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The Four Steps of Successful Shipping

09 Jul 2018

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Today more than ever, customers expect businesses to deliver their products directly to their door. And thanks to high-volume, rapid response online companies like Amazon, people want their packages sooner than ever.

If your retail or wholesale business doesn’t currently do a lot of direct shipping to customers, that’s likely to change in the coming years. A recent study showed that about 79 percent of all consumers in the US routinely buy products online. So if you want to keep up with the competition, you will need to acknowledge this transformative trend.

Direct-to-Customer Shipping

Mailing online purchases to customers is different than sending pallets or even cases of products to retailers. For one thing, the packages are smaller. For another, there are more of them.

The object today is to get deliveries to customers’ doorsteps as quickly as possible, with minimal damage, and with the fewest shipping errors possible.

Also, it’s critical to reduce shipping costs as much as possible. Thanks to Amazon, many customers now want free shipping. If you offer it, every penny you pay for shipping comes out of your profit margin.

Materials Handling Solutions for E-Commerce

A shipping program needs to check all these boxes. To achieve this, today’s businesses need to follow a four-point plan for shipping success.

  1. Plan Your Shipment — Whether you are mailing hundreds of packages or only one, it pays to have a plan in place. Pack the same product or similar products at the same time to reduce labor costs and reduce prep time. Organize your shipments from the most- to least-complicated to streamline the packaging process.
  2. Prepare for Packing — Make sure you always have everything you need on hand to package the products you intend to ship. If you are missing essential pieces like cardboard boxes, packing peanuts, shipping tape, or labels, every minute you waste collecting these items extends the delivery time past your shipping window estimate.
  3. Package Products — To reduce damage during shipping, make sure you use in-box cushioning, blocking, banding, stretch wrap, pallets, and other tools and equipment to secure your packages.
  4. Ship Your Products — The delivery service you use matters. Options include the US Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, and other delivery services. Choose the one that gets your products where they are going fastest and at the least cost to you.

Shipping products has become a significant part of any retail or wholesale operation. And it’s only going to become more important as time goes on. Preparing today for expanded shipping operations tomorrow will only help your business grow faster and more profitably.

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Marketing to a Millennial Customer Base

25 Jun 2018

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Millennials may be self-absorbed and have short attention spans, but they are tomorrow’s key consumers. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

While older generations like to mock Millennials for being over-protected, over-privileged, and unmotivated, the reality of time dictates that today’s newest generation is going to be tomorrow’s key demographic for businesses everywhere.

Someday in the not-to-distant future, Millennials will run just about everything. So learning the latest generation’s buying preferences and online expectations will only help today’s businesses prepare for the next wave of commerce.

Millennial Strategies

According to a new survey conducted by Radial, an online omnichannel commerce and technology company, young people who were raised in a world where online ordering and free delivery were the norm are only going to be more demanding when it comes to speedy delivery times, order status, and ease of returns.

While many older adults may find Millennials self-involved and short-attention-spanned, today’s younger generation will be tomorrow’s primary consumers. And according to the Radial survey, they are going to want their deliveries faster and without having to pay extra for the privilege. In fact, 33.5 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed said right now it generally takes too long to receive their online orders.

Of the same group, 20.6 percent said paying more for faster priority delivery wasn’t worth the convenience. And 12.6 percent said they had concerns about their packages being stolen.

Rising Consumer Expectations

But Millennials aren’t the only ones who are becoming spoiled by the eCommerce revolution. According to the survey, 74.9 percent of US respondents across all age groups said they prefer to have their packages delivered to their front doorstep rather than allowing drivers access to their home, having to go pick up their deliveries at a locker, or letting a neighbor sign for them.

And 44.1 percent of survey participants in the US said they expected businesses to proactively update them on the status of their delivery, rather than having to check on it themselves. Plus, 36.8 percent said they wanted their deliveries shipped in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Consumers

Online ordering, free same-day delivery, and enhanced interaction with the consumer throughout the fulfillment process are quickly becoming the norm rather than the exception for eCommerce retailers. To be successful, businesses will need to adjust to this new reality, according to Sean McCartney, Radial’s executive vice president of operations services.

“Fulfillment is one of the biggest elements impacting customer experience today, but unfortunately many businesses still approach it as an afterthought,” McCartney said. “To execute a successful door-to-door strategy, companies must shift their mindset to be channel agnostic, offer seamless execution, and real-time communication across any commerce medium.”

The expectations of Millennials, Baby Boomers, and consumers or every generation are evolving. Smart companies would do well to pay attention.

Categorie(s):
Improving Delivery Time and Accuracy

11 Jun 2018

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Consumers and retailers today both want their orders faster than ever before.

Just a few years ago, 3 to 5 business days would be considered an acceptable delivery window for online orders. Today, the expectation is closer to 24 hours or less. Call it the “instant gratification” effect.

Big companies like Amazon are in the process of developing all kinds of sophisticated, high-tech ways to meet consumers’ shrinking delivery window expectations, including pilot-less drones, floating warehouses, and even underground tunnels.

Even if these are all still years away from reality, huge online retailers still have the advantage over small businesses because they have more resources they can allocate to expedite faster delivery. But there are still a few tricks small businesses can use to speed up delivery, minimize loss or damage, and keep their delivery system both fast and efficient.

Damaged and Missing Products

One of the easiest ways to lose a customer for life is to deliver their products broken or damaged or shorting them on their order.

Any time you physically move objects from one place to another, there is a risk of damage and loss. But it’s possible to minimize this risk by using a simple solution: Doubling down on the amount of plastic wrap you use to wrap pallets.

Most in-transit damage is caused by products falling from the pallet during transport. Similarly, products that go missing are frequently found later in the back of the delivery truck because they fell off the pallet. But using more plastic wrap and wrapping the pallet all the way to the top so that all the pallets are covered can help prevent these issues from occurring.

Wrong Products Delivered

Another common problem is retailers getting the wrong products when they unpack their pallets. Often this is a picking issue. But it also can be a delivery problem as well.

Taking more time to properly pack pallets at the warehouse or fulfillment center can help with the former. But taking care to load the delivery van so that the pallets are in the proper delivery sequence can ensure drivers are dropping off the right orders at the right places. This not only cuts delivery time, but improves order efficiency and accuracy as well.

It’s also a good idea to place a copy of the invoice or order sheet inside each pallet’s plastic wrapping so that drivers can see at a glance which orders go where.

Retailers and other customers are always going to want their deliveries to be fast, undamaged, and accurate. Taking time and care can help small businesses compete with the big players even in the age of instant gratification.

 

 

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Oftentimes, purchasing decisions are based on efficiency. On one level that makes sense. Most businesses are highly competitive, so anything you can do to reduce costs while improving efficiency can boost both the bottom line and your competitive edge.

Yet sometimes it makes sense to spend money on things that can indirectly enhance your advantage.

Planters Improve Appearance

This spring, consider creating a line item in your business budget for environmental improvements to your business’s physical plant, including outdoor planters.

Planters let you create beautiful floral displays, shrubs, or other plants that can enhance the appearance of your business. If you own a retail business, they can attract more customers by making your business more attractive. They come in every possible size and are mobile so they can be placed wherever they best serve your needs.

But even industrial, manufacturing, or warehouse/storage businesses can benefit from planters.

Planters Enhance Productivity

Businesses that use planters to improve the appearance of their workplace often find that productivity increases. Nobody wants to work in a drab, depressing environment that is designed solely for maximum productivity.

It’s human nature to desire a little color, light, and decoration in your environment. Planters can provide these things and more at an affordable cost. Plus, they can be changed out with different plantings depending on the season.

Planters Reduce Turnover

While improving the look and feel of your business offers indirect benefits to the bottom line, planters also can have a direct effect on profits.

Creating a comfortable, familiar workplace for your employers by situating planters throughout your business can make people feel better about working there. And when workers feel happy at your business, they are more likely to stick around longer, work harder, and be satisfied in their work.

Happy workers are more productive workers. Plus, the more you can reduce turnover, the lower your hiring and training costs will be. And it’s all thanks to the placement of decorative planters within your workplace.

Getting Workers Involved

Another way to improve morale is to give employees a voice in what gets planted in your planters. Form a committee, ask for volunteers, or even host a decorating contest. A simple distraction like planting flowers or shrubs in your planter can go a long way toward creating loyalty bonds between your employees and your business.

So outdoor planters are much more just a decorative expense. They can actually improve your business’s efficiency, employee morale, and your bottom line.

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garbage cansWhat’s in your trash can? The answer to that question can affect not only your business’s profitability but also its reputation.

Today, most communities have some type of residential recycling program. Many towns and cities also work with businesses to recycle production waste, used packaging materials, and other environmentally friendly post-production materials.

In the US, an estimated 1.51 lbs of materials are recycled per person per day, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center. In addition, people and businesses are doing a better job of producing less trash in the first place. The same study found that per capita waste generation fell from 4.7 lbs per day per person to 4.4 pounds per day, resulting in a total annual reduction in municipal solid waste (the stuff that goes to the dump) by about 3 million tons.

Recycling and Business

Consumers create a lot of trash. But so do businesses. Things like byproducts, leftover packaging materials, and other post-production materials can quickly add up.

But an increasing number of businesses are discovering that participating with local recycling programs or launching their own recycling initiatives can not only reduce the amount of waste the enterprise generates, but also improve employee morale, enhance the company’s reputation in the community, and even help boost their brand.

Something as simple as providing separate containers for garbage and recyclables in employee break rooms and other areas throughout your facility can help minimize your business’s carbon footprint. And every effort you make to make the community (and the world) a cleaner, safer place is an opportunity publicize your business’s environmentally friendly approach toward recycling.

Recycling Containers

Many towns and cities that have recycling programs will provide containers for residents. But businesses are often left on their own to collect and separate their cans, bottles, paper, and other recyclables.

Purchasing separate receptacles for waste and recyclable materials is a fast and easy way to show your employees, and your community, that you care about your business’s impact on the community in which you live and work. In just a single afternoon, you can take a huge step toward enhancing your business’s reputation and standing within the community.

People are getting more conscious about the effect they have on the world at large. By thinking globally and acting locally, your business can help reduce pollution while at the same time being a better neighbor and a more environmentally conscious member of your local community.

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Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Every year between in the fall and winter, millions of people become sick in the US due to the flu.

This year, the flu is particularly bad. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently announced every part of the continental US had “widespread” flu activity.

Colds and the flu not only take their toll physically, but they also can affect businesses financially. Absenteeism, loss of productivity, and medical treatment of employees can be significant in years when the flu is bad, like this year. In fact, the CDC estimates the direct cost of the flu on US businesses to be approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults.

Preparing for the Flu’s Arrival

It’s not a matter of if the flu will arrive in your area, but when.

When the flu starts to appear in a city, a town, or even a single business it can start to spread exponentially. In a period of just a few weeks or even a couple of days, it can jump from person to person, taking its toll on people of every age.

The flu can even be fatal, especially for the elderly, young children, and people with compromised immune systems.

For businesses, taking steps to prepare for the flu and to prevent its spread once it arrives is of critical importance. The CDC recommends that businesses encourage its workers to get vaccinated against the flu, or even sponsor on-site vaccinations.

Prevention and Control

The flu virus is spread a number of ways: It can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, it can become airborne when a person infected with the flu sneezes or coughs, and it can even sit dormant on surfaces like counters or light switches.

Once somebody who is not infected comes into contact with the virus, they can introduce it into their system by touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth. Within just a couple of hours, they can begin to feel the devastating symptoms of the flu, including diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches, headaches, fever, and sore throat.

Prevention begins with creating a culture within the organization.

In addition to encouraging people to get vaccinated, businesses also should ask workers to stay home if they feel sick, avoid unnecessary contact with people who may be infected, and prevent exposure risks by cleaning desks, counters, light switches, and other surfaces frequently with anti-bacterial wipes.

Dealing with the flu is something businesses have to contend with every fall and winter. The good news is every year flu season also comes to an end in the spring.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean outdoor operations stop. In fact, many operations are busier during the year’s coldest months than they are in the spring and summer.

There are still orders to fill, supplies to be stored, inventory to be counted, and all the other responsibilities that are necessary for a successful business — including occasionally climbing up on a ladder.

Yet using a ladder in winter weather is much more hazardous than climbing one in warm, sunny weather. Rungs can be covered in ice and snow. Freezing temperatures mean workers are likely to be bundled in more clothing. And fast-moving winter winds can easily push a ladder over or cause a climber to tumble.

Employer Responsibilities

During the winter, ladder use should be limited to only those tasks that are absolutely essential. If there are other alternatives — such as using a cherry picker, scissor lift, or forklift equipped with a work platform attachment — these may be both safer and more efficient.

If you do require workers to climb up on a ladder outdoors in wintry weather, you may be held responsible if something goes wrong. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration,  employers are required to protect workers from falls at any height higher than 4 feet for normal work, and higher than 6 feet for construction work.

Removing Snow Safely

One of the most common outdoor tasks requiring ladders in the winter is removing snow from products, supplies, shelving, roofs, and other areas. Snow can cause damage to property, especially if it is wet and heavy. Getting snow off materials provides more access. But it also lets customers and clients see products, supplies, and materials, which can help boost sales.

Before ordering any worker to climb up a ladder during winter, it’s important that they know what they are doing and are aware of the dangers. If necessary, you should supply the proper fall protection equipment. Depending on the height, this may include safety harnesses, guard rails, slip-resistant boots and ladder steps, or other gear.

Getting Up and Down Safely

Workers should be assigned to teams of at least two people so that one person is never climbing a ladder alone and unsupervised. If a fall should occur and the worker is caught by his or her fall protection system, the other worker can alert others for help and assist in getting their partner down safely.

Using ladders in the winter poses multiple hazards. Following best safety practices can help reduce accidents and injuries, as well as employer liability.

 

Categorie(s):
Snow-Laden Roofs Offer Numerous Hazards

26 Dec 2017

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Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

So far, most places in the US have been spared from the heaviest snowfalls. But it’s just a matter of time before a whopper of a storm dumps many inches, or even feet, of snow on roads, sidewalks, and buildings.

Heavy buildups of snow add additional weight to roofs and support beams. Too much can cause a collapse. But removing snow from buildings’ roofs also has its risks.

Significant Hazards

Workers climbing onto icy, snow-covered roofs put their health at risk in more ways than just falling. For one thing, it’s bound to be cold up there. Frost and hypothermia from cold temperatures and high winds can cause injury very quickly.

Roofs that laden with snow already have a higher risk of collapse. Adding the weight of workers only increases it.

Working in extreme conditions lifting heavy snow can easily cause overexertion. After every winter snow, hospital emergency rooms are jammed with older, overweight adults suffering from heart attacks and other maladies related to trying to shovel too much snow too quickly.

Then there’s the risk of shock or electrocution from buried wires, hanging power lines, or damaged extension cords.

Removing Roof Snow Safely

Whenever possible, the best plan is often to do nothing at all. Don’t put workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto snowy, icy roofs in severe weather conditions — especially if it’s not necessary.

Rather than getting on the roof, use ladders to apply de-icing materials or use rakes or draglines that can be operated from ground level.

Get an engineering assessment about how much weight your roof can actually hold. Most communities have building codes that require structures to withstand the weight of even the heaviest snow.

When There’s No Other Choice

If your roof is at risk of imminent collapse, the best approach is to hire professionals to clear the snow for you. Provide workers with the proper safety equipment to minimize the risk of injury or death, such as fall protection equipment, ladders, or aerial lifts.

Workers climbing onto roofs should be alert of unexpected sounds or movement, which could indicate an imminent collapse or snowslide.

Use rakes or brooms to remove snow uniformly across the roof. Unbalanced loading can increase the risk of roof collapse or snowslides. Don’t push snow into piles on the roof. Instead, push or throw it off the roof as you go.

Provide intense supervision whenever putting workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto a snowy roof. Have a plan for rescuing workers in case something goes wrong.

Most importantly, if there’s no real risk of damage to your building, don’t put workers at risk. Eventually, the snow will melt on its own.

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holiday rewards and recogitionMost warehouses, docks, and distribution centers are in the midst of their busiest time of the year right now.

How successfully they deal with the challenges of the holiday rush often depends on how organized, clean, and efficient their operations are throughout the rest of the year.

Neatness Counts

During the holidays, most operations are stuffed to the ceiling with inventory. Regardless of whether you are handling food and beverage, Christmas toys, chemical products, or industrial equipment, storage is likely to be filled to be capacity this time of year.

When your workspaces are more crowded than usual, it’s critical that you follow best practices in terms of keeping your operation neat, clean, and efficient. Keep aisles clear of debris like empty boxes or trash from packing materials.

Keeping floor space clear will give your employees more room to work and possibly even give you more valuable storage space. At this time of year, every square foot counts.

Organize and Label Your Storage Space

During the holidays, many businesses will expand their staff or onboard temporary employees to help deal with the rush. Because these workers haven’t worked in your business before, they probably aren’t going to be familiar with where everything goes.

Delays in storing and retrieving items due to ignorance and confusion on the part of new employees can be overcome by carefully organizing and labeling shelves, racking, and other storage spaces before the busy season begins.

But if you haven’t already organized your storage space already, doing it now may be challenging. But at least you can get some benefit from it, at least in the short run.

Streamlining Operations

Your operation will be more efficient if it runs like a well-oiled machine. In order for this to happen, all the moving parts must work together. And there needs to be adequate and capable supervision to spot and correct problems before they occur.

Make it your goal to move items only once, rather than handling the same item multiple times. Fewer trips increase efficiency and help keep the operation running smoother and faster.

Recognize Great Work

This time a year when demand and high there can be a tendency to skip niceties and be more direct with line level employees. But they are probably as stressed out as you are when your operation is in full swing.

Take the time to recognize and reward workers who are doing a great job. Make an effort to show your appreciation to all of your employees, even temporary and seasonal workers. And don’t forget to say “thank you”.

Categorie(s):
The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

28 Nov 2017

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Police Line Do Not CrossIf there is an accident in your workplace, it can result in damaged products, hospitalization costs, and perhaps some lost productivity while the aftermath is cleaned up. But once everybody is back to work, that’s the end of it, right?

Wrong! The truth is that even a single workplace accident can cost businesses an astronomical amount of money. And the costs can keep on piling up for months or even years after the actual accident has been forgotten.

Productivity Costs

When an accident occurs, business as usual typically stops — at least temporarily. But this momentary pause in productivity can cause timeframes to be thrown off schedule, deadlines to be missed, and customers left without the products or services they are expecting.

If there is an injury that requires recovery time, the business can be left shorthanded, affecting productivity even further. Completion of projects may be delayed.

Maintenance and Equipment Costs

A direct result of a workplace accident is damage to equipment or the physical property of the business. The cost of repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed property can be high.

There can even be long-term bookkeeping consequences. If a particular piece of equipment such as a forklift, conveyor system, or other big ticket item has to be replaced, the accrual of that property has to start all over from scratch. That not only will affect the business’s annual operating budget for the current year but for many years to come, not to mention the potential tax implications of lost depreciation of the damaged equipment.

Legal Costs 

In many instances, a person injured in an accident may sue the business, which can result in high legal expenses. Attorneys fees, court costs, and settlements can cost huge amounts of money. And even if the business successfully defends itself against the lawsuit, the company’s legal expenses will likely go up, along with its insurance premiums.

At the very least, the company may have to pay an injured employee’s salary during their recuperation. And because the worker is not adding anything to productivity, that expense comes right out of the bottom line.

Reducing Costs by Reducing Accidents

All of these costs can be avoided altogether if the workplace accident never occurs. Implementing workplace safety programs, employee training, and careful supervision can eliminate dangers and reduce accidents.

While these measures may require a little upfront investment on the part of ownership, it can be a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term costs of a single workplace accident.

 

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