Warehouse safety is an essential cornerstone of warehouse management. With e-commerce rapidly increasing in popularity, warehouse services are in demand more than ever. To ensure your workforce is safe and productive, you must have experienced safety staff and create effective safety procedures.
In this guide, we will look at the main safety challenges in warehousing and provide a comprehensive warehouse safety checklist to ensure that your employees and managers abide by industry standards.
The Importance of Safety in Warehouse Management
Understanding the importance of safety in warehouse operations is the first step towards maintaining your workers’ health and increasing awareness of the potential dangers involved. You can avoid incidents by following warehouse safety guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and integrating checklists for various warehouse safety issues.
With online purchasing seeing a record increase, merchants are turning to third-party logistics companies and their warehouse facilities to store, package and ship their goods.
To accommodate the demand, warehouses are hiring more employees to perform a wide variety of tasks. Providing a safe work environment for a growing staff is vital in retaining workers and creating a culture that looks after everyone. Injuries ranging from personal injury to falls and crushing accidents put a significant strain on both the safety culture and employee-employer relationship.
Top Warehouse Safety Challenges
Warehouse operations can become dangerous quickly if the proper safety actions haven’t been addressed. Inadequate training, failure to heed hazard warnings, and improper manual lifting are among the most common safety issues that lead to warehouse injury and death every year.
Inadequate Employee Training
When it comes to power equipment operation, warehouse employees must be sufficiently trained and licensed, even if a third party needs to be hired to perform the task. Without proper training in place, warehouse managers run the risk of seeing injuries and even death increase substantially.
Lack of Awareness About Safety Protocols
Awareness of safety issues and dangers around a warehouse is the best way to proactively tackle workplace accidents. The better safety coordinators can identify dangerous situations, create a plan and communicate the plan to the workers, the safer everyone will be. This means the right people must be selected for the warehouse safety management team, and they must be able to instruct others on the dangers of warehouses and proper safety procedures.
Forklift and other heavy equipment accidents make up a large portion of warehouse incidents that result in serious injuries. Therefore, training and licensing should be taken very seriously when it comes to operating heavy equipment.
Physical Strain on Employees
Modern warehouses require workers to perform many repetitive movements quickly throughout a shift, including standing, twisting, crouching and reaching for objects. If not performed correctly, these movements can lead to repetitive strain injuries, including muscle, tendon and ligament damage.
Ignoring Hazardous Warning Signs
Hazard warnings indicating danger along with barricades to prevent workers and equipment from entering areas or going over ledges are critical in warehouse environments — ensuring all areas are adequately lit falls under this category.
OSHA Warehouse Safety Standards & Guidelines
To ensure that safety is a priority in warehouses, OSHA provides a detailed list of required guidelines that break down the ten most accident-prone areas most frequently cited for violations. Below is a breakdown of the guidelines outlined in OSHA’s warehouse safety document.
About 100 employees are killed and 95,000 injured every year while operating forklifts. Forklift roll-overs account for the majority of these accidents. OSHA stresses the importance of training forklift drivers adequately and evaluating them regularly. Additionally, drivers should routinely inspect and maintain their forklifts.
OSHA states that hazard communication constitutes a large percentage of warehouse safety managers’ responsibility. Covering holes and wall openings to ensure equipment and workers don’t fall through is essential. OSHA also recommends clearly labeling and organizing dangerous goods and chemicals and correctly displaying Material and Safety Data Sheets.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Employees should be supplied and equipped with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) required for their tasks and should be routinely trained in the equipment’s proper operation. The most common PPE required in warehouses include:
High visibility safety vests
Steel toe boots
Electrical Wiring Methods
OSHA includes electrical system design and wiring, mechanical power transmission, and portable fire extinguishers as areas for warehouse safety managers to pay particular attention to. It’s critical that licensed professionals, such as electrical and mechanical engineers, perform all electrical wiring and system design. The dangers posed by improper wiring can lead to severe injury or death of warehouse workers.
Fire Safety & Evacuation Plans
Having proper fire extinguisher locations and training employees on how to use them is especially important in warehouses that store flammable materials. Additionally, warehouse managers need to develop evacuation procedures and ensure workers understand the plan in the event of an emergency. To make sure that everyone understands and follows the plan correctly, conducting evacuation drills is a good habit to adopt in all warehouses.
Warehouse Safety Checklist
Checklists are a convenient way to ensure your warehouse facilities are operating efficiently and employees are performing their tasks safely. To uphold safety standards, warehouse operators need to understand the rules and procedures that cover general safety, forklift operation, and manual lifting.
General Warehouse Safety Checklist
Every warehouse has a different layout, stores different materials, and requires different types of employees. To operate efficiently, you must tailor your general warehouse safety policy to your specific needs. This means focusing on safety issues that stand out as the most dangerous or require additional attention to address. Below is a list of items that you can use to develop a general warehouse safety checklist:
Warehouses should be well ventilated, and the temperature kept comfortable for all occupants.
Hazards should be clearly marked, and leading edges blocked off to prevent falls or roll-overs.
All equipment should be equipped with emergency stops or power-downs.
Employees should receive ergonomic training and coaching to maintain realistic work expectations and take sufficient breaks to prevent overwork.
Employees should be trained to operate fire extinguishers and be thoroughly familiar with emergency safety procedures and evacuation drills.
Forklift Operation Checklist
Forklift operation and storage, including loading, unloading and stacking checklists, can include the following items:
Forklift operators must be appropriately trained and licensed.
Forklift operators must always wear seatbelts, operate the forklift in approved, well-lit areas and not let anyone else ride on or in the forklift.
Forklifts should not be operated in any way other than their intended use. This includes ensuring the lift is not overloaded and not lifting loads too high.
Forklift operators must ensure other workers in the area are aware of their presence by using lights, horns and backup alarms as necessary.
Place heavier items on lower shelves and ensure they are straight and evenly stacked.
Store dangerous goods in designated areas.
Clearly indicate maximum stacking distance on shelving and adhere to height limitations.
Distribute loads on shelving to balance their load across the shelving unit.
Manual Lifting Checklist
Manual lifting causes a significant number of worker injuries every year. Workers should learn proper lifting techniques to complete these tasks safely and effectively. Some points on an ergonomics lifting checklist can include:
Use power equipment to lift materials whenever possible.
Teach workers proper lifting techniques and remain diligent in coaching them.
Use your legs to lift and keep your back in a neutral position.
Ask for assistance if a load is too heavy.
Ensure all areas of the warehouse are appropriately marked and well lit.
Enforce the wearing of proper personal protective equipment at all times.
Allow injured workers to take sufficient time to recover and return only when fully ready.
Warehouse safety management is an essential part of a site safety program and can help supervisors and managers quickly make sure their workers perform their tasks safely with all appropriate measures in place. Simply having a brief list of safety tips for your warehouse can aid supervisors in maintaining safety as they perform their daily tasks.
Improve Warehouse Operations With Crown LSP Group
Crown LSP Group is a full-service third-party logistic provider that is here to meet the needs of any business. Whether your business needs additional storage space with temperature control and security systems or shipping at a moment’s notice, Crown LSP can provide a tailored solution to meet your needs. In addition, Crown LSP Group can assist you in your efforts to improve your warehouse operations.
Located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Crown LSP is strategically positioned to freight any shipment to three-quarters of the U.S. population within 12 hours. This means you can rely on Crown LSP to store your materials or products while you use your commercial floor space for more productive means. Contact Crown LSP Group today for more information or request a quote.
A contract warehouse is a third-party logistics (3PL) storage facility that stores goods on behalf of a client. The client and the warehouse enter into a contract, which can range from months to years. The agreement may have a fixed fee structure or operate on a cost-plus model. Contract warehouses can also perform many other services, such as handling, packing, labeling, fulfillment and similar activities. Let’s talk more about this potential solution for your long-term storage needs and how to find warehouse contracts that will work in your favor.
Many companies need to store their goods or supplies for various reasons, and contract warehousing is one of the many dedicated storage options to choose from. Companies that don’t want to build, buy or rent their own warehouse space can enter into a third-party warehouse agreement with an outside provider who specializes in dedicated warehousing. This third-party warehouse provider will handle the storage, shipping and receiving of merchandise on behalf of their client. They can also add value by taking on more logistical tasks such as inventory management and making sure to follow distribution best practices.
Differences Between Contract Warehousing and Other Options
One of the main differences between contract warehousing and other popular options like shared warehouse space or private warehousing is that a contract warehouse is dedicated to a sole client. All the dedicated warehouse’s resources and the entire facility go toward one company’s goods. The tenant commits to occupying that fixed space and relies on the contract warehouse to manage it. Because of this factor, contract warehouses usually require their clients to commit to a specific contract length, often months or years.
There are two other variations on the contract warehousing model. The first is when the contract warehouse company owns the physical facility and allows the tenant company to operate it with their own employees and equipment. In the other alternative, the client owns or leases the warehouse facility and hires a contract warehouse to staff it and handle all operations. Contract warehouses may also parcel out a larger facility for several contract clients. In this arrangement, the contract will dedicate a certain amount of square footage and resources to each client.
Types of Warehousing Options Explained
When your business needs more storage capacity, you have three types of warehousing options. They include:
Private warehousing: When a wholesaler or manufacturer uses a private warehouse, it owns or leases the warehouse building and is 100% responsible for managing inventory and warehouse operations. This approach is highly involved and requires a hefty investment compared to other warehousing options. Typically, it takes 30 years to see a return on investment when a company builds a private warehouse.
Public warehousing: Under public warehousing or shared warehouse space, the client does not contract for a dedicated amount of space or resources. Instead, they share the warehouse with other clients. They pay a monthly bill based on the number of pallets that come in and out so they can occupy more or less warehouse space depending on their inventory needs. While the client only pays for the space they use, the warehouse operates on a first-come, first-served basis. A public warehouse may not always have the space you need if your inventory fluctuates often. Usually, these warehouses work best for short-term storage needs, such as seasonal inventory.
Contract warehousing: Contract warehousing, also known as dedicated warehousing, is when a company outsources warehouse operations to a larger facility or 3PL. Since a contract warehouse dedicates a certain amount of space on a long-term basis, it’s the best option for companies with a consistent inventory volume. Contracts usually last years so they work well for medium- and long-term storage needs.
Benefits of Contract Warehousing
For many customers, contract warehousing is the perfect balance between the total freedom and control of owning a private warehouse and the low cost and low involvement of using a shared warehouse. Some of the advantages of third party contract warehouse agreements include:
1. Lower Capital Investment
Consider that in New York City, it cost an average of $117 per square foot to construct a new warehouse or logistics center. The average newly built warehouse is just shy of 185,000 square feet, so constructing a new warehouse is typically a multimillion-dollar investment. While real estate costs are a little lower here in North Carolina, warehouse investments are too costly for most businesses to justify. Setting up an existing building for warehousing also requires investments in warehousing equipment like forklifts.
When you choose to contract your warehouse space, the warehouse space is readily available without the high cost of construction, renovations or equipment. When you hire a warehouse, you can use it for a shorter time frame to meet your current needs. When your contract is up, you can choose to contract for more space if needed without another significant upfront investment.
2. Lower Costs and Fees
Contract warehouse companies are experts at what they do. Often, they can develop strategies to make your storage, logistics and fulfillment more efficient, resulting in cost savings. For example, at Crown LSP Group, we can perform transportation and logistics services alongside value-added warehousing services. By keeping all these operations under one roof, where an expert logistics team can manage everything closely, you’ll save money and time.
Meanwhile, when leasing or owning a warehouse, the property usually comes with many fees and expenses. Utilities, building maintenance and property taxes can all add unpredictable costs to your monthly bills. When you choose a contract warehouse, all the costs you’ll incur will appear upfront in your written warehousing agreements. You can enjoy predictable overhead and share costs like utilities and maintenance with other contracted clients.
3. Value-Added Services
One excellent benefit of a contract warehouse over a public warehouse is that it can provide a dedicated workforce. While a public warehouse is mostly concerned with keeping its storage at full capacity, a contract warehouse knows it can rely on predictable storage needs and assign more resources to individual clients. For example, some companies need temperature-controlled storage facilities, which require expert monitoring from dedicated staff members. When you have a contracted staff committed to managing your goods, they can also offer other valuable services such as:
Cross-docking: Cross-docking improves supply chain efficiency by reducing the time products spend in storage. It helps you get products to your customers faster and is extremely effective for companies in the consumer goods industry. For example, at Crown LSP Group, we can build personalized cross-docking solutions for your shipments. We’ll receive deliveries at our warehouse, organize them or break them down into smaller shipments right away, and send them out on the next available outbound trucks. That way, shipments spend less time in storage, which reduces handling, storage costs and inventory management needs.
Rework: If you ship in products from a manufacturer in another country, it costs a lot of time and money to send back damaged items that need to be reworked. Entering into a third-party warehouse agreement can help mitigate minor rework issues, such as reprinting labels or instruction manuals, replacing broken or missing components or repackaging items. This improves supply chain efficiency by taking care of product quality concerns right from your stateside warehouse.
Palletization: A contract warehouse can also organize incoming shipments onto pallets or break down and rearrange products on existing pallets. Depending on your needs, Crown LSP Group can store your products on pallets for long-term storage or prepare them for their next destination.
Advanced inventory management: E-commerce businesses and manufacturers that frequently ship goods in and out of their warehouses need to track what’s in stock and what they need to reorder. Contract warehouses can record valuable inventory data like real-time available quantities, current locations, serial numbers and manufacturing dates to streamline inventory management operations. Dedicated warehouse providers add value to inventory management with advanced warehousing support like helping you set a sustainable safety stock level for your products. Many companies find they need more safety stock to get ahead of potential supplier delays, and we can advise you on an amount that makes sense for you.
Greater reliability: Many businesses choose to work with a contract warehouse so they can continue focusing on their core strengths. You can leverage the expertise of a dedicated warehouse, which can develop personalized solutions for your business. This partnership eliminates the growing pains of learning how to operate a warehouse internally. A contract warehouse dedicates a set amount of warehouse space and personnel to your business, so you can rely on having the storage space you need at all times.
Resolve Your Warehousing Concerns With Crown LSP Group
Crown LSP Group is flexible, reliable and committed to finding the solutions that work best for you. We recognize that while most businesses benefit from using a 3PL contract warehouse, every company uses these services a little differently. As your expert warehousing partner, we’ll act as an extension of your staff and personalize our solutions to serve your operation best.
Value-added services in logistics allow businesses to provide more comprehensive benefits, which has become an essential tool in increasing customer satisfaction. Using these services is especially vital in operations based on customer trust. Supply chain and logistics are some of the most competitive sectors and adding value can give your organization an edge.
Value-Added Services (VAS) Defined
The term value-added services refer to the additional distribution and warehousing services offered by third-party logistics providers to business looking to outsource their supply chain operations.
Whenever logistics providers add value the right way, it affects the level of customer satisfaction, while indirectly increasing their bottom line. Service providers know the ins and outs of the business and they can assist companies in responding to customers’ needs. Companies partnering with value-added logistics providers can focus on their core business and work on being more competent in the market. Value-adding is not a one-time task — it requires continuous maintenance and 3PLs are working toward providing value-added services in conjunction with their more traditional offerings.
Adding value to your packaging and transportation process can give your company an edge in the market and enable you to stand out from the competition. Service providers offer a range of contributions that add value to your brand, but how do they do that? And is it advantageous? Let’s look at some offerings and how they can benefit your organization.
How Do Value-Added Services Help My Business’s Supply Chain & Logistics?
Forward-thinking companies use their supply chain to gain market share and get ahead of their competitors. Spending time and resources to keep this supply chain smooth has become a notable trend in the logistics industry. Forward-thinking entrepreneurs work toward maintaining supply chain excellence, and it has become a widely accepted business strategy in today’s market. Value-added logistics services are not only for customers but also for management. Consider these reasons behind the importance of common supply chain value-added services.
1. Increased Price Pressures and Competition
Previously, brand recognition and product features were more than enough to set companies apart but things have shifted. After commoditizing several products in the market, organizations need better methods to stand apart.
Brand equity and product innovation are no longer the only tools that can allow a business to set a higher selling price. Staying in the competition and emerging on top will require a redesign of supply chains and traditional methods.
Companies are using two methods to adapt to this trend. First, they assess cost-reduction strategies and create new techniques to build a more efficient value chain. These changes will allow them to retain a competitive edge. Second, companies are searching for strategies to provide value-added services that will enable them to meet savvy customers’ demands.
As the market evolves, many companies are taking a step back to evaluate their core competency and some organizations realize that outsourcing part of the supply chain can be beneficial.
The marketplace continues to revolve around three pillars:
Cost and quality of global manufacturing and distribution
Information mediums and systems
Product design capabilities
By outsourcing their supply chain and logistics operations, companies can breathe new life into their business. Still, without the correct systems, processes or organization management, the risk can rise to unmanageable levels. When their business model relies too heavily on outsourcing, companies must implement solutions to make up for off-site supply chain capabilities. The need for details becomes the foremost priority in an outsourced logistics environment.
3. More Complex and Shortened Product Lifecycles
Companies are under significant pressure to develop cutting-edge products and launch them to market quickly, without maximizing or compromising the integrity of their high-demand existing products. To meet this ever-growing need, companies require streamlined product lifecycle management processes, which emphasize new product launches, product discontinuation and design.
The primary benefit of product lifecycle management technology and processes is that it helps companies design products that can share components, operations or materials — reducing the risk of obsolescence write-offs, ensuring optimal use of all infrastructure investments and limiting increased costs when buying essential materials. In addition to all these benefits, it will also shorten the time to market. Companies can focus on product lifecycle management efforts in all these areas and buffer themselves against the risk of any unexpected cost increases, spontaneous obsolescence write-offs and underwhelming product launches. These practices will also enhance customer perception of your company and establish yourself as an innovative reformer.
Top Benefits of Using Value-Added Services for Your Business
You can find several positive reasons to consider a 3PL provider for value-added logistics services. Here are a few notable benefits of value-added services that can readily translate to a competitive advantage for your business.
The most significant benefit of using a 3PL provider is flexibility. Partnering with them will allow you more flexibility in labor, space and equipment. They can offer all these components to enable you to meet your customers’ requirements more effectively. Some 3PL providers also offer extra physical space for a specific time as a value-added service, which could be a warehouse for storing rush inventory or a meeting space for discussing on-the-fly software updates. Labor resources are also available as part of value-added services. If any of your product campaigns require a more hands-on approach to attract your audience’s attention, a 3PL can quickly shift their staff to your project and keep your labor cost to a bare minimum.
A 3PL’s added-value services department is primarily a team of specifically trained staff who can assist you in executing specialized projects. With the assistance of a dedicated professional team working or overseeing any customization, you can focus on quality and work efficiency. The value-adding team provided by a trusted 3PL provider might collaborate with customers. They can outline the project, ensure accuracy and precision and take the necessary steps to complete the project on time.
3. Ease of Integration
Partnering with a 3PL provider’s value-added services enables the seller or company to work with one partner for all their logistics needs. A reliable 3PL can assist you in managing warehousing, transportation and all the value-added services you need. This help can make the process more seamless to integrate any updates or changes along the way. Keeping the product in a single fulfillment center can also minimize the cost of moving products and transportation.
Types of Value-Added Supply Chain Services
In warehousing and distribution, value-added services go further than normal operations and can set you apart from your competition. Among these types of activities are cross-docking, transloading, palletizing, kitting, and return processing.
Here are some value-added service examples that decrease your costs and impact your business operations.
A cross-docking system allows companies to move products directly from the receiving dock to the shipping dock. This streamlined method saves space and eases manual handling in the distribution center. Cross-docking requires close synchronization of all outbound and inbound shipping movements and reduces the cost by decreasing stockpiling. Cross-docking also involves re-packing, inspection and labeling.
The process of transloading requires more than one transport mode. Businesses primarily use this solution when one mode of transport, like land, air or sea, is insufficient to deliver the goods from the origin point to the destination. International shipments, which require multiple modes of transportation, are the best example of transloading. The international shipment process usually begins by air or sea, followed by a truck.
Transloading lets you arrange and sort the shipments before delivering them to the distribution center or warehouse. This streamlined process removes any expensive or unnecessary land transportation. All shipments get grouped upon arrival, eliminating the need for any distribution center.
Transloading also enables your business to save money by removing any less-than-truckload costs. In addition to benefiting the companies, the process is also speedier, thus bringing your customers more satisfaction. You can reach different areas with transloading by using various local and international shipment methods, increasing business possibilities and growth.
In palletizing, you place items or goods on pallets. Depending on the business and product, you may use manual, semi-automated or fully automated methods to put the shipments on pallets. Moving palletized products is more efficient, with a quicker delivery turnaround. With palletizing, you can move perishable goods faster and decrease the risk of spoilage. The palletizing process also reduces labor requirements.
With standard pallet sizes, you can optimize warehouse workflow and operations. Palletizing significantly reduces the risk of worker injury. Since the pallets are more durable than other shipping containers, they can allow you to carry more products at a single time.
Order Fulfillment Services
Order fulfillment services provide the highest customer satisfaction among all the value-added services, and it is one of the top value-added services in logistics. These services can simplify your supply chain and allow you to move your products faster. The order fulfillment services can help you delight your customers with a streamlined process and faster deliveries. This service includes in-house packaging with the latest technology tools. Order fulfillment services perfectly handle labeling and new product launches. When you employ a trusted partner’s help, you can increase your efficiency in handling operations and save a substantial amount of money on purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment.
Returns can cause financial and logistics problems, but they are an unavoidable part of doing business. Returns can require substantial effort and time and sometimes companies can get themselves in trouble trying to handle them. With value-added services, you can outsource your return processing. These service providers have dedicated warehouses and ample personnel to process and manage the returns as required. When a return arrives, workers scan it into the system to determine whether it’s possible to resell. Quick action can keep your business reputation intact and monitor the return patterns for insights.
Pick and Pack
Pick and pack is part of the order fulfillment process, but sometimes you need to pay some extra attention to ensure uniform packing and delivery of all products. A pick-and-pack service can streamline all your packages and deliver them before the expected date. Value-added service providers have the latest technology that assists them in finding the best route and double-checking the delivery address to reduce any chances of mistakes.
The kitting process includes combining multiple products into a simple and easy-to-pick package. The process works in many ways, whether it’s banding two similar items or creating an integrated solution by pairing two commonly purchased products. This solution can significantly reduce transportation costs and delivery time. It can also slash your company’s combined costs.
What Are Customized Value-Added Service Solutions?
Value-added services can transform your supply chain, but it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Service providers must understand a supply chain’s business model and weak spots. With an effective solution, you can optimize your supply chain’s operations.
Besides solving logistical challenges, an expert service provider can also provide other long-term benefits. Customized value-added services can build delivery models that will improve inventory and transportation costs, enhancing your operations and saving time and money.
Value-added service solutions can work on distribution channels to address your company’s trucking capacity and assist you with time-sensitive deliveries. Service providers can offer consultations and innovative solutions to address your trade landscape and warehousing requirements.
A significant benefit of customizing value-added services is an improvement of the supply chain by finding discrepancies in the process and taking corrective measures to improve them, so you can focus on customer satisfaction by providing optimum services.
Choose Crown LSP for Managing Your Supply Chain
When you go toe-to-toe with your competition, it’s essential to partner with service providers who take care of your fundamental requirements while offering insights on distribution best practices to help you stand out from the competition. Being able to offer value-added services has become the latest norm in the constantly evolving market. Partnering with a reliable logistics service provider is paramount in optimizing your supply chain and distribution channel. Your partner should understand your business’s unique needs and deliver on them to achieve quantifiable results.
At Crown LSP Group, we can assist you with our value-added offerings and establish your business in the market. Take a look at the wide range of solutions we provide and get in touch with us for a customized value-added solution.
The consumer goods and retail market has seen some new challenges in the last few years, spearheading the rapid adoption of innovative technology and new business strategies to help companies stay competitive. A particular area seeing a massive transformation is the supply chain. Consumer-packaged goods (CPG) brands and retailers alike are working to bolster their supply chains against growing risks, improve resiliency and better meet customers’ needs and expectations.
Let’s talk about some of the retail and consumer goods supply chain factors that are seeing huge success and changing the industry for the better.
1. Location to Customers
The location of strategic links in your supply chain is critical to your end customers, even if they do not even know where they are. While businesses employ many strategies to optimize their supply chains, locations play a critical role.
Better locations can reduce shipping and transportation costs. If you charge for shipping, your customers will appreciate the lower costs, and if you include shipping for free, you can still pass on cost savings and sell your goods for a more competitive price. Strategic locations also make it easier to get your products into customers’ hands faster.
One of the latest consumer retail distribution trends involves strategically adding more distribution centers to fulfill two-day, direct-to-consumer shipping alongside traditional retail deliveries. In physical retail, a prime distribution center location means you can restock bulk orders quickly, ensuring your goods are always in stock in your customers preferred retail locations.
In e-commerce, having a warehouse and fulfillment center in a central location allows you to speed up delivery times. Online shoppers expect their items to arrive in just a few days in today’s economy, and the expected delivery window is shrinking. In 2019, 40% of holiday shoppers indicated that they would expect their deliveries within two days, and 18% were only willing to wait for next-day delivery. Having items in stock at a nearby location allows you to meet those ever-increasing delivery speed demands and shorten last-mile delivery distances, saving both time and money.
However, there’s one caveat for picking locations for consumer goods distribution and fulfillment. The closer you get to densely populated cities, the higher warehousing real estate costs by the square foot. A good strategy is to locate a distribution center in an area where it’s more affordable to rent space that still has excellent access to your customer base.
North Carolina represents an excellent opportunity for a CPG distribution center that offers the best of both worlds. It’s centrally located along the east coast, making for a short travel distance to the southeastern and northeastern United States alike. A distribution center in North Carolina offers easy access to an international shipping port and sits within 700 miles of 70% of the U.S.’s industrial base.
Manufacturing Facilities and Suppliers
There’s also a critical tradeoff in location for manufacturing — offshoring versus near-shoring. Offshoring lets CPGs take advantage of low production costs in emerging markets around the globe, providing higher margins even with the high costs of international shipping and trade tariffs.
However, offshoring introduces risk in the supply chain. Political unrest, natural disasters and extended shipping times can all cause disruptions in the supply chain. They make it impossible to source products from a usual supplier. Long shipping times, as is common when items ship by boat, can make it more difficult for consumer goods brands to react to new trends in their home markets.
Near-shoring some or all of your manufacturers and suppliers can be a helpful strategy in minimizing risks, shortening travel time between supply chain links and improving flexibility. If a particular product is underperforming and your company wants to pivot to another product or include gifts to boost sales, having suppliers and manufacturers closer to the point of sale lets them make this transition quickly. A company that relies only on offshore suppliers may have to wait weeks for their new products to arrive.
Having nearby suppliers is vital for customers who are looking for the next big thing and want it quickly. Further, many Americans specifically seek out U.S.-manufactured products to support local businesses.
Omnichannel retail has been gaining traction for years across many product categories. Omnichannel retail refers to a company’s ability to sell its goods in all the sales channels where its customers are likely to shop. Omnichannel retail includes e-commerce through seller marketplaces, online stores, shopping apps, social media, physical retail and in-store pickup options.
The basic principle of omnichannel retail is that by being in every place where their target customers like to shop, they can earn more customers. This principle can also serve the varying needs of individual consumers. For example, sometimes they need something within the next few hours and use an in-store pickup option to ensure they can reserve the item they need and get it quickly. Other times, shoppers want to buy entirely online and avoid driving to the store — they are willing to wait a few days for shipping.
An omnichannel retail strategy also assists shoppers who use more than one channel throughout their journey. For example, 46% of consumers check inventory online before going to a store to complete their purchase. Omnichannel customers — those who use multiple channels during their shopping process — spend an average of 4% more in stores and 10% more online.
Changing customer needs amid the pandemic has only heightened the need for flexible omnichannel solutions. Sellers that had e-commerce capabilities were able to survive the slump in physical retail. And even as shoppers return to brick-and-mortar stores, the ability to sell online remains critical. Now, 60% of retailers and consumer goods companies are planning investments in new facilities that can handle e-commerce fulfillment to bolster their omnichannel capabilities.
Effects of Omnichannel on the Supply Chain
As it continues to rise in prominence, omnichannel retail affects supply chains in many ways. To meet the needs of online shoppers and retail partners, businesses need a flexible warehousing solution with capabilities for e-commerce and bulk order fulfillment. Selling directly to the consumer also opens up the need to accept returns and thus handle reverse logistics and returns processing.
A distribution center that fulfills e-commerce orders needs staff members dedicated to picking and packing individual orders. They must manage incoming orders across many e-commerce sales channels and prioritize everything so that customers get what they’ve ordered in a matter of days. A warehouse or distribution center that supplies goods to retail partners needs additional capabilities — practicing inventory management, coordinating transportation and scheduling various inbound and outbound trucks at their loading docks. Some facilities even handle assembly and packaging.
Because of the added complexity an omnichannel strategy places on the supply chain, it’s often helpful to work with a distribution solutions company, such as Crown LSP Group, that can handle a wide range of value-added warehousing services. Our capabilities include cross-docking, shrink-wrap bundle packing, pick and pack fulfillment, carrier selection and routing, assembly and packaging, inventory management, reverse logistics, direct customer shipping, order processing and more. With our help, your supply chain will handle everything an omnichannel strategy demands.
3. Stocking Issues of Quickly Changing Supply and Demand
Recent times have amplified stocking issues and shown us how quickly supply and demand can shift in the modern retail environment. Before the pandemic, many brands relied on the “just in time” inventory approach, which dictates that you should only acquire inventory as soon as you need it. This method can work great, so long as there’s always a reliable supply.
However, the pandemic sent shockwaves through the retail and consumer product goods supply chains, and we’re still experiencing the fallout. At first, many countries and states placed a hold on “non-essential” manufacturing. At the same time, individual factories got hit with safety constraints such as fewer staff members on-site or even temporary shutdowns due to outbreaks of illnesses among workers.
Thus, suppliers were stretched to their limits and still feel the ramifications today. As the pandemic and other global events progressed, we’ve seen surprise shortages affect consumer goods across various sectors. Some of the widespread product shortages we’ve seen as of May 2021 include:
Computer chips, which were in short supply before the pandemic and are now facing additional supply chain challenges.
Plastics and palm oil used in many plastic products.
Lumber, with exacerbated shortages due to coronavirus-related shutdowns and a housing shortage.
Furniture, a product typically manufactured offshore and that now involves months-long delivery estimates.
Chicken, bacon and hotdogs, stemming in part from outbreaks at meat-processing facilities.
Imported foods such as olive oil, coffee and cheese.
Shipping containers, placing additional constraints on practically every supply chain.
Besides restricted supply, another constraint was the sudden boom in demand. Stay-at-home orders revolutionized consumer behavior trends, causing massive waves of pantry-stocking and a sudden increase in sales for products that could entertain people staying at home. Consumer-packaged goods sales jumped 9.4% in 2020, and many surprising product categories enjoyed a sudden spike in consumer demand, such as:
Webcams and radios
Pet food, treats and supplies
Despite the increased unpredictability, retailers are holding higher expectations for consumer goods brands. For example, in 2020, Walmart upped its on-time, in-full (OTIF) demands. Now, its suppliers must achieve a 98% OTIF delivery rate, a steep increase from the prior 70% requirement. CPG supply chains must adapt to catch up.
Solutions for Supply and Demand Challenges
Consumer goods brands now realize that just-in-time logistics introduces too much risk into the supply chain. When a sudden spike in demand or supply shortfall strikes, they must have enough inventory to compensate. It must be somewhere close to their retail partners so they can restock store shelves on a tight deadline and close to their consumers so they can continue selling online. Meanwhile, they must avoid the weeks-long delivery times of reordering overseas. As such, consumer goods companies are increasing their safety stock levels across the board.
Even with adequate safety stock, the current marketplace remains unpredictable, which underscores the usefulness of flexible warehousing space. Just as quickly as demand spikes, a product can fall out of consumer favor. Likewise, demand can rise and decline with the time of year. Thus, many brands need extra warehouse space during high demand and do not need it when consumer interest falls again. If such a company owned its warehouse, it might have extra space that goes to waste when sales are low.
With customized warehousing services from a partner like Crown LSP Group, your business can rent out the space they need for excess safety stock, whether it’s to cover a temporary demand spike or a long-term solution. Renting warehouse space is more cost-effective for most businesses, as they can find the space they need for the amount of time they need. Building a warehouse is an expense that may not see a return on investment for as long as 30 years.
4. Digital Innovations
The modern supply chain is digital. Newer, more advanced technology can drive supply chain innovation in everything from inventory and warehouse management to supplier networks and speed-to-market.
Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence can make predictions and suggest courses of action based on microscopic changes in the market and logistics environment. This technology can predict future inventory needs, times when a supplier is at risk of becoming a liability or times when warehouse and assembly machinery needs servicing. Software-based consumer goods supply chain management can assist in scheduling operations to enable advanced processes such as cross-docking, efficient returns processing and digital inventory management. Transportation management systems can facilitate route and carrier selection to optimize transportation costs and reduce travel times.
Some of the top digital retail supply chain trends driving efficiency and innovation include:
Predictive Planning and Demand Forecasting
One of the most promising new technologies for the supply chain is predictive planning and forecasting tools. An impressive 56% of consumer goods and retail companies are planning investments in this technology. This software uses analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase supply chain visibility, uncover bottlenecks within the supply network and find new channels to address these shortfalls. They can also use data from many sources to predict changes in demand, allowing logistics managers to optimize inventory levels and plan reordering of schedules.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
In manufacturing, warehousing and other aspects of the supply chain, the IoT is a transformative technology. Sensors and IoT devices now let various machinery and equipment integrate and share data. One application of this in retail is that vending machines can have sensors that tell bottling plants about future restocking needs and indicate when it needs maintenance.
3D printing improves the supply chain by allowing companies to produce runs as small as a single product, made-to-order. It enables manufacturing to take place closer to the end customer and gives the customer options for customization. It also lets consumer goods companies produce both prototypes and finished products quickly, shortening the speed-to-market. By producing on-demand, companies can save on warehousing space for custom products and shorten supply chains.
Augmented and Virtual Reality
Besides the various product shortages affecting supply chains, the supply chain has also faced a labor shortage since before the pandemic. The manufacturing skills gap will likely leave 2.1 million jobs vacant by 2030. Labor shortages are also affecting warehousing and transportation jobs.
Augmented and virtual reality offer ways to close the gap by facilitating training modules, simulating complex, real-world scenarios in safe, virtual settings to close the skills gap. They can also allow managers, consultants and specialists to virtually visit a plant and offer their insights while working from home. This ability allows the logistics industry to offer an in-demand perk to jobs traditionally requiring a physical presence. Augmented-reality glasses can also let workers see real-time data about the plant and equipment.
Find Success in Your Supply Chain With Crown LSP Group
Keeping up with the latest supply chain trends is easy when you have a logistics partner you can trust. Let Crown LSP Group take on your toughest warehousing and transportation challenges. We’re a third-party logistics provider who can handle your transportation and warehousing needs in North Carolina. We personalize all our solutions to our customers’ unique needs and offer the flexibility, scalability and value-added services you need to stay competitive, no matter what supply chain challenges come your way.
Guide to Transporting and Warehousing Solar Panels
While solar panels can take a beating from direct sunlight for more than 12 hours a day, they aren’t immune to cracks, micro-cracks and other forms of damage during transportation and warehousing. In times when you need to store your solar panels in a safe and secure location with a third-party logistic (3PL) team, you can rely on Crown LSP Group.
Although there is no universal standard regarding the loading, transporting, unloading and storing of solar panels, we know what it takes to get the job done in a way that replicates an extension of your current business tactics. Crown LSP Group works with you to understand your precise requirements to create a customized solution for warehousing solar panels.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are devices that convert energy from the sun into electricity — often for residential and commercial zones. However, solar panels can also provide energy for individual homes in remote areas or even satellites.
Each solar panel is made of solar cells. Elements like phosphorus, silicon and boron make up each cell and work together to form energy via the photovoltaic process. When boron forms a positive charge and phosphorus forms a negative one, the cells absorb the sun’s photons. From there, these three chemicals pull the electrons into a current, releasing energy for electricity.
Solar panels are a sustainable and renewable alternative to coal and natural gas. Their environmental benefits and their ability to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels are major reasons for their growing popularity.
How to Properly Ship, Handle and Store Solar Panels
Shipping solar panels and storing them safely is a process that unfortunately doesn’t have industry standards across the globe. But here at Crown LSP Group, we have designed a detailed and stringent process to ensure your solar panels are securely handled.
Challenges in Transporting Solar Panels
In general, transporting solar panels is challenging because they are fragile and heavy. The key for storing solar panels is to protect them from the weight of each other and external transportation damage.
We uphold unique solar panel loading, transporting and unloading stipulations at Crown LSP Group. We understand that solar panels are sensitive components that, when under even slight pressure, can experience micro-cracks. As a result, these minute damages can affect how the entire system operates. Several negative effects of micro-cracks include:
Inactive cells (power loss)
Solar panel performance
How to Ship Solar Panels Safely
Stacking solar panels horizontally can cause damage to each panel that you can’t always see. If possible, you may be able to spot micro-cracks in a panel from a change in color, making it darker than the rest of the unit — but this is only out of luck. More often than not, micro-cracks go unnoticed and grow over time, and they eventually become even more detrimental defects.
Vertical stacking is a method that can form minimal pressure on the modules when stacked on a pallet. This strategy reduces top-to-bottom pressure and the stress of large amounts of weight.
Other components that can help protect solar panels in storage include:
Protective outer layer
Separators between each panel
Straps on corners
Crown LSP Group has high standards in place to prevent even the tiniest of scratches. We ensure each panel is secure so that there is no room for movement, keeping individual units protected during transportation.
Knowing how to store solar panels in a warehouse is a technique that ensures each panel is free from cracks and other damages.
Partnering With the Right 3PL
Partnering with the right 3LP for your solar panel transport and warehousing needs is critical to keeping each unit secure and ready for consumers. The right partner will understand that solar panels are high-value items that are delicate and require careful storage.
They should also cater to your unique solar panel needs and understand the care that’s necessary to prevent any damage. Your panels should arrive safely at the warehouse and be stored properly until you need them.
Whether you’re transporting and storing an entire truckload of solar panels or several at a time, proper processes are essential for delivering your products on time to consumers.
How Crown LSP Group Can Provide Third-Party Logistics Solar Panel Solutions
Crown LSP Group protects your solar panels every step of the way.
We implement storage techniques that can withstand mechanical stress and heavier loads than normal to safeguard each panel from damage, dents, cracks and micro-cracks. Our experts are here to manage your inventory and prepare outgoing products for you or your consumers when needed while also offering climate-controlled storage solutions if necessary. We help transport panels to and from the warehouse while delivering additional benefits, such as:
Ability to handle MBLs
Exceptional understanding of load configurations
Mobile scanning equipment
Reports necessary for you and your customers
Special equipment to accommodate oversized pallets of solar panels
Specialized forklifts and equipment (damage-free handling)
Our transportation department also supports the moving of pallets to your job site and bringing in containers from the port. To date, Crown LSP Group has supported about 40,000 pallets of solar panels with previous customers.
Contact Crown LSP Group for Warehousing and Transportation Requests
When you rely on timely deliveries to clients and need extra space for storing your solar panels, Crown LSP Group has you covered. As a family-owned business, we know what it means to take care of our clients and their products. Our goal is to create an extension of your business unit when transporting and warehousing shipments of solar panels. Whether you need to store panels for future use or need to transport materials, Crown LSP Group is here to work with you one-on-one.
To rake in consistent sales for your ecommerce business and remain profitable, you need more than a stunning website. You need a rock-solid and efficient ecommerce fulfillment strategy. By 2024 ecommerce will account for 21.8% of total retail sales worldwide. As more customers move online and ecommerce becomes very competitive, customers’ satisfaction will shift from product availability to speed and accuracy of order delivery. One poor experience and they may never return to your store.
To satisfy your customers, stay competitive and profitable, you need a reliable and effective order fulfillment plan. Discover what you need to know about ecommerce fulfillment below. Find out how to select a fulfillment strategy that suits your unique business needs and how ecommerce fulfillment services can satisfy your warehousing, transportation and distribution needs.
What Is Ecommerce Fulfillment?
Ecommerce fulfillment — also called order fulfillment — refers to the process involved in delivering online orders to customers. The entire process consists of several stages that include receiving and storing inventory, order processing, picking and packing items, delivering products to the final consumer, and handling returns.
There are various strategies for fulfillment and the method you adopt for your business depends on the following factors:
The size of your business
The volume of orders you process
The nature of your products
The size of your products
The location of your customers
From receiving the order to handing off the product to your customer, the ecommerce fulfillment process has many moving parts, no matter the strategy you choose.
Increased significance of ecommerce fulfillment: As more customers prefer buying online and getting their orders delivered to their doorsteps, the efficiency and speed of order delivery will become a major ecommerce success factor.
Rise in automation and robotics in fulfillment: As the demand for fast order picking, packing and delivery increases, robots and automation are helping to meet this demand.
Increased adoption of augmented reality: More augmented reality (AR) in ecommerce order fulfillment is helping warehouse operators navigate products, pick orders and fulfill orders easily and making the landscape more competitive.
Better decision-making with data: Customer and market data is helping retailers and 3PL companies make better inventory forecasting decisions. And businesses that gather and make use of data will win.
At Crown LSP Group, we provide the resources to help ecommerce businesses stay flexible and responsive to trends and changes in their customer and market needs.
The online fulfillment process starts from when a customer places an order on your ecommerce site to when you deliver the accurate order to the customer. Typically, it includes the following steps:
1. Receiving and warehousing inventory
This stage of the fulfillment process ensures you have the space to house your inventory to fulfill customers’ orders later on.
Inventory warehousing involves moving your products to an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse or a self-run warehouse — a process called inbound logistics — and storing the products awaiting your customers’ orders. For small businesses, this could be a garage or a small store for storing products and accessing them to fulfill orders. But for a big and growing ecommerce brand that processes hundreds of orders daily, you need dedicated warehousing space or to partner with an ecommerce fulfillment center.
Effective inventory warehousing ensures the safety of your products. You can also consider your warehouse’s proximity to your customers for speedy and cost-effective order fulfillment.
2. Storing and managing inventory
This stage of the fulfillment process ensures you always have products on the shelf. Inventory management involves monitoring, forecasting and restocking inventory. The goal is to maintain an optimal level of product in the warehouse.
Inventory management is essential because too much inventory leads to poor cash flow, more payment for storage and the selling of outdated products. On the other hand, too little inventory leads to backorders and unsatisfied customers.
3. Tracking and managing orders
Order management covers everything about receiving and tracking orders from your customers. Proper order management involves integrating your sales channels — whether Shopify, Amazon, eBay or other merchants — with your warehouse management system to ensure real-time notification and processing of orders.
4. Picking, packing and shipping orders
The steps in the order fulfillment process involve picking, packing and shipping the right product to your customers. This stage in the ecommerce fulfillment process kicks in immediately once a customer places an order. Once the order is received, the correct product is picked from the warehouse, packaged and handed off to logistics for delivery. Proper fulfillment of online orders ensures picking and promptly delivering the accurate product.
5. Delivering products to consumers
Order fulfillment is the most important part of the ecommerce process because it puts you in direct contact with your customers. According to a study, 54% of customers would not place an order because of high delivery charges and 25% of customers won’t place an order if the delivery will take too long.
Efficient and satisfactory last-mile delivery leads to happy customers and positive word of mouth. Those benefits translate to more customers and revenue for your online business.
Small businesses can easily pull this off with self-fulfillment or partnering with a dropshipper. But big ecommerce brands who want a predictable and accurate order fulfillment process can guarantee this with a third-party ecommerce fulfillment company.
6. Returning orders
Also known as return management, reverse logistics involves processing returned products, redelivering the product, refunding your customers and returning the product to the store for reselling.
Thirty percent of everything sold online is returned, either because of damage or wrong product delivery. How you handle reverse logistics influences customers’ satisfaction and their desire to keep buying from your store.
For example, 92% of customers say they would buy more from a store with a satisfactory return procedure. And 79% of customers say they appreciate free shipping for return products.
Ecommerce stores receive the most returns because customers often do not have physical contact with the product before buying. But a laid-out return policy can mitigate product returns for your business.
Return logistics can become complicated. While small ecommerce businesses can easily process returns in-house, big ecommerce brands would need to dedicate plenty of time and resources to effectively handling return products. One advantage of outsourcing the fulfillment process is that it frees you from this burden and creates more time for you to grow your business.
Considerations for Choosing a Fulfillment Strategy
The order fulfillment process you choose will depend on several factors. Each strategy will have its unique advantages depending on the following.
1. The size of your business
Smaller businesses or start-ups may not need a comprehensive order fulfillment strategy. They likely don’t have the order base to support the cost of outsourcing fulfillment.
However, if your business is scaling rapidly and you find order fulfillment challenging, dropshipping or partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) company like Crown LSP Group can provide you with a cost-effective way to save time and money.
2. The type of products you sell
The size and style of your products will directly affect your order fulfillment needs, especially when it comes to storage and shipping.
For example, products with hazardous materials have transportation limitations. Perishable items will have particular storage demands. The larger your items are, the more storage space you need and the more shipping may cost.
When choosing a fulfillment strategy, consider your product sizes and storage and shipping needs to fulfill them.
3. Your ability to keep track of your inventory
Inventory management includes tracking, storing, restocking and ordering new stock.
Selling out-of-stock merchandise could cost you a potential customer. However, ordering too many products could lead to unnecessary storage fees or a lack of storage space. If your items are perishable, this could lead to significant financial losses.
Dropshipping provides little to no control over inventory management, while a 3PL provider can take over inventory management so you can focus on marketing your business.
4. If you have warehouse space
Your choice of ecommerce fulfillment strategy might boil down to how and where you will store your products. Do you have the storage space for a reasonable stock level?
Small- to medium-sized businesses with smaller stock items may be able to store them in their basement or garage. Other times, the items may be too large or have specific temperature control needs. In those instances, outsourcing may make more sense.
Likewise, medium- to large-sized businesses with large order bases may benefit from partnering with a 3PL company as the cost of a bare-bones independent warehouse may not be financially lucrative.
5. How you will handle returns
As an ecommerce business owner, you will likely experience a high volume of returns, since customers cannot see the product before they buy. Customers love a solid return policy, so how you will handle returns is an important consideration. Processing returns includes providing a way for customers to send back damaged or unwanted items easily and for you to track the returns for stock planning.
If you manage returns in-house, you have control over the entire process, though it could be time-consuming, depending on the product type and the number of returns you receive. However, dropshipping affords the seller little to no control over the returns process and whether it will satisfy customers.
6. The cost of fulfilling orders
Your cost per order includes all costs associated with fulfilling an order, including fixed and variable costs, like the price you paid for the product, storage and shipping.
In some cases, outsourcing order fulfillment by dropshipping may make more sense if you want to keep the cost per order low as you won’t need to worry about the additional storage or shipping costs. You will only pay for the products you sell.
When you want more control over your products, in-house order fulfillment or partnering with a third-party logistics provider may make more sense.
Types of Order Fulfillment Strategies
The fulfillment strategy you adopt depends on your unique business needs. For big and growing ecommerce companies, there are several options including in-house fulfillment, dropshipping or choosing to partner with a third-party logistics company.
With in-house fulfillment, you do everything by yourself — warehousing, inventory and order management, order fulfillment and return management. You own your warehouse, purchase the needed insurance, software and equipment and hire and manage the staff needed. This process works well for small businesses but presents challenges for big and growing ecommerce brands.
Here are some things to keep in mind with an in-house strategy for your ecommerce business:
Operating a fulfillment warehouse is expensive: For an ecommerce business processing lots of orders daily, you’d need significant warehouse space, warehouse staff, equipment and tools to operate an effective and smooth in-house ecommerce fulfillment strategy. You’d also need to purchase workers’ compensation, fire insurance, auto, professional insurance and other insurances to protect your workers and inventory in the event of an accident or incident. Those necessary extras require financial and managerial resources that can otherwise be used in expanding your business.
Running a fulfillment warehouse demands time: Receiving inventory, storing, managing stock, packing and delivering orders accurately in-house demands excess time that can otherwise be used for marketing, working on your product or hiring the best talents for your business.
Scaling in-house fulfillment is expensive and slow: Scaling an in-house fulfillment warehouse to meet your customer orders demands funds and takes time. To meet increasing customer orders even with a dedicated warehouse, you’d need to build or lease a larger warehouse, hire more staff and purchase the needed equipment. This process can take time and may not be fast enough to meet your growing customer orders. If sales drop, you’d end up paying for warehouse space and tools that you may never use.
Most ecommerce businesses go for dropshipping as an alternative to a self-fulfillment strategy. With dropshipping, you don’t buy or store inventory. Instead, you simply put the product up for sale on your site. When you receive an order, you channel it to the dropshipper that operates a fulfillment center and delivers the product to your customer.
Dropshipping is a very fast ecommerce fulfillment method for small businesses, but it poses various challenges for large and growing businesses. With dropshipping, you have zero control over:
Product quality: You do not control the quality of products delivered to your customers or the quality of services your customers receive. In cases of poor customer experience, you, not the fulfillment centers, bear the heat.
Customization and branding: Since another company handles the fulfillment operations, fulfillment warehousing and order fulfillment, most times you do not control the customization and branding of the product.
Inventory: You do not control your dropshipper’s stock level. If the dropshipper does not have the inventory needed to fulfill your customers’ orders, you may leave a lot of money on the table and grow a pile of disappointed customers.
Third-Party Logistics (3PL)
With a third-party fulfillment strategy, a 3PL provider handles all aspects of the order fulfillment process. This includes storing and managing your inventory, receiving and fulfilling customer orders and handling return logistics.
Partnering with a third-party fulfillment company ensures your inventory is properly stored and managed. You get up-to-date information on your inventory to ensure you have the right amount to meet your present and future customer demands.
Some of the common considerations when choosing a 3PL fulfillment strategy include:
Cost-effectiveness: With a 3PL company, you only pay for the space you use and for orders processed. All other expenses are covered by the 3PL order fulfillment center and factored into your fees.
Easy to scale: As your sales and inventory volume increase, you can easily pay for more space and staff. If sales decline, you can easily cut down on your expense. At every point, you pay as you use.
Versatile warehouse space: You can easily move from one fulfillment warehouse to another to get closer to your customers, deliver faster and operate more cost-effectively.
Access to skilled professionals: A 3PL company hires and manages warehouse and order fulfillment professionals so that you do not have to.
Time to run your business: Outsourcing your order fulfillment carves out more time for you to focus on marketing, stocking the best quality product and growing your business.
Signs That You Should Outsource Fulfillment
Are you wondering if your ecommerce business could benefit from outsourcing order fulfillment? You may only need to outsource one or a few aspects. Our ecommerce fulfillment guide offers a few considerations to keep in mind.
1. Unpredictable sales cycles and seasonality
Frequent unused storage space, excess products with no room or unpredictable sales cycles can wreak havoc on your ecommerce business. Plus, an unfulfilled order could negatively impact customer retention. If it’s challenging to keep up with stock management, it may be time to consider outsourcing fulfillment with a 3PL provider.
A third-party logistics company will manage stock and track order trends to accurately predict the type and amount of stock you will need. Additionally, data insights from a 3PL provider can help you forecast sales dips so you don’t end up splurging on products you may not sell at certain times of the year.
2. Expansion of your target customer base
Nationwide and international shipping expenses can quickly add up, especially if you have a large, spread-out customer base. If you plan to expand your ecommerce business and ship across the U.S. or internationally, outsourcing fulfillment with a third-party logistics company may be the right order fulfillment solution.
A 3PL provider like Crown LSP Group can quickly and efficiently open a warehousing center nearer to your target customer base. We reduce shipping costs and ensure you have the stock available to support growth.
3. Costs that are challenging to predict or control
Most retail businesses have slower sales seasons, including ecommerce businesses. Depending on the products you sell, predicting or controlling costs associated with inventory and order fulfillment may be difficult.
For example, during slower months, you may not need as much storage space for your inventory. Unfortunately, unused warehouse space is lost money. Conversely, you may have an unexpected surge in sales without the stock, storage space or warehousing personnel you need to fulfill orders efficiently.
A third-party logistics provider can cost-effectively accommodate any unexpected dips or surges in order, storage and personnel demands.
4. Overstocking or understocking your inventory
Assuring you have the necessary kind and amount of stock at the right time is paramount to long-term business success. Overstocking could lead to increased storage costs while understocking could lead to a dissatisfied customer base if it happens too frequently.
It may be time to outsource order fulfillment if you’ve found it challenging to predict the amount of stock you need at specific points in the year. A 3PL company can monitor your inventory, track your orders and predict the amount and kind of stock you need and when.
5. Returns are becoming too hard to handle
Returns are inevitable for ecommerce businesses. There are many reasons your customers might return their products. The item could be damaged or different than they expected. Either way, if the seller is handling returns in-house, they are responsible for customer support, processing the return and restocking or updating inventory data.
Handling returns can quickly become time-consuming and unmanageable, especially if your company processes hundreds of orders or is scaling rapidly. A third-party logistics company can provide customer support, the process returns and manages inventory updates to dedicate your time to other aspects of your ecommerce business.
6. Not enough resources to handle the demand
When you can’t fulfill orders or meet customer demands, your business might suffer. Suppose you’ve found your company doesn’t have or can’t reasonably afford the warehousing facilities, technology or the number of personnel necessary to support a rapid influx of sales. In that case, it is time to outsource your ecommerce order fulfillment.
Whether you’ve experienced an unexpected surge or decline in sales, a third-party logistics provider will help you meet fluctuating storage needs, manage stock and have the staff to fulfill your orders and returns. You will only pay for the resources you need at any given time with the help of a 3PL provider.
7. You can’t focus on running your business
You must focus on the key responsibilities of successfully running an ecommerce business. Outsourcing will free up time, money and resources you can funnel into critical elements like marketing and customer relationship management. You can also maintain superior customer service.
Work With a Trusted 3PL Provider Today!
As a leader among third-party logistics providers, Crown LSP Group is your true distribution solution company. We provide customized supply chain services like warehousing, transportation and logistics, value-added services and on-site warehouse operations for your unique business needs. Our North Carolina location ensures cost-effective inbound logistics and speedy delivery to your customers anywhere in the United States.
We have been providing the best warehousing and last-mile delivery services for retailers like you for over 30 years. We provide all the inventory management and order fulfillment resources you need to run a successful ecommerce business. Our goal is to become your long-term logistics partner.
We know your business needs are unique. We’ll work with you to provide a customer ecommerce fulfillment strategy that benefits you and your customers in the long and short term.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our daily lives. As a result, businesses have had to rethink how they perform their operational tasks while serving their customers’ needs safely.
Warehouses are no different. With the need to adhere to warehouse guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everything from creating workplace safety plans to maintaining supply chains has been altered during the COVID-19 pandemic. These safety measures allow customers to continue receiving the services they require while everyone does their part to limit transmission.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Supply Chains?
Because of the challenges posed by COVID-19, consumers are more eager than ever to choose delivery services that drop off packages at the door. Because most customers understand the sacrifice front-line workers are making — including delivery drivers — most are more than willing to pay the added delivery fees.
Due to the increased requests for product delivery, stores are noticing their traditional logistics networks can no longer meet their expanding customer demands. Subsequently, these stores are turning to third-party logistics (3PL) providers for solutions.
6 Warehousing Management Trends Due to COVID-19 That Are Here to Stay
Due to the increased demand for warehousing and transportation services during COVID-19, companies recognize the need for creative solutions to handle their additional orders while still keeping everyone safe.
Technological advancements in warehouse management systems mean less worker involvement in warehousing operations is required. Business owners see the value in 3PL providers as a safer alternative to paper-based, pre-pandemic logistic services.
How has COVID-19 impacted warehousing and which areas of the supply chain have seen the changes? Here are some ways 3PL providers have adapted to warehousing in a pandemic to meet the demands of an increasingly logistics-dependent marketplace:
1. More Inventory on Hand
When fulfilling customer requests, nothing is more important than having the needed materials and supplies available on hand and ready at a moment’s notice. The problem with storing materials on-site is that they take up valuable real estate that could be better used for more productive means, like manufacturing or assembly.
Numerous 3PL providers introduce a convenient solution to this problem by allowing customers to rent floor space in their facilities. The combination of added storage space with the ease of on-demand shipping makes this service extremely beneficial to warehouses facing capacity constraints.
These 3PL providers have also invested in advanced warehouse management systems. The providers help speed up sorting and shipping and offer improved security monitoring, advanced fire protection systems and temperature- and humidity-controlled spaces. For example, at Crown LSP Group, we use 3PL Central Cloud-Base WMS, allowing us to provide 24-hour video security monitoring for enhanced warehouse safety.
2. Rise of Automated Warehouse Technology
Warehouse automation has seen massive improvements in recent years — mostly in warehouse management systems, which synergize multiple pieces of equipment through software control.
Warehouse automation systems use material handling equipment (MHE) such as conveyors and robotics. While automation provides a significant improvement over manual tools, its true potential is fulfilled by a fully connected automated warehouse management system. Warehouse management systems sync numerous sensors to control and position equipment. The warehouse management systems at Crown LSP Group sync together various sensors to control and position machinery and catalog stored goods to keep them organized and easily accessible.
With robots capable of handling materials and products safely and efficiently — and software systems ensuring items arrive on time and at their correct location — it’s easy to see how the rise of warehouse automation has been such an industry game-changer. Without these technologies, the onset of COVID-19 would have made safety and efficiency protocols that much more difficult for warehouses.
3. Customized Strategies
Third-party logistics providers like Crown recognize every business requires a unique solution to ensure its operational needs are met. From custom warehousing solutions to immediate processing and shipping of materials and products, we can tailor our warehouses and delivery systems to meet any business’s specific requirements.
Storage space is a pain point for most small to medium-sized businesses. This issue is why 3PL providers offer a wide range of storage spaces and short-term and long-term contract lengths to address seasonal trends. Storage arrangements range from rack storage to floor space to bin storage, depending on the goods being warehoused.
Advanced 3PL providers seamlessly integrate warehouse management system (WMS) software with their flexible delivery services to ensure your materials and products are available to be shipped to any location, worldwide. This provides a level of convenience and reliability that will certainly remain in warehousing post-COVID.
4. Increased Warehouse Capacity
When selecting the best location to operate your business, you have many considerations. From employee desirability to customer interaction, location can play a critical role in any business’s success.
Because commercial rental costs are at an all-time high, it makes sense to choose a location that appeals to your employees and is within a reasonable range for customer walk-ins. This consideration means the trade-off between location and floor space is often a tough decision to make. However, it’s made much simpler with a third-party logistics provider’s help.
Businesses using 3PL support don’t have to worry about leasing or purchasing properties. Partnering with a contract warehouse takes this headache off the manufacturer. If their products can be shipped quickly and reliably from a third-party location, they no longer need to keep goods on-site.
5. Greater Reliance on 3PLs
COVID-19 has demonstrated that customers and businesses are more eager than ever to have their deliveries dropped off safely at their front door instead of picking them up in person. This phenomenon has created a boom in delivery requests worldwide and has substantially strained the usual delivery methods most businesses use.
To solve this problem, more companies are seeking 3PL providers to handle their order fulfillment needs. The conveniences offered by 3PL enterprises extend far beyond storing and delivering items.
With benefits ranging from increased floor space to added security and damage protection to highly efficient storage and shipping solutions, third-party logistics providers are becoming more prevalent as partnering businesses. Business owners will continue using 3PL providers for distribution and warehousing even after COVID-19 because of the convenience and cost savings.
6. Increase in Temperature-Regulated Storage
Many businesses use materials requiring special storage conditions to ensure they remain intact and undamaged. Similarly, once products or parts are assembled, they must be kept in conditions that prevent quality degradation.
Crown LSP Group’s warehouses come with temperature and humidity control, ensuring your sensitive products or materials remain in their ideal condition for an extended time. Additionally, our facilities are fully outfitted with fire protection systems to ensure your contents are always safe and ready for you.
Many materials such as metals or paper products suffer degradation when exposed to higher humidity levels. Sometimes even a slight increase in humidity can cause the metal to corrode or paper products to soften. If these items are left unattended long enough, they can be totally destroyed from exposure.
Environmental control systems, such as those offered by 3PL providers, are essential for companies that require sensitive materials to remain in their original condition for manufacturing or sales.
Plan for Success With Crown LSP Group
The benefits of third-party logistics and warehouse providers have become more significant since the COVID-19 pandemic’s onset. The solutions they implement to store and ship materials, products and supplies safely and efficiently make them valuable, time-saving additions to any business.
With supply chains being weighed down by the increase in customer demands, it‘s important to choose a 3PL provider that can offer unique warehousing solutions to fit your storage and logistics needs.
Crown LSP Group has multiple warehouse locations strategically located throughout North Carolina and Virginia. We can ship orders to three-quarters of the U.S. population within 12 hours, making us the top 3PL provider on the East Coast. Contact us for warehousing space near and around: