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Supplier Diversification: the Key to Speeding up Warehouse Fulfilment

No Comments    |    ,     |    February 2, 2024    |    Reading time 8 minutes
Diversify Supply Chain: Improving Warehouse Efficiency

Updated 2/2/2024

There are a lot of companies out there supplying packaging. Though we know we’re among the best of them - not least because of the quality of our boxes and their environmental credentials - there’s another reason that makes us stand out from the crowd and it can be summed up in two words: supplier diversification.

But what exactly is supplier diversification and how can it work for you in terms of speeding up fulfilment in your warehouse? Read on to found out more…

Table of Contents

Promises, promises… – the challenges facing fulfilment

Now savvy in the ways of e-commerce, consumers are used to giving a bit of thought to the supply chain. They click on a product, want to be assured it’s in stock and then know how and when it’s going to be delivered. Increasingly, consumers aren’t necessarily loyal to a brand if they can be enticed by a fulfilment promise that pairs an identical product with a competitive offer such as less expensive postage and speedier delivery.

Unfortunately, in recent years, shipping incentives like these are proving harder for companies to deliver – no pun intended. The impact of COVID-19 on the logistics industry has been well documented and extensively discussed. Few supply chains – whatever the industry – have remained unaffected and what’s obvious is that innovative strategies are required to ensure that supply chains continue to be “flexible, agile, and resilient” so businesses can retain happy, satisfied customers and healthy bottom lines.

Many organisations, however, perhaps understandably, are still finding their feet with regards to these innovative strategies. Consequently, to a lesser or greater degree, most of us will probably have recently experienced frustration at supply chain interruptions. It’s not just logistics that has struggled. Speed of fulfilment – that is, the rate at which inventory is selected, packaged and loaded for distribution once an order has been placed - has also suffered. Many businesses are finding it harder to keep delivery promises to customers, promises that they would have made in the blink of an eye five years ago. This comes as no surprise as supply chain disruptions are up a whopping 46% year on year.

Bear in mind though that the definition of an effective process hasn’t changed even though behind the scenes businesses have started trying to implement significant strategic changes to cope with recent huge global upheaval. It remains the same; consumers want their products quickly and efficiently at the best possible price.

Increasingly, as they navigate the new, uncertain territory of a post-COVID world, a world in which interest rates are rising, the cost of materials and fuel is higher than it’s ever been and Europe is rocked by conflict, businesses are finding that if they’re not extremely careful, delays in orders are more commonplace. Along with the delays come far lower levels of customer satisfaction and the real risk that custom is moved elsewhere.

So, the current situation sounds pretty tricky as businesses face unprecedented circumstances over which they often have little control. However, there are solutions. And although nothing can detract from the fact that everyone is going through a rocky period, there are factors to be considered that can make weathering the storm easier.

Key ways of speeding up fulfilment in your warehouse

One major way to keep customers coming back to your e-commerce business time and time again is to ensure that the fulfilment speed in your warehouse is as fast as possible. There are a number of ways that this can be achieved, all integral to each other: warehouse automation and optimisation, inventory management strategies, labour training and – our particular favourite – picking the right packaging. Here is a very brief, very simple outline of each.

Warehouse automation and optimisation

Warehouse automisation, in layman’s terms, is when those parts of a business that require repetitive physical work or manual work (e.g., data entry and analysis) are done by technological means far more easily and quickly. The upshot being that any inventory coming into the warehouse and then back out to customers does so in the least labour intensive way possible thus saving everyone time and money.

Warehouse optimisation is when all the processes that take place in the warehouse (whether or not they are automated) are considered carefully and reviewed periodically to ensure that there is the best and most efficient use of time, space and resources.

Inventory management strategies

As part of the process of warehouse automation and optimisation, inventory management strategies will have been closely examined. Very basically, inventory management is about ensuring that the right stock is there at the right time so that customers’ demands are met more effectively. Too little stock and the risk is that products will run out. Too much and valuable and expensive space in your warehouse is taken up needlessly, although it’s worth considering whether having a small amount of extra stock (i.e. safety stock) might be a good strategy to cater to unforeseen surges in demand.

More often than not however, automating stock management will protect businesses from any surge in demands because it enables them to be more precise when it comes to predicting market demands and less prone to making errors or misjudgements. Additionally, it will enable them to have accurate product information at their fingertips. And the good news is that there are a plethora of specialised programmes out there to help businesses manage stock more efficiently.

Labour Training

Clearly identifying the skills a labour force requires is one of the key ways of maintaining efficiency. So is ensuring that the workers hired receive the correct training - internal or external – at the right level for their experience. Any employee should expect to work in a safe environment, but what makes a real difference is one that’s supportive; when expectations are met or exceeded, for example, employees should be rewarded accordingly so that they can see for themselves that their impact is both appreciated and important. And rewards don’t have to be big to make a difference. But the payback for a business can be huge, because it’s proven beyond a doubt that workers who feel valued work harder, which leads to far higher levels of productivity.

Packaging

Somehow, of course, we always come back to packaging, but this is a drum we’re happy to beat, because it matters. Packaging is pivotal to the success of any e-commerce business. The right packaging does so much more than deliver your product: it saves time speeding up fulfilment in your warehouses. It lowers the amount you need to spend on consumables, as well as reducing storage space requirements, minimises the incidence of returns, is an undemanding brand ambassador and helps your customers know that you’re serious about their satisfaction even after their money is in your bank account.

The right packaging can show you’re serious about reducing your carbon footprint and it can convince potential customers to take a punt on your company above others. Some packaging, such as our innovative FlyPak ecommerce packaging, can shave thousands on consumable spend by negating the need for additional void fill material, packing tape as well as reducing storage space.

The key way of speeding up fulfilment in your warehouse in today’s world

As a packaging company, our focus at the end of the day is delivering our clients top quality, environmentally friendly packaging and we’re well aware that we have a consumer base that relies heavily upon the timely and guaranteed acquisition of our wrap around mailers, crash lock boxes and e-commerce envelopes.

If, however, we relied on one supplier then any issue in our supply chain might mean our customers being unable to get their hands on our packaging exactly when they need it. They’d have to scramble to find and then settle for (potentially) inferior packaging in order to get their products distributed. This would certainly mean delays in getting inventory out to customers or at the very least, a lot of stress all round. Stock piling would of course reduce this risk, but that’s a strategy which takes up valuable space and isn’t cost effective. Whichever way you look at it, when supply doesn’t meet demand, it’s a problem and it’s not a problem we want our customers to have to deal with.

With this in mind and after 20 years of experience at the sharp end of e-commerce, we know how vital consistency of supply is whether you’re a fledging company or an established behemoth. That’s why our business model is based upon supplier diversification.

We believe that in today’s world, wherever you are in the chain, diversification is absolutely fundamental when it comes to running a successful business and with supplier diversification you’re not putting all your eggs into one basket.

This does require work up front. It means forging alliances with multiple suppliers as far as obtaining raw materials or manufactured goods is concerned, but the benefits are thus: far more flexibility when it comes to obtaining products so the risk of running out of stock is mitigated, fulfilment speed is maintained and businesses are far less likely to disappoint the customer, peace of mind. There are some positive knock-on effects as well. The fact that you can always get your hands on your product means that your business won’t have to rely on expedited shipping. Consequently, transportation costs will be lower, but the level of customer service will remain high.

The Packaging Club and Supplier Diversification

Supplier diversification isn’t part of The Packaging Club’s future strategic planning; it’s pivotal to our business model, an established game plan. We pride ourselves on the fact that we work continuously to nail down forecasts, meaning we can better uphold supply during peak season. We’ve ensured that there aren’t just separate links in the chain; there are separate strands too. If one chain breaks, the others are there, keeping the flow going, enabling our business and yours to be flexible, proactive and fast and ensuring that companies looking to scale won’t be thwarted by supply issues.

We’ve already done the groundwork and have established relationships; we can assure consistency of supply and what’s more, all from manufacturers and suppliers right here in the UK. We have our eyes on the bigger picture, so you can spend time concentrating on your products, rather than worrying about their packaging.

Our packaging might end up as one small part of a supply chain that gets your goods to your customers, but one thing we can assure you is that it is never ever going to be the weakest link.

We live and breathe packaging, so if you're a forward thinking e-commerce professional looking to consolidate and streamline your packaging usage, improve unboxing experiences and environmental credentials, all whilst saving your business money in the process - let's talk packaging today.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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