Important Changes That Improve The Efficiency Of Your Shipping Operation

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Article | Shipping Operations | Important Changes That Improve The Efficiency Of Your Shipping OperationOnline 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.

Barcode Scanners

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution Article | Shipping Operations | Important Changes That Improve The Efficiency Of Your Shipping OperationIf 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.

Decentralize Shipping

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.

Manage Expectations

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.

Consider Outsourcing

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.

Why Every Business Should Outsource

StrategyDriven Managing Your Business Article | OutsourcingOwning and running a business is not a 9-5 role; it takes a highly committed, dedicated individual who will strive for success every hour of the day, whether that means working until 9pm on a Friday evening or waking up early to take a business call on a Sunday.

However, running a business is not a sole effort for the majority of the time. It takes an army, especially if the business owner lacks the necessary skills for marketing, web development, or even accounting.

When you need an additional skill set in your company which you currently do not have, outsourcing is your best option. This increasingly popular practice allows a business owner to receive the talent and workforce they need, but without requiring bringing a new member of staff into the business permanently.

Why Outsource?

As a business owner, if you currently lack a number of skills which could see your company grow and succeed, it can be daunting to begin the recruitment process. Plus, recruitment takes valuable time and valuable resources. You may end up spending a number of weeks trying to find a suitable candidate only for them to reject the job offer. In this event, it’s back to the beginning of the process.

An alternative path is to seek the assistance of a contractor or freelancer and outsource the role. This person will hold the qualifications and skill set you need to get the job done, except they won’t be hired for a full-time position. This way, once the task is complete, you have the option of working on another project together, or exchanging payment and thanking each other for their contributions.

When you choose to outsource, you reduce the risk of losing time, resources and money into a stressful recruitment period. Instead, you gain the experience and expertise your role requires with minimal fuss and effort.

What’s more, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement — the business owner benefits by getting a project completed on time and within budget; the contractor benefits by earning a paycheck, boosting their experience and their reputation. After all, reputation within outsourcing is highly valuable.

What Should You Outsource?

Now you know why you should outsource, it’s time to learn what projects and roles you should outsource, including:

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a specialist skill on its own; you need to understand the many factors, such as SEO, PPC, copywriting, editing skills, social media, and so on. It’s also a rather time-consuming role, one which needs constant monitoring and measuring of which methods are successful, and which you need to change. Outsourcing digital marketing means you get the knowledge and expertise from a reputable marketer who can help drive your campaigns to success. For a fledgling business, it’s an essential role you cannot be without.


In the modern age, security is extremely crucial for all businesses. With so much private data being held on our systems, it’s critical that it’s protected at all costs. A data breach or ransom can be devastating for enterprises of all sizes, and even be the reason why a company fails. However, an experienced Chief Information Security Officer is an expensive role, something brand new businesses can’t always afford. Therefore, opting to outsource CISO is a cost-effective solution.

Web Development

If you don’t have a website, you won’t get very far in today’s digital world. It’s your virtual storefront, and as such, it needs to be attractive and easy to navigate. Website development and coding is a specialist skill, but your website isn’t something to cut corners over. Choosing to outsource your web design needs means you receive a visually stunning and technically correct site from the experts without the high price tag.

8 Easy Ways Any Company Can Improve Inventory Management

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution ArticleProper inventory management is one of the keys to keeping your business running smoothly and remaining profitable. Make mistakes here, and you may run out of best sellers, buy products you don’t need, and waste resources you can’t afford to lose. Here are eight essential inventory management tips every business should follow. We’ll focus on universal advice that almost any firm can implement.

Manage Inventory via Software

Don’t rely on spreadsheets to track software. Spreadsheets can be deleted. Cell values could be deleted or overwritten. Formulas may be altered, scrambling values elsewhere in the spreadsheet.

One of the best ways to manage inventory is by using software designed for this task instead. The ideal case is switching to inventory management software that integrates with your accounting system. Then the inventory is automatically updated as you sell items or buy more. That is why a QuickBooks Inventory management tool is invaluable – it is already tied to software you already use. QuickBooks lacks serial numbers, scanning barcodes and shipping. An inventory management tool can handle all of this. There are several tools that will allow you adjust stock levels in inventory checks and automatically remove inventory from stock when you receive orders so you don’t accidentally sell more than you actually have on hand. They will also help you track items reserved for sales orders and you can track inventory status, such as when you’re waiting for products to arrive so you can fill outstanding orders.

Have Clear Product Names

If you want to avoid problems with customer orders and internal inventory management, have a clear product naming system. You could use manufacturer part numbers, though this may be confusing if different manufacturers use similar part numbers for very different products. The ideal situation is creating internal part numbers that make it very obvious what someone is picking up. Instead of CRAY008 and CRAY016 for crayons in boxes of 8 and 18, label them “crayons, set of 8” and “crayons, set of 16”.

Set Minimum Stock Levels

Nearly every inventory management system allows you to set minimum stock levels, and most have reorder points. This ensures that you won’t run out of items. The best inventory management systems allow you to calculate reorder points based on historical data so you can order items based on how quickly you actually consume the product. You can still set low inventory alerts to ensure that you never run out.

Implement FIFO

FIFO is first in, first out inventory management. This is one of the oldest inventory management techniques, and it remains one of the most popular. A major reason of this is that it minimizes spoilage and the associated waste, since you’re selling the oldest items first. This isn’t limited to perishable goods that can spoil; it is applicable to other products, as well. Move your oldest products first so that they don’t become obsolete due to changes in packaging or industry standards. It simply requires setting up inventory so that the oldest items are on the front of the shelf and picked by employees, though you’ll want to train people to check expiration dates. You’ll also have to train staff to ensure that the FIFO system is properly maintained, instead of someone hurriedly stocking the front of each shelf with the newest products.

Keep the Warehouse Organized

If the warehouse itself is disorganized, how can you reasonably expect your staff to keep your inventory organized? Don’t let crates of packaged inventory pile up in aisles; have them immediately emptied and the shelves stocked. Keep work surfaces as clean as possible. Make certain that items are clearly labeled.

Also, make sure that you have formal processes for each task. Document how people perform tasks like placing purchase orders, receiving items, fulfilling orders and checking stock levels.

Do Regular Checks

Inventory management systems don’t eliminate the need to do inventory checks. People may make mistakes when checking in deliveries or in their data entry. Theft, spoilage and property damage may erode your inventory, too.

There are two main ways to check inventory. One way is with a complete physical inventory – checking all inventories – usually done at the end of the month. The other way is with cycle counting, counting small sections of the inventory on a particular day. You can mix and match with these tactics, such as doing surface area cycle counts for particular aisles in the warehouse each day but checking large physical item inventory every quarter or year.

Prioritize with an ABC System

An ABC system allows you to prioritize inventory checks and product maintenance. The “A” items are high value items that have low turnover. “B” items have some value and sell at a steady rate. “C” items have low value but sell in large numbers. “A” items should be checked for spoilage, maintenance and theft regularly, since you have so much money tied up in them. “B” items are a lower priority, since they don’t cost you as much but do move steadily. “C” items require little attention since they move quickly and cost very little, though you’ll want to make sure you have enough in stock.

Only Order with Purchase Orders

Only place orders via purchase orders. Don’t let employees place orders over the phone with your vendors. They may order items you don’t really need or can’t afford to buy at this point. By requiring people to order via a purchase order, it forces every purchase to be checked against inventory levels and the budget. No one orders an item that’s already on its way from the supplier. It creates a paper trail so that no one is surprised by a delivery of widgets. There’s no confusion regarding the payment terms or rush to figure out how to pay for something that just hit the dock. It ensures that inventory knows when to expect delivery and gives management a chance to negotiate purchase prices.

You cannot afford for the gap between accurate inventory numbers and bookkeeping to grow. This knowledge gap prevents your firm from being able to plan for the future or know the true state of operations.

5 Ways in Which Outsourcing is Leading Today’s Companies to Massive Growth

StrategyDriven Tactical Execution ArticleThere was a time when the term ‘outsourcing’ brought fear and trembling to almost everyone from company directors to the lowest hourly wage worker. However, in recent years, there has been a general awakening to the many benefits outsourcing has for companies large and small. If you still have all, or part of, your company’s operations in-house, you might want to look at these five ways in which outsourcing is leading other companies just like yours to massive growth faster than they ever thought possible.

1. The Cost Factor

Although there are many reasons why businesses aren’t making the profits they had projected, the cost of keeping in-house staff is one of the biggest expenditures any company will deal with. Not only are there salaries to pay, but all those peripheral expenses such as benefits packages, health insurance, training and so forth, chip away at their bottom line. However, even at reduced operational costs of which staffing increasingly eats a huge portion of any budget, there are so many other benefits to outsourcing that labor has taken a backseat to those previously unthought of advantages.

2. Professional Expertise as Close as the Cloud

Many small to medium sized businesses already contract the services of outsourced professionals, such as accountants and marketing strategists, but haven’t yet understood that those services can be classified as outsourced! Over the past few years, businesses are going farther afield when seeking those services because of the cloud. Today it is possible to hire an accounting service in New York City, for example, when your base of operations is in Portland, Oregon. Whether you are looking for a marketing strategist or a corporate accountant, this company offers services in the cloud that are both cost and time effective.

3. Top Talent within Easy Reach

Almost every profession has become highly competitive and so the search for the top talent could take more time than you have to spare. Even though you can list key positions for which you are hiring online, it can take weeks, if not months to find the right fit for your company culture. While there are still those positions which must be kept in-house, many professional jobs can be effectively outsourced because there is no need to keep them on the premises. As mentioned above, accounting and marketing are two of those professional services which can be safely and easily outsourced. Of course, you couldn’t very well outsource a job on a production line, but you could outsource many key positions effectively.

4. Company Expansion Doesn’t Require Larger Premises

Oftentimes a company grows so large that they need to expand their current base of operations or move to larger premises. When you can outsource a number of your key positions, there may never be a need for bigger buildings, larger parking lots and additional equipment and machinery. Office positions are some of the easiest to outsource and if you aren’t completely comfortable with outsourcing in the Cloud, you could always hire flexible workers who only spend a part of their work week on site. Many work from home most of the week with only occasional trips to the office.

In fact, the need to do that is even less frequent than previously because files can be uploaded to the Cloud, meetings can be teleconferenced, and with instant communications via email or services like Evernote, there is often no reason to ever physically report to work. If you would like to hold tighter control, then flexible workers are to your advantage, but outsourced positions can still fill a void at a reduced cost to your company.

5. Advances in Technology at No Extra Cost

Then there are technological advances to be cognizant of. Every day technology is advancing at the speed of light and the cost of keeping up with all that technology can be prohibitive. When outsourcing, the company doing the actual work is going to be ultimately responsible for staying on the cutting edge of technology which means that your company doesn’t need to pay for anything but the services or products they have been outsourcing right along. This is one of the most amazing advantages to outsourcing in the 21st Century and why so many companies prefer to outsource even the most critical jobs. It’s almost impossible to stay current on technology within all departments of your enterprise.

It’s a New World After All

There are still those who believe that outsourcing will knock workers out of jobs. In reality, outsourcing can provide many more jobs than previously thought possible because of the massive growth most companies realize when expanding through outsourced services and production. They may not be jobs in your local area but they are jobs nonetheless. You can work for, or hire someone from, literally any state in the country which is a definite advantage most of the time.

Perhaps what is really at stake here is keeping those jobs within the United States. There is no reason to send work overseas if those services are available at reasonable costs within our borders. Did you ever stop to think that outsourcing can help to keep costs lower for everyone involved? Whether you are a manufacturer proud of bearing the “Made in America” insignia or a highly qualified professional seeking to find work in your field, outsourcing can be kept at home and at reasonable costs.

From a worker’s perspective, there is no reason why you can’t find work as a self-employed outsourcer if you have gained some amount of proficiency at your job. Everyone benefits and your work can help to keep America’s companies strong and growing stronger by the day. Instead of fearing outsourcing as a dirty word to be eliminated from the English language, embrace it as a way forward in the 21st Century. Everyone benefits when our companies are kept strong, and the above mentioned benefits clearly show you how outsourcing can be a vital part of that process. Now it’s simply up to you to decide ways in which outsourcing can be of benefit to you.

Executive Briefing Cost Reduction Opportunity: Inventory Optimization

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