August 17, 2020
Are you devoting your time to the most meaningful tasks as you grow your online business? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Are you spending your time sourcing bubble wrap and boxes or calling potential customers; building another shelf in your garage/office for your products or improving your website to attract more online orders; standing in line to mail customer orders at the post office or working on research and development for a new summer product line?
If your answers focused less on sales and product development and more on order fulfillment, it might be time to outsource your fulfillment needs. Fulfillment – the process of delivering orders to your customers – takes a lot of time and as you well know, time is a precious resource for young and growing companies.
Small companies often try to handle fulfillment themselves, and they learn that the supply chain can be complex. They spend hours picking items that have been ordered off storage shelves, packaging them so they’ll arrive undamaged, adding required postage, and delivering the package to the shipper or arranging for shippers to pick up the shipments.
As your business grows, fulfillment becomes a bigger job, and online companies and their staff can get overwhelmed as they are forced away from their hired roles to keep with demand in the warehouse.
No matter where you are in your online business, there are some advantages to contracting with a 3PL (third-party logistics) firm to handle fulfillment needs.
Your warehouse space can expand and contract as your company’s needs change
Having enough space for products can be a challenge, especially for start-up businesses that are using modified spaces like home basements and garages.
3PLs are flexible with their warehouse space, which allows clients to increase and decrease the amount of space they use as their business changes. Rather than spending precious capital to build a warehouse or lease space at the going per-square-foot rate, companies can look for a 3PL that provides the space and the other services required to fulfill customer orders. That’s what we do at Bluegrass. We can adjust clients’ warehouse space (and associated costs) as their needs change. And, our service includes all the other costs associated with running a fulfillment operation, from staffing and building upkeep to maintenance and security. Our building is climate controlled and insured for flood, wind, fire and other disasters. We have equipment that would be expensive for a small company to buy (priced a forklift lately?).
We are always looking for ways to innovate to benefit our clients. One recent innovation expanded our warehouse space without major construction or business disruption and improved safety. We built a mezzanine–an extremely strong “second floor” above our main warehouse. Initially, we added 8,000 square feet, and it worked so well that we added more. No only has the mezzanine given us more storage space but it has made this area of the warehouse safer because our fulfillment staff no longer has to climb ladders to reach products.
Fulfillment professionals emphasize QC
The feeling that no one will handle their shipments with the care they do is one reason small companies hesitate to have a third party handle their fulfillment. A conversation with us and a tour of our facility can ease concerns.
At Bluegrass, we are happy to not just talk about our quality control efforts but show them in action. We might have our warehouse staff talk about the team meetings they have to discuss our clients’ needs, their products and specific shipping requirements or challenges. We would also show a potential client how all orders are checked and then re-checked (a two-person audit system) before they are shipped.
If a client is interested, we can demonstrate our inventory management system. This system allows our team and our clients to track orders, shipments and inventory in real-time as well as compile detailed sales reports.
Security equipment and measures protect product loss
Keeping a close watch on products is one reason companies choose to handle their own fulfillment. Inventory security is a major concern for businesses of all sizes. At Bluegrass, we are proactive in this area. For clients with expensive and small products, we have created locked areas, accessible by a limited number of our staff. We’ve added cameras and provided lockers outside the warehouse where our employees are required to store their purses, lunch bags, and other personal items. Badges are required to enter any area of our facility.
Here is a quick summary of the major advantages of outsourcing your fulfillment:
- Time-savings: Businesses can concentrate on growing their sales instead of standing in line at the post office or packing boxes for shipment.
- Flexible warehouse space: A business can contract for more or less warehouse space as their inventory and storage need change.
- All-inclusive service: Businesses no longer have to worry about leasing or building warehouse space, buying supplies like boxes, computer software and security cameras; hiring and educating workers; working with shippers; monitoring standards set to protect workers.
- Cost-savings: A 3PL buys packaging materials in large quantities and such bulk buying results in a smaller cost per box, etc. clients pay for only the warehouse space they require instead of locking in by building their own storage space or leasing a specific square footage. Because of the professional knowledge available with companies like Bluegrass, clients can also get advice, direction and ideas about how to better package their product
- Security: A business can work with a 3PL to ensure specific security measures are put in place to safeguard their product that go beyond the measures a professional 3PL will already have in place like badge-access and security cameras.
- Valuable sales and inventory information: Bluegrass and other 3PLs use inventory management systems to monitor everything from receiving and storage to shipments. What clients don’t always realize is that these systems also deliver rich sales information, through reports that can be tailored in dozens of ways–from regional sales figures to sales tied to certain seasons.
Our fulfillment professionals are happy to talk to you about the services we offer. Please give us a call or send an email and we can talk about all the advantages of outsourcing fulfillment. And as soon as it’s possible, we’d love to have you come in and take a tour so you can meet the people who will be taking care of your product, see how clean and organized our warehouse is and talk to our managers about your concerns.
And in the meantime, check out this our blog about seeking a 3PL partner. It includes a checklist of qualities you should seek in a 3PL.