Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What Could Be Going Wrong…Or Right…with My Shipping Process?

So many things go into successful shipping processes for any business.  And we do mean a ton of things. From budgets to supplies and everything in between, there are many little pieces that make up the full puzzle. It is very easy for one of those pieces to change shape and really effect what the puzzle is supposed to look like. It is incredibly important to know and understand every facet of the shipping process in order to effectively evaluate, and trouble shoot, the efficiency of any program.

The shipping and distribution industry is constantly evolving. Understanding your current processes and procedures is imperative, but so is keeping up to date on trends and other variables that could affect your business cycle. For example, one factor that not many distribution centers consider is weather. Not inclement weather in this case, although that can definitely affect things; but in the case I am referring to is the way customers order. The apparel industry sees this the most, and it can really change your forecasting model.  What is normally purchased by customers in May could change to February.  And your shipping center needs to be prepared for that shift. In fact, according to an article by Paul Myerson on Industry Week, this type of predictive analysis is now being taught at the Fashion Institute of Technology as a way to better predict trends in the market. This information can keep your fulfillment centers out of a bind by being able to prepare for the influx of orders; or conversely the opposite.

So where do you start with so much to evaluate? Well, you go back to basics. Were there times where your center excelled?  Were there times when it failed in some way? Compare the two.  That is always a great start. 

  • ·         Did you have a huge amount of unexpected orders? Or the opposite?
  • ·         Plenty of supplies on hand? Or ran out and operations shut down?
  • ·         Did you get new software/equipment and had to work out the bugs?
  • ·         Did you have enough staff?
  • ·         Were your sales projects on point?

Just asking a few simple questions gives you a starting place and you can go from there. Targeting those little pieces can make your distribution center much more efficient and increase profitability.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

How Does a Little Blank Label Affect Such a Huge Part of the Shipping World?

For such a little label, blank thermal and direct thermal labels are a huge part of what makes the distribution center world go round. More and more businesses, regardless of size, are moving towards thermal /direct thermal options to ship out their products. Why is that exactly?

Very small retail establishments were using the traditional method of printing out their packing list and label, folding it, putting it into an adhesive backed plastic pouch, and affixing it to the package. As technology has evolved, and more product options have been developed, many are discovering that even the smallest of establishments can benefit from a more efficient, cost reductive, method of shipping their products to their customers. There have been lots of great products introduced to help in this area, but none as much as direct thermal and thermal labels.

What makes them unique is you don’t have to run them through a laser printer, so the cost for printing consumables goes down tremendously.  Instead, depending on the material choice, you run your labels through a thermal printer, which uses a thermal ribbon, or a direct thermal printer, which uses a print head, to create the image on the label. Either method is much more cost effect than toner in most cases. The standard size for most companies is a 4x6” which is perfect for most shipping labels. Larger fc’s utilize smaller sizes of thermal labels to print tracking barcodes. These barcodes are used internally to track where the package is within the facility. There are so many great ways to customize your process using a variety of sizes, materials and adhesive options.

If you are struggling with speed and efficiency, going with direct thermal or thermal labels could be the answer. It is definitely worth the investment.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

What In The World Is An Integrated Label and What do You Do With Them?

Do you ever come across that one product that ANY business can use? That product is an integrated label.  It’s really cool actually.  It is a label and a form on one 8.5 x 11” or 14” cut sheet. They run through a laser printer, and they run through them well.  They have special liners on the back so the forms stay flat so no costly jams.  They are made with 24# mocr paper; which means they are not too thick or not too thin.

So How Do You Use Them?

That really depends on the market you are in.  Distribution, fulfillment and retail stores use them as a shipping label/packing list combination. They also sometimes use them for inventory and carton labeling. Restaurants and Bakeries use them as order forms where they use the label to put on a ticket or the food item to be delivered. Pharmacies have used them for labeling packages and boxes.  Auto Service and Parts centers use them as both a service form AND a sales form for parts.  These are just a few.  Invoicing, notices, memberships…the list really goes on and on.

So Are They Always Blank?

Not always.  That is where the business process comes in.  There are times it saves money for a business to just get their integrated labels blank because they are printing in only black or very little information.  They also may change forms frequently as well, so blank is best. However, some businesses use a standard form that may have a lot of toner coverage and high color.  If that is the case, order a custom integrated form with information preprinted will save time and toner. Just re-run through the printer and print only the information you need.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Will Switching to Plastic Postcards Give Me a Better ROI?

Everyone gets postcards in the mail.  Some big, some small. Some high color and some just one color. But the common theme is most of them are paper. We may glance at them…some even catch our eye enough to maybe not throw it in the trash immediately. But none of them compare to a Plastic Postcard.
So what makes a plastic postcard so unique?  Well, the first obvious part is they are plastic. When you grab a stack of mail, 99% of it is paper.  So when you feel the texture of a thick, rigid plastic, it gets your attention. In fact, they are normally the thickness of a postcard and that has a whole other set of advantages.

What you put on your postcard is just as important as the material it is made of.  The nice thing about a plastic postcard is you can make them interactive which is engaging and fun. Many businesses opt to have a detachable card or key tag within the postcard.  Not only is it plastic, but you can punch out this card/key tag and use that piece over and over again. The card can function as a business card, a discount coupon, a trial membership, or anything to bring customers in the door.  The key tag could serve as a constant reminder on their car keys about your business information.

Cost is always a concern.  And plastic postcards do cost more, both in postage and production.  But what many businesses have found is spending the extra money had a huge payoff.  The ROI was significantly higher than their paper counterpart and throwing in a tempting offer or interactive card/key tag was definitely worth the extra money. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Yes…Your Business Still Needs Envelopes!

We are definitely in the digital age. We can email, Dropbox, ftp, Facebook; basically use all kinds of methods to send and receive documents and information. Some are even very secure methods. However, there are still forms that legally can’t be sent electronically.  We still have to use the postal service from time to time to send out sensitive information.  Envelopes are a must for this.

check envelopes - double window ENV-02-B
Now, envelopes are not just for sensitive materials.  Because we are in a digital age, many things simply get overlooked because of the sheer volume of information.  Your email account is a great example.  We get flooded with emails, and in our mad dash to empty our account, we sometimes delete things we shouldn’t. Or…we simply ignore a normally great promotion because we don’t stop to take the time to interact with the message.

That is where an envelope comes in handy.  It forces you to open up the thing to see what’s inside.  Although we don’t enjoy getting an invoice or bill, we do like getting checks and promotions. The odd thing about using an envelope is the less that is printed on it, the more intrigued we are about what is inside. And although envelopes of all types including double window envelopes, seem like it could belong in the stone ages in this day and time, it really does still have a great place and even better need.

So many people say “what about the environment?” There are many recycled options available, and you can even reuse them in your home. You wouldn’t believe the really creative ways to use old envelopes. So don’t forget these gems when you are getting your business supplies.  They never run out of style.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Laser Printable Cards Are More Than Just Insurance Cards!

Many people think you can only use laser membership cards for auto insurance cards and medical cards. Of course they are great for those industries. And I think originally that seemed to be the main market, but now they are so diverse you can use them for a ton of things.  And they save so much time and money, why not give them a go!
2 Up Membership Card

One of the best uses of laser cards is for registration for summer activities, gym memberships, and retail promotions. The card portion doesn’t necessarily have to be used for identification of a person.  Many have put coupons, confirmations for sign ups, free items, and much more. They have been becoming increasing popular for targeted mailing to include a promotion to get customers through the door. Another great use is a quick reference guide.  Maybe you have an item that requires a fast set of instructions, or maybe a temporary password or access code.  It is a great peel out card to keep with you.

The great thing about laser printable cards is combining low per piece cost, with simplicity of use, versatility, and durability. They are water and heat resistant.  And because you can purchase either pre-printed or completely blank stock, you have more control of your costs and time efficiencies. 

They are definitely worth a try.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Was 2016 Everything You Thought It Was Going To Be For Your Distribution Center?

No seriously...was it really as great as you wanted?  Did you not grow this year?  Were your processes not on point?  Did any of your lines shut down?  Did you run out of vital supplies? Or did any of your supplies fail? Were your vendors not there for you when you needed them the most?
If you answered “yes” to even just one of these questions, then now is a great time to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in 2017. And what does that involve…understanding and change; two very unnerving topics for many distribution centers.

According to Distribution Center which focuses on the HVACR industry, there are three challenges distributors are facing, with one of those being quickly refining their current processes. So that leads us back to the original questions at the top of this blog. You have to understand if you answered “yes” to any of those questions is what went wrong, and how are you going to fix it.  And the beginning of the year is the perfect time; before you get into the holiday seasons and you have a fresh outlook on the year.

So what can you do if you had problems in the past. Make changes.  Talk to expects who understand how both simple, and very complex, distribution centers operate and get their feedback.  What businesses fail to see at times is suppliers need you to succeed in order for them to grow as well.  Reach out to them; invite them to see your operation and get their feedback. Request label samples. There are times when you have looked at a process so many times, that fresh eyes are the best way to gain new perspectives.  But don’t wait! The faster you address issues in your operation, the faster you will see improvements.