upping-your-shipping-capability (1)

Upping Shipping Capability: Blunt Advice

2 minute read
There’s an old saying in baseball, “You miss every ball that you don’t swing at.” However, the unacknowledged truth of the matter is three strikes, and the player is called out. When you are working in a B2B business, you might be getting orders you may be striking out in fulfillment. If fixing the situation requires only shipping more orders, then it’s advisable to hire more warehouse staff. However, the issue is filling the orders in the first place; it’s time to look at inventory control, picking, packing, and shipping. There is a disjunct somewhere, and the customers will not be happy about it. They are counting on your merchandise making it to their shelves in a timely fashion, and their orders being by and large built without significant backorders comprising a percentage per invoice. While shortfalls are unavoidable at certain times of the year, developing a comprehensive picture of your supply chain throughout the year will help.

Get a Grip

  1. Whether shipping two boxes a day or 2,000 a week, small business faces unique challenges of scale. The first challenge is to stop thinking of the company as the “next Amazon.” There is only one Amazon, the circumstances that allowed Amazon to take root and grow from a garage to a multinational shipping behemoth are unique. A smaller company doesn’t need to waste time trying to jump that bar. Instead of being the “next ______” try being the first you. Look at the software and hardware that can do the following:

    1. Standardize picking and packing methods. Create checklists for staff to follow from grabbing a pick ticket and cart to putting the items in a box with packing materials. Make sure that the picker and packer both sign off on the ticket, verifying the items that will be invoiced.
  2. Standardize shipping materials. Have bubble wrap pre-torn, a chute of peanuts ready to go, and boxes in your most common shipping sizes made up and ready to go. Anyone who’s ever worked at a restaurant serving job understands the value of “side work” during slow hours – keeping the condiments filled, the coffee fresh, and table talkers clean. Pre-assembling shipping boxes and materials is no different and saves minutes per order.
  3. Streamline picking with technology. Pick-to-light systems are not new at all, but newer companies like Voodoo Robotics are using new devices to convey information, rather than just the red light/green light binary. These pick-to-light systems can direct pickers more quickly to the SKU by being placed either on the shelf or a picking cart.
  4. Batch shipping. Outgoing items should be sorted by the carrier who will be receiving them for shipment. For instance, the shippers should sort by FedEx, UPS, USPS, and other carriers. Also, no boxes should be accepted for shipment after a certain time of day.
  5. Designate a special use shipper. This one person should handle urgent shipments outside the normal flow of business. The reason for this is because when regular shipping is pushed back, all shipping is pushed back. The designated person handles return merchandise authorizations from customers and to vendors, replacements, damaged goods, and all other shipping functions outside of the normal order flow.
  6. Barcoding, SKUs, and inventory control. It goes without saying that barcoding, SKUs, and inventory control software are the ABC and 123 of getting a grip. Without these tools, you have only a wispy idea of what you have, what you need, and what you sold.

Without implementing at least a few of these above protocols, you may get orders, but you might not get the fill rate or turnaround time you need to impress customers. In a high-volume, high competition atmosphere your small business needs to stand out on these two factors. Start getting your facility and practices in shape to meet all the shipping challenges ahead for the year.