7 Critical Components of Your Logistics RFP

There are a lot of moving parts that work to make a business successful. If you are planning to outsource part or all of your logistical operations, you know just how true this is.

That’s where an RFP, or request for proposals, can help. This document outlines the requirements and expectations for a potential business partnership. It is a professional and convenient way to find the right third-party logistics (3PL) provider, shipping company, vendor, or supplier to fulfill your business needs.

When drafting your RFP, it’s important to be as specific as possible and cover all the necessary information. Here are 7 critical components you need to include in your logistics request for proposals:

Background Information

Begin with a detailed introduction to your business. Tell the potential bidders a bit about your history and mission. Then explain your products or services and give an overview of your business model.

You also want to state the objective of the RFP. Briefly touch on your goals for the company and where the benefits of the partnership will lead you. 

Business Needs

This section will comprise the bulk of your RFP, and where you’ll give more detail about the services you are requesting. Define the problem that needs to be solved. 

Explain your business model and the exact limitations that structure it. Does your product require low-temperature shipping? Do your vendors rely on you for huge quantities of products? Do you have seasonal peaks of demand that need to be met? All this information is important to include. 

In this section, you will also want to describe a little bit about your customers, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders, and other ongoing partnerships. 

Relevant Data 

Remember, it’s good to be as specific as possible, giving potential bidders the most complete picture of your business. If they can clearly understand the areas needing improvement, they are better able to come up with innovative solutions and make a solid partnership. 

Include any relevant data and visuals to get your point across. This would include freight volume and frequency, types of products you provide, demand over time, and central areas for delivery. 

Requirements for Partnership

In this section, spell out any requirements for the potential bidders to comply with. 

For example, your partner might need to have certain technological capabilities in order to be a good match. Or perhaps there are certain licenses or certifications needed to transport your products. Or maybe you just want to rule out any partnerships that don’t have a strong financial background. 

This section will prevent unqualified businesses from sending over their submissions, saving you time in the review process. 

Detailed Questions 

Next, you want to include a detailed questionnaire for the potential logistic partners. You are essentially conducting an interview to see if they can meet your business needs. 

Ask about their capabilities, history, reach, size of operations, length of commitments, scalability, and anything else that will guide your decision. 

You will also want to ask about their terms of billing and payment. Finally, don’t forget to ask for the legal information, such as proof of insurance, relevant certifications, or claims and safety records.

Evaluation Plan

Include a plan for how you will evaluate the success of the partnership. This will take the form of detailed KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators. Make sure the standards for evaluation are specific and measurable. 

These KPIs should follow a timeline that is also detailed in this section. This will provide a strategy for implementation and rollout. 

Terms of Submissions

Finally, specify the format you would like to receive submissions in. This will streamline the proposal evaluation process by making all the information uniform and easier to compare.

You might consider including a template for the pricing breakdown, as these numbers will be the most vital to evaluate side by side. Or you can just specify what numbers you need and how you would like them presented.

End your RFP with your contact information and the mode of submission (email, snail mail, contact through website, etc.) that you prefer. 

Reliable 3PL Provider on the East Coast

If you are looking for a reliable and experienced 3PL provider to take on your fulfillment, distribution, and warehouse needs, look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics!

Conveniently located on the East Coast, we can deliver to a half the US population in just 3 days! For over 30 years we have provided personalized service to small businesses and large corporations alike. 

Give us a call today to learn how we can help your business grow!

Everything You Need to Know About Supplier Management

As a small business owner, you spend a lot of time focusing on day-to-day operation and making your customers happy. But it’s important to take a step back and focus on the big picture items too. 

Due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, reliable, affordable, and ethical suppliers are hard to come by. Without effectively managing your supplier relationships, you could be risking disruption to your entire operation. 

Read on to discover everything you need to know about developing a supplier management strategy, and how it could affect your business: 

How Proper Supplier Management Benefits Your Business 

There are many benefits to properly managing your supplier relations. 

As mentioned above, it can help reduce supply chain disruptions and delays. This is because a well-maintained business relationship involves effective communication when dealing with any issues that arise. 

Having a good relationship with your suppliers will increase efficiency of your products and materials. This provides the predictability you need to have confidence developing new strategies. 

Loyalty over time can also help secure you better deals and rates from your suppliers. All this results in better service to your customers, and increased profit margins for your business. 

Tips for Effective Supplier Management

Understand that supplier management is not a one-and-done task. It is an ongoing process that requires frequent work to maintain. 

Here are a few tips to follow to build an effective supplier management plan:

 

  • Choose suppliers carefully – The easiest way to get along with your supplier is to make sure their values and business practices align with your own. Consider their ethics of operation and if this relationship is a good representation of your business. 
  • Establish a good process – Another good way to minimize supply chain disruptions is to establish a simple process that is easy to follow. From concept development to creation and distribution, streamline your supply chain to increase efficiency.
  • Maintain frequent communication – Communication between buyers and suppliers is vital to maintaining a strong partnership. Establish a reliable method and time slot for checking in. 
  • Understand cultural differences – When working with suppliers, especially international ones, there are bound to be a few cultural differences between people. Always be conscious and considerate of these differences, and try to remedy any potential issues before they arise.
  • Perform regular audits – Keep up with the performance of your suppliers to make sure they are meeting your expectations. Communicate any potential issues as soon as you notice them. 
  • Practice two-way respect – Remember that your suppliers are not solely your vendors. They are also running a business, and that means mutual respect is essential. Making on-time payments, practicing loyalty, and generally being friendly will maintain your end of the relationship. 

 

East Coast Fulfillment Services

Here at Cannon Hill Logistics, we understand the many moving parts that go into running a business. That’s why we provide the most reliable, affordable, and comprehensive fulfillment services on the East Coast!

From distribution to warehouse management, and even custom packaging services, Cannon Hill can do it all! Backed by our knowledgeable and professional customer service, we can create an individualized service plan to meet the demands of your growing business. Give us a call today!

What the Pandemic Taught Businesses About the Supply Chain

Although the supply chain could often be precarious even before the pandemic, the events that have unfolded since March 2020 have only made these pre-existing issues more drastic. 

In fact, the large-scale disruption we’ve seen to the global supply chain is unprecedented. There have been shortages in nearly every industry, from medical equipment to lumber to electronic parts. 

Small businesses have learned that in order to survive these tumultuous times, they must learn and adapt. Going forward, here are 3 important supply chain lessons we can learn from the Covid-19 pandemic: 

Don’t Underestimate Virtual Elements

Even before the pandemic, the reliance on virtual business practices was rapidly increasing. But it was still understandable for small businesses to overlook the importance of virtual communication and digital accessibility. 

This is no longer the case. The pandemic made customers even less willing to go to physical stores, and so they turned toward online shopping and curbside pick-up programs instead. These digital programs helped small businesses reach their customers even during a time of crisis.

Small businesses should expect this trend to continue. Investing in a way for customers to interact with your products virtually will be hugely beneficial in the future. 

Maintain & Diversify Partnerships

The pandemic also taught small businesses the importance of maintaining partnerships with a diverse range of suppliers. 

In the supply chain, this diversification is also known as parallelization. Basically, this means creating numerous pathways to connect your manufacturers and your customers. This prevents a total supply chain shut down if just one link stops functioning. 

While diversity in suppliers is important, loyalty is also helpful. If you step away from trusted vendors during difficult times, don’t expect them to be available when things start looking up again. Chances are, they found other partnerships to sustain themselves. 

On the other hand, maintaining strong partnerships with every part of your distribution chain can only stand to benefit you in time. 

Prioritize Long-Term Resilience Over Short-Term Strategies

For a while, short-term strategies have dominated the business world. This is also sometimes called “just-in-time” manufacturing, which maximizes profits and efficiency. 

However, as the pandemic showed us, these supply chain strategies do not prove to be resilient during global disasters.

Moving forward, businesses should consider supply chain maintenance which prioritizes long-term sustainability. Business owners should consider potential disruptions not as improbable events, but rather as inevitable in our precarious world. 

Trusted East Coast Logistics Company

Are you looking for help from a trusted and conveniently located logistics company? Look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics!

We offer a wide range of economical fulfillment services to meet your specific distribution needs. From warehousing to fulfillment, we’ve got you covered. Located in Frederick, Maryland, we can reach half the US population in just 3 days!

Call Cannon Hill Logistics today to discover what we can do for your business!

How a Logistics Company Can Help Your Business During a Labor Crisis

We have all heard about the labor crisis. Since the pandemic hit, there have been many more jobs available than people willing or able to work.

There are many reasons for the labor shortage, including low wages, job insecurity, and the threat of COVID-19. But labor issues have been brewing since long before the pandemic started – the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders just accelerated them. 

If your small business or e-store is feeling the effects of the labor shortage, you’re not alone. Many family-run businesses have struggled to stay afloat in this precarious economy, and the sector of your business likely to suffer the most is logistics. 

Even under the best of circumstances, managing logistics can be tricky. Hiring the staff and renting the infrastructure is a huge upfront cost. And if you can’t even find enough people to hire, your shipping and return operations are sure to suffer.

A 3PL Gives You Access to Workers

This is where a third party logistics provider, or a 3PL, can help. 

Unlike other businesses, these companies are completely designed around logistics. This means they can afford the technology and manpower necessary to ship products all around the country. 

A 3PL does not need to balance their main product and fulfillment services, because their main product IS fulfillment services!

It also means they can provide better conditions for workers in logistics. They are able to pay these skilled workers more money and offer them more job security than a small business can. 

This means that even during a labor shortage, a 3PL is going to be able to keep operations running as smoothly as possible. 

Using a 3PL also takes all the hiring, firing, and employee retention off your shoulders. You get the same level of service you need to keep your business running without having to worry about too many resumes in your inbox or who’s calling in sick that day.

If you’re spending too much time, money, and stress trying to manage your logistics department, it might be time to outsource to a 3PL. During this labor crisis, focus on filling the positions most essential to your business, and get back to why you started your company in the first place.

Dependable East Coast 3PL Provider

Are you looking to outsource your warehouse management and product distribution duties? Do you need a fast, dependable company with access to a large chunk of the US population? 

Look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics! We offer comprehensive fulfillment services for everything your small business needs to succeed. Conveniently based in Frederick, Maryland, we can reach nearly half the population in just 3 days! Call now to learn more.

4 Signs It’s Time to Outsource Your E-Commerce Store Fulfillment

E-commerce has become a booming business model in recent years. With more people staying home since the pandemic, the digital marketplace has become even more integral to the way we shop. 

While increased interest in e-commerce might be great for your growing business, it can also be difficult to manage. If you’re having a hard time keeping up with the complicated demands of orders, shipping, returns, and everything in between, it might be time to consider a third party logistics provider, or a 3PL.

Here are 4 signs it’s time to outsource your e-commerce store fulfillment services:

Customers Are Unhappy

As a business owner, you know that unhappy customers are a huge red flag that some part of the operation is not running as it should. 

If you’re receiving complaints or poor reviews due to long and unpredictable shipping times, you might want to consider outsourcing fulfillment. The 3PL can more effectively handle shipping, and tracking returns as well.

Your Tech Can’t Keep up

Technology is at the core of e-commerce. Beyond the wifi it takes to receive orders, your business also needs adequate scanners, terminals, machinery, tracking software, and heavy-lifting equipment. That’s a lot of tech that needs to be purchased and maintained!

New tech is expensive, and it might feel that all your funds are being spent on something tangential to your main goals. On the other hand, a 3PL is designed around all this necessary technology, and therefore they can maintain the cost of it more sustainably. 

You’re Low on Space

You might start to notice your inventory is taking up more and more of your physical space. Maybe you have considered an off-site warehouse, but this expensive option is only a short-term solution for the growing demand in your products.

A 3PL will help save you time and money by managing and storing your inventory for you. Make the switch and see how much floorspace you were missing under pallets of boxes!

It’s Taking up Too Much of Your Time

Your time is valuable. If you’re spending most of your working hours managing (and stressing out about) fulfillment services, you’re not using your time most effectively. 

Outsourcing your fulfillment services will free you up to focus on the more important parts of running your e-commerce store. Get back to the reasons you started the business in the first place!

Dependable 3PL Provider on the East Coast

If you’re ready to make the switch to an outsourced order fulfillment service, call Cannon Hill Logistics! For more than 30 years, we have helped small businesses by providing the tools and personalized services they need to keep up with demand. Conveniently based in Frederick, Maryland, we can ship to half of the US population within two business days using ground transportation. 

Call now to learn more!

5 Ways Strong Vendor Relationships Boost Business Innovation

One of the secrets to the long-term success of any business is a company’s ability to innovate and change as conditions evolve.

And while some innovation is expected to come directly from you as a business owner and your team, all innovation doesn’t and shouldn’t happen internally. Instead, you should be able to lean on those trusted partners with whom you’ve built a strong relationship to help you look for new ways to do business.

Here are 5 key ways having a strong relationship with your vendors can boost innovation:

They Extend Your Reach

Think of your vendor relationships like a business version of the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game. You can’t possibly know everyone, but by building strong relationships with your vendors, you may be able to open yourself up to taking advantage of their other business connections.

Say you work with a trusted provider of shipping materials, but don’t currently have a vendor that can handle refrigerated shipping when you decide to change up your product offerings.

Rather than you having to go out and vet a bunch of refrigerated shipping providers on your own, your shipping material supplier may have a recommendation of someone with whom they work, and can make the introduction for you. This makes the task of finding a refrigerated shipping provider much less daunting for you.

They Can Help You in a Pinch

Emergencies arise, no matter how carefully you plan. But that doesn’t mean you’re entirely on your own to figure things out when they do.

If you find yourself in a situation where a supplier drops out or a critical piece of your production line fails, having a strong relationship with your vendors can help you get that problem solved quickly and more affordably. The more carefully you work to build strong relationships, the easier it will be to find someone to help you out when you really need it.

But don’t forget that relationships go both ways; it’s always a good idea to help your vendors out if they’re in a pinch, as long as you’re able to do so.

They Can Improve Their Existing Offerings for You

Just because you’re purchasing a specific product or service from one of your vendors doesn’t mean it can’t change if that offering doesn’t meet your needs.

If you’ve got a strong relationship with your vendors and they trust the feedback you provide, you could effect change to the products and services they offer to tailor them more to your specific requests. This, in turn, improves how you’re able to do business and can continue to drive innovation and growth within your business.

Relationships Can Remain Regardless of Business Success

People don’t often stay at a single company for their entire working career, but that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain that relationship past their employment with your vendor.

If you build a strong relationship with someone at one of your vendors and they leave for another opportunity, continue that relationship via email or social media if possible. In the future, if the person runs into an opportunity or service they think you might be interested in, they may reach out and that could pay off big for your business.

Your 3PL Partner on the East Coast

If you’re looking for a third-party logistics partner to handle some or all of your warehousing and logistics needs, Cannon Hill Logistics can help. We have more than 35 years of experience working with businesses of all shapes and sizes, and we create custom solutions to help you reach your goals. Call today for a quote!

3 Tips for Finding Warehousing Space When Demand Is High

E-commerce has boomed in the last decade, with 2020 seeing a staggering 32.4% increase year over year in sales.

Because of this growth, there’s an all-time high demand for the warehousing space necessary to store all the products awaiting online purchases. Pair that demand with sometimes sky-high pricing for warehouse space and many retailers are seeing the squeeze of needing more space but either not being able to find any or not being able to afford the space they do find.

If you’re one of the many online retailers searching for warehousing space right now, here are 3 tips to help you find the space you need even when demand is high:

Understand Your Pain Points

If you’re searching for new warehousing space, that means you’ve got at least one point of struggle with your current setup. However, your struggles don’t always simply boil down to “I need more space.”

Instead, think of all the issues you face with your business.

Are you losing business because you can’t seem to get products into your customers’ hands quickly enough? Do you not really have a handle on how much inventory you really have? Are you truly just outgrowing your current space?

If you aren’t able to really identify the pain points of your operation as a whole – not just your warehousing – you may just be slapping a bandage on your problem instead of treating the actual source of your struggle. Take the time to carefully consider your business as a whole when thinking about your need for new warehouse space and you may be surprised to find that a different solution presents itself.

Consider Flexible Warehouse Options

With demand for warehousing space increasing, it will become more and more difficult to find space that you can dedicate to just your business. As a result, it may be necessary to consider alternative, flexible solutions.

For example, utilizing a shared-space model where your business’ products are stored in the same warehouse as another business’ products may be necessary. This spreads out the costs for everyone and opens up more possibilities for properties.

When flexibility becomes a consideration, many small businesses turn to partnering with a 3PL. 

A 3PL allows your business to access a wide array of warehousing space, and that space can scale up or down depending on your individual needs. This means, if you have a busy season where you’re moving a lot of product, your 3PL can open up more warehousing space for your products, and you aren’t stuck paying for unused space during a slowdown.

Your 3PL Partner on the East Coast

If you’re looking for a flexible, responsive solution to growing your business, Cannon Hill Logistics can help. We offer a variety of services small businesses need to take things to the next level, and you choose what you want us to handle. Let us design a custom logistics solution for you – Call today for a quote!

Is My Business Too Small to Use a 3PL?

Many business owners are aware that, as their company grows, outsourcing their shipping and fulfillment operations can be a beneficial strategy. 

A third party logistics company can provide services in all areas of the supply chain, such as:

  • Transportation and distribution
  • Warehousing
  • Inventory management
  • Customs brokerage
  • Freight audit
  • Shipment tracking
  • Custom packaging
  • Customer service management

Outsourcing these services can help small business owners focus their time and energy on more important aspects of the company. Yet, some owners might be hesitant to make this commitment because they worry their business is too small to use a 3PL.

How Small Is Too Small for Outsourcing?

Unless your business is only just getting off the ground, there are few reasons a business can be too small to benefit from a 3PL provider. Even if the business is a little tight on cash, 3PL services typically work on a pick-and-choose basis, so you can find a fulfillment plan that fits your budget.

Maybe you’ve noticed that you’re spending the majority of your time working on (and stressing about) logistical operations. 

Or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed by the growing overhead costs taking chunks out of your profit. The price of staff, storage, and information systems required of an in-house fulfilment system is more than most small businesses can afford.

Maybe you’re struggling to manage customer service, and late delivery times are lowering customer satisfaction.

A 3PL company can help solve all these problems by taking on some of the business’s responsibilities. They provide multi-faceted support that allows you to better allocate your time and money to your real goals: Creating great products and growing sales. 

Though there are costs involved, 3PL providers often save you money in the long run.

So if you noticed your business has been growing too big for its in-house logistic operations, that’s a good thing! Chances are you are ready to switch to a 3PL provider and continue the success you’ve achieved so far. 

Trusted East Coast 3PL Company

Here at Cannon Hill Logistics, we have more than 30 years of experience helping small businesses reach the East Coast. Conveniently located near the Port of Baltimore and BWI Airport and backed by friendly, personalized service, we’re ready to help you with all your logistic needs. Call now!

How to Manage Reverse Logistics in an Era of Returns

A distribution network is simple enough when it goes in one direction: The manufacturer makes the product, the retailer sells the product, and the customer receives the product. Yay, everyone is happy! Right?

Well, not always. Sometimes, the customer is unhappy, and then you have a much bigger challenge on your hands.

Reverse logistics is the process of receiving returned products from the customer. It has become a major problem businesses have to deal with in what economists are calling “The Era of Returns.”

Indeed, these days customer demand leans toward a free and simple return process that many businesses are simply not equipped to handle. That being said, when the reverse logistics process is optimized, there are many benefits you can expect. This includes increased sales and customer loyalty, all while minimizing cost of operations. 

Here are a few tips on how you can better manage reverse logistics:

Rely on Modern Delivery Technology

The best part about working in logistics today is that we have advanced technology to make our lives a lot easier. 

If you haven’t already, make sure you are utilizing an advanced delivery software program. This kind of technology can provide increased visibility on the delivery and return process. It will let you know when a product is received, when it is returned, where it is during transit, and when it can be expected to return to the hub.

It can also help you optimize a delivery route which minimizes unreceived packages and the time trucks spend on the road. This is not only good for business, but good for the environment as well. Win-win!

Balance Costs

Like any other aspect of a business, reverse logistics is all about balancing costs.

Many consumers expect free returns like the major retailers provide. But for some businesses, this simply isn’t possible. 

Taking on the cost of returns can put pressure on your bottom line, especially on a product which is already costing you money.

To save money on the return process, automate any part of the process that does not require manual labor. This could include scanning returned products and designating them to the correct location of the warehouse. 

If a few small changes can make free returns an option for your business, you should definitely  go for it.

Prioritize Communication with the Customer

If free returns are not an option for your small business, there are other ways you can cater toward customer satisfaction. 

You should aim to prioritize communication with customers at all points during the sale and return process. This includes having an understandable and accessible return process, and a survey which asks them why products are being returned. 

You can also empower the customer by using technologies which give them power to control their return pick up. Convenience is the key.

Customers appreciate transparency, especially on the topic of how they will receive their money back. Being open and communicative with the customer is not only good business, but it will also help facilitate your reverse logistics. 

Learn From Returns

In reverse logistics, it is not enough to simply receive the returned packages. You should also learn from your returns, and take this data into consideration moving forward. 

This is why collecting information from customers is so important. If the product was simply not their size or style, it can easily be resold to someone else. 

However, if the product was broken or not what they expected, there may need to be some changes made on your end. For example, consider adding more pictures or a better description to your website in order to give customers a better idea of what they are buying. 

Broken or dysfunctional products can either be repaired and resold, or sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled back into parts. Products that break easily or are generally not satisfactory to customers should not be restocked.

Your Trusted East Coast 3PL Provider  

Are you struggling to keep up with the shipping and returns for your growing business? Cannon Hill Logistics can help! We are a trusted third party logistics provider with access to nearly half the US population with our economical ground shipping. Allow us to deal with storage, distribution, and reverse logistics, so you can focus on running your business. Call now to learn more!