When you run a business, part of your role is managing inventory, fulfilling orders and shipping products to customers. This is the operation of logistics, and it is a multi-step process involving different people along a supply chain that needs to connect seamlessly and flow smoothly to succeed.
Are you having issues with this process? With a growing need for speed in a demanding economy, companies seek ways to improve efficiency while reducing costs along their supply chain.
Here are five ways to improve logistics operations. Implement all of these strategies and watch your business thrive.
Third-Party Logistics Provider
Running a business has you wearing many hats, and as you grow, you can spread the workload to employees and other service providers. If you want to outsource your logistics, a third party logistics provider is where you turn to.
3PL companies are professional operators that are dedicated to your entire supply chain. This outsourcing takes the load off your direct workforce and hands it to an operator with the infrastructure to handle all your logistical needs, including:
For your 3PL provider to ship your products, they must have them on hand. You arrange incoming inventory in the warehouse, which is then on hand when orders come in.
These are facilities that the 3PL provider has in place in one local location or a network of locations to best serve your needs. There, they take careful receipt of your goods and store them in bins, shelves or pallets.
Picking starts the fulfillment process, and your provider will receive orders from you and, in turn, pick the items “off the shelf.” Most companies will have integrated software to track inventorying stock levels as they pick, so you are updated when re-ord is needed.
Packing is next, and 3PL is very efficient at this. They will have a wide variety of packing materials to suit your items and acquire this in bulk to lower the costs directly to you.
Your 3PL provider will then print shipping labels and promptly ship your package to its destination using a variety of trusted carriers with whom they have long-term relationships.
Finally, they are fully equipped to accept returns and have the infrastructure to receive, restock or dispose of the returned items, so you don’t have to take care of this in-house.
Ultimately, using a third-party logistics provider is the best money you will ever spend on your business.
We live in a digital world, and you can use technology to your advantage. Assess your current tools for logistics and see where you can upgrade to the latest workflows and processes. There are great software management tools that you can implement to monitor the entire logistical operation, including customer relations and enhanced tracking.
Technology helps eliminate human error while identifying bottlenecks and problems that can be addressed. Implementing mobile solutions helps connect frontline employees to office workers as well. You can also adopt technology in your warehouse by using robots to sort, organize, pick and package the products that you sell.
A lot of the time, problems in your logistics operation come down to communication issues. Any lag in communication spreads quickly and lowers the efficiency of your supply chain, resulting in slower delivery of goods and dissatisfied customers.
You can combat this by having real-time communication channels with instant messaging between employees and management. Try collaborating with all team members and partners so everyone is on the same page. Also, use automation to reduce the complexity of routine procedures like supply ordering, sourcing and procurement.
When everyone along the supply chain communicates effectively, you can improve the process and quickly deal with backups and other issues.
Your employees are the heart of your operation, and they need to understand the logistical process as well as you do. This involves training them on the latest software and equipment you acquire so they can maximize the operational timeline, so make sure your HR department is in tune with your logistical operation.
They, in turn, can communicate orders and information to the staff to prepare them for any upgrades in your systems. You will see vast improvements when everyone involved has up-to-date knowledge of how the supply chain works.
Keep Your Customers In The Loop
Customer service should be your top priority, and they need to know the status of their purchase and delivery from ordering to delivery.
This will ease their pre and post-purchase anxiety because they know where their packages are while en route. You should implement:
- Tracking numbers
- Delivery alerts
- Confirmation emails
- Company contact information
Your customers are your most valuable asset, and they not only provide a direct source of revenue they also help spread the word about your efficient delivery of goods and excellent customer service.