There is 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 out. When you are working in Business-to-Business (B2B), although you are getting orders, you may be striking out in fulfillment. If fixing the situation requires only shipping more orders, then it you may need to hire more warehouse staff.
If the issue is filling the orders in the first place; however, it may be time to look at inventory control, picking, packing, and shipping. There is a disconnect somewhere, and the customers will not be happy about it. They are counting on having your merchandise on their shelves in a timely fashion, and building their orders 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
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 does not need to waste its 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:
- 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 you will invoice.
- Standardize shipping materials. Have pre-torn bubble wrap, a chute of peanuts ready to go, and boxes in your most common shipping sizes made up and ready. Anyone who has 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. Preassembling and staging shipping boxes and materials is no different and saves minutes per order.
- Streamline picking with technology. Pick-to-light systems are not a new concept, but newer companies like Voodoo Robotics use new devices to convey information, rather than just the red-light/green-light binary. By placing these pick-to-light systems directly on the shelf or picking cart, they can direct pickers more quickly to the items.
- Batch shipping. Sort outgoing items by the carrier (e.g., DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS) who will receive them for shipment.
- Designate a special use shipper. This one person should handle urgent shipments outside the normal flow of business, because, when regular shipping has a delay, this delays all shipping. 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.
- Understand your inventory. Barcoding, SKUs, and inventory control software essential for getting a grip. Without these tools, you have only a vague idea of what you have, what you need, and what you sold.
Without implementing at least a few of these 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, highly competitive 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.
Let’s have a conversation so we can better understand your needs. Schedule a demo or contact us and get control of your mispicks!
If the system avoids just a few mispicks, it has paid for itself!