and its familiar interface and real-time data management capability.

Your WCS should be the focal point for managing your pick pack post operations. The WCS is the  link between your data host and your real-time PLC (programmable logic controller). Your PLC coordinates your real-time control devices and directs daily workload. At every decision point the WCS selects the most efficient path (the routing of your picker, for example) and transmits these directives to the proper equipment. The whole process may be controlled by two different utilities, a route director and a sort manager.

WCSs generally feature Wave Management, which times the release of work to the warehouse floor. A WMS won’t be capable of this. Work flow can be handled wavelessly  – group picks are prioritised by order type, shipping method, pick zone or delivery zone. A WCS allows you to better balance picking activity by zone, though. If your pick pack post operation deals with large numbers of SKUs and a high order volume, a local WCS may be necessary.

Whilst warehouse control systems aren’t for everybody, as lean processes and smaller margins mandate more and more efficient operations, many companies are relying on WCS solutions aimed at streamlining their pick pack post operations because of their speed and reliability, and lower long term ownership costs.

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London Logistics shortfall may have an adverse effect on economic recovery

June 16, 2014

Reports of a chronic lack of large warehousing and logistics facilities in and around London could stall the South’s economic recovery in several ways

Several heavy users of the fulfilment industry in and around London report that they are struggling to find larger (100,000 ft2 and up) facilities. If this shortage becomes chronic, it could slow the rate at which foreign businesses become established in the UK dramatically, with unpleasant results for the slowly recovering economy. Many are already looking outside of London for their logistics needs, and considering space all over the Midlands.

Of course, there are several ways to expand logistics in London. New, bespoke space can be built, but the fact is that the design and build option takes at least 18 months to go operational, and often more. The current range of companies looking for logistics in London expect to be fully operational within 6 months at the outside. They simply cannot afford to wait a year and a half.
Real estate is not inexpensive here, either. Many developers claim to be struggling to finance new warehousing and London logistics. Simply put, so long as businesses hesitate to have new facilities built to order, the finance sector will doubt the wisdom of lending to the developers who would otherwise be willing to build speculatively. To offset the perceived risk, the interest rates are too high for the developers to accept.

So, logistic space effectively moves out of London. This will have a cascade effect on other parts of the logistics sector, including carrier prices.

Challenges to the carrier sector

Some would say the carrier sector is already struggling to meet demand. Firstly, many carriers still report a crippling shortage of skilled, experienced drivers. Many looked to increased immigration from Europe to supply the needed drivers, but they are not coming fast enough to allow carriers to expand to meet demand. Worse still, new people have not been moving into trucking quickly, and high turn-over at low levels means that the workforce is extremely top-heavy, with too many of the best skilled drivers near retirement age, and too many of the younger drivers essentially unskilled. The drivers of intermediate skill and seniority just aren’t there, and in just a few years the carrier industry will feel their lack.

Secondly, many of the larger operations in the carriage sector have announced that they do not plan to increase the size of their fleets substantially in the near future. The fact that the drivers needed to get the lorries on the road just aren’t available doesn’t make expansion sound profitable, regardless of demand. Just as with building new warehousing and logistics facilities, the investors aren’t there. The financial sector isn’t convinced that this demand will exist long term, and aren’t willing to risk funding expansion cheaply.

Now, you see the real problem. If more logistics space is established relatively far from major population centres in the South, demand on existing carriage capacity will skyrocket. Most carriers are not planning on expanding or adding substantial amounts of capacity. As demand outstrips capacity, further expansion of logistics operations outside of the Greater London Area becomes inefficient and ill-advised. Perhaps the business doesn’t come to the UK at all.

One solution to this problem depends on squeezing extra capacity from existing logistics in London. Many logistics organisations are looking towards automation to fill this capacity gap. This trend has been going on for some time, but the added pressure to make 50,000 square foot facilities operate like 100,000 square foot facilities necessitates some major changes in infrastructure. As the industry is forced to do more with less, machines will replace people at an advanced rate.

Logistics in London increased automation as viable industry strategy

Logistics in London is at the forefront of using automation to increase throughput without increasing overall footprint these days. Especially in the UK, many facilities are still heavily human-centred, and the opportunity exists to adapt proven technology from more mechanised facilities in the United States and Europe.

Expanding automation rather than human workforce really does save space, and makes facilities more efficient. Automation is moving into new parts of inventory control, product handling and distribution every day. A picker can do a lot more with a route-planner and a WMS than they can without one. Modern inventory control would be impossible for most facilities without scanning equipment even now. Even management of a facility’s existing human workforce is becoming more automated, as warehouse management systems handle more and more of the everyday managerial function.

Experts are telling us to expect a lot more automation solutions on the market in coming years, specifically for order fulfilment and inventory tracking. The goal of these new systems is to allow smaller, existing facilities to perform like larger ones, with increased throughput and lower error rates, but without the real estate, carbon, or energy cost footprints of traditional big warehouses.

It isn’t a movement towards blindly implementing new technology and replacing workers willy-nilly. The movement, we should hope, will be towards optimising the productivity of human workers, and allowing them to do more with less strain, less hassle, and (if it is to be sustainable) less stress and overstimulation. Logistics in London isn’t really about space, it is about people. Any operation needs a minimum number of skilled, competent people to make its processes operate. Machinery, even the fanciest automation is part of that process. If a logistics space is to operate at a higher capacity, the process, including automation, must allow those people to do their job better, more quickly, and with fewer errors.

London Logistics companies investment in automation expected

But now we come back to investment. Demand for improved IT and automation means there is a real, enduring market for these products in the UK, though, and this time investors can see it, and the money can be expected to be there. The solution to the soaring demand for warehouse space in and around London is in more efficient usage of existing space, in renovating and redesigning smaller spaces with modern equipment, and more importantly, modern processes and ideas.

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Order processing tips with multiple delivery options can help your business reach further

June 12, 2014

One of the biggest expenditures for those who retail online is their shipping and fulfilment. There are many costs involved before the product reaches the customer and every part of the procedure needs to be done well to ensure a successful transaction; crucial for success. Bad fulfilment, poor order processing and delayed deliveries can make your customers extremely unhappy and eliminate the chance of more business and good word of mouth. So, ensuring that you get your items delivered in a speedy fashion needs to be the top priority in a marketing strategy. The major online retailers such as Amazon and eBay have their order processing and fulfilment needs down to a fine art and this greatly contributes to their huge popularity and massive success.

So why consider multiple delivery options for your order processing?

There are many more options for order processing, shipment and delivery services than ever before and this is due, in part, to the recent gyrations in fuel pricing which has put a real squeeze on internet retailers of late – making comparing carriers and fulfilment options more important than ever before. Many online retailers rely extremely on parcel shipping, when prices go up such as fuel this means that the shipping costs also go up to cover this and this is what can greatly affect profits. Companies need to find the money for these losses whilst still retaining customers and making sales, this can produce many difficult decisions such as increasing product prices or losing labour – it can, however, be aided by the correct logistics.

When you have many products needing to be distributed, it can be extremely beneficial to look into multiple delivery options that can help your business reach further – whilst keeping profits high. By outsourcing through various different companies for your fulfilment needs you can keep many costs down, there are companies who will charge extra for rural deliveries, deliveries off standard routes and overseas shipping – using different companies for each need means you won’t be charged extra for varying deliveries.

You could even consider self-fulfilment, which does have many advantages. It can be done by any company who simple has the room to store products prior to order processing, have access to a printer for address labels, able to order packaging and willing to stand in post office queues or deliver products by hand, or through in-house staff. This is extremely cost effective, as well as providing you with the knowledge that items have been packed safely, securely and in tact. Outsourced fulfilment is where you hand over control of order processing and shipment to another company. They will be responsible for everything from picking and packing to storing and distributing which saves you a lot of time resources and why this is the most popular form of fulfilment.

Drop shipping for your orders processed

Another option to consider is drop shipping, this is where products are ordered through your website and you put the order through to the wholesaler or manufacturer which supplies the products; acting as a kind of middle man. With drop shipping there is no chance of you having excess stock as you only purchase items when an order is placed. Drop shipping is extremely low risk, you won’t do any of the hard work and yet take a cut of the profits and you will only ever pay for what you are guaranteed to sell.

Another way to go could be through mixed fulfilment. This involved utilising a large range of fulfilment options to get items to customers. You can use self-fulfilment for high volume, low-margin products, go for drop shipping for the more high margin products and to fill out a store with items you wouldn’t be able to personally stock.

Many companies will use more than one warehouse, branching out across seas with the objective of lower labour costs as well as products being able to be dispatched from more than just one warehouse in one country. A highly popular country for order processing, product manufacturing and shipping is India. This is due to the mass of cheap land and droves of people seeking employment. India also is in the heart of Asia and geographically closer to large purchasing countries such as the USA than the UK is. Geographically, India is in a triangular shape to the south of Asia, what this means is that there are many ports for shipping – a huge advantage for fulfilment purposes. If you are a company who ships internationally then it makes perfect sense to have distribution in place from more than one country enabling your business to reach further.

Finding a reputable company like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics to offer every service you could possibly need, saving time, money and resources is a difficult task and one which is extremely exhausting but it can be done. You need multiple delivery options for a fulfilment provider to be the most cost effective and this means things like – Economy Lightweight which will be a lower cost shipping service for items under a certain weight. Economy Post, which is a cost effective service for mid-weight items. Standard Ground, which is a delivery service that is for all weights of products that are being shipped on ground in one country i.e. not via sea or air. Expedited Service, which is a standard delivery within 2-3 days of order processing for both heavy and light products. Overnight delivery is something which can only be done nationally – unless you do have other stocked warehouses overseas if that is where the order was placed, this is usually the most expensive form of shipping but in the current climate beating your competitors means you have to have the edge – such as next day / overnight deliveries available.

Something that is available to be in place is the many online facilities, now considered essential for smoothly ran order processing and fulfilment needs. Many outsourcing companies have the ability to manage order processing online, update stock inventory, place orders and track items during the transportation from shelf to customer. This is a hands off way to keep an eye on the fulfilment side to your company, meaning although you have handed over control you can still be fully aware of what’s going on.

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How your pick pack despatch partner can help you avoid security (and other) headaches

June 9, 2014

By streamlining your company’s operations through a pick and pack despatch partner, this can greatly improve your fulfilment procedures as well as saving a significant amount of money in import and export fees, and eliminate security headaches. Order fulfilment can be a real headache, a drain on time resources and a crucial thing to get absolutely right; by hiring someone to do this for you this can lead to effective gains in consumer satisfaction which, when it boils down to it, is how a company stays afloat in the current climate.

Order fulfilment can be made easy with a pick pack despatch partner

Designing an order fulfilment system is extremely complex, it requires much time on your resources and the practicalities of the space to hold your stock; more staff to deal with the picking and packing, hiring in couriers and distributors can all be very costly. You will need to put the staff through training, provide equipment to conduct the tasks, pay for the running costs of the vehicles (which could be traveling world wide) and oversee that everything is done correctly – or you could get a pick and pack despatch partner to cover the fulfilment side of your business and prevent the many major business headaches.

 A pick and pack despatch partner will have the manpower, space and vehicles in place to provide a swift and smooth process for your customers. All major online retailers hire fulfilment companies to deal with their pick and packing, such as Littlewoods, EBay and Argos – it is a tried, tested and proven method of effective logistics, with all the main players in the industry providing products this way. When you think of the staff, equipment, running costs and training programmes that you would need to finance, hiring one pick and pack despatch partner to do this for you is extremely cost effective. Contracts can range from six months to two years and you can really afford to be extremely selective with the company you go to, they need you as much as you need them and so negotiations will likely be very flexible.

The importance of security and accuracy of your pick and pack partner

It is imperative that you choose a good pick and pack despatch partner, the person who will control this side of the logistics will be the last person to see the product before the consumer. It is this partner who will be checking for incomplete orders, product damage, wrong sizes and colours and also they who will be responsible for the product being packed safely and securely to eliminate damage during transit. The bottom line is that if the shipment is not complete, prompt, accurate and in perfect condition on arrival then the customer will return it and this brings many problems. Your company can face losing its great reputation, word of mouth recommendations as well as the cost of rectifying this, which will greatly reduce the profit margins on the order.

You need to investigate what security systems will be in place, to safeguard your products through the entire inventory lifecycle. Many pick and pack despatch partners are using state-of-the-art and very hi-tech security systems; as much as you want to protect your company name, they want to do the same. For the more advanced security systems you will pay a higher price, with the average in the UK being around £150 p.m. for storage (and protection) per 32 cubic feet, small – medium items being packed and dispatched from £2 per item up to £10 and larger items being around £15; weight dependant. For distribution and transportation this is usually charged to you on an hourly rate with the average being around £40 per hour – if you were not going through a pick and pack despatch partner and paying for transportation yourself the cost of this would be much higher, taking into account all the running cost of the vehicles as well as drivers wages.

The benefits of outsourcing your Pick Pack Despatch work

Outsourcing your pick and packing services is, as well as more convenient, a whole lot cheaper than running this yourself within the company. The size of your company will dictate the amount of staff, room needed, storage equipment, the number and regularity of of training programmes and the machinery that you will need. For example, forklift trucks will be needed to move many products of heavy weight as well as conduct the loading and unloading of products; not just anybody can drive these vehicles. A special license is needed which is obtained through a training programme, That will be at your own cost – and can cost in excess of £150 per person. You will need at least two people trained in this to provide smooth logistics, which works out at a minimum of £300,and then you will then need to purchase or hire the trucks themselves, which cost at the very least £3,000 for a second hand model. (Don’t forget you’re likely to need more than one forklift too!) Not including the running costs of the vehicles or the wages for the drivers, this alone is already costing you £6,600 at the absolute minimum. The costs of running an in-company warehouse yourself also has many small costs which may seem fairly insignificant but certainly add up, such as; caretakers wages to clean the warehouses, cleaning equipment, packaging supplies, lighting, heating and security systems. All of these things will need to be to the highest standard for effective logistics, with a price tag to match the quality. Security systems, for example, need to be 24 hour and a simple alarm on the outside of a building is not enough to safeguard your products. High-tech and innovative systems are needed to guarantee safety, a singular CCTV surveillance camera using state of the art technology is in the excess of £400 – this is for one single camera. As well as cameras, you will need alarm systems, security patrol staff and monitors which all have running costs.

Choosing a pick and pack despatch partner who have security systems in place already, a good security record and can evidence this well is a partner that you can work closely with to ensure that your security headaches are kept to a minimum, and can save you money in the long run.

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What is Order Processing, and how can I make sure it is being done right?

June 5, 2014

‘Order processing’ is actually a very broad term, used to refer to all of the processes followed to fulfil any order placed by a consumer for a good or service, including picking, packing, and transporting the package to a shipper for delivery. It is the heart of order fulfilment, and usually takes place in a distribution centre.

Order processing starts when an order is taken from a customer. More and more, these orders are taken online, but telephone and written orders are still a part of the process. Order processing ends when the customer actually receives the products, and accepted that the delivery is complete, accurate and satisfactory. As you might guess, the complicated parts are between those points, and can vary dramatically between different distribution centres and between different goods or services.

There are a few broad categories of order processing that we will examine

Some orders can be processed instantly – usually software, music or ebook downloading. In this case, order fulfilment is little more than processing the customer’s payment and initiating the upload to the customer.

Orders of physical goods are quite common, and require a much more complex process. The order is placed by the customer either in writing, by telephone, or through an online storefront. Occasionally, orders are made in person at a brick-and-mortar store, and sent to the distribution centre electronically or by other means.

However they arrive, orders are routed to the distribution centre. Some large companies maintain or contract several smaller, local distribution centres located near large population centres or convenient transport routes. Smaller companies rely on one or two distribution centres. Next, a ‘pick and pack’ process sees the correct products collected from the warehouse and assembled into a package for shipping.

Once the order is delivered to the customer, it is (eventually) opened and inspected. Only after the customer verifies that the goods they have ordered have been delivered correctly and in an undamaged state is order processing really considered complete. If the package is damaged, contains the wrong goods, or fails to live up to the agreement with the customer in any way, they can be returned and order processing continues until the issue has been resolved in some way, most often by delivery of replacement products or issue of a refund.

How can you achieve an efficient order process?

An efficient order process is vital to a good business plan, and many companies invest millions just in planning and creating a process. Four things are key to an effective order processing solution: efficiency, and the three factors of accuracy, speed, and customer satisfaction.

An order processing solution is efficient if it achieves its goals at a low cost. Balancing performance and cost for an efficient process is the job of the logistics manager. Accuracy is generally measured by the process’s ability to get the right product to the right customer, often within an agreed-upon time. This dovetails with speed. Many customers demand very short turn-around time between placing an order and receiving it. If you are selling same- or next-day delivery, your order processing needs to be extremely responsive. Customer satisfaction may be the most important of the four. Repeat business can make or break an online retailer, and bad customer service has lost more customers than poor quality or lack of advertising combined.

Many smaller businesses find that they cannot compete on all four levels efficiently, and seek out third party logistics partners or fulfilment houses to take over some or all of the order processing function to remain competitive.

Efficiency is the most talked about aspect of order fulfilment, as it defines whether or not the process is making or losing money. The process is often controlled or directed by a software package called a WMS, or warehouse management system. These are fairly expensive systems to implement, but give a substantial boost to the efficiency of medium to large operations, and more than pay for themselves. Because they are expensive, many smaller operations choose to outsource their order processing function to a fulfilment house who is likely to use a top of the line WMS, and take advantage of other process efficiency measures.

A very efficient order processing system has a few key elements. It should have a way to verify that incoming orders are passed on accurately, and reasonably reflect customer expectations. After all, doing exactly what you’ve been told doesn’t make money if it isn’t what the customer actually wants.

A verified order should then be fulfilled accurately. The necessary products need to be collected by the pickers quickly without error. At the packing station, the collected order must be assembled into a safe and secure package that minimises the risk of damage, is easy to ship, and is itself inexpensive. Lastly, the package should be shipped out quickly.

If any of these tasks are mishandled, the odds of making the customer unhappy increase substantially. The order may be returned, adding expense, and if not handles correctly the customer’s return business can be lost forever.

Specifically, though, the process is different for each type of product. Some of the factors that you will have to consider when designing your order fulfilment process (or deciding who to contract it out to) include:

  • The nature of your products – Fresh food requires a vastly different set up to CDs or DVDs, after all.
  • The way your customers order – do they order in bulk, or singly? Mixed lots or by type?
  • The way you package your orders – Jiffy bags? Standardised cartons and bubble wrap? They all require different procedures.
  • How much you will charge for shipping – if at all.
  • The nature and productivity of your workforce – will you use automated, manual or mixed processes?
  • Delivery windows – depending on your choice of carrier, meeting customer expectations can be difficult.
  • How much you can spend up front, and monthly – Some of the most effective solutions are very expensive.
  • The average value of your orders – low-value orders often don’t rate top-quality order processing.
  • Seasonal changes in demand – can you handle the Christmas rush?

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Tips for improving your e-commerce conversion rates for mobile and tablet customers

June 2, 2014

It seems everyone has a smartphone or a tablet these days, and they are being used for more and more of our daily computing tasks. M-commerce sales have more or less doubled since this time last year, and makes up a substantial portion of total online sales. The experts all agree that e-commerce over mobile devices will continue to take up a larger and larger share of the market, though there is spirited disagreement about the predicted rates of growth.

This means that many of your website visitors are already viewing it on a three to seven inch screen, whether your site can recognise and adapt to this fact or not. If you aren’t providing a good user experience for such a large segment of your visitors, is it surprising that they are turning to competitors who are?

So, what can you do to improve mobile user experience for your e-commerce customers?


Having a responsive web design that can detect the device type and operating system of your visitors is crucial. As an experiment, take out your smartphone, and navigate to your website right now. What does it look like? Can you see anything at all? The edge of your top banner? Or everything, but too small to have any hope of reading? If you can see it, how easy is it to use without a mouse? Without a keyboard?

Mobile customers should be automatically (and quickly) redirected to a version of your site optimised for a very small screen, and limited input options. This may require a major site redesign, but your web designer or fulfilment partner should be able to advise you. Alternatively, if you feel up to handling your own site many major template-based CMSs have mobile friendly templates and detection features.

Making sure your site can recognise and resize to fit your user’s device is the first and most obvious step, but that is not enough.


 More than 40% of m-commerce customers report that they worry about order security. M-commerce is relatively new, and your customers have the same trust issues that early e-commerce customers had, and they can be dealt with in much the same way.

Assure your mobile customers that your order process is encrypted and secure. More importantly, seek out, earn, and display any relevant trustmarks prominently. Make sure they appear both on your home/landing page, and throughout your entire checkout process.

M-commerce seems to be on its way from being a curiosity to becoming the new norm. It certainly isn’t some fad. Make sure you adapt to it early.

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Four ways to make your pick and pack operations more customer-focused and efficient

May 28, 2014

Any merchant, whether e-commerce, catalogue, or hybrid brink-and-mortar, will tell you that order fulfilment is vital to your customer experience, and much more important to the all-important return business than front end design, search engine optimisation or even advertising. The prompt delivery of a customer’s order, as well as the accuracy, condition and appearance of the order, is what customers will remember about an internet purchase, long after they’ve forgotten everything else. The quality of order fulfilment is therefore more important to the development of your brand than almost anything else.

In the same way, your pick and pack operations are the beating heart of your fulfilment processes. If you aren’t quite ready to turn your pick and pack or order fulfilment processes over to a specialist third party logistics partner, consider these four strategies to make your pick and pack processes all that they can be, improving the accuracy, efficiency, and speed of your entire order fulfilment operation.

Pick and Pack area organisation: fast, efficient, and safe

The shelves of your warehouse space should be organised to promote efficiency and accuracy in your picking process.

If you use picking bins, make sure they are easy to access and move about the warehouse. Much time and energy can be wasted just getting the bin to the storage location of a needed SKU. Remember that anything that looks difficult or awkward presents a risk of injury, and the cost and loss of efficiency injury brings.

Make sure your pickers can see into the bins easily. Even if you have an automated process and everything is scanned, a visual check can catch a lot of potential errors.

Make sure your bins are sized in proportion to the orders they will hold. This can be made part of a semi-automated process if you have the size and weight of each SKU programmed onto your warehouse management system.

Lastly, organise your product storage so that pickers don’t have to sort through many similar products to find the desired SKU. This saves time and reduces the error rate substantially.

Item location: Placement and layout is the cornerstone of warehouse management

The layout of your warehouse is critical to every one of its functions, and can make or break your order fulfilment process. Divide your floor into different picking areas, in terms of the distance between item locations and the packing area.

Make sure that two classes of items are closest to the packing stations: fast moving items and top sellers. You already know what a top selling item or SKU is. It is important that the items you sell most often are near to the packing station in order to cut down on unnecessary movement through the warehouse. This reduces pick time, but there is more to it than that. The less tome goods are in movement, the less vulnerable your employees are to injury, the less the goods are susceptible to accident, and the less your equipment is exposed to wear and tear. Everything costs a little less when the warehouse is set up efficiently.

Fast moving items are those products or SKUs that have the highest turnover rate. They may be your top sellers, but they may not. If one product is ordered in small quantities, perhaps due to bulk, limited shelf-life, or high unit cost, it might be moved into and out of stock more rapidly than higher-selling items. Especially of the issue is bulk or unit cost, the accident protection savings of a short trip to the packing area make treating it just like a high seller more efficient.

Use standardised packaging to keep everything moving quickly

Your packers should spend their time making sure everything is just right for the customer, not deciding how best to wrap a product. If they have to constantly make unguided decisions about what size of box to use, whether item 123-456A needs bubble wrap, paper, or just a jiffy bag, and then how much tape to use, you’re wasting time and money. You are also risking unacceptable levels of damage in shipping.

Ideally, you should have a very few standard size packaging options suited to your average order sizes and weights (or perhaps a bit above on both counts), and a few other options for unusual or awkwardly sized items. This will reduce decision making time and ensure more consistent shipping.

A good WMS can group common SKUs by ideal box choice, making it even faster. In addition, the use of standardised containers will often allow discounted shipping rates.

Pre-assemble common orders to same time when it is at a premium

Kitting, or pre-assembling orders of either individual products or specific groupings of SKUs, can make pick and pack operations much easier for all involved. Many warehouse managers choose to kit orders that are often made as a group (buy one get one free, included free samples, computer and monitor combos, etc.) in order to save time. Kits can be assembled at slow times or shifts, or by slower employees, reducing the pressure on the packing area during peak times.

Alternatively, some SKUs are just harder to pack than others. Even if they are not ordered very frequently, the presence of even one on the pick and pack queue can slow all the orders behind it as the difficult piece is dealt with. Kitting these items beforehand can save a lot of time and effort, and ensure that these difficult items get the attention they need. No matter what policy is, if the packers are in a hurry, they won’t do the difficult SKUs justice. Make sure they don’t have to.

Kitting is particularly attractive to B2B sellers or anyone who commonly sells in bulk. If an order is for 213 widgets, it is much faster to pick two boxes of 100 each then pack the last thirteen than to pack all of them, after all.

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E-commerce sales over smartphones more than doubled worldwide this April. Is your website ready for m-commerce?

May 27, 2014

Not long ago, Branding Brand made its worldwide Mobile Commerce Index report for April 2014 public, and the results were bullish on m-commerce. The report consolidated global data on consumer activity that came to ecommerce retailers through smartphones and similar small mobile devices, and gave us some useful comparisons of the performance of smartphone-optimised ecommerce sites between April 2013 and April 2014.

Just how are ecommerce sales and mobile devices changing the way consumers search for products?

They determined that smartphone visits to the 18 index-sites had nearly doubled since last year’s sample, from just over 9 million in April 2013 to 17.8 million in April 2014. Conversion rates remained roughly steady, as the number of orders also fell just shy of doubling, from just over 54,000 to just over 106,000. Importantly, global revenue from tracked smartphone-optimised sites more than doubled from just over £3.25 million to just over £7 million. Even accounting for inflation (the study used USD) this represents nearly twice as many orders from mobile devices, and an increase in average order value.

So, what about global market share? How do these figures compare to overall e-commerce?

April 2014 saw fully 29% of site visitors from mobile devices. Of them, just under 2/3 were from iOS (Apple/iPhone) devices, and just over 1/3 were from Android devices. This more or less matches the market share of the two platforms. I am a little surprised that there is virtually no traffic from Windows phones, but not terribly. I mean, do you know anyone who uses one?

The important thing is that these figures are up substantially from April 2013, when mobile traffic was 45% lower and desktop/laptop traffic was 22% higher (remember, it started out twice as high).

Triple digit gains cannot be ignored. They represent a basic shift in the market, and ecommerce retailers had better pay attention. Omni-channel commerce is no longer ‘on the horizon’. It is here, and if your site is not responsive to the platform your visitors browse from, you are leaving at least 1/3 of potential customers out in the cold.

A good e-commerce fulfilment partner will be able to integrate omni-channel sales technology with your existing e-commerce site, and open up a whole new (and rapidly growing) customer base to you. M-commerce is an established fact, and it is not going anywhere. Make sure your website can cope, and make sure your fulfilment partner can too.

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The Benefits of Integrated Logistics Support

May 22, 2014

Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) is a technical process in which support and logistics considerations are integrated within the design life cycle of a product or system. The overall aim is a cost-effective and durable system that performs to its maximum capabilities.

A lean, functional system that requires minimal support thereby increasing one’s return on investment (ROI): functional, reliable and usable whilst conforming to standards of best practice.

ILS is popular with product support, e.g. distribution and customer service systems.

Brief history of Integrated Logistics Support

Originally developed by the military, ILS has been adopted by the commercial business world who apply it to many of their processes. It consists of a series of support elements, integrated into the system life cycle and measured at regular intervals.

The ILS whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In other words, the combination of all the support elements results in a highly effective process that boosts productivity of product support or customer service systems.

ILS elements include:

  • Maintenance Planning
  • Logistics Support Analysis
  • Training
  • Human Resources/Human-Machine Interface
  • Support and Test Equipment
  • Computer Resources
  • Technical Data
  • Facilities
  • Packaging and Handling/Storage
  • Transportation/Delivery

This list is by no means exhaustive.

The result is a streamlined system that is easy to support and with a strong customer service ethos.

How do you determine the effectiveness of ILS?

The answer to that is a set of pre-defined metrics or ‘RAMT’ for short (reliability, availability, maintainability and testability). These metrics are used to measure the performance of each support element throughout the lifespan of the system.

In some situations, ‘system safety’ metrics are used as part of a risk management strategy.

Design, test and refine

This is an iterative process whereby each support element is tested on repeated occasions. Schedules are used which contain criteria specially designed for this process to ensure product support or customer service systems are in optimum condition.

An analysis is carried out to determine a set of tasks specific to an individual element. This helps with testing and suggestions for improvements.

One way to think of this is as a ‘continual improvement process’ in which every aspect is tweaked to improve its functionality. Regular maintenance, upgrades, repairs, training courses and tests are the tools used to achieve this.

Testing is followed by the production of a report outlining recommendations for change or improvement. It will highlight known errors that are disrupting operational efficiency, slowing down processes and leading to employee and management dissatisfaction.

You apply ILS as a means of refining your existing product support or customer services system until it meets approved guidelines and regulations.

The human element

People are an important part of any organisation. Their skills and experience contribute to the performance and efficiency of the system. Hence, why it is important that one nurture the capabilities of these employees ensuring they are able to cope with the demands of their role, often in pressurised conditions.

Human Resources are a vital part of the ILS process. The aim is to match the right person with the right job and there are various ways of doing this.

These include psychometric and/or proficiency tests that define an individual employee’s personality, skills and aptitudes. Once these have been analysed, management can allocate employees to roles in keeping with the results of these tests. Finding a perfect fit between the two.

The ILS process can help HR and senior management to devise teams consisting of a set number of employees, meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) as part of an overall strategy. This may mean a reduction in headcount but the trade-off is improved productivity and lower costs.

Additional support provided in the form of specially designed training courses, keeping employees up to date with the latest technologies and processes.

Training the trainer

A word about training: this is another vital part of the ILS process that is implemented throughout. It covers training materials, techniques and equipment and applies to training officers/instructors and trainees.

Training modules are devised for new employees, providing them with the theory and practical skills necessary for their role. They are regularly tested on their knowledge and ability to carry out their role to meet the needs of the organisation.

Training officers are assessed on a regular basis to see if they are familiar with their materials and the manner in which this is delivered to the attendees. Training material is updated in accordance with management requirements and business goals.

Form and functionality

Regular maintenance is crucial to the operational efficiency of product support and customer services systems. ILS believes in optimal functionality of a system, achieved by a schedule of regular upgrades, maintenance and repairs. This pro-active rather than reactive approach means that a system is always in tiptop shape and fully operational.

This reduces the risk of a drop in productivity caused by a system failure, disruption or malfunction. If a piece of equipment breaks down due to a lack of maintenance then the effects can be costly.

The conventional business model factors in the cost of repairs and adopting a short-term approach, only undertakes this whenever there is a problem.

ILS Summary

The ILS process is a long-term process that seeks to prevent any problems before they arise. By implementing a series of support measures within the design lifecycle of a product or customer services system, they make use of existing resources for maximum productivity.

This technical process fits well within any organisation, streamlining its processes and procedures to meet a set of goals whilst saving time and money.

Many organisations operate in a short-term survival mode, which is risky in an increasingly competitive environment. Implementing the Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) process within your organisation guarantees long-term survival and continuing success.

Reduce waste, rationalise processes and empower your employees. The result is a lean and agile operational machine that performs to its maximum capabilities on a continual basis. An excellent process that delivers on all fronts, making it an essential strategy for business improvement.

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Overpackaging: How much is it costing you?

May 20, 2014

As we near the midpoint of the decade, the new consumer landscape of the ‘teens’ is now well established. Two substantial changes from the 2000s have already become clear.

Let’s take a look at how much your packaging is costing your business

First, consumers think nothing of ordering nearly any products via the internet for home delivery. Ten years ago, we would have thought it impossible, not to mention impractical, to order a four pack of toilet paper online. In 2014 we say ‘Is it any cheaper than Tesco’s?’

Second, the huge variety of online merchants, large and small, has produced a consumer that is more informed, opinionated, and empowered than ever before. Those in the market for home delivered toilet paper can think of four places they could order from without even searching Google, and won’t hesitate to switch suppliers over a 2p price difference, a single bad delivery, or an unconfirmed rumour of unsafe working conditions at the factory that turn out this increasingly apocryphal toilet paper.

So, how does this relate to packaging, and why do I keep bringing up bog roll?

It is actually related. I recently ordered four rolls of toilet paper and a kitchen roll online, I won’t say from who. The way it was delivered was rather surprising, and caused no small amount of actual anger from my significant other.

Both products arrived at the same time, and in excellent condition. The anger arose from the packaging, or rather the massive over-packaging of what have to be the two least breakable products I’ve ever had sent to me. The outer layer (yes, layers!) was a cardboard box approximately 2 feet square. From the weight, I did not immediately guess that it was my paper rolls. Feeling a little bit of the excitement of opening an unexpected package, I was further intrigued to find inside 2 smaller boxes and a half dozen cellophane packets of air the size of Capri Sun juice bags. I hadn’t ordered the pre-packaged air. I’ll buy bottled water from time to time, but that’s about as posh as I get. I opened the larger of the two boxes, and was rewarded with a large roll of paper towels… wrapped in bubble wrap! The contents of the second box weren’t a surprise, but at least there was no more unnecessary bubble wrap.

My better half is quite ecologically minded, and while I was most bothered by the wasted expense of the overpackaging – a simple polythene bag and a mailing label would have been plenty – he was actually angry about the waste. The extra carbon footprint this overpackaging represented was substantial. The final order was 2 or three times as heavy as it had to be, so took more fuel to deliver. The boxes and wrap and tape all had to be manufactured and delivered as well. He declared that he would never use this retailer again, even after I explained that they probably contracted out for order fulfilment. “It’s still their responsibility!”

So this retailer essentially paid more than they had to, and lost a customer in the process. That is the real cost of overpackaging, and one 3PLs and e-retailers alike have to be sure to avoid.

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Where are the cloud computing supply chain execution solutions?

May 15, 2014

Though many experts predicted that cloud computing would be the development that brought modern supply chain execution software solutions (SCEs) such as warehouse management systems (WMSs) within the reach of the small or medium warehouses that could not afford the initial adoption costs for these products, they have been very slow to arrive, and even slower to be adopted. Cloud based WMS options have been available for years, but have accounted for only a tiny fraction of the UK WMS market in 2013. To put that in perspective, cloud based CRM software accounts for nearly half of that market now, and the supply chain management sector looked at a s a whole is more than 20% cloud based.

Warehousing and cloud based warehouse management systems

The adoption demographics aren’t what we expected, either. The warehouses and distribution centres that use cloud based warehouse management systems seem to be the less sophisticated, or at least the least heavily computerised ones.

One explanation why is that it isn’t the smaller facilities that demand these services, but rather those that do not desire a great deal form their WMS, and therefore do not wish to make a large initial investment in it. Another theory is that warehouse management systems are very transaction heavy and internally oriented, so few managers are willing to trust cloud delivery. They don’t trust the reliability of cloud delivery with such critical functions.

There is definitely the feeling among logistics managers that cloud solutions are ill-suited to large facilities. The producers of these cloud based WMSs struggle to reassure potential buyers that they have overcome these shortcomings.

But how are cloud based SCE solutions really different?

From the end user’s point of view, a cloud or SAAS solution offers a lower initial cost for several reasons. First and most obviously, they aren’t buying the software upfront, just renting access to it. More importantly, they are not installing the infrastructure that runs the software themselves, all of that is operated centrally by the vendor.

While these systems are seen as less reliable (the internet still goes down from time to time, even at the best facilities), they can offer increased reliability because they are not generally truly bespoke systems. Most suppliers provide access to a mature and well-understood base code, and a separate layer of code to interface with the customer’s systems that is highly personalised.  

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It may be time to outsource your pick & pack and save time money and energy

May 14, 2014

There are many benefits to outsourcing your pick and pack services, but none greater than the savings on the resources of time and money. You will save much time by no longer attempting to pack and fulfil all orders alone, and you’ll save money by finding a provider who will over special rates such as loyalty schemes or discounts. A more secondary factor, although still important is the customer satisfaction you can gain without doing any of the work to achieve this – by finding a supplier with a reputable company and whose active years and client list are extensive, you are guaranteed a speedy and successful service which in turn means that your customer will receive their goods at a quick pace, every time.

Things to consider when outsourcing your pick and pack services

Looking for a combination of a warehouse which is highly organised, with a highly trained and large team will be the most advisable to explore with there being a strong chance of continually fast rates of picking and packing throughout the year. This is extremely beneficial over the Christmas period, which is when many businesses will see a huge rise in orders, which can result in backlogs, and they can be very damaging for a business. Customer satisfaction is the end goal, and this means your clients must be happy in all areas, such as experiencing no delays in their products no matter what month of the year it is.

Benefits of using a fulfilment company for pick and pack outsourcing

By outsourcing your picking and packing this could also heighten brand awareness, having satisfied customers who are then likely to recommend your company and products to others creates this. Having an order arrive on time and in a presentable way, is something that means a lot and creates a pleasant experience for customers who are then more likely to mention your products to their friends and family. This will not be the case if they have had to wait in and had no order arrive, experienced long delays or troubles with receiving their purchases – things like this are eliminated when you channel your products through the correct picking and packing service.

Also, by outsourcing this area of your business you are left with more time to grow your company and spend time on new ventures. You can outsource to many reputable providers who will offer short term contracts such as pay as you go services, meaning you are not tied to anything and can only outsource at busier times of year – or when you need to.

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Cost effective and eco friendly fulfilment services

May 13, 2014

Greener packaging methods for easier eco friendly fulfilment

Today’s customers are more interested in sourcing those items they can from within their own country simply because of the knowledge of their environment, the pressure to be eco-friendly, and to support their own countries economy. Imports in the UK decreased to  Â£42650 Million in February this year from £43174 Million in January this year and this is partly attributed to UK consumers choosing to “Buy British” Many consumers these days are looking at ways to improve their carbon footprint, and many are looking at everything from the food, clothing, and decorative items they buy to the type of car they drive, and the type of holiday they go on. The rise of the “staycation” is no longer singularly attributed to budget restraints, but many people are choosing to lower their carbon footprint by limiting international travel. 2/3 of UK families stayed in the UK for their holiday in 2013, and this figure is likely to hold up for 2014 too. Protecting the future of the environment has never been more important and consumers are growing more and more eco-conscious.

As businesses seek to become more eco-friendly, importing from overseas is often seen as a bad thing. Obviously, we are never going to be able to produce all the goods we need in the UK, so it is imperative that we find the most you can friendly way to move our goods internationally. Therefore, packaging requirements for products need to be carefully investigated, to provide the most cost-effective and eco-friendly form of packaging for each item. From retailers, to logistics providers, the pressure is on to reduce emissions and package more effectively.

So, how can retailers and logistics providers reduce their carbon footprint by looking at packaging requirements?

Currently, retailers are using an excessive level of packaging to ensure that their records are not damaged in transit.  This bubble wrap, tissue paper, protective packaging does not only have an effect on a retailers bottom line, it also has an effect on their carbon footprint. Knock-on effect is also taking place on the piece you missed side of things. Always access packaging, if not recycled, you sent to landfill, which is detrimental to the environment. Badly packaged items will also take up far more room on a truck, ship, plane, or pallet than is necessary. Looking at various different methods of packaging will enable any retailer to cut costs on their packaging and also reduce their carbon footprint.

There has to be a happy medium. Protecting goods in transit is a significant worry for retailers, as they need to keep customers satisfied whilst keeping costs low, and now with the added pressure on their carbon footprint, they have a whole extra source of worry.

So what should retailers be doing about these issues?

Most importantly, there has to be an element of common sense. Retailers do not have to apply the same principals when shipping pillows as they do with glass picture frames. Those items that do not need to be protected in transit to prevent breakage should be shipped with the least amount of packaging possible, whilst ensuring that their items can be shipped effectively.

For example, the pillows: In cellophane in a box is fine. There is no need for bubble wrap, extra fillers or room between the pillow and the box. Pillows have to be one of the least “shipping friendly” items anyway, as their weight to volume ratio means that retailers pay through the nose for space, so if possible, they should be packed tight with very little extra stuffing.  Surprisingly, some retailers do not take heed of this advice. I myself recently ordered a set of pillows, which came in a crush proof box, with cellophane and cardboard inserts. Completely unnecessary. These items were not shipped overseas and this is another thing retailers should be aware of. Shipping internationally requires different packaging requirements than shipping inland. A large mailbag should have protected those pillows effectively in transit, and cost effectively too.  Luckily, I recycle, so it’s slightly less of an issue, but if I didn’t, and many people still don’t, then that packaging would be going straight to landfill.

In a nutshell, there are a few pieces of advice to packaging successfully, cost effectively and in an eco friendlier way

Select the perfect size box or container

Sometimes, carriers find themselves restricted by the dimension of boxes they have in stock that they can use to deliver their items. For instance, they could have a product such as a small mechanical piece that is 2 cubic inches, but their nearest sized box is one cubic foot. This corresponds to 1,726 inches of cubic space squandered and extra cardboard in addition to additional product packaging product to keep whatever it is from moving about. The value of having perfectly sized shipping containers in stock is vital for protecting resources and conserving costs.

Pick sustainable packaging products

 Recycled paper and card for shipping are offered at pretty much the same cost as new products. There is a wealth of offerings, such as cushioning, corrugated boxes, and padded mail bags.

The European Union created a measure in 1994 (the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). This measure was issued to balance various actions taken by many EU nations to effectively increase the incidence of reuse and recycling of packaging. Packaging waste equates to 17 % of Europe’s waste stream, however this number used to be a lot higher.

Take advantage of more long lasting packaging materials

Just as vital as acquiring sustainable packaging materials, is purchasing products that will stand up to wear and tear. From origin to delivery, your standard parcel will get jostled about. If the packaging is not sufficient enough to protect that item, that product will have to be resent, therefore necessitating usage of even more packaging material. For businesses to thrive, their items need to arrive intact at their destination.

Another advantage of durable product packaging materials is their capability to be used more than once. A great quality cardboard box can possibly be shipped 5 or 6 times, at which point, duct tape could be placed around the corners and seams to make it last even longer. Therefore, those receiving packages should save the more resilient boxes that come in for reuse by the shipping division.

Send out products in bulk

Another example for you: I ordered 8 products from an online retailer recently, which then arrived in 8 separate packages. If the retailer had the capability to bulk package their items, they would likely have been able to save a fair amount of money in postage and packaging for this and many other orders.

Choose an environmentally friendly provider

Another tip for more eco-friendly shipping might consist of making use of a shipping or trucking service that has a good environmental credibility. A fleet of hybrid distribution vehicles and continuously developing more effective routes for their vehicle drivers is the mark of a good eco friendly carrier.

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Vetinary Product Fulfilment

May 9, 2014

Fairway has strengthened its Medical Fulfilment offering by extending its existing MHRA Wholesale Dealer’s Licence to also include Veterinary Products. This addition was to meet the needs of a specific customer and involved a detailed external audit by the MHRA of Fairway’s security, processes, cleanliness and staff training. This demonstrates the company’s commitment to continue to expand its service offering to customers.

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Four tips to make your ecommerce website more effective from your fulfilment partners at Fairway

May 8, 2014

Ecommerce retailers succeed or fail based on their web presence. Your entire business rides on these bits of code, so shouldn’t you make sure you’re using every trick in the book to its best potential? We’ve included a few words of advice on some of the things even well-established website can often improve on.  After all, the more sales you make, the more fulfilment business we do.

It is easy to fall into the mode of thinking that your core values need to be quality and service, and that your website need only be functional and efficient. This is only partially true, though. Letting quality or service slide will end an ecommerce concern in a hurry, no doubt about it, but a lacklustre or an unpleasant website can doom an otherwise excellent business to obscurity and failure just as quickly.

Your online customers will probably never meet you or speak to you, so you have to put your charisma and passion for your products into the website itself.

Here are a few ways you can improve your ecommerce website for your online business

Spacing and Placement: Cluttered pages make people skip over your carefully prepared information without seeing it. Too much blank space looks unfinished and unprofessional. Make sure you have enough content to hold the customer’s attention, and to keep them focused on the features that will sell your goods or services.

Typeface or Font: In words you’ve probably already read online “We are a Fortune 500 company, not a lemonade stand. We do not use Comic Sans.” The font you use for your main content serves as your facial expression online. Will your customers see it as serious? As playful? As professional? As unreliable? Don’t get me wrong, Comic Sans has its place, but make sure you think about what your font says about your content.

Colour Scheme
: Even if your web page is premade for you, you will be able to change the colour scheme. There are hundreds of articles available online about what colours make people feel, and which put different customers in a buying mood. No matter what advice these articles give, consider avoiding garish schemes. If you think it might be hard to look at, assume it is. Understatement is always preferable to garishness.

Let me assure you, you are too close to your website to judge it without outside advice. Ask the opinion of someone who isn’t involved in the project for an opinion, then pay attention to the advice, even if you don’t like it.

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3 things you need to get right in supply chain management

May 7, 2014

Supply chain management is complicated for a few different reasons, but one of the most important is the relatively high rate of turnover within it. The responsibility of managing a supply chain is more likely to be passed between different individuals in the same organisation, or increasingly made the responsibility of a 3PL, than many other business functions. This can mean that a new manager is handed the reins with little understanding of his or her predecessor’s strategy or aims.

In order to avoid disruptions and achieve gains in efficiency and reliability quickly, we have identified three key areas that a supply chain manager cannot afford to ignore.

1) Define the scope of your project

Unless you define the scope of your supply chain management project early, and quite rigidly, it is prone to failure in several ways. Changing deliverables, outputs and goals can cause mission creep, and project failure as it becomes too large to manage and much more costly than it was envisioned. Its goals can also be too vague to guide meaningful action. Formal scoping meetings are highly advisable before and during implementation.

2) Get buy-ins from the right people

Supply chain management projects can fail when the leaders who will be relied upon to do the real heavy lifting of the project are not given a significant voice in the formulation of the goals and overall strategy of the project. Identify the stakeholders for the project during the planning phase, make sure there is open communication between all of them, and make sure they are all aware of potential roadblocks you may face. Above all, make sure all of the stakeholders actually believe the project can and will succeed. No matter how well-meaning, or willing to follow orders someone is, they cannot give full effort to a project they believe is irrelevant or doomed.

3) Establish and maintain the visibility of your project and its projected gains

Many projects are scrapped while they are still on track and viable because the visibility of their effectiveness and expected returns are lost. Like any business project, a supply chain management scheme must be seen to be successful to remain successful. That is why it is of critical importance to identify important milestones of your project, and make sure the right people know when you hit them, as well as what benefits they present for the company. Even if your project is perfectly on track, a lack of visible progress can lose key stakeholders’ enthusiasm and backing, and doom the project.

Of course, there is more to it than that. Supply chain management is a complicated field that demands both talent and experience, which is why more and more companies are outsourcing supply chain management to 3PLs such as Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, who have the experience and focus to bring meaningful success to even the most challenging projects.

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How can ecommerce sellers optimize their inventory carrying costs?

May 6, 2014

Many ecommerce retailers understand the concept of inventory carrying cost (ICC) in the abstract, but have trouble applying it operationally. Many e-tailers do not give proper weight to the costs of carrying inventory, and therefore miss a lot of essential inefficiencies in their operations. I want to highlight a few points on how ICC affects inventory and how understanding your real ICC is vital to reducing inventory while maintaining flow-through. Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics explain ICC in more detail below.

How do I calculate Inventory Carrying Cost?

Your ICC is really just the total cost of keeping and managing your inventory, the lost opportunity costs of ‘tying up’ your capital in stock, and the risk to the existing inventory. All too often, this is not calculated, and capital costs alone are used in place of these figures. For most operations, capital costs will be only 5-10%, while the real ICC can be 20-25%. Think what these numbers could mean for your organisation, and tell me if it is worth the time to understand ICC properly.

So, how do I use ICC to optimise my inventory policies?

There has been a lot of ink spilled over inventory optimisation and ‘right-sizing’ over the years, and I don’t expect to add much to the debate. I can, perhaps, summarise some of the simpler points. Your goal is to adopt policies that set your inventory levels at the minimum necessary to maintain operation without stoppages. Right sizing and optimisation usually mean reducing these levels, but if the system needs more inventory to work smoothly, right-sizing means up-sizing.

Optimisation should not focus purely on inventory numbers, but they are often obsessed over because they are unambiguous and easy to manipulate. A proper right-sizing operation looks to change the system of policies affecting or affected by inventory to make the system run smoothly with a lower ICC. Only then should inventory levels be reset.

System changes at this level will often require some degree of capital investment. Using the correct ICC numbers (which are usually higher than capital cost figures) will help a supply chain manager get the buy-in that they need to get the job done correctly. A good supply chain management 3PL can be of a great deal of help in setting inventory levels and policy, so don’t be shy to ask for help.

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Weekly roundup on Order Fulfilment News

May 1, 2014

Fulfilment is not just defined as the process of receiving an order for a product and making the necessary preparations to get that order ready for delivery to the customer.  There is a great deal going on in the middle of that statement: picking the product from the warehouse shelf; packing it into a suitable box to ensure that it arrives intact and undamaged; printing out a delivery label with name, full address and delivery instructions and company sorting code.  All of this goes on before the delivery driver handles the package and ultimately hands it over to the customer.

How is the Kaizen approach being used by fulfilment companies?

So, from the point where someone chooses an item that they want right through to the doorstep delivery a good fulfilment company, such as Fairway, should be able to help with every single process to streamline and speed up the process. Some fulfilment companies are using the Japanese principle of Kaizen, which literally translates as the practice of continuous improvement.  Although we all practice continuous improvement, the Kaizen approach, which was introduced in Japan after the Second World War is based on a number of factors that you can see in evidence at fulfilment warehouses today.  This pathway to total fulfilment depends on good processes, initiative amongst the work force, absolute teamwork and taking action to root out problems in the workplace.  The ultimate mantra is that Kaizen principles are EVERYONE’S principles. Everyone from top-level management down to the part time factory floor worker must work by these principles.   It is clear that such a working regime will inevitably bring success, provided that all the staff, at every level, buy into the idea.

Within a fulfilment operation Kaizen takes upon practices of Japanese businesses such as automation, suggestion systems, quality circles and just-in-time delivery, to deliver a streamlined process that continuously monitors and improves standards. Some feel that this fits in perfectly with the fulfilment model, as the goalposts are constantly changing and customers are demanding more and more. Striving to offer more and more in terms of on time delivery, streamlined pick and pack facilities and innovative fulfilment software solutions, means that the industry must constantly monitor and improve their offerings, or face falling to the wayside.

A recent piece in The Guardian discussed the challenges retailers must look at with regards to fulfilment before they consider taking their business overseas.  It is the goal of most companies to expand their sphere of operations and this can sometimes involve tapping into overseas markets.  The risks involved in doing so should not be underestimated although these risks can be reduced somewhat by choosing a strategic approach when it comes to fulfilment.

Let’s take a look at what else has been happening around the fulfilment industry

The fifth UK Trade and Investment’s Export Week was recently completed which gives retailers practical advice on setting up overseas trade by means of a number of seminars, workshops and overseas market briefings.  The key message to take from such events is that all fulfilment challenges need to be conquered if a business is to succeed in any overseas expansion projects.  Of these challenges, arguably the most important one to consider is that of not being over ambitious with your expansion plans.  Some businesses fall into the trap of assuming that what is good for one country will work in the next one equally well.  This is clearly not so and careful research is essential into factors that make fulfilling orders difficult or more costly than first thought.

It’s a great idea these days to share resources especially if the business trying to break into overseas markets is new to the game and does not have the right infrastructure in place to be successful.  Partnering up with other companies who are experienced in those countries can ensure exceptionally good results.  For instance a small retail outfit can use overseas warehousing and logistical expertise to get their products from a UK manufacturing base directly to overseas customers.  In time they can do it all themselves but, in the early days, what better way to achieve fulfilment than to use a partner company that is already well established.

Ultimately retailers have to ensure that fulfilment is a major part of the WHOLE ordering and delivery process and not just something to be bolted on as an optional accessory.  New Internet technology makes the world smaller every day and a customer sitting in front of their screen in a rural part of the USA can suddenly become the next customer of an online retailer in the West Midlands of the UK.  For this customer to have a wholly satisfactory retail experience though everything in the chain has to be right.  The description and images of the product; the pricing of the goods; the guarantees offered; the returns procedure should the product not be satisfactory.  All of this is part of the fulfilment process and if all is correctly set up then the system works.  If a part of it is sub-standard the fulfilment experience fails.  

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The dangers of non-compliance in warehousing

April 29, 2014

Health and Safety in the Warehouse

A well known logistics provider has been issued a £250,000 fine following the fatal fall of a worker through a stockroom roof just a short time after the Court of Appeal verified that fines would be based upon the severity of the breach of Health and Safety and the financial scenarios of each offender.

HSE regulations and January update

The HSE upgraded its guidance on working at height in January and this was done to supply targeted and clear guidance to particular sectors on individual or business level obligations as well as aiming to combat misconceptions of the guidance. Given the story below, it is worth making the effort to see to it that your company doesn’t get caught out.

Aramex (UK) Ltd employed Gary Edwards, who works as roofing professional, and Michael Sweet, in order to deal with a leak and to ensure the guttering of one of their properties was cleaned in December 2011. Whilst cleaning the guttering, Mr. Sweet stood on a fragile panel in the roof, which gave way and he tragically fell to the concrete floor below. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered after an investigation that no precaution had been put in place in the area and prosecuted Mr. Edwards as well as Aramex. The HSE ruled that Aramex had ignored their own H&S guidelines to monitor the work or examine exactly how it would be completed, despite understanding of the fragility of the roof. Mr. Edwards also admitted that the only safety equipment provided to his worker was a pair of safety gloves.  There were many missed opportunities to provide a safer working environment, which may have reduced the risk lower, such as providing harnesses, scaffolding or placing boards over the vulnerable area.

 Both Mr. Edwards and Aramex pleaded guilty to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Aramex received a fine of a quarter of a million pounds, whilst Mr. Edwards was issued with a 4 month prison sentence, which was suspended for a 12 months.

Going forward, it appears that big companies (initially defined as those with a turnover in excess or £ 1 billion) can expect far higher levels of financial punishment if convicted of these sorts of offences. There will now be much more stringent examination of accounts prior to and at any sentencing hearing. Smaller sized companies, although not particularly scrutinized in detail by the Court of Appeal, are likewise most likely to see fines enhanced in the future.

Contact Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics for a professional warehousing and fulfilment service you can trust.  

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Is your supply chain management set-up ready to respond to the IoT disruptions to come?

April 28, 2014

Machine to machine data flow (M2M), once called embedded computing and now ‘the internet of things’ (IoT) is gaining ever larger shares of the market.

Does your supply chain strategy take the possibility of the disruptive market shifts this could bring in the near future into account?

I’m an old fuddy-duddy, and I admit it. The idea of a toothbrush that connects to a smart phone app seems downright silly to me. The idea of fishing out my phone or a tablet to dim the lights in my home seems like a lot more trouble that walking over and fiddling with the dimmer switch. But regardless of how I reject the consumer end of this revolution, I would be a fool to ignore how it is set to change the transport and logistics sector.

As the IoT idea draws more investment and big name support, practical, useful examples of the technology are already on the market and will soon become almost ubiquitous. Global M”M connections are supposed to pass the quarter-billion mark this year, up from 195 million last year. Estimates for 2020 are between 20 and 50 billion M2m connections, but they are mostly guesswork. (Remember when dates like 2020 were by-words for ‘the far future? Now it’s just 6 years.)

As the floodgates of investment money open, new manufacturers will enter the IoT market, and each will need to shoulder their way into an already highly subscribed component and materials market. Securing a supply chain will be vital to every one of them, and may make or break most of these start-ups before they even consider turning a profit.

How do you make a purchasing forecast when demand is nearly impossible to calculate?

All many start-ups know is that the demand will be there, and if they don’t serve it, someone else surely will.

Many of these tech firms will beturning to dedicated third party logistics partners to handle these supply chain worries. An established logistics partner can offer the experience and reliability that a fledgling company needs in order to focus on actually making their innovative devices and bringing them to market. They can also provide these services at a substantially better price than can be achieved in-house on a small scale, so could be the factor that makes one company go on to greatness while another on (or ten) fail to thrive.

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‘Minimums’ in the 3rd party fulfilment industry, and what they can mean to you

April 24, 2014

The order fulfilment and e-commerce sector caters to new market participants more than almost any other, so we get a lot of questions about how fulfilment and e-fulfilment actually works. We have gotten a lot of questions lately about minimum order volumes, fees, and storage levels and how they work in the third party fulfilment market, and I will try to answer some of those today.

What is ‘minimum order volume’ in third party fulfilment?

Online retailers who are looking into potential third party fulfilment partners will have to understand how minimum order volume can affect them. Not all fulfilment houses have a minimum order volume, of course, but you’ll need to understand what it is before you can really compare the prices and services offered by different 3PLs.

If you contract with a 3PL for a minimum of 500 orders per month, there will be consequences if they process fewer than 500 orders from you in a month. Many will charge a default fee for not meeting that minimum. Others will charge you as if you had used the minimum number of orders regardless of actual use. Read the minimum order requirements carefully when comparing pricing schemes.

What about ‘minimum monthly fees’?

This is a very similar concept. Some fulfilment or logistics providers have an absolute minimum amount you will pay every month, regardless of actual activity, usage or order volume. If you have a monthly minimum fee of £500, and your usage would only result in a £300 bill, you’ll be charged £500 anyway. On the other hand, if sales meet your expectations, you may never run into a minimum. Just be aware of what it means, and consider it when choosing a provider.

And minimum storage levels?

Again, the same concept but a different application. Some fulfilment partners charge for a minimum amount of storage space used, even if you don’t use quite that much. It may be calculated by square foot, by pallet, or even by SKU, but if your contract calls for a minimum storage level of 5 pallets and you pay £20 per pallet used, you’ll never pay less than £100 no matter how few pallets you actually use. Of course, it can (and really should, unless something is wrong) rise above the minimum amount.

So what do I do if I’m paying for these minimums every month?

If you find you are constantly running against these minimum payments, it is likely hurting your profitability. Try to renegotiate your contract, of course, but also look at the prices other fulfilment partners offer such as Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics. Still, you might not have to move. One company’s minimum charge might even be lower than your actual use at another provider. Just make sure you do the math.

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Digital shoplifting is becoming a serious problem for many ecommerce sellers, but few have a viable strategy in place to fight it

April 23, 2014

Ecommerce is changing what shopping means to people all around the world, but unfortunately it is also changing the way a small but growing minority of customers try to steal merchandise. Smaller e-commerce sellers in particular may be vulnerable to this, and should work closely with their logistics partners to prevent it.

So how is digital shoplifting affecting online businesses?

Digital shoplifting is mostly consumers making false claims that their orders have been ‘lost in transit’ or destroyed (GLIT or Goods Lost in Transit claims). This is technically fraud, not theft, but the effect on the merchant is the same. These false claims are made in the hopes of getting free replacement merchandise, or a refund to which they are not entitled. False claims of these kinds are becoming more and more common, both in the UK and around the world. Anyone who sells goods online should be wary of, but not hostile to, claims of undelivered or damaged goods. Most such claims are legitimate, even now.

 In a recent survey, more than 90% of the loss prevention specialists polled agreed that false lost order claims now pose a serious threat to the ecommerce sector. Nonetheless, the majority of online retailers have no specific policies in place to verify these claims, nor to deal with them once they are uncovered.

False GLIT claims cost UK online and mail-order retailers a staggering £405 million every year. As experts estimate that the average false GLIT claim costs the seller around £40, it doesn’t take many to turn a good month into a bad month for most online sellers.

How can you prevent false GLIT claims against your ecommerce business?

E-commerce sellers and their logistics partners need to work together to address these problems. Either the merchant or the 3PL, whichever party handles customer service and response, must implement a comprehensive screening program that will detect false claims. This is often a much more efficient program when enacted company-wide by a 3PL rather than by an individual seller, once again making a good logistics partner like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, crucial to the small and medium sized online business.

Retailers or 3PLs with the necessary software and management systems in place can assess claims for fraud risk at the first point of contact, when the least amount of time and effort have been spent on the case, and detection will save the most money. If both the 3pL and the carrier work closely together and keep good records, fraudulent GLIT claims can be challenged quickly and easily.

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Creating the most effective Omni Channel Fulfilment

April 22, 2014

Omni-channel or multi-channel fulfilment has significantly become the standard for retail providers, manufacturers and merchants to fulfill a broad wealth of different shipments. For that reason, operations now have to be more versatile and efficient to ensure the increasing range of order types and sizes are fulfilled, by showcasing order fulfilment processes with highly intelligent automation of the process.

So what is omni-channel fulfilment and how can it help your business?

Omni-channel fulfilment is known as the capability to process orders within the same fulfilment operation from multiple different sales channels. Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics have a vast amount of experience in omni-channel fulfilment.

Some of these can include:

  • Internet/direct to consumer
  • Speciality shops
  • Direct to big box merchants
  • To other distributors

To reach this level of flexibility, an operation needs the right innovations, design and processes to deliver this requirement. Consistent growth of internet fulfilment with instant mobile orders, and same day client shipment expectations, can lead to distribution operations having to pick,pack and ship in two to four hours, or even less, which is far less time than that given with existing 8-hour shipment windows.

Many fulfilment operations struggle to find the correct balance between picking, packing and delivering innovations with best practice when executing lean Omni-channel fulfilment operations. The most successful operations process a mix of Less than Truckload (LTL) shipments with full-pallet and/or mixed-case-pallet orders, are able to create a system of fluid-loading directly to the trailer, and can balance the complexities compounded by the growing need for incorporated split and mixed-case orders. Shipment labeling requirements and order and dispatch paperwork requirements can further complicate the situation.

Internet fulfilment sees the usual spikes throughout the year, and nonstop order volume driven by product releases, produces more challenges for specifying and developing procedures and software needs of a successful operation. Countless orders per hour of both multi SKU and single item orders and the consumer demand for the most affordable shipping techniques needed to deliver orders direct to consumers often result in problems for standard distribution operations.

Omni-channel order fulfilment necessitatess a comprehensive plan that thinks about all the dynamics needed to stabilize workloads and effectively process customers orders in a simultaneous parallel running pick and pack process for each unique fulfilment channel.

The release of orders is the driving force of the operation and needs the right algorithms to adeptly and intelligently handle the mix of orders to satisfy consumer requirements.

Other omni-channel requirements include:

  • A proper order fulfilment design which must include SKU slotting based upon the order mix and the material storage equipment/storage area;
  • Speed, effectiveness and precision in choosing to fill orders and move and coordinate labor to the work zones based upon the present order wave volume;
  • Scalable design to fulfill the company’s five-year development projections and business approaches;
  • Design based on lean low-touch procedures to decrease future and present labor requirements;
  • Tested processes improved by the most current automation innovations to decrease execution risk,
  • Improvement of accuracy and consumer contentment,
  • Higher operational earnings

Once the design is solidified, it should be simulated and monitored to ensure the new design is fully workable prior to implementation. Then it may be time to transfer to the right mix of automation technologies to improve processes and execute a lean, automated pick, pack and ship order fulfilment operation.

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Why Choosing Your Packaging Wisely Can Have Great Returns

April 18, 2014

Every business, or professional seller, will scrutinize their incomings and outgoings to create a greater profit margin. High profits with low expenditures are what keep a business productive and running well, so business owners explore every avenue where they could cut costs. This is apparent with packaging for items which are to be shipped; by saving on packaging there will be a smaller outlay with the same return on product price. You can do this by choosing your packaging wisely, with much research and thought and looking into things such as:

  • Researching and Assessing Product Requirements
  • Eliminating Excess Layers & Labels
  • Buying in Bulk
  • Reducing Labour Costs
  • Looking into Price Changes

What should be your main concern when choosing packaging for your goods?

Your main purpose is always to keep your products safe in transit, and so quality should never be jeopardised. Your packaging needs to be able to keep your product protected whilst in storage, transit and during distribution meaning that it must be tamper proof, it must be resistant to the elements such as moisture, heat and rain and your items need to be sufficiently protected so that if they are mishandled during their journey they will not sustain any breakages. You can adhere to all of this, and still keep costs low which in turn will have great returns such as a higher profit for you.

For the internal protection of your product during shipment, acknowledge that every layer of cardboard, bubble wrap, foam and amount of packing peanuts will add to the overall costs, not just on the packaging itself but on weight . Protection is fully needed but maybe you could explore substitutions – such as opting for one layer of protection as opposed to multiple ones. According to experts you rarely need more than 2 inches of empty space in between the outer box and the product so look into ensuring that your boxes are the right size – this will likely save a significant amount of money on both packaging materials and also shipping costs. Assess your products requirements thoroughly and compare the requirements to current practices, you could discover that you are able to switch to using more lightweight carriers or substituting card for film/wrapping.

A purchase option is to buy your packaging materials in bulk, this may mean that you will receive many discounts and this can apply to smaller suppliers who are more likely to appreciate the custom and show their gratitude with reduced costs. Never become complacent with your expenditures, items such as steel banding and stretch film can change by over 30% on a monthly basis! If you are not aware of price changes you could be stocking up on supplies at the wrong time, by working with a diligent supplier whom you trust you can reduce this risk.

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UK consumers are demanding same-day and next-day delivery in greater numbers, and e-tailers are turning to fulfilment 3PLs to make it possible

April 16, 2014

The e-commerce market is expanding rapidly in the UK (as in the rest of the world), and online customers are demanding express delivery much more often that has previously been the case.

So how can 3PLs help businesses with their order fulfilment ?

It seems that what online shoppers want most is speed and convenience. That’s why they use the internet in the first place. In fact, next day delivery is the fastest growing delivery option by far, and the segment of the delivery sector that offers it grew nearly 30% in the last four years. As it stands, next day delivery accounts for more than 2/3 of the consumer delivery market.

Because consumers are much more picky about delivery performance than businesses, the delivery market is shifting to specific time windows, rather than the traditional 24 or 48 hour windows. This is much more convenient for the consumer, but it is also more expensive. Not only does the courier service cost more, but the individual e-tailer has to respond to orders almost instantly to get the product on its way in time. This precludes just batching all of the orders at the end of the day, and disrupts the rest of the workday. I don’t need to tell you how your customers feel about paying one penny more for delivery that your cheapest competitor though, do I?

Where does that leave E-commerce businesses?

So that leaves the e-commerce seller in a tight spot. Their market demands more expensive service without a price increase. More and more, small e-commerce businesses are turning to 3PLs to handle their order fulfilment, or even their entire logistics process, including supply chain management, pick and pack, order fulfilment, response handling, rework of products or hand finishing and enclosing. It seems that 3PLs can offer these services at a lower cost that most businesses can manage in-house, and are better able to meet the kind of rapid turn-around times that same- and next-day delivery requires.

Order integration and warehouse management

The real strengths of a good fulfilment 3PL are omni-channel order integration, high-volume discounts, and the ability to dedicate a flexible amount of warehousing space to each of their ecommerce clients. It is a success as a business model because they can literally offer a better level of performance at a lower actual cost than most small or medium sized e-commerce operations could manage in-house.

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The booming ecommerce and the fulfilment industries are behind the record 2 billion parcels Britons are expected to send in 2014

April 14, 2014

Private courier companies have grown almost exponentially recently, and the parcel boom is directly tied to the number of e-tail and e-commerce businesses now operating in the UK.

In fact, 2013 saw 1.83 billion packages sent via courier from the UK (and most delivered within the UK). There are just under 64,000,000 people in the UK, and that means that every man, woman and child in the UK got 29 packages last year on average. 2014 is set to be an even bigger year for ecommerce, seeing more than 2 billion packages, and more than £7 billion worth of business to the courier industry.

E-commerce is the driving force here, as UK demand for consumer goods continues to expand

In 2009, for example, only 23% of the total goods delivered were of a retail, consumer nature. By last year that has all but doubled to 39%. The UK’s online retail market has nearly doubled as well, growing 86% between 2009 and 2013.

One incongruity, though, is that business volume has risen much faster than total revenues, especially in ecommerce. That means that while business is growing, profit margins are shrinking. The increased levels of competition are making this the classic ‘buyer’s market’, and more sellers enter the online market every day.

So what does this mean for the e-tailer?

How can they compete with every new stall at the internet’s global bazaar? The answer is the third party logistics industry. Many of the most successful of these new SMEs use fulfilment houses, such as Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, to handle almost all of their logistics and order fulfilment functions, and those fulfilment houses use the resulting economies of scale to make order fulfilment and delivery as inexpensive as possible. The improved performance these 3PLs offer, in terms of speed, order accuracy, and customer responsiveness make their ecommerce partners more profitable, and more popular with customers.

As a result, smaller and smaller businesses are seeking logistics partners to ensure their profitability in years to come. The best 3PLs for small and sole trader ecommerce concerns offer full, multi-channel software integration with the seller’s online stores, reducing the manpower and time that must be dedicated to order processing, and allowing very small operations to take advantage of their services efficiently.

Experts predict ecommerce deliveries to drive parcel volume another 38% higher by 2018, so expect competition to get even tighter, and for successful ecommerce sellers to become even more reliant on 3PLs for their order fulfilment function.

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Choosing Where To Ship Your Goods

April 12, 2014

Not Everything Has To Be Shipped Internationally

For many world wide businesses and international sellers there’s a lot to be decided on the shipping side of your sales. You need to choose where to ship, and remember that not everything has to be international. Sometimes, shipping an item to the other side of the world, or many miles away, may cost you more as the shipper than the actual item is worth or the payment you are receiving – in cases like this, it is just not feasible to offer international shipping, it’s a drain on your profits and is also not beneficial to the consumer who will likely face a long delay and higher shipping cost, than they would have with a seller closer to home. It could be damaging for your businesses reputation to even attempt international shipping in many cases.

So what should you consider if you are thinking of shipping internationally?

If you use international selling sites, you can receive considerable discounts for your shipping options and continual good feedback on top of this can mean that international shipping can be productive. However, when people look to purchase items on websites like this in the majority they are looking for the cheapest options and this will include the price of shipping. A higher shipping fee will contribute to making the overall price much greater than the product is worth and unless your product is one which is truly unique, the chances are that a buyer will be able to find a cheaper option from another seller.

You can look at things like Priority Mail Services which is a preferred shipping method for many, this is because it offers a good trade off between delivery speed and costs – items are usually delivered between 2 and 3 days. There is the option of flat rate fees for small packages such as small boxes, flat packages or envelopes, which means it is a lot easier to calculate a shipping cost upfront and with this option it doesn’t matter where your buyer is located as the price will always stay the same. As well as low costs, people also want speedy deliveries and with the thousands of sellers online today this is a buyer prerogative, international sellers can rarely secure guaranteed next day deliveries which can put them out of the running for many sales.

As with all businesses, expenditures are something which should only be 100% necessary, and if your business can stay afloat without the option of international selling then this can save you a lot of money in the long run – even down to saving money on containers and packaging for long distance transportations and the price of listing items online.

If you do choose to ship internationally, you may prefer to look at a fulfilment warehouse to house your products and organise the distribution to specific countries in order to keep costs down.

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New business models are revolutionising the role of 3PLs in the Logistics industry

April 8, 2014

3PLs (third party logistics partners) have been a vital part of the supply chain for years, but the role they play in the supply chain continues to shift as economic conditions change. They now handle everything from raw materials to finished products, packaging, and order fulfilment. Experts tell us that the evolving business models of these 3PLs are a major force behind the growth expected for the consumer products industry in coming years.  

What type of services does a Third Party Logistics Provider offer?

Most of the work 3PLs do remains transportation, pick and pack and fulfilment services, but many are adding supplementary services that make operations more efficient, and more profitable for their clients

Examples include:

  • supply chain management,
  • specialised ecommerce fulfilment, including multichannel software integration
  • response handling,
  • reworking of products,
  • distribution of the goods by courier,
  • hand finishing, and
  • enclosing
Consumer goods manufacturers and retailers alike are moving from a model where 3PLs are treated as purely tactical partners to one where they are considered full strategic partners. As these logistics providers add capacity and capabilities, especially automation and software resources, they are becoming much more adept, and efficient, at managing supply chains than the companies they typically work with. Shippers, retailers, and ecommerce sellers alike need to think about how they can use, and profit by, these new capabilities.

Leveraging a 3PL’s capabilities

Bring your 3PL into your core team. Include them in strategic planning and assessment. One of the largest losses in efficiency when outsourcing aspects of the supply chain is in poor communication and lack of understanding between partners. Working closely with a 3PL can have great benefits for both of you.

Seek out ways to reduce the number of separate providers in your supply chain

This will serve both to reduce cycle time and to improve overall efficiency. 3PLs offer a lot more services now than they used to, and fully utilising these services can take a lot of smaller providers out of the chain entirely. Many 3PLs offer supply chain management services themselves, and can take care of this kind of analysis for you.

What can we expect from 3PLs in the future?

We are on the verge of a third era in the relationship between 3PLs and their clients. Once a client approached a logistics outsourcer with a simple job to do. Today, they need 3PLs to do a job, but to add expertise and innovation to do it faster and more efficiently. Soon, organisations, SMEs and individual e-tailers will ask 3PLs to help them plot the best and most effective course forward with a set of related business challenges.

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Setting up in e-commerce with a fulfilment partner: the basics

April 7, 2014

E-commerce can be a very rewarding, efficient way to do business, but you have to organise properly if you want to get ahead. Most ‘e-tailers’ or ecommerce sellers prefer to begin with the help of an experienced warehousing, distribution and fulfilment partner who can handle the whole ‘back end’ of the operation, while the merchant focuses on business and sales, maintaining the website, and any other sales channels that they have developed.

So what’s involved with starting an e-commerce business?

Your suppliers

 Whether you buy completed products or you being in raw or finished materials and produce the products yourself, you have a list of suppliers who provide your products and materials. If you deal in finished products, you can have them delivered directly to your warehousing and distribution partner, who will make them ready to be sent to the customers. If you do some or all of the manufacture yourself, you’ll need both materials and finished goods storage, and more transport options.


Once you’ve sorted your suppliers out, you need to determine just how much finished stock you should keep on hand to fulfil your orders. Most start-ups will adopt a ‘pull strategy’, where inventory levels are responsive to demand. This is especially useful in the early days, when demand is hardest to predict. Your warehousing partner will receive and store your stock, and keep you apprised of current stock levels, as well as your supply relative to current demand.


Your packaging is important, not just for transport and delivery, but for brand identification and marketing. You will need to make this available to your W&D partner, unless you do your own package finishing.


 Your fulfilment and distribution partner will handle the day-to-day aspects of transportation, but there are many choices to make. Delivery methods, shipping charges and many other variables will change depending on exactly what your product is, and what your sales volumes are. Your logistics partner can help you make these decisions.

Sales Channels

Will your orders come from your own ecommerce website? From eBay or Amazon? Multi-channel ecommerce is important, and it is just as important to work out where your orders will be coming from with your warehousing and distribution partner early, so they can provide services best customised to your needs. Orders may go through you to your fulfilment provider, or they may go directly to the provider.

Customer Service

Fast and accurate order fulfilment is important, but exceptional customer service is not to be ignored either. Happy customers are return customers, after all.

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Customer service: 3 ways you and your fulfilment partner can work together to manage customer interactions

April 4, 2014

Customer experience is your number one priority as an ecommerce seller. You have a lot of competition, and your customers can probably get essentially the same product from quite a few other sellers. Once they have spent money with you, they are more likely to go through you again, but only if they receive the level of customer service they demand.

1. The human touch.

Managing customer interactions is key to repeat business. If there is a problem or a question about an order in progress or that has already been delivered, your customers need to feel that their concerns are being addressed. That there is an actual person whose job it is to sort things out for them.

 Ironically, a return or a problem with an order can win you a customer for life, if it is handled with care and respect. If you (or we) go above and beyond customer expectations when something goes wrong, they will come back again and again.

2. Use technology to connect your customers to help, not as a barrier.

So many companies are using technology as a substitute for human customer service personnel. Making it all but impossible to talk to a human being. The customer hates that. One frustrating experience pressing ‘0 to hear these options again’ for 45 minutes can lose you a customer forever.  Technologies like live chat are now easier to use and less expensive than telephone customer support, and give customers the interaction they demand when something goes wrong.

3. A good returns policy can be worth an entire customer service department.

Consider adopting a no questions asked, completely free refund or replacement returns policy. It does cost money, but customers are a lot quicker to part with their money if they aren’t worried about having to pay £10 to find out they don’t like it once they get it home. This is the one real advantage brick and mortar stores have over ecommerce; you can just take it back without spending any more money.

I cannot over stress how much customers resent spending even a pound to send something back once they decide they don’t want it. Most will get a replacement from a competitor instead, even if the price difference is greater than the return cost. It isn’t rational, but they do it. Free returns also mean you don’t need someone to try and win them back once they get angry.

If you need assistance with your fulfilment services for your ecommerce business, contact Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics today.

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Time and fulfilment, or, why you need a good 3PL

April 2, 2014

Time is your most valuable commodity. It is just about the only thing you cannot buy. How you spend your time determines your productivity and, ultimately, your business’ profitability.

So, how much of your precious time do you or your people spend doing things that would be better, and more quickly handled by a 3PL?

How many hours, how many thousands of pounds, have you spent storing, sorting, packing and shipping goods when you could have been innovation, marketing, and just plain selling them? How much work could you have done to improve your profit margins if you hadn’t been moving actual units around, sending invoices, and processing payments and returns?

Worse, customers are demanding more and more attention to order fulfilment and shipping. They demand rapid turn around and complete accuracy. They demand the best shipping rates and the fastest delivery times.

It is difficult to specialise in both your business and in order fulfilment

Luckily, you don’t have to. If you find that you are losing time and productivity with warehousing, shipping and other logistics matters, you may well need a fulfilment partner. Using a 3PL, or third party logistics partner provides two primary advantages.

First, you can spend your time where it is needed most: growing your business. Improving your processes, increasing sales, and doing everything you got into business to do in the first place. This is a competitive time. Every minute you’re not pulling ahead, you’re falling farther behind.

Second, a good fulfilment house is a back-end specialist. They excel at it the same way you excel at the front end. A good 3PL can handle everything from stock warehousing, supply chain management, response handling, rework of products, pick and pack, hand finishing, enclosing, order fulfilment and distribution. Logistics is what they do, and they do it exceedingly well. Because they work with so many different sellers, they can run a full featured, large, modern facility and still save you money over doing your own order fulfilment.

We all know how tough the market is for ecommerce sellers today. For your business to become everything it has the potential to be, you need to be as efficient as possible. To do that, you need to find the right partners and work with them to meet your customers’ needs better than your competitors can. A good fulfilment house can make it all work for you.  

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3 reasons SMEs and start-ups use fulfilment houses, and why you should too

April 1, 2014

Small online businesses and e-commerce start-ups have their own unique set of needs in terms of order fulfilment. Order volume may be very low for a time. It will almost certainly be inconsistent, at least at first. Small concerns cannot handle high setup costs, large monthly retainers or fees, or minimum order requirements. It just isn’t practical at that scale.

Still, that doesn’t mean start-ups have to do their own order fulfilment

A good fulfilment house can handle more than just orders. They can manage the entire back end of your business, warehousing, pick and pack, distribution and delivery, even hand finishing, enclosing, and returns. They should be able to offer e-commerce start-ups the right price, as well.

1. Transparent operations and pricing is especially important to start-ups. Fine print and hidden fees can be an absolute minefield for small businesses. Some fulfilment service providers cannot integrate their software to the merchant’s, and so the seller is forced to invest in compatible software, or deal with a completely opaque provider.

With a good fulfilment partner, the process is extremely simple and predictable for the merchant

So many fulfilment houses get this wrong. If the process is overly complex, online sellers cannot easily predict their monthly costs. SMEs and start-ups would sometimes rather go it alone than risk costs going higher than they budget for, especially in the very beginning.

Proper software integration should allow even the smallest ecommerce seller to see every detail of their storage and fulfilment status with a few mouse clicks. The smaller an operation is, the more important every single order is.

2. Flexible service is vital. Smaller businesses cannot risk locking themselves into rigid, ling term deals, and they can’t risk agreeing to high minimum order volumes. One bad month could mean disaster in that kind of scenario. Outsourcing their order fulfilment function is supposed to give ecommerce sellers a competitive advantage. It should be flexible enough to help them along when they are just starting out, and then expand with them as they grow and thrive.

3. Reliable service cannot be under-valued. Businesses of all sizes use fulfilment and distribution partners, and every one stands or falls on the reliability of the service they provide. While no provider can boast 100% accuracy 100% of the time, they can, and should, strive for it anyway. High quality customer service and returns handling can smooth over any feathers that do get ruffled.

So take a long look at your fulfilment partner. Do they measure up?

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Keeping the etail customer happy

March 28, 2014

Everybody loves a surprise – Three things (besides the order) that should be sent in the shipping box

A good order fulfilment partner is a powerful marketing tool. Hand finishing and enclosure can be a great way to communicate with customers, and keep them coming back for more.

1. Coupons

A few people never even look at them, but most of us are delighted to find a coupon for something we knew we were going to buy eventually anyway. Better still when we find one that makes an offer too good to refuse for something we had already convinced ourselves we couldn’t afford.

Email offers and printable coupons are good, but an actual paper coupon can make a customer shop with you again more quickly, or be passed on to friends and family, making you a new customer entirely. Better still, they cost nothing to ship inside an existing order.  The most effective coupons are broad and non-specific. 20% of any order over £50 will have a higher take-up (and a smaller nip into your margin) than 33% off a specific product. ‘Free shipping on your next order’ is good to encourage them to come back sooner.

2. Free gifts

This really turns heads. Say a customer just bought three t-shirts. Why not send a fourth with your branding on? Not only will they advertise you, they’ll be grateful for the gift. They might even order from you rather than a competitor, just in case they might get another. A nail polish order? Why not include a sample of the new line you’ve just started carrying, and a coupon for more? Fast take-up of new lines is money in the bank.

This one is great for word of mouth advertising, too. Maybe she doesn’t use that colour. Maybe he doesn’t like that team. They’ll pass it along to a friend, and the story of how they got it. Everybody loves free stuff.

3. Review requests.

This one isn’t as exciting as a sample, but it can do you a lot of good. People see email review requests as spam, and ignore them. A printed request along with the item ordered is more likely to be seen and read, and it will get them back on your website that much sooner. You get valuable feedback, and they become familiar with your review page. They might have a look at your other highly-rated products, and you’ve got another sale or two out of it.

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Three tips to improve your e-commerce margins

March 26, 2014

Whilst choosing the right fulfilment, distribution, and supply chain management partner may be the most important step to success as an e-tailer, there are quite a few things you can do to make life in e-commerce easier on your end as well.

Let’s take a look at how you can improve your e-commerce business

First, keep your inventory close to your customers. If you are only going to have one warehousing and distribution point in England, that means using a fulfilment house in or around greater London. Even if you have several fulfilment partners across the country, you’ll need one (or more) in the South, near the largest population concentrations.

Shipping and transport costs continue to rise, especially for individual order-scale shipping. The closer your products are to your end buyers, the less these increased costs will affect you, and the greater your profit margins will remain.

Second, make sure you are selling across every possible channel. Do not be the last one to jump on the multi-channel band wagon. Selling to retailers, whether brick-and-mortar or online marketplaces like Amazon, lets you tap into a huge distribution network, as well as benefiting from their marketing and name recognition. You pay for it, though, by selling at wholesale prices. It’s an excellent way to sell your products, but it should not be your only way. Similarly, if you sell only from your own website or online store, you get full value for your own marketing efforts and hard-won name recognition, but you miss out on the kind of broad exposure that can make that work really pay off.

You need to diversify your sales strategies. Make the benefits reinforce each other, and try to make the disadvantages cancel each other out. Then if your website goes down for a week you don’t lose all of your income. If Amazon’s credit system gets hacked, you still sell product. Don’t overlook international distribution partners, either.

Third, you need to specialise. Find your niche, and fill it. Most of the goods sold online today aren’t ground-breaking. They are everyday products that common people need – by the millions. Most ecommerce sellers have a lot of competition, so you have to focus on your strengths and provide something unique to the customer, even if it is only a unique shopping experience. Something about you, either your design, your manufacture, your website or your service needs to stand out.

That means it is often most efficient to partner with a top quality fulfilment house, who can handle your entire back-end, and let you focus on your strengths. Every minute you spend not playing to those strengths is wasted.

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Boosting customer loyalty with your e-fulfilment strategy

March 25, 2014

How to keep them coming back with an e-fulfilment strategy

Ecommerce retailers know how vital return business is. One way to make a long term customer is to use a quality fulfilment house, and to work closely with your e-fulfilment strategy with your fulfilment partner.

The right fulfilment strategy can be the difference between a satisfied customer and a truly happy one. The wrong one can leave them disappointed, or even angry enough to leave bad reviews.

So, what strategies work well across different sales channels? It might sound a little old fashioned, but people still love coupons. These could be emailed to customers, they could appear on your website, and you can place them with one of the many websites that specialise in featuring coupons. I’m sure you’ve already done most of that.

Consider this, though. Your customer is finally opening your package. Right on top, the first thing they see is an old-fashioned paper coupon. The kind of thing they’ll stick to the fridge or put in their desk drawer, and will be a constant, offline reminder about your company, and that particular product.

Does your fulfilment house offer to pack coupons with your shipments? They should.

There are many types of coupons, and you should try a few as test runs before settling on a strategy. Options like money off your next purchase, free shipping on your next purchase over £10, or even a free 50p gimcrack with your next order have all done wonders for some retailers.

Free samples can also get you a lot of attention. Everyone’s ears perk up at the word ‘free’. This won’t work for all e-commerce sites, but discuss with your fulfilment partner what it would cost to send free samples to existing customers twice a year, or to include free samples of new or slow-moving SKUs with certain kinds of orders – all orders over so many pounds, etc.

The samples can be arranged seasonally, or by similarity with the last product bought, or by any other metric you track. Consider how much personalisation you can afford, and how much return you can expect from it first, but a free, unexpected package makes a customer feel appreciated, and mean a lot more than any number of Google AdWords placements.

There may even be more that a good fulfilment partner could do for your e-commerce site. Ask. You’d be amazed what we can do these days.

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Preventing Slow Moving Inventory for Ecommerce Sellers

March 24, 2014

How can I move my slow moving inventory part 4:

In our last few posts, we’ve looked at how to identify slow moving inventory with the help of your ecommerce fulfilment partner, how to market it better on your own website, and how to get the most ROI on it when it is time to cut prices. Better still if you didn’t get into that kind of trouble in the first place, right?

Planning to prevent SMI can be difficult. When you first start carrying an item, it can be easy to misjudge demand, and you almost never know what the most efficient order size would be. EOQ, or Economic Order Quantity, is the order size that maximises your profit in a given time, considering unit price, mark-up, turnover, delivery and fulfillment costs.

The first time you order stock, that is mostly guesswork

So, step one is to determine EOQ as accurately as possible before making the first order. Look at similar items you already carry, especially items from the same manufacturer or distributor, if possible.

Look at how much marketing effort you put into the existing item, and don’t expect the new one to sell as well if you do not spend that kind of effort on it. Consider the carrying cost per unit as well. If the carrying cost increase for stocking twice as many units destroys the volume buying price reduction, you would be creating slow moving inventory. Especially if it is your first time carrying this item, be cautious, and buy small. These are no the economic times to be taking risks, especially for ecommerce retailers. Amazon can afford to lose money every quarter, but you cannot.

Step two is to keep your marketing campaigns aggressive, active and interesting. Change your product categories once in a while. Make sure your customer database is accurate, up to date, and tracks important data. Ecommerce is about small companies, for the most part. While being small has several disadvantages, it allows for a great deal of agility. Try to walk the line between your site and marketing efforts being too boring to attract new customers, and being too chaotic to give return customers the comfort of familiarity.

Above all, don’t be afraid to discontinue offering products that just don’t sell.

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Special promotions and sales for ecommerce

March 20, 2014

How can you move your slow moving stock part 3:

So You’ve got some problematic inventory, and it just isn’t moving the way you’d like it to. Marketing and SEO have only done so much, and it’s time to save a sale.

Email campaigns

Before you go cutting the price and giving up your margins, look at a personalised email campaign. Not spam, but emailing those of your customers who have shown an interest in similar items (and have not opted out of receiving promotional messages).

Or, on a related note, your website can be geared to respond differently to different customers. Maybe you should have a banner on the landing page that promotes SMI which is tied by category or type to known customer’s habits, and shows a mix of popular and SMI options to unknown customers.

So how can you help sell your ecommerce stock with promotions and sales?

Now, when you’ve tried all that, and still aren’t getting good numbers, you can start cutting prices and know you aren’t throwing away money.

1. The clearance page

Ecommerce was founded on the concept of the bargain, and reduced prices still have customers pouring over comparison sites with a sometimes frightening intensity. If they are willing to shop around for two hours to find their copy of the Robocop Blu-ray for £1.50 cheaper, then give them what they want. Reduce the price for a while, and feature it with other reduced items, and see if any interest develops.

2. Daily deals and one-time only offers

are particularly amenable to special website sections, and email campaign tie-ins. Daily, or even weekly deals create an artificial sense of urgency as well, and can garner you impulse buys. They are also easier to ‘leak’ to bargain hunting sites. Plus, anyone who comes looking after the sale has run may still buy at your normal price. Just don’t let it devolve into bait-and-switch.

3. Deal sites and liquidators are kind of a last resort,

as it means giving up on most or all of your margin, and getting what you can while reducing inventory. Sites like Groupon can help you move overstock for a price. You won’t make much, if any, profit, but it’s better than throwing the lot out. Liquidators can be even worse, as you know you’ll be taking a loss, but again, you got something back. And you’re not paying to warehouse those 1000 lime green size 30 Harry Potter pyjama tops anymore.

Now that you have a strategy for clearing your existing SMI, we can look at ways to prevent it from happening in part four, coming soon.

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Better marketing for ecommerce businesses

March 19, 2014

What to do about slow moving inventory part 2:

Slow moving inventory can be the bane of ecommerce retailers without them ever knowing it. It can take up expensive warehousing space, and it keeps your capital tied up and vulnerable. Working with your e-fulfilment partner to define your slow moving SKUs is the first step (see my last article), but then what?

Most e-retailers instinctively reduce the price per unit, and hope to sell off the overstock. This can be a mistake, and result in substantial loss of the capital that that stock represents. Some careful analysis first could save you a lot of money.

Marketing your way out of SMI

Have a look at the state of your marketing efforts and see if you can find a reason that SKU isn’t moving as fast as you’d hoped. After all, marketing is the core of e-commerce, from your point of view.

First, look to your website(s). How easy is it for visitors who have never been before to find these items? The bigger your ecommerce catalogue, the harder it can be for visitors to even find some products. Is it doe to shortcomings in your on-site navigation tools? Are the slow SKUs just buried under the faster ones? Make sure all of your products can be found quickly using internal and browser navigation tools. If they cannot, try moving your slower items to the tops of your category pages, or see a web designer about implementing a better search function.

Now, let’s examine your images. Once you’ve navigated to the product, how good does it look on your site? Compare the pictures of your SMI to your faster products. Is there a substantial difference? Do your slower SKUs have fewer, or poorer quality pictures? If so, fix this. If it looks like you, the shopkeeper, consider these to be ‘lesser’ goods, what else will the consumer think? Do the same analysis with your product descriptions. Are they boring, confusing, or worse, misspelled? Now, let’s look at your SEO efforts. What page does Google have you on for your slower moving inventory? I don’t need to tell you how few googlers go past page two. If it is a problem, look to optimise your categories and product details. Make sure the description isn’t just copied from another website. Google hates that.

Try this for a few weeks, and see if that moves any more product. If not, then consider sales and promotions, which will be the focus of part 3.

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What to do about slow moving inventory part 1: Identifying problematically slow inventory for e-commerce

March 18, 2014

SMI (Slow Moving Inventory) is, of course, a relative term, and one business’ SMI can move a lot faster than another’s A list. Building a definition specific to your operation is the key to dealing with SMI appropriately.

This is a particular concern for ecommerce retailers, as many of them use e-fulfilment services and may not be aware of the speed some of their SKUs move.

Three factors are generally the most relevant in e-fulfilment, and we will explore them


This is an important concept, but overstocked inventory is not necessarily SMI, nor is SMI by definition overstocked. Overstock is any inventory that you have had six months’ worth of stock built up for more than twelve months (to differentiate from building up for seasonal demand). If you use this definition of SMI, as some do, you ignore the shipment frequency factor, and get false numbers.

Inventory Turnover Rate

Many retailers define SMI by stock turns. This is a more useful method, as low turnover items share a lot of the same drawbacks as real SMI, but this definition ignores order size.

Larger orders are generally less expensive per unit, but taking advantage of that means slower stock turnover. If it works out cheaper to buy a year’s supply of widgets, even after accounting for storage costs, it would be wrong to define it as SMI, because it isn’t problematic inventory at all. E-commerce retailers need to be conscious of the dangers of storing too much of anything, though.

Shipment Frequency

Possibly the most useful definition of slow moving inventory is tied to the frequency of outbound shipment. Look at it in terms of SKUs. If you have shipped zero of a particular SKU over the last 3 or 4 months, then it is probably slow moving.

Again, the ratio of days to units varies greatly, depending on your business. I know a few people who would be thrilled to move 4 units a year, but they are very expensive units. Each seller must define their own threshold, but it should always be defined by the unit/day ratio for the best and most useful numbers. Your e-fulfillment partner can supply you with these numbers, if you do not already have them.

Now that you can determine which of your SKUs are slow, you can decide what to do about it. That is the subject of part 2, coming soon.

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Omni-Channel Retailing: ride the wave or be swept aside

March 17, 2014

We’ve all heard about omni-channel marketing (wasn’t it just multi-channel last month?), and how it is supposed to be the next big thing. Most of us have decided that this time it’s not all hype, and we should brace ourselves for the inevitable changes in the industry.

That is exactly the wrong kind of thinking. When a big change comes to any sector, there are three types of responses.

1. Early adopters.

Early adopters jump on the new way of doing things before it has even fully evolved. They take risks with untried processes and systems, and ether fail spectacularly or succeed and shape the market.

2. The just-in-timers.

The next segment of the industry has watched the early adopters sink or swim, and sets up their own versions of the successes and steers clear of most of the failures. They don’t take the big risks, and gain moderately but lose little.

3. The Johnny-come-latelies.

These are those who couldn’t afford to adapt or refused to see the change for what it was until it was basically too late. They didn’t adopt any new strategies until the old systems had already failed, and they are marginalised because of it. Only those with the strongest brands and deepest coffers dare take this rout on purpose.

So, where are we now? The early adopters have come and gone. Most of them did poorly, as expected, and the successes are well established. The just-in-timers are just about all settling into their new grooves, and reaping the modest, careful rewards they expected. In six months or a year, only the dinosaurs will be left.

What, then, is to be done? Make your supply chain investments now, while you can still claim your share of the omni-channel market. Yes, it will cost more. Yes, I’m afraid it will shrink your margins in the short and even medium term, but it will keep you current and profitable in the long term. We’re at a point when we cannot just wait for the change to become inevitable before we adapt. The process takes too long, and we would be left behind long before we found out feet in the Omni-channel markets.

It is time to act.

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B2B Fulfilment: customer experience still matters

March 13, 2014

Not long ago, e-fulfilment was exclusive to retail operations. Now, though, a number of B2B and wholesale businesses are edging into the ecommerce fulfilment market. Historically, B2B operations of any kind have not been as focused on good customer experience as retail (or etail) operations, and fulfilment was seen as unimportant to the customer experience, unless and until something goes wrong.

How is ecommerce fulfilment becoming more popular with B2B businesses?

We all know that things have changed in that regard for the B2C market, but things are shifting for B2B businesses now too. B2B markets are no longer product driven. There are just too many competing providers out there, and the internet makes them too accessible for that. In just the same way that the .com era changed consumer fulfilment, this level of access has changed how businesses shop as well. B2B fulfilment is just as important to building and maintaining your brand, reducing costs, and achieving strategic goals, and is now of importance to these companies’ marketing departments.

A good B2B fulfilment provider should cater to their partner-companies’ customer experience needs, and be aware of how different businesses value different aspects of this experience. Being able to customise your service to the unique needs and business positions of the client has always been key to fulfilment, and this is really no different.

A good fulfilment house provides seven basic factors to their B2C clients:

  1. Helpful, fast resolution of customer issues
  2. Good old fashioned ROI
  3. Recognition of the client’s customers, and their experience
  4. True fulfillment – meeting all obligations just as described
  5. Integrated, personalised service 6. Professional competence
  6. Good client (and customer) access

The best ones know to provide a slightly different list for B2B clients:

  1.  Personal, intelligent contact
  2.  Flexible procedure and policy
  3.  Sensitivity to the client’s business needs
  4.  Pro-actively working to meet those needs
  5.  Full follow-up and performance analysis
  6.  True fulfilment
  7.  And, as always, ROI

While True fulfilment and ROI are on both lists, the rest differ substantially. Appreciating these differences and how best to provide the right customer experience to each of one’s clients is the key to doing well in both markets, and doubling the list of potential clients in the world.

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E-Commerce: How POS Management Has Changed Order Fulfilment

March 12, 2014

Early point of sale (POS) management used to simply be a case of entering a few numbers into an oversized calculator, waiting for the ping! and making sure you handed the customer the right change. Nowadays, customers find the sight of a traditional cash register an antiquated quirk; a relic from the Museum of Retail Experiences.

When POS systems that used barcodes and scanners were introduced to shop fronts across the retail industry, they quickly became an established tool for automatically recording sales and stock levels, as well as customer loyalty schemes and discounts. As retail sales grew, so did the need for bigger and better POS management software.

So just how have POS Management changed exactly?

Today’s POS management systems have become faster, more intuitive machines that not only help business owners finalise a sale, but assist with the overall running of the business. In the fulfilment industry, the same POS management systems have radically improved communication between client and warehouse, leading to better business relationships and smoother supply chain management.

The processes behind order fulfilment have had to adapt to a changing environment, and POS software has been instrumental in helping smooth the transition to the world’s new favourite way to shop: online. Compared to most bricks and mortar stores, which have designated opening times and depend on staff to run them, online stores are essentially open 24/7 all over the world, and a sale online will go directly to the fulfilment centre to be processed.

Retailers expanding into the lucrative business of e-commerce have unlimited resources with POS management software. Most systems can now be fully integrated with your e-commerce business, bringing benefits such as inventory management across both online and physical stores.

With Cloud based POS management systems, business owners can also check stock, view sales statistics and customer trends on the go via tablets or smartphones, or anywhere with a web connection. All the data is backed up and simple interfaces mean that even technophobic retailers can quickly launch an effective online store.

It’s a far cry from the old fashioned way of selling goods, but combining your e-commerce fulfilment with a fully integrated POS management system can make a huge difference in the amount of sales you make.

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Order Fulfilment Case Study for T-Shirt Business

March 11, 2014

Lawrence (real name withheld, he’s not ready for the kind of instant fame that comes from being mentioned on our blog) runs a custom clothing silk-screening and printing business.

A few years ago Lawrence discovered the internet in a big way, and customers from all over England have discovered him. The problem is, Lawrence wasn’t really ready to expand as much as he has, recently. The move from doing business on a walk-in basis from his shop to printing and shipping hundreds of garments a week trough eBay and his own website has led to 12 hour days and a shop, and apartment, completely full of inventory.

“I couldn’t even have friends over – my outbound orders were piled up on my couch.”

It wasn’t long before Lawrence heard about warehousing and pick-and-pack services, and started asking around for a good provider.

It didn’t take him long to find one who knew how to advise him on how to move forward.

As it turns out, 90% of Lawrence’s orders are for three t-shirt designs, so he was able to integrate his eBay and online shops with their system. Now, he spends his time dealing with walk-in customers like before, and overseeing a pair of part-time employees in the back room who make up the bulk of his inventory every week. Once a week a lorry comes from his provider to pick up the t-shirts, already boxed by type, and store them ready for ordering. When an order comes in, they handle the picking, packing, and shipping, and the money finds its way to Lawrence (minus a fee, of course).

Lawrence has actually been able to step up production, and is considering moving to bigger premises. Best of all, though, he has his life back. “It’s not just being able to see my couch again, but that is nice. It’s having time in the evening to sit on it again.”

Like Lawrence, you can reap substantial benefits by finding the right warehousing partner.

  • Faster turn-around on orders
  • Your inventor stored – and handled – off site
  • Online ordering integration
  • Dedicated, professional service

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What should you look for in a UK-based fulfilment company?

March 10, 2014

It takes a lot of trust to let an outside company manage and perform some of your most vital business functions. Fulfilment is one of the most vital points in your logistics chain. Getting it right can make things very easy for you, but choosing the wrong partner could put the nails in your coffin.

When choosing a fulfilment company, or deciding whether to stay with your current arrangements, consider how the competition stacks up for the following services.

Order retrieval

Many older concerns put orders into their system in batches before sending them for packing. This used to be the industry standard, but it causes unnecessary delays and adds processing time before the order even goes out for picking. Better to use one that sends orders for picking automatically as soon as they arrive.

Timely reporting

Ideally, you want live reporting. You need your orders despatched promptly, and you should have the ability to check up on this at any time over the web. Look for a provider that gives you a detailed snap shot of the fulfilment status of all of your orders on demand.

Technological reliability

Ask how they handle data exchange, and how they plan to integrate with your systems. Ideally you want a combination of an open API and simple, fault-free integration. And my daughter wants a unicorn. Still, look at what they offer, and decide whether it will actually work well with your systems before you make a choice.

Management of stock or inventory

This varies between non-existent and stellar. Depending on the goods you work with, you may need best-before-date management and batch control capability. You should be able to tie important markers into alerts as well.

Customer service quality

This is one you can test yourself. Find out who they work for already, and order something small and cheap. Ring in and test out their actual on the ground customer service people. See how well they actually do. You might have to do this a few times to get a feel for the place. Also look for whether they use a ticket system for problems. It is generally better if they do. Returns Make sure they handle returns as well. Being forced to use a second 3PL (4PL?) for your


can be a nightmare. Again, order and return a product to see if they do returns well.  

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How To Reduce Costs When You Outsource Your Fulfilment

March 7, 2014

As order fulfilment is one of the most important parts of any business, it is essential that it’s done properly, which often means investing a lot of money into setting up an efficient supply chain, particularly if you’re just starting out.

If you’ve chosen to partner up with a fulfilment centre then you won’t have to worry about the big decisions regarding your order fulfilment – the professionals will take care of all that and it will usually cost less than if you were taking it all on yourself.

But whether you’re outsourcing all or just part of your fulfilment needs, it’s still possible to lower your overheads even further with a few simple changes on your end:

Let’s take a look at how you can reduce your order fulfilment costs

Try “kitting” your products

Kitting is the industry term for combining or preassembling prod just starting out.ucts into ready made packs, such as popular 2-for-1 deals or items that people regularly purchase together. If you are able to do this before sending your products to your fulfilment house, you can end up saving a lot of money per item because the fulfilment house spends less time putting together the packages themselves.

Double check your orders before sending them out

Taking the time to check your products before they are sent to your fulfilment house can reduce mistakes that must then be dealt with by the fulfilment company, or even returned back to you to fix, the cost of which can eat into your profits unnecessarily.

Reassess your workforce

When you have established a relationship with your chosen fulfilment house and everything is running smoothly, it might be time to take a look over your remaining workforce and see where there are excess bodies. You don’t necessarily need to cut your total number of staff in two; you could use the now freed up employees to increase the marketing and advertising side of the business, encouraging growth.

So those are just a few of the many ways to lower your costs even after you’ve outsourced your fulfilment, and the best part is they’re simple to put into practice and won’t cost you a thing!

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Do I have too many SKUs, or too few?

March 6, 2014

When helping an e-fulfilment client put their house in order, some of the most frequent problems are with SKUs. All too often, the merchant has only a handful of inflexible SKUs, or an unmanageable array of to-small units. A good rule of thumb is that you should have fewer SKUs than the number of orders you despatch each month, but this can vary greatly by industry and product type.

So, how many SKUs should you have?

First, take a look at the market you sell in. How does it respond when you stock more or fewer items? What happens when you reduce the number? You may see a cooling of interest due to lack of choice, but you are just as likely to see an upswing, as too many choices can confuse some consumers.

And if you increase your SKU count?

Some industries demand exactly what they want exactly the way they want it. Especially of you are supplying tradesman or industry professionals rather than standard consumers, you may need to stock a thousand separate widgets. Too many SKUs will increase your overhead though, as you will need to keep a lot of units in stock. It will also tie a larger percentage of your value up in merchandise, which goes against the current ‘lean’ practices.

Of course, you could just cheat.

Have a look at your strongest competition’s website. There is no better source of intelligence on the enemy’s position in the market. If they sell to the same market, and are doing well for themselves, model your system after theirs. If they only have a handful of SKUs that move like hotcakes, you may do well to make sure you have analogous products. If they (and you) sell to consumers who demand a lot of choice then you won’t do yourself any favours by limiting your stock.

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6 reasons an in-house courier service can improve your order fulfilment

March 5, 2014

When it comes to order fulfilment, it’s no surprise you want the best service available. A successful fulfilment company equals a successful supply chain and there are many companies out there promising the world, especially when it comes to the final part of the process: distribution.

Some fulfilment companies split their courier services between third party distributors, while others manage distribution in-house. But how can a fulfilment company with an on-site courier service improve the overall effectiveness of your supply chain?

A complete understanding of worldwide order fulfilment

International shipping can be a minefield, not least for inexperienced business owners. Legal jargon, customs laws and shipping restrictions that differ from country to country can stand in the way of company growth. With a wealth of first hand knowledge and experience, a fulfilment company with its own courier team provides a simple solution for all your international order fulfilment.

Cost effectiveness

When a fulfilment company outsources their distribution to a third party company, it can sometimes include additional costs that a fulfilment house with its own courier service can provide automatically, usually for a much smaller, or all-inclusive fee.

Avoid miscommunication

Order fulfilment is a complex process. Splitting it up to be managed by different companies is often the first step towards miscommunication; packaging details can be overlooked or misinterpreted by a courier unfamiliar with your goods or even the fulfilment centre itself. Keeping the most important elements of your supply chain under one roof can help reduce these mistakes.

Flexible and adaptable service

During busy periods and quiet lulls, a fulfilment house with its own distribution fleet has the resources to maintain a consistent delivery service, keeping your customers happy and your costs low.

Expert packaging know-how

The best people to send your goods out into the world are the people who helped store, package and assemble your products. Why? Because they’ll know everything there is to know about the best ways to protect your goods all the way down the supply chain, from the minute they reach the warehouse to the moment they’re handed over safely to your customers.

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Why You Should Outsource Your Order Fulfilment in 2014

March 3, 2014

This year is set to be busy for the logistics industry and as your company grows, you’ll need more time to invest in other areas of your business. Outsourcing your fulfilment to a specialist e-commerce or order fulfilment service can take away the stress of delivering products and free up your time to expand your business.

Increased Capital

What company doesn’t want to increase their revenue this year? Well, if you’re in the logistics industry, then outsourcing your fulfilment is one of the most cost effective ways to increase your capital. By outsourcing, you’ll be saving money on warehouse space, IT systems, property utilities and pick and pack staff. With a specialised fulfilment house, processes are already in place to ensure your operation runs smoothly from the word go.

More Efficient

Fulfilment companies have specially designed rack storage systems in place to ensure quick and easy access to products, ensuring a streamlined fulfilment process. Outsourcing order fulfilment will ensure good customer service and guarantee timely delivery of your products. What’s more, you’ll have more time to focus on growing your company – it’s a win win.

Reduced Risk

Investing in a fulfilment service minimises any risk of injury to your staff and ensures that your products won’t be damaged whilst in storage or in transit. A professional fulfilment house will have highly trained, experienced staff to ensure that all operations are carried out safely and securely. Similarly, specialised fulfilment services understand what safety and compliance regulations they need to adhere to in order to ensure that their warehouses meet with current standards. With a lower staff turnover, a professional fulfilment service will bring continuity to your fulfilment process and ensure high standards of operation are met.

Are you planning to outsource your order fulfilment this year? We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about using a professional fulfilment service. Perhaps you already outsource your fulfilment? How has this impacted on your business growth?

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From Point of Sale to Delivery: The Key to a Successful Fulfilment Service

February 28, 2014

A successful fulfilment service means satisfied customers. From the moment they add an item to their shopping basket to the point they unwrap their product, the whole process counts. So we’ve outlined three of the most essential elements of order fulfilment to ensure a successful service.

Creating the Right Impression: Packing

A customer’s strongest impression of your service comes the moment they receive their product, all packaged up and (hopefully) on time. It’s important not to underestimate the influence that packaging has on a customer’s experience and attitude towards your service. Make sure that the correct packaging is used for the product, and this includes any additional safety or delivery information that needs to be enclosed with the item.

The Importance of Stock Checking

From a customer’s point of view, there’s nothing more frustrating than placing an order only to be told that the product is out of stock. Making sure that you have enough stock to meet demand is one of the most critical elements of a successful fulfilment service. Getting your stock quantities right can make all the difference between a successful fulfilment service and one that leaves the customer feeling let down. And on the other hand, ordering too much stock can negatively affect your cash flow as dead stock is only good for gathering dust.

Delivering the Goods

The final stage in a successful fulfilment process is making sure that the correct product reaches the correct customer on time and in perfect condition. It’s of great help to a customer to know when their product is being delivered and having a fulfilment management system in place can really help with this. It’s also essential that you know where a customer wants their product delivered to and if they have a preference for the time of day.

What are your experiences of using a fulfilment service? What made that particular service stand out from others that you’ve used? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Why distribution centres will be more important than ever in 2014

February 27, 2014

A study of major world industrial markets by Jones Lang LaSalle shows that on average, there have been four consecutive years of industrial growth. 2013 represents a 5 year high of world industrial output, and all indicators predict further expansion in 2014. As a result, warehouse space utilisation has been growing as well, and distribution and fulfilment houses have been expanding.

Expansion in 2014 so far has been driven by growing demand for ecommerce fulfilment and the resulting need for large amounts of sophisticated warehouse space. As a result, 2014 is set to be ‘the year of e-fulfilment’. The coming year should see a growing demand for distribution centres with a robust e-fulfilment infrastructure near large population centres.

However, some supply chain managers are bucking the trend. Smaller, more specialised warehousing space is in high demand amongst very responsive, agile shippers. The key feature for such space seems to be that the space be accessible to fluid distribution channels.

The end result is a very low percentage of unused warehousing and fulfilment capacity. So, what can we expect to follow?

First, demand for space is spreading to various secondary markets. Because prime space near major cities is drying up, more e-fulfilment centres will be constructed in lesser, nearby markets.

Second, more such space will be built to suit. Europe and the UK can be expected to follow last year’s trend in the US, where more than half of the warehousing space constructed had a lease in place before construction began.

Third, we can expect rail transport between distribution centres to increase, as higher volumes make this more efficient than over the road trucking.

Fourth, e-commerce fulfilment will take over more and more of the market from brick-and-mortar retailing. Globally, the proportion of e- versus standard distribution space has been growing by 20% annually. This trend will almost certainly continue.

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“How can we help?” Outsourcing your customer response handling

February 26, 2014

When a customer has a complaint, where do they turn? In a bricks and mortar store it’s normally straight back to the counter or to a designated customer service till. If that’s not possible, a customer can telephone a company’s customer care line, where staff are trained in the art of customer response handling.

Large global corporate companies often invest heavily in their customer response handling as this is the point where a customer could be lost forever. Small to mid-sized companies might not have the financial resources to dedicate to customer response handling and so there is added pressure to get it right first time.

So how can fulfilment companies help?

An experienced fulfilment house can offer a whole heap of different services, but arguably one of the best is having an in-house customer response handling team at your disposal. These teams are versatile, with experience handling complaints and queries, as well as collecting and distributing promotional material, customer data retrieval and logging.

Deciding to outsource your customer response handling to a fulfilment company isn’t always easy – on the one hand, to outsource would take a load off your mind and free up valuable time, while on the other you may feel that you’re losing that all important direct contact with your customers.

But when a customer calls to complain about a product it’s more often than not an issue directly relating to the condition the goods arrived in. Sometimes this will be a fault that occurred during the manufacturing process; other times it will be because of a mistake that happened during the pick and pack or distribution stage, and who better to deal with a complaint than the people who made it in the first place?

Finally, letting your fulfilment company take on your telephone customer response handling also provides your customers with greater flexibility. Most customers can only call outside of typical 9-5 work hours, or during busy lunch periods. So when a fulfilment house promises telephone response handling up to 8pm, 7 days a week, it can settle the situation and smooth out any issues before they cost you a valued customer.

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Four Simple Ways To Reduce Fulfilment Costs

February 25, 2014

Starting your own business is an exhilarating feeling. You’ve taken a single idea and turned it into a reality, whether it’s selling unique handmade products from home or discovering a gap in the market that desperately needed to be filled.

When that business is up and running, you’ll no doubt be involved in every single part of its day-to-day operations, micro-managing every little detail to make sure things run as smoothly as possible, especially where order fulfilment—actually getting the product to your customers—is concerned.

Order fulfilment tends to be one of the most expensive parts of any business, but it needn’t be.

Here are 4 simple tips to help lower your fulfilment services overheads:

Consolidate multiple items into one package

This is a very simple and effective way of reducing the amount of packaging you use when fulfilling customer orders. Not only does it save you time and money on materials, but it’s also environmentally friendly!

Charge delivery fees

Some companies charge a fee for delivery; others do not. Charging the customer for delivery will help keep your order fulfilment costs low. Yes, customers are usually pleasantly surprised with free delivery, but they are often just as happy to pay a premium– as long as their item arrives on time and in good condition.

Offer a collection service

This works really well if you have multiple branches – some customers might prefer to collect their items in person; it saves them money on the delivery fees and reduces the amount of packaging you’ll need to use. It also provides some face-to-face interaction, which is great for building customer relationships.

Outsource your fulfilment to Fairway!

Managing your small business fulfilment can be fun – when you’re a small business. But if you are expanding and sales are growing, then you’ll need a dedicated team who can take over and provide the same care and attention to detail that you would give.

Outsourcing your order fulfilment is an investment, particularly when good customer feedback starts to increase overall sales. Flexible packages and fulfilment services mean that no matter what you sell, your business will always be in safe hands.

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Bring Your Customers Home With Better e-Fulfilment

February 24, 2014

With e-commerce quickly taking over the high street as the world’s preferred method of retail therapy, there’s never been a better time for online businesses to reach wider audiences and strengthen their customer base.

However, if you’re a retailer who established their brand on the e-commerce scene a long time ago, but find yourself losing customers instead of gaining them, you need to re-evaluate your business model and find the causes behind the slump.

There will always be fluctuations in sales during certain times of the year, whether you are purely an online retailer, a bricks and mortar store, or a combination of the two – but a downward trajectory can mean that something is amiss.

Everything might seem perfectly fine on the surface: your website is attracting plenty of traffic and your online shop front is appealing. In any business, this is the customer facing part of your brand, a reflection of both your company and the management behind it.

Modern customers expect more from online commercial businesses – fast, efficient delivery and products that arrive in excellent condition.

But behind the scenes there could be a very different story going on, particularly when it comes to your fulfilment services. If you handle all your own fulfilment in-house, there is added pressure to maintain an effective supply chain as well as keeping up with all the other aspects of running a company.

If you outsource to a poorly managed or in-experienced fulfilment house that provides your customers with shoddy customer service, poor delivery and unnecessary costs, your brand is being negatively affected without you even realising.

Promising your customers the best is one thing, but if you’re struggling to keep up with demand on your own, you should seriously think about enlisting the help of a professional and experienced fulfilment company, otherwise you’ll be hit with bad customer reviews and requests for refunds.

If you want to build your customer base back up to the same levels you enjoyed when you were at your peak, then providing exceptional e-fulfilment is one of the best ways to go about it.

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What are the benefits of outsourcing your order fulfilment?

February 20, 2014

Finding the right fulfilment partner can save you time and allow you to focus on the core aspects of your business. It allows you to grow your business without the expense of upgrading or expanding your facilities. Because a fulfilment company will do a high volume of orders, they can take advantage of the economy of scale to reduce your overall costs. They are also flexible enough to adapt to seasonal order fluctuations, and to add new lines easily. They also have the ability to become warehousing and fulfilment experts. This is Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics core business, and we have become very good at it. In the end, you’ll benefit from more efficient operations and happier customers.

So, what is an order fulfilment partner?

An order fulfilment partner is a business you contract with to warehouse your stock, pick, pack, and process orders for you, dispatch those orders, and report various metrics back to your systems to keep you aware of and in control of your inventory.

I’ve heard a lot about multi-channel fulfilment. What is that?

Say you have a shop on Amazon, one on EBay and one on your own website. How do you keep your inventory straight between them, and avoid selling the same stock twice? A quality fulfilment company will have IT systems that manage multi-channel selling and produce reports that track your orders and whichever metrics are important to your individual business.

A fulfilment partner will ensure you do not oversell, and also show you which channels are doing well for you and which need improvement. You can use that information to improve marketing and communications with your customers.

What about meeting customer expectations?

Customers today expect instant gratification. They want their order in hand tomorrow, or even today. Any delays in order processing or fulfilment will result in a bad experience and losing return business. Many customers will abandon a half-completed order if they see the estimated delivery time is too slow or too expensive.

 Again, the right fulfilment house will keep your customers happy by getting their orders out faster and for less.  

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The Importance of Packaging to a Pick and Pack Service

February 19, 2014

Running a pick and pack service is all about ensuring the fulfilment of goods and products. On the surface, a successful pick and pack company is organised, reliable and timely. However, a lot of effort goes in behind the scenes of a successful pick and pack service and very often it’s the attention to detail that sets one service provider apart from another.

Packaging Practicalities

Packaging plays in an important role in protecting products from damage. Not only does packaging protect products during transition from manufacturer to vendor, but it also prevents damage when the product is displayed on shop fronts. A pick and pack service also needs to consider the type of packaging required for products. For example, some require corrugated shipping boxes, whereas others need tucked top boxes for presentation purposes.

Safety Information

Product packaging can also contain important information, essential to ensuring the safety of consumers. Flammable and toxic products for example, need to adhere to packaging safety standards and need to clearly identify the potential risks to customers. Similarly, ingredients and nutritional information needs to be displayed on packages containing food.

Brand Enhancement and Customer Experience

The consumer experience doesn’t begin and end with the product itself.  Sometimes, a product’s packaging adds to the customer’s fulfilment experience. Think about it: how many times have you opened the packaging of a new product with care and excitement? So, as a pick and pack service provider, think about how your packaging reflects on your supplier’s brand and image. Consider what experience the customer will have when they open their package. Are the contents fragile?  Does the box need insulated padding?  The way a package is presented often plays just as important a part as the product itself.

Although often overlooked, packaging plays an important role in pick and pack services and can have an impact on the success of other companies in the supply chain.

How important do you see the packaging process in the success of a pick and pack service?

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Smoothly does it: Order Fulfilment Tips to Ensure a Streamline Service

February 18, 2014

For many industries, 2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Planning for an increase in activity will ensure that your order fulfilment service runs like clockwork and is able to meet demand. Here are our top tips to ensure your order fulfilment service operates smoothly.

Review Historical Trends

In order to predict your busiest months, why not review last year’s fulfilment activity and see which months were particularly busy. There’s a high likelihood that these trends will repeat themselves this year. Reviewing historical trends can also help predict this year’s percentage increases, based on previous year’s growth statistics.

All Hands on Deck

During busy periods, it pays to have additional staff on board who can make themselves available at short notice. If you predict a busy month ahead, make sure you plan the logistics in advance. Arrange any necessary staff training so that new recruits can add real value to your order fulfilment service rather than simply fulfilling a ‘stand in’ role. This way, you sustain the quality of your order fulfilment while reaping the benefits of a busy period.

Order Extra Stock from Suppliers

If your predictions are right, you’re going to need extra stock from your suppliers as the chances are, it’s going to fly off the pallets. Imagine the frustration at knowing that you could have fulfilled more orders but didn’t because you ran out of stock. Again, reviewing historical trends can help you calculate exactly how much stock you’ll need.

Account for Bank Holidays and Other Deadlines

Make sure you anticipate any fulfilment issues due to bank holidays. If you outsource your transportation services, will they be running as many vehicles on bank holidays and will this delay your order fulfilment? If your fulfilment service relies on the Royal Mail for its postage orders, it’s worth checking the last postal dates before holiday periods. Similarly, if you fulfil orders internationally, you’ll want to check deadlines for international postage.

What other tips do you have to ensure a smooth order fulfilment process? Perhaps you’re a product supplier, what measures do you expect an order fulfilment service to have in place to ensure your orders are fulfilled on time?

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Collaboration: The solution to Supply Chain Success

February 17, 2014

Supply chain collaboration can be beneficial for every company involved. Companies that work together to offer supply chain solutions often see dramatic reductions in fulfilment time, inventories and costs, as well as seeing improvements in customer satisfaction and service levels.

Focusing on Strengths

Companies who work collaboratively often do so  in the wrong way, using collaboration as a means of filling voids in their own individual capabilities. The most successful providers of supply chain solutions focus on strengths and use them to their advantage rather than compensating for weaknesses. By identifying what each company in the supply chain does well, collaboration becomes easier and more effective for everyone involved.

Choosing Supply Chain Partners

The most successful businesses might not necessarily be the most suitable for your logistics services. Many distributers seek to collaborate with the largest suppliers in the hope that their supply chain will be more successful. However, this isn’t always the best strategy as these solutions rely on each individual company’s commitment to the chain and larger companies are often already involved in other chains and don’t offer the same financial assurance.

Investing in Performance Management Systems

Companies offering supply chain solutions should invest in an effective performance-management system to enable all those in the supply chain to monitor the progress of particular projects and ensure that they’re delivering the desired results. Companies in the supply chain should consider using the same performance-management system. Using the same metrics and working towards common targets can avoid miscommunications that often damage collaboration efforts.

Does your company offer supply chain solutions? What commonalities do all companies in the chain share? Do you have a collaborative strategy to ensure your supply chain’s long term success? Alternatively if you are looking for supply chain solutions for your business contact Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics today.

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7 Reasons You Need A POS Management System For Your Ecommerce

February 13, 2014

If you’re struggling to use shop-ready websites that offer limited control, an effective POS management system can radically improve the way you run the ecommerce side of your business.

We’ve rounded up 7 reasons why a POS management system should be on your wish-list:

1. Complete flexibility wherever you are – With a POS management system you can actually take orders from anywhere in the world, wherever you are. Orders can be taken while you’re sleeping and sent directly to your fulfilment house, leaving you with more time for everything else.

2. Up to date reports and data analysis –
With the amount of online sales you’re getting it’s definitely going to be tricky keeping up with inventory numbers and stock levels. A POS management system can keep track of it all.

3. Consistency across the board –
Whether it’s ecommerce prices that match prices in your stores, or sales receipts that match stock levels, a POS system levels out the playing field and can flag any inconsistencies.

4. Getting to know your customers… –
When customers purchase something from you online, you can ask them for feedback at the same time and store it all on the POS system. This will help you to fine tune advertising and marketing, tailoring it to specific customers.

5. …And rewarding them for their loyalty –
A customer who already loves your brand doesn’t need any incentive to stick with you, but it’s a powerful gesture to offer a reward for no reason other than to say thanks. POS software can show you which customer’s loyalty deserves a pat on the back.

6. Greater choice for your customers –
A large percentage of the population now has more than one internet ready mobile device: a laptop, tablet or smartphone. If your retail website is mobile optimized, then a POS management system will have all of these benefits while giving your customers more choice about the way they shop.

7. Complete control both off and online –
Certain POS management software can be integrated with both your ecommerce and physical store inventory, meaning that all your data can be managed more easily with one interface.

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Small Business Owners: Why Outsource Your Order Fulfilment?

February 12, 2014

One of the best parts about being the owner of a small business is that you’re the boss – it’s you who gets to make the rules and oversee everything, including one of the most important elements: order fulfilment.

If you’re the proud owner of a small business, then you’ll already know the value of maintaining a smooth fulfilment operation, and will have probably noticed the hundreds of companies trying to get your attention by promising the best fulfilment service possible.

“Why can’t I just do my order fulfilment myself?”

Although you might be happy dealing with all your order fulfilment now on a small scale, it may get harder in the future when your business grows and you struggle to keep up with demand.

A fulfilment house can deal with orders as they happen. One of the problems with having a small business, especially one that’s online only, is that orders can come in at any time from around the world.

This isn’t too much of a problem if it’s 11:30am where you live and you were just about to head down to the post office anyway; what’s another order? Just pack it up and bring it with you, right?

But what if you’ve been called away unexpectedly due to a family emergency, or just want to take a bit of time off?

A fulfilment house can integrate their system with yours to automatically receive online orders, which can then be picked, packed, and sent directly to your customer without you having to lift a finger.

You won’t even have to hire extra staff or persuade fed-up family members to help you deal with busy periods like Christmas, Easter or Valentines, as the dedicated workforce in a fulfilment house can provide all the extra pairs of hands you’ll need.

So although you might think that fulfilment houses are only for the big behemoths shipping vast quantities of stock around the world, you’d be surprised – there are plenty of small business owners taking advantage of fulfilment companies, just like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, who offer flexible packages and years of experience to help you manage your business more effectively.

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The top four e-fulfilment picking mistakes

February 11, 2014

1) Bulk picking, and re-sorting at the packing station

Granted, it is faster to pick for multiple orders and send them and the pick lists to the backing area in one container. Still, online customers today expect, and are justified in expecting, no mistakes in assembling their order. Any practices that compromise accuracy in favour of speed should be looked at with a high degree of suspicion. We can do better than this.

2) Sorting and prioritising invoices manually

Sorting your orders out based on warehouse pick location requires you to use permanent stock locations. I don’t need to tell you why this is inefficient. You really should be using dynamic locations and sorting your invoices by carrier, or some other relevant variable. The use of handheld barcode scanners and an automated picking route really helps out here.

3) Several orders and invoices per picking box

Similar to the above problem, this leads to mistakes. If it can’t be avoided, you should at least require the packer to re-scan the barcodes, and verify that each is going out with the right order. If it doesn’t scan correct, then at least you know the problem is still in the box, or was mis-picked.

4) Pre-printing the invoice, and using it as a manual pick list

We all know that manual picking systems are less accurate than semi-automated ones, but using the invoice is just sloppy. By the time it reaches the customer it has been written on, ticked, initialled, and is usually fairly crumpled. It doesn’t look good, and it makes your e-fulfilment look unprofessional even if there are no mistakes.

In addition, it introduces another chance for error. The invoice only says what was ordered, where as one generated after picking shows what was actually scanned and picked. If a pick error was made, you have no way to track it.

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Hand finishing and enclosing in time for Valentines Day

February 10, 2014

Love is in the air and so are sales of premium red roses, luxury heart shaped chocolate boxes and a number of other Valentines Day products. The majority of these orders will be purchased online and delivered straight to the intended recipient, with no direct contact between the customer who purchased the item and the product itself.

With big calendar events like Valentine’s Day, customers like to show that they’ve put a lot of effort into their gifts. With a gap between the buyer and the product, fulfilment companies can provide those little extra touches using professional hand finishing and enclosing teams. This is also a very lucrative part of seasonal fulfilment as you can charge a small fee for professional gift wrapping and customers are more than happy to pay for the service.

So how can a fulfilment company help with hand finishing and enclosing for Valentines products?

Hand finishing and enclosing takes place in the fulfilment house before the product is delivered to its final destination. Hand finishing encompasses anything from pre-assembly to gluing or adding promotional material to delivery order. Fiddly materials that cannot be added by automated machinery (like tying ribbons) are also usually finished in this way.

Arranging hand finishing and enclosing for Valentines Day products can really win over your customers, especially if they’re often accused of lacking in the creativity department. When it comes to gifts, presentation is everything and can even affect how a recipient views the product.

As chocolate products are perishable, the packaging used needs to stand up against the storage methods used to keep it fresh as well as tying in with the Valentines theme. Hand finishing and enclosing teams can also advise on things like colour coordination, which can help accentuate details in your product. Pink and red are the colours of choice for Valentine’s Day, but using other colours in contrast can highlight the product and also create a different sort of tone. For example, black and red can imply luxury, high cost and eroticism.

Valentines Day is just around the corner so if you’ve not discussed your romantic themed packaging solutions with your fulfilment company, you might be missing out on a financial gold mine.

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Strategic supply chain management for your business

February 7, 2014

Supply chain management encompasses every part of the flow of goods from point A to point B, including sourcing raw materials, liaising with manufacturers and overseeing the complex chain of networks that make up the global supply chain.

So without effective supply chain management, there would be no supply chain at all.

But simply managing the supply chain on a day-to-day level isn’t enough; it’s such a big process, it’s hard to see the big picture. Yet there is a way to plan ahead and guide your company in the right direction: strategic supply chain management.

In one sentence, strategic supply chain management involves the decisions and directions a company makes or plans to make in order to better their supply chain. By using strategic planning in the fulfilment industry, companies can assess each individual part of the supply chain and apply their strategies to the whole process.

At the production and manufacturing level, a company needs to keep on top of its biggest sellers – and those that are slowly slipping out of public favour by monitoring sales data. By strategically planning ahead and investing in developing new products or tweaking the ones in decline, a company can quickly turn a sales slump into a boost in profits.

Customers of course are probably the most important factor of all, as they are the ones buying the products, using them, giving positive or negative feedback either to the company or to their friends depending on their experiences.

Developing strategic plans where customers are concerned can involve pinning down your target market, which then leads way to devising advertising and marketing strategies to target that specific group. It also incorporates the use of predictive analytics, which is a system designed to predict certain outcomes in sales.

Strategic supply chain management is most effective when the output of the supply chain is on par with the company’s overall business strategy. Changing even the smallest elements can have a big effect on the company as a whole, and so it’s important that every minor detail is taken into account.

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What does ecommerce fulfilment actually cost?

February 6, 2014

Ecommerce is rapidly becoming the number one way to sell products, cutting out the need for costly ‘shop fronts’ and all the expenses that come with them.

When you start your search for the right fulfilment house to cover your ecommerce business, the first question on your lips is probably going to be “how much will it cost me?”

Every fulfilment company will be different; most will offer a basic ecommerce fulfilment service that will cover all the essentials (distribution, pick and packing, handling etc) but there will be slight differences depending on the size of the company, their experience and other details.

Below is a brief guide to some of the service fees that you are likely to find on your fulfilment bill:

Warehouse preperation

Some fulfilment houses may charge you for any initial work that needs to take place before they store your goods. This is usually the case when you require things like specialist racking or staff must be trained on how to handle your product.

Storage space

Most fulfilment companies charge per pallet, or per sq ft of space your products take up. Look out for minimum order terms, where you may be charged for the price of a whole pallet even if your stock only takes up half.

Inventory/account management systems

These charges are pretty self explanatory, as they cover the management of your account, i.e. when you receive additional services or support, or detailed inventory information. It might not show up as a separate charge as some companies bundle it with other fees.

Packaging fees

You will be charged for any additional packaging services your fulfilment company provides, as well as any specialist hand enclosing and finishing procedures that you need.

Although this is only a very brief guide on what kinds of charges you can expect to find when partnering up with a fulfilment company, there are still plenty more services that individual companies can provide, so ask if a complete price guide is available so you can pick and choose a flexible ecommerce fulfilment service that’s right for you.

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Three Ways To Reorganise Your Fulfilment House Post Christmas

February 4, 2014

If you’re still feeling a little shell shocked after the run up to Christmas 2013 then now is the time to take a step back and reassess the state of your fulfilment house. With most of the post-Christmas January sales out of the way, it is the perfect time to fix any problems that occurred during or just after the Christmas rush.

Tidy up your fulfilment house

With such huge volumes of stock, and employees and temporary staff working flat out to pick orders ready for their next day or even same day deliveries, there are likely to have been several casualties as far as floor organisation are concerned.

It’s a big task, so approach it methodically to ensure that every square inch of your warehouse has been covered and that everything is put back in its rightful place. Take a handful of your long term employees—those who know the place like the back of their hand—and ask them to reorganise and tidy the floor, de-cluttering and keeping an eye out for any potential health and safety issues as they go.

Check everything’s in working order

A lot of your fulfilment services will run through automated machinery and will have been pushed to breaking point in the run up to Christmas, with hundreds of extra orders being processed.

Use the quiet period to have all the machines thoroughly examined and checked for wear and tear. This also goes for other equipment big and small, such as pallet trucks or even hand held scanners, as fixing or replacing any equipment now will avoid problems during busy periods in the future.

Maximise organisation

During the busiest times, what parts of your warehouse management system worked well and which did not? Was everything clearly labelled and signposted to help new employees fulfil orders with ease? Ask your staff for feedback and find out where improvements could be made.

It’s easy to become too relaxed in the post-Christmas months – everyone wants to enjoy the lull. While taking a break and congratulating yourselves for a job well done is important, reorganising early on can only help make your company be the best possible for the coming year.

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Same Day Delivery Part 3: Labour Deployment Strategy

February 3, 2014

Last week we looked at Network infrastructure strategies that support same day delivery. This week we look at ways to manage personnel towards the same goal.

Labour Deployment

Now that we have our SKU ducks in a row and accessible, we need to address how to get it where it needs to go in the next few hours. Proponents of ‘lean’ logistics counsel that the ‘drumbeat’, the pace of logistics should be set by the customers. All too often that isn’t possible in practice. Distribution centres seem to have more of a say in release schedules, in the interest of efficiency and costs. Most such facilities are set up for only one release per shift, or even per day, in order to allow several picks for each location in the same trip. This entire concept has to be scrapped if you want to commit to same day delivery. It just will not allow the kind of response time you need.

At a minimum, you’ll need to have several releases per shift. You may have to commit to dropping orders in real time, depending on the specific needs of your business. Real time dropping is a big deal. It means a heavy reorganisation, and can, frankly, meet with a lot of psychological resistance from managers and workers alike. Getting a proper, meaningful buy-in is key. That having been said, the changes that allow for much faster pick cycles can lead to substantial gains in efficiency in practice, as it outlines inefficiencies and warehouse layout problems very clearly.

You may need to look at strategies such as zone picking, or make your slotting strategies more efficient to the new order as well. Some businesses could profit by increasing warehouse automation, but this can increase employee stress, so make sure you don’t have your pickers scuttling about to the angry beeps of inflexible machines. That just leads to losing good people.

So the final question is: Is it worth doing all that to move to same day delivery? For some operations, it is not. For those whose customers demand it, though, it will become necessary, because your competitors will be doing it already.  

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Does Close Proximity To Heathrow Mean A Better Fulfilment House?

January 30, 2014

There are three main types of transportation in the fulfilment industry that will get your goods where they need to go, or enable them to be imported from other countries: vehicle, shipping and air freight.

Although transporting goods via shipping is arguably the most popular way to move goods internationally, and road vehicles preferred where local delivery is concerned, air freight has distinct advantages in the overall speed of international delivery, as well as short haul local flights that cover large distances in a matter of hours.

Fulfilment houses that have been strategically placed next to major airports are often sold to clients on their ability to transport goods faster due to the proximity of air freight services.

But does being close to a major airport really make that much of a difference to the global supply chain?

When cargo arrives at an airport, it needs to be transported to the correct fulfilment house for unpacking, sorting and storing. Fulfilment houses that are near to a major airport can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for goods to reach the warehouse.

It also helps to reduce the amount of time goods spend travelling on the road, or sitting idle in busy traffic, which in turn helps to lower vehicular carbon emissions. A company actively pursuing greener fulfilment services appeals to many of today’s environmentally conscious business owners and consumers.

A fulfilment house that has experience with air freight can also advise you on how to lower your overall costs. Insurance premiums for air freight are generally lower as security levels tend to be high, and even product packaging can be reduced as less is needed to secure goods during a flight.

Overall, having an airport nearby that deals with international imports and exports can save you money, as well as reducing the amount of time the goods spend on the road. It speeds up the time it takes for goods to come from the manufacturers to the fulfilment house, where it can be processed ready for the end customer.

If you’d like to discuss joining Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics then just contact us to find out more about our complete fulfilment solutions.

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Amazon Unveils “Anticipatory Shipping” Plans

January 29, 2014

Unrivalled online retailer recently obtained a patent for “anticipatory shipping” and announced its plans to launch a system that, if successful, would dramatically shorten its customer order fulfilment.

So just how can Amazon anticipate customers purchases?

Amazon has used large amounts of consumer information that it has gathered over the years to create a database of its customer’s buying habits. This data will enable them to anticipate products that their customers will want to buy and have the items picked and packed before they have even been ordered.

They will then be stationed in warehouses, and apparently on some occasions, actually in delivery trucks waiting for the green light before being delivered to the customer.

It’s an interesting and unnerving thought for many consumers – on the one hand, the promise of even faster delivery is a positive aspect. Same day delivery is available for a lot of products, but not all, and usually not for large or unusual purchases.

Yet one of the negative sides is that Amazon is gathering information on consumers, often without their knowledge.

The company collects the information through a customer’s previous orders, searches and wish lists as well as monitoring how long a customer hovers over a certain item with the mouse.

Many have pointed out that essentially ‘guessing’ what customers want could lead to unwanted deliveries and huge losses in profits, but Amazon insists that such occasions would simply be a gesture of goodwill.

Order fulfilment is one of the biggest parts of the global supply chain, both financially and logistically. It requires a monumental team effort and even the smallest of mistakes can have a knock on effect, costing companies time and money.

With the new patent, other retailers and distributors will have to step their game up where order fulfilment is concerned if they are to keep up with Amazon’s anticipatory shipping.

Although no one is sure when Amazon is planning to launch its new system, it will be testing it out in the U.S to see how it fares before rolling it out to other countries. But whether this will encourage other big retailers to follow in their footsteps is difficult to say.

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Online Toy Store Case Study | Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics

January 28, 2014

Today, I’d like to share with you a case study of a young woman who would not be where she is today without a quality fulfilment partner for her home business. Her name has been changed for the sake of privacy, but let’s call her Lily.

She felt like she was missing out on her children’s lives at her 9 to 5, so she left her job in the banking industry to sell toys from home. At the time, her daughter was only five, and her love for both traditional and educational games inspired her mum.

Lily started a small online store to sell high quality children’s games, at first just to her friends and neighbours, but eventually to a growing clientele. “I always used my daughter to choose the products, and my customers were always happy with her choices.”

“I only wanted to have the freedom to pick my daughter up from school. I never knew the business could become so successful.”

Several years on, Lily has launched her toy shop on a major online facility’s site, and she needed a dedicated fulfilment house to handle the much greater volume of business she was suddenly doing.

“For the first time in what feels like years, I have time for the things that matter to me, and to grow my business as well. I’d never go back to the old way of doing things.”

With her fulfilment partner handling all the warehousing and order processing, Lily’s business was finally not crowding her out of her own home. As a toy store, she did fully half her sales leading up to Christmas. “By November, we could barely move for the stock we had to keep in the office”. Better still, the increased capacity lets her make enough sales to improve her lifestyle substantially. Lily says that her success is nothing compared to the joy she has being a full time mum on a full time businesswoman’s salary.

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Same Day Delivery Part 2: Network Infrastructure Strategy

January 27, 2014

Last week we looked at ways to manage your inventory to achieve the current holy grail of fulfilment, same day delivery. This week we will examine network infrastructure, and how you can get everything where it needs to go in time.

There are two basic strategies you can follow, depending on the 3V analysis in the last installment. If you have a high 3V product, you can use a single warehouse model. This makes your logistics and supply chain simpler than the multiple-warehouse option, but requires you to commit to somewhat expensive freight options to your more distant customers. This model only really works well if your customers are clustered in major cities which are in the same general area. Again, luckily for England the bulk of most nationwide business’ customers are in the South, or close to it. The freight expense will generally be lower than the cost of the extra warehouses or fulfilment partners, as well.

Same day deliveries and multiple distribution points

The other model is for multiple distribution points, all allowing same day delivery to any customer from at least one location without too much expense. This is the necessary solution for relatively low 3V goods, especially bulky products worth less per kilo, and not suited to being hurried from London to Edinburgh before 3 pm for an extra £10 shipping cost. Of course, this can be expensive in terms of infrastructure. You also have to keep stock on hand at all your locations/3PLs. Nonetheless I know a tyre wholesaler in Yorkshire that makes a tidy profit getting orders out to everywhere from Wales to Scotland on the same day with a multiple warehouse model, so it can be done.

Modelling software can help you spot the tipping point between strategies for any one SKU, but askilled fulfillment partneris the real key. Ask what they can do, and how fast they can do it. You won’t be the first to explore same day options. Let’s hope you’re not the last.

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Same Day Delivery Part One: An Inventory Management Strategy

January 23, 2014

With large international companies like Amazon experimenting with same day delivery, merchants and fulfilment companies need to cooperate to compete.

First things first: to get a product delivered on the same day it is ordered, the product has to be in stock and within an 8 hour journey of its destination. England is in a better position than may countries, as even a good bit of Scotland is an 8 hour lorry ride from the London, and fully 1/3 of the population is clustered in the Southeast alone. Companies pioneering this strategy in the US or mainland Europe have to stock a lot of extra inventory along a network of warehouses, making it much more expensive.

Things to consider for your same day deliveries in order fulfilment

But having the stock (relatively) near the customer is not enough. Inventory management practices have to be up to the task as well. 3V analysis (stratifying stock keeping units ‘SKUs’ by their Value, Volume and Velocity) and developing different strategies for each strata is the key.

High 3V SKUs

These have relatively high value, volume and velocity, and are prime items to consider offering same day delivery for. The sales volume means that the effort gone to making sure you have sufficient stock on hand for same day delivery won’t go to waste, and the relatively high unit value means that customers are more likely to spring for faster delivery.

Mid 3V SKUs

 SKUs that are relatively low in volume or velocity will require more investment and more risk to reliably offer same day delivery for. You may want to think twice before offering the option for these unless the value figure is very high indeed. If it is, then it may still be profitable to offer same day service using a more expensive transportation strategy, perhaps a special courier or some other option, depending on the product.

Low 3V SKUs

Frankly, offering same day delivery on these items will usually cost too much to be practical. Unless you plan to recoup the losses based on reputation gains or centering ‘same day service’ in your marketing strategy, you’d have to charge quite a lot for the service to avoid taking a loss, and the take-up rate might not support it.

This stratification exercise should help you determine which SKUs you can expect to profit from with same day delivery, and whether there is a future in the practice for your business.

(More to follow over the next two weeks)

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The Importance Of Response Handling

January 22, 2014

In the industry of order fulfilment services, response handling is the term for any reply or action taken when a customer responds to materials provided by your business. Fulfilment houses often provide this as an extra support service alongside standard fulfilment jobs such as pick and pack, storage and distribution.

What does response handling actually entail?

Response handling can fall under many categories, from taking customer calls and answering queries, to sending out emails, SMS messages and even brochures or promotional material.

But response handling also includes several other aspects of fulfilment, whether it’s taking the initial customer orders online, inputting credit and debit card information over the phone or even picking and packing marketing materials and delivering it straight to the customer.

Dealing with all your business response handling in-house can take up a lot of time, particularly during busy holiday periods or during promotional giveaways and any competitions you might be hosting.

Fulfilment houses, such as Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, that offer a dedicated response handling team can do many things to help with this particular side of your business. They can even set up and maintain a complete customer database using information obtained from coupons, competition entries and any other material returned by customers.

This information can be invaluable. It enables you to get to know your customer base better than ever before and enables you to send out advertising and promotional material directly to customers who have already expressed an interest in your brand. With the technology available to fulfilment companies today, it is easier than ever to deal with response handling in a fast, effective way. Response handling through the internet has enabled customers to receive specific product information and responses to their queries faster than ever.

This is important because it keeps the momentum of the sale going – if a customer sees something they like in your virtual store but they have a question about the product, delivery times or return policy, getting a response back to them in a week is no good.

Today’s consumers expect a fast turnaround, both with their queries and with their products, and are more likely to return to a retailer who can provide both.

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How Can Technology Enhance Your Ecommerce Fulfilment?

January 20, 2014

If you’ve not already made the jump from the traditional high street retail shops to online ecommerce, then you’re already trailing behind the vast number of established retailers and new start-ups that are benefitting from this change.

Ecommerce is growing every year as more and more people change their shopping habits, buying everything from luxury goods to everyday essentials online.

Technology has played a big part in the success of ecommerce – the very nature of its platform, the ever expanding internet, has given retailers the freedom and flexibility to maximise their profits by building on their brand in a completely virtual setting.

Ecommerce fulfilment for your online shop

But of course there are certain aspects of ecommerce that will be different to a traditional high street store, and as technology adapts and changes to meet our busy lifestyles, so must the way businesses engage in ecommerce fulfilment.

One of the first things to consider is the way you present your products to your customers. When shopping online, your customers won’t have the opportunity to see the products close up, so it’s your job to provide as much visual detail as possible.

One of the best ways to do this – and it’s also on the increase on many ecommerce sites – is to have a combination of both pictures and videos of the product.

Internet video platforms such as YouTube have changed the way we view things online and creates an interactive environment for customers; online clothing retailers for example could have a virtual catwalk in order to show off their best pieces.

This small addition to the way you sell items online can help to create brand loyalty and even reduce tricky and costly ecommerce returns.

Once you’ve maximised your virtual shop window, it’s time to concentrate on getting the products safely to your customers.

If you’ve outsourced your ecommerce fulfilment to a professional fulfilment company, like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics then they should be able to integrate their ordering system with yours, allowing you and customers to check the delivery statuses of goods in real time, even on the go with specially designed Smartphone or tablet apps.

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Does Hand Finishing & Enclosing Really Make A Difference?

January 16, 2014

In the fulfilment industry, picking and packing items before they are distributed to customers is a large and often complex procedure. This is especially true when certain products or materials can’t be fully packaged by automated machinery and require hand finishing and enclosing.

Though a particular product might need a little more hands on care before being distributed to customers, in the case of marketing, hand finishing can actually help your brand reach a greater number of people.

Not only that, but with such massive volumes of different products requiring hand finishing and enclosing every day, it’s a vital part of the fulfilment industry and one that can effectively boost sales, brand image and positive customer feedback.

With a combination of automatic machinery and trained hand finishing staff, orders reaching into the thousands can be completed and distributed within a matter of days. Some examples of how this might benefit your business include:

Magazine inserts

Advertising space is lucrative in the magazine industry, particularly inserts which are geared towards the magazine reader. With the numbers of many print magazines running into the thousands and monthly or weekly deadlines to meet, such a big task requires a large hand finishing team working round the clock.

Flat-pack packaging assembly

Bespoke packaging or promotional presentation boxes can be assembled quickly and efficiently by hand, which is great for sending out consumer incentives, or changing packaging to fit in with a seasonal theme, i.e Christmas.

Permanent and peelable gluing

Promotional material that needs to be securely fixed to a product can be sprayed with a concentrated amount of glue, which hand finishing personnel can then use to attach materials or heavy items, such as free samples.

Other delicate jobs such as carton strapping and labelling can also be done using a combination of specialist hand finishing personnel and automated machinery, with quality control and regular spot checks in place to ensure there are no mistakes.

There are many other ways in which a fulfilment house, like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics can help with hand finishing and enclosing needs. By offering a flexible and personal approach to your business’ requirements, a fulfilment house can help you with even the smallest of details – which tend to have the biggest impact.

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Can POS Management Really Improve Your Business?

January 14, 2014

The point of sale, or POS, is the moment your customer completes their purchase of a product. In a bricks-and-mortar store, this would be at the till. Online, it’s would be the point where the customer clicks on the ‘confirm order’ button.

Consumers are switching to online purchases for almost every essential and non-essential purchases in their lives; they can do the grocery shopping from the comfort of their own homes, order that complete DVD box set they’ve been after for months, or even finish all their Christmas shopping on time and in one sitting.

How can POS management systems assist your business?

When you outsource your order fulfilment to a company with a specialised POS management system, you’ll quickly realise how essential it is to your business.

The most immediate benefits of integrating a POS management system to your own online store is the ease with which customer orders can be picked up and processed, with a receipt confirming the purchase automatically sent back to the customer.

Then from the POS system, your customer’s order can be picked, packed and ready for delivery.

POS management software available in fulfilment houses today doesn’t just streamline order fulfilment; it can also be used to effectively process returns, which can be credited back to your account and made available for reordering.

It can also organise your inventory at the click of a button, and it’s all stored safely ready for you to look at when you need to. Stock levels can be managed more easily and can even alert you to low levels of stock, meaning you can replenish popular items and not miss out on potential sales.

Similarly, sales and promotional discounts can be monitored and tracked on a large scale. Trends in sales can be analyzed even when you’re not on the premises.

It can also be an effective tool in marketing. Data from customer credit cards can provide you with invaluable details when advertising your brand or sending out incentives.

Overall, a professional fulfilment house that provides POS management software will make your life (and your overall sales) much smoother, with streamlined inventory management and a quick point of sale your customers will really appreciate.

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How Much Can You Offer Your Order Fulfilment Clients?

January 13, 2014

What is it that first attracts new clients to a fulfilment house? A recommendation via word of mouth from another business owner? A snazzy website loaded with pictures, testimonials and blogs? Or perhaps a bit of both? Although recommendations and a professional appearance are important, a new client will sift through the available fulfilment houses and ultimately choose the one that provides the order fulfilment services they need.

So it’s worth asking yourself: just what order fulfilment services can you offer potential clients?

A lot of small fulfilment houses offer the standard pick and pack alongside a few other services that clients can take advantage of. Yet if you have the means to take on extra order fulfilment duties, then it can really help your company stand out from the crowd.

What you should avoid, however, is trying to create a ‘complete’ package that just isn’t. Outsourcing seemingly smaller jobs like taking telephone orders or handling complaints and queries may at first seem like a good idea – lowering costs for all parties involved and freeing up your employees’ time – it can and probably will backfire, angering your client’s customers, your client, and seriously damaging your reputation.

Instead offer services that are designed to meet both your client’s needs and your capabilities: i.e. don’t try to take on too much too soon. Being flexible and listening to a client can often tip the scales in your favour, particularly when dealing with a start up business, or companies who may have previously done all their fulfilment services  in-house.

Small order fulfilment changes can often go a long way.

Could you introduce a call centre designed specifically to handle complaints? Or offer a simplified returns policy that will help customers and keep them happy? How about investing in the latest data analysis and reporting software, which allows client’s to remotely check their stock levels or even get alerts before problems arise?

If you can offer your client the whole package – an entire order fulfilment service, like Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics, that starts with receiving their goods and ends with a satisfied customer – then you are far more likely to build lasting business relationships as well a sterling reputation.

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New Year, New Fulfilment Services

January 10, 2014

As we get stuck into January and deal with the increasingly unstable weather sweeping the nation, many personal New Year’s resolutions will have been made, and some even kept, with plenty more that didn’t quite make it past the third day.

In the fulfilment industry, the New Year can be a great time to take a fresh look at the industry as a whole and stir up new ideas and solutions for a rapidly changing environment.

For business owners, it could potentially be the start of their company’s expansion into new territories, grabbing the attention of new customers and maintaining their relationship with regulars.

For 2014, instead of a personal one, why not make a business resolution that you can stick too, like aiming to make this the year that your get your e-commerce up and running, or creating and implementing an effective marketing campaign to encourage new customers?

With the help of professional fulfilment services, it’s easier than you think

If you’ve never thought about outsourcing your order fulfilment before now, it’s a great time to start looking around and finding a provider that can help you and your company.

If you were testing the water with a temporary fulfilment services solution during the run up to Christmas last year, did you see big improvements in sales, customer feedback and the overall efficiency of your supply chain? If so, extending your fulfilment services contract could be the best thing you do this year.

Fulfilment houses can help you with almost every aspect of the supply chain, from packaging and distribution to customer service and returns. They can offer you flexibility, either taking on a just one part, or your entire order fulfilment.

There’s also room for promotional marketing, with in-house teams working round the clock to hand finish and enclose materials designed to advertise your brand and increase sales.

Make this the year that you take a leap and resolve to maximise the potential of your company. With the right marketing and order fulfilment services working alongside you, there’s never been a better time to grow.

If you haven’t already, take your retail business online into the world of e-commerce, where competition is fierce but an excellent order fulfilment service can help swing customers around in your favour

Sometimes working with a fulfilment house for a short amount of time like this can show you just how indispensable it could be for your business.

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Using Order Fulfilment To Reward Loyalty

January 8, 2014

Rewarding consumer loyalty is one of the simplest and most effective ways to imprint your brand on the minds of your customers. They often feel that their loyalty is appreciated and are more likely to purchase something from you in the future.

From collecting points that customers can update and manage online to free gifts or bespoke promotional merchandising, having a rewards and loyalty scheme in place can massively increase brand awareness and encourage customer loyalty.

Some order fulfilment companies deal directly in the procurement and delivery of non-monetary rewards and loyalty gifts, while others may treat your loyalty stock as simply another product to be distributed.

But how could an order fulfilment company help you to reward your loyal customers?

By storing and dispatching goods intended for reward schemes using the same systems that deliver your stock directly to your customers.

And that’s not all. If your company hosts regular consumer competitions or prize giveaways, then using an order fulfilment company to package and send out the prizes can effectively take that job out of your hands while you reap the benefits of consumer opinion.

Although this is hugely beneficial where customers are concerned, it’s not just your brand and the consumers who love it that could reap the benefits of a reward scheme. Your employees can too.

Rewarding employees is a great way to both motivate staff and to say thank you for all their hard work. Once only given out to employees after periods of ten or more years of service, rewards and incentives play a huge part in today’s businesses.

Individual incentives can encourage employees to beat targets and maximise productivity, while team incentives are a great way of building and rewarding efficiency and teamwork.

If you have a small company that operates from one building or a single city, this might seem unnecessary. But for large companies with thousands of employees across the globe, a fulfilment house can distribute non-monetary rewards to them quickly and safely.

So maximise your relationships with your customers and your employees; advertise and promote your brand whilst giving something back. The items don’t have to be expensive, and are usually a fraction of the cost of an entire advertising budget and usually just as effective.

If you would like to discuss the various options available from a fulfilment house you can trust to handle your loyalty products and other order fulfilment services, contact Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics on 01753 588469 and let us show you how we can help.

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The Finishing Touches: Hand Finishing And Enclosing

January 7, 2014

Hand finishing and enclosing is a fairly self explanatory process in the fulfilment industry, even if it isn’t always a simple operation. Bespoke packaging for physical products or marketing campaigns that are too delicate or complicated to be machine packaged are finished off by hand and delivered directly to your customers.

It is a fantastic way to reach your customer base and encourage general interest. While hand finishing and enclosing is used mainly for distributing promotional material to your end users, it can also provide unique and even fun extras that will really surprise your customers.

Promotional materials such as personalised letters or vouchers for money off future purchases targeted directly at one time or regular customers can in fact push sales – and profits – through the roof, while an effective marketing campaign targeted at new customers (think free samples) can increase brand awareness.

Hand finishing and enclosing fulfilment services – is it expensive?

Thinking that high cost might be an issue? With competitive rates and professional handling, it is one of the best forms of direct marketing out there and you could potentially reap the rewards in a very short time.

Hand finishing and enclosing is a big job, which is why few fulfilment houses offer this incredibly valuable extra. You could try and do it on your own, planning a streamlined conveyer belt of hands to sort through 50,000 envelopes and marketing material, but why hire all the extra staff and lose time and space doing something a specialist fulfilment house could do?

Most fulfilment houses that offer this service will have a dedicated team working around the clock to fulfil huge volumes of orders that require hand finishing and enclosing.

Many of these hands on jobs include assembling flat pack gift boxes, placing inserts or free samples into envelopes and even sticker applications, although every company is different and are likely to have their own ideas and concepts.

A professional fulfilment house specialising in hand finishing and enclosing should be able to adapt to your companies requirements, offer support and help during the process and deliver outstanding results by the agreed deadline. If you are looking for an order fulfilment company to assist with this type of work for your business, call Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics on 01753 588469

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Evening Deliveries – Good Or Bad?

January 6, 2014

One of the biggest customer complaints regarding deliveries of large items is waiting in all day for delivery. There are cases where the item in question fails to show up at the specified time or day. This can infuriate customers who will have no doubt had to rearrange their schedules in order to receive the items.

All over the internet there are comments and angry customer reviews about having to take a half or sometimes even the whole day off work, sending out ripples of disruption into other areas of the customer’s life.

Recently there have been more and more companies, particularly from some of the biggest names like The Royal Mail, who have extended their delivery hours into the evening, from 6pm onwards, in order to cater for people who work during the day. Fairway Fulfilment & Logistics can assist your business with ensuring customers receive their goods on time, call us today on 01753 588469 for more information.

Are evening deliveries more expensive?

Of course, such a quick delivery is going to cost more than a delivery at any other time, as the pressure to have the item packed, transported and delivered into the hands of the customer is greatly increased. Even if goods are not being delivered on the same day, evening deliveries will still incur higher costs due to things like paying staff for working out of hours.

On the other hand, roads tend to be less congested at night, although there can be heavy traffic in the early evening when people are coming home from work. Customers who have chosen an evening delivery are more likely to be at home to answer the door, reducing the extra work required to return packages and send them out again for redelivery.

The benefit of offering evening delivery to your customers is hearing their positive feedback at the end of it. Customers love flexibility and providing a delivery method that won’t disrupt their daily lives is something that can really help you to stand out from the competition.

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