Online shopping has completely changed the face of retail and customers are increasingly buying products online and having them shipped directly to them. That means that people’s expectations are incredibly high when it comes to shipping times. There are a lot of big companies like Amazon that can offer next day shipping and, in some areas, even same day shipping. As a smaller company, you’re not necessarily going to be able to match that speed and efficiency, but you do need to make sure that you’re getting products out to people in a timely manner.
As well as speed, you also need to consider the cost of your shipping operation. If you’re not very efficient, you could end up spending a lot of money shipping products out and that’s going to seriously affect your profits. That’s why you need to make an effort to improve the efficiency of your shipping operation. These are some of the best ways to do it.
Improve Inventory Management
This is a step that a lot of people forget but it’s so important. Before you can ship anything out, you need to find the products in the warehouse and package them up first. If you’re not managing your inventory properly, it’s going to take longer than it needs to organize and pack all of the products ready for shipping. In some cases, you might find that you don’t have enough inventory to fulfill the order at all and that means you’re going to have a huge delay and you’ll probably lose that customer. It’s absolutely essential that you’re using good inventory management software instead of trying to do it all manually because that’s when you’re going to start making mistakes. You also need to set minimum stock levels so you can be sure that you’ve always got enough stock to fulfill any orders that are coming in. When you’re managing your inventory properly, you’ll find it a lot easier to pack and ship orders fast.
Better Communication With The Warehouse
Communication is the key to a successful business and it’s especially important when it comes to shipping. Good communication with the warehouse will help you with inventory management because they can let you know if you’re running low on certain things. It’s also incredibly important that they have a good idea of how sales are going. If you see a sudden sales spike and they’re not prepared for it, things are going to slow down and your products won’t go out on time. But if everybody is on the same page, they’ll be prepared for a sudden increase in orders and they can hire a few temporary staff members to help cover the extra workload. You should also have regular meetings with your warehouse staff to ask about any issues that they’re having. If they can help you to identify areas that are slowing things down, you can come up with solutions and improve your shipping efficiency.
If you’re running a large warehouse with a lot of products, finding the right products to ship is often the most difficult part of the process if you haven’t got a good solution. If you’re just handing somebody a list of products and asking them to find them, they’re going to be walking up and down for ages and that’s not efficient at all. The easiest way around that problem is to use barcode scanners. If you catalogue all of your products and assign them a barcode, it’s easy for people to scan lists of products and find what they need right away.
Consider Your Vehicles
The vehicles that you use for shipping make such a big difference so you need to consider them carefully. If you’re using delivery trucks that don’t get very good mileage, you’re just wasting a lot of money for no good reason. It’s worth looking into hybrids or electric vehicles that are a lot more cost effective to run. It also reduces your impact on the environment which is incredibly important to a lot of customers these days. If you can cut down on the amount of fuel you’re using, you’ll make some serious savings.
As well as finding more cost effective vehicles, you need to make sure that they’re well maintained. Take your vehicles to the mechanic and find an off-highway drivetrain service center to make sure that your delivery trucks are always in good working order. If your vehicles break down halfway through a route and your customers are left waiting for their delivery, they’re not going to be happy. They won’t be interested in your excuses and you’ll probably lose those customers for good. So, always keep on top of maintenance and make sure that you’ve got backup vehicles on hand to take over so you’re not missing any deliveries.
Use Route Planning Software
Route planning software is absolutely essential if you want to increase efficiency in your shipping operation. People don’t realize just how much difference it makes if you’re not planning routes well, but it can really slow things down. Trying to plan the most efficient route is a big job and you’ll struggle to do it manually. That’s why you should always invest in route planning software to help you out.
Use Standard Box Sizes
If you’ve got a lot of different box sizes, your employees will have to spend time finding the right box for each product when they’re packing them. It doesn’t seem like a big issue but if you add up those extra few seconds over the course of a day, it does actually waste quite a lot of time. You’re far better off using a few different standard box sizes so it’s quicker to pack products. It’s also cheaper to buy simple, standard box sizes rather than a lot of different custom made ones. Most large companies do this, that’s why you always receive things in oversized boxes when you order something from Amazon. The only downside is that some people might worry about you wasting resources but as long as you’re using recycled materials, it shouldn’t be a problem.
If you just have one large warehouse that handles all of your shipping, you might be making things harder than they need to be. When you’re in the early stages of your business and you don’t have that much money, having more than one shipping location probably isn’t viable. However, if you’re doing well and you’re looking at expanding the business and reinvesting some of those profits, you should consider decentralizing your shipping operation. If you’ve got multiple shipping locations that each serve a different region, you make things so much more efficient.
It cuts down on any long journeys which means you can get products out quicker and you won’t be spending as much money on fuel costs. Serving one local area rather than the entire country also means that your drivers will know the area better and they’ll be able to plan more efficient routes.
This is so important because customers are not going to be forgiving if their products are late. People won’t mind waiting a few days if that’s what they’re expecting, so you need to manage people’s expectations properly. It might be tempting to try to get more customers by offering unrealistic shipping times but it’s not going to work. You might get a few sales but you’re never going to keep those customers long term because you’ll let them down. You’re actually a lot better off over estimating how long your deliveries are going to take. That way, people are going to get a nice surprise when things arrive a day early and if there are any issues, you can still get things there on time.
Making all of these changes and improving efficiency in your shipping operation can be difficult. If you’re struggling, you should consider outsourcing to a professional courier instead. They’ll have all of the infrastructure in place already and they’ll have more experience in shipping so they can often do it better than you can. Outsourcing is a good solution for smaller businesses or new start ups that can’t afford to implement an efficient shipping operation.
However, there are some downsides to outsourcing. You’re not the only company that they’re dealing with so you aren’t going to be their priority. They may also not be equipped to deal with your products if they’re particularly fragile. In most cases, they’ll have experience but if you have any specific shipping needs, they might not be able to match them. That does mean there are more likely to be breakages and issues with products and you’ll be covering the cost of that. But outsourcing is still a way more cost effective way of handling your shipping operation.
Your shipping operation is one of the most important parts of your business. Customers have high expectations when it comes to product shipping and there are plenty of big companies that can get parcels out in a day or two. If you can’t compete with that, you’re really going to struggle to keep your customers.
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