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!

4 Tips for More Sustainable Logistics Operations

As sustainability becomes more important to consumers, industries of all sorts are challenged to rethink their day-to-day operations. The logistics sector is no exception. 

Driving goods across the country, all day, everyday, can be particularly taxing on the environment. Especially with the pressure to deliver goods faster than ever. 

The good news is there are alternative options and simple measures you can take to make your logistic operations more sustainable. The key is to find a middle ground between maximizing consumer expectations and minimizing environmental impact.

Read on to discover 4 tips for a more sustainable logistics operation.

Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle

The three R’s are known almost religiously in environmental communities. This is for good reason. Reducing, reusing, and recycling are great principles, not just for living life, but also for operating a business. 

Step one is to reduce the amount of materials wasted throughout the operation. An environmental audit can help you find areas of excessive waste that need to be minimized. 

Next is to reuse any salvageable materials from one delivery to the next. Things such as wooden pallets, plastic bags, or packaging bubbles are great materials to use again and again.

Finally, find areas of the operation where waste can be recycled. Again, look toward your plastic output. You can also consider using reusable packaging and materials that the consumer can recycle after delivery.

Use On-the-Road Data

One of the best ways to help the environment is to make delivery trips as optimized as possible. For example, if you’re sending three packages to the same location, you’ll want all these packages shipped out on the same truck. 

Seems obvious enough, but there is more data that can be harvested in order to optimize delivery services. Some apps allow consumers to designate when they will be home to receive the package, for example. This minimizes wasted trips to empty houses.

Finding the data of where your packages are being delivered and how effectively they are being received can minimize the carbon footprint of your logistics operation. 

Pop-up Warehouses

How can you deliver things all over the country, on time, while still minimizing the carbon impact of the delivery trucks? The answer is simple: utilize pop-up warehouses.

Pop-up warehouses are temporary storage houses for products. They are helpful for times when orders are unusually high, such as during the holidays.

By investing in pop-up warehouses at strategic times of the year, as well as in strategic places in the country, you can be more efficient in your delivery services.

Alternative Vehicles & Fuels

Outdated, gas-guzzling vehicles are one of the leading causes of pollution. If you’re looking for a more environmentally friendly logistics plan, consider updating your vehicles and fueling options.

It may be a major expense upfront, but newer vehicles will save you more money over time because they are more efficient on gas.

In addition, consider biofuels over gasoline, and gasoline over diesel fuel. Gas engines aren’t stellar for the environment, but compared to diesel engines, they are much greener.

Green 3PL Company on the East Coast

Another way to have greener logistics operations is to outsource it altogether. Here at Cannon Hill Logistics, we care about the environment just as much as we care about your business. Contact us for a quote!

How to Prepare Your Business for Peak Shipping Season

As difficult as it is to predict trends in consumers, there is a stable pattern of yearly demand to be recognized and prepared for. As the summer comes to an end, many business owners are preparing themselves for peak shipping season.

Peak shipping season occurs from mid-August until October. During this time, retailers experience increased demand as they prepare for the back-to-school season and the holidays. They will also begin to switch out their summer inventory and prepare for the change in seasons.

During this time, freight rates rise and their capacity plummets. This can cause significant delays for retailers and those responsible for supply chains. 

In the wake of the pandemic, we can expect to see this trend to be even more severe than typical years. The lack of ships, containers, and workers will make delays and shortages more common.

The good news, however, is that you can prepare in advance and minimize the damage caused by the pandemic. Here are a few tips to prepare for peak shipping season this year:

Budget Realistically

Understand that the costs of shipping, especially overseas, is about to increase dramatically. Calculate these inflated rates into your budget plan so you’re not blindsided by a huge bill during the busiest time of the year.

In fact, now is the best time to shop around for competitive freight rates, before they get too booked. Being proactive on your shipment plans can help you receive timely service at a reasonable price. 

Factor in Delays

When conveying your expected delivery dates to potential clients and customers, be sure to factor in all potential delays. Offering a flexible “delivered by” time can prevent angry and impatient clients from calling you up.

Be sure to also consider transit time, as the pandemic has also caused a shortage in truck drivers. 

Most delays on the road are beyond your control, but you should aim to be as efficient as possible in the sectors of your business that you can control. This includes having an organized and informed warehouse and a speedlined pick-up system.

Consider Alternative Options

During the peak of the shipping season, you might have to consider alternative delivery options. For example, air freight or another shipping method may be cheaper and more easily available.

Think outside of the box to find innovative solutions to the issues that may arise. Consolidating freights or shifting modes could be your best option for satisfied customers.

Partner With a 3PL

Chances are, you have more experience with the products you provide and day-to-day management of your business, and less experience with the logistics of it. This is where a third-party logistics (3PL) provider can help.

These companies help with every step of the supply chain process. They have the expertise needed to manage a complicated shipping season, even in this chaotic year. 

Your East Coast 3PL Provider

This peak shipping season, trust Cannon Hill Logistics to help with all your distribution needs. We have over 35 years of experience helping small businesses thrive. Our convenient East Coast location means we can reach half the US population within just 3 days! Call today to receive a quote.

Ways The 3PL Relationship Can Break Down — and How to Fix It

3PL Company Trucking

For any small business, outsourcing labor can be hugely beneficial. 

Hiring a 3PL, or third party logistic company, can make the difficult work of shipping and returns much simpler, helping you to focus on the big picture of the company. 

However, this dynamic can also be daunting for any business owners who are unfamiliar with it. The relationship between you and the 3PL is vital to the success of your business. But what happens when this relationship gets tense, disorganized, or otherwise ineffective?

Having an unproductive relationship with your 3PL provider can cause damage to your business. Here are a few reasons this relationship can break down, and tips to improve it.

Lack of Communication

A lack of communication is the most common reason for any relationship to turn sour. This is especially true in a business setting, which requires constant and effective communication in order to maintain smooth operations. 

From the start of this relationship, it’s important to establish a foundation of strong communication. Spell out your expectations and ask plenty of questions. 

Some important areas to nail down include:

  • What services are provided by the 3PL
  • Success metrics and goals – Set specific outcomes the 3PL can meet
  • Escalation procedures in the case of mistakes
  • How communication will be conducted in the future

The transfer of data is also extremely important. 

For example, the business owner should always accurately disclose the weight, size, and number of products being distributed and convey all data regarding average inbound and outbound shipments. The 3PL should provide estimates of receiving and outbound order turnaround times to set realistic expectations.

As the operation continues, be faithful to the expectations laid out by the first meeting. Keeping all lines of communication open and efficient will establish a successful relationship with your 3PL provider.

Unfit Relationship Manager 

A relationship manager is vital for the success of this relationship. 

Having a single point of contact can make communication faster and more efficient. This person is responsible for measuring the success of the 3PL, making decisions, and finding solutions to potential problems. 

When a business transitions from in-house warehouse operations to using a 3PL, it is common for the previous warehouse manager to take on the role of relationship manager.

While this makes sense from a business perspective, it is worth noting that these two jobs have very different responsibilities. The skill sets required of a relationship manager include communication, negotiation, and collaboration.

This is not to say that a warehouse manager cannot be an effective relationship manager. 

In fact, their operational knowledge will benefit them significantly in this role. This is just to say that the transition for this person will be significant, and additional training may be necessary. 

Misunderstanding of Operations

Another common reason the 3PL relationship can break down is due to simple misunderstanding. Communication, as discussed above, is vital to solving this issue. 

For example, if fees or the refusal of an expected service pops up randomly, this is sure to cause tension between the business and the distribution service. 

It’s important for the 3PL to fully understand the scope of the business they are serving, and vice versa. This is why it is so important to do the necessary research and discussion before the contract is signed and the relationship is forged. 

Get a good feel of the company culture and its goals, and see if they align with your own business. Ask about the organizational structure of the distribution network. Find their strengths and weaknesses, and disclose your own. This will help you decide if the 3PL is right for your business, or if it is better to continue to search. 

Putting all the business information out on the table before an agreement is made can save you a world of stress in the future. 

Experienced 3PL Company on the East Coast

Are you looking for a skilled and conveniently located 3PL company to handle all your distribution needs? Look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics! We provide a variety of services to help your company grow and thrive. We have been helping businesses near Frederick, Maryland, get products to half the US population within 3 days. Contact us today for more information!  

3 Tips for Designing Your Distribution Network

Man working on computer

As the world slowly recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are having to adjust to the new normal. 

Online orders are higher than ever, and experts predict this trend to continue. Other unpredictable factors, such as natural disasters and political unrest, have forced business owners to rethink their distribution strategies. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your distribution network: 

Optimizing Profits Requires a Delicate Balance

The goal of any distribution network is to optimize profits. To achieve this, you need to find the delicate balance between minimizing costs and maximizing customer service. 

Customers expect their products to be delivered swiftly and safely. They also expect variety and availability in their options, and a process to return items they are unhappy with. These demands may require you to increase the amount of distribution facilities. Happy customers, after all, make for increased revenue. 

On the other hand, too many facilities dramatically increases the cost of labor, inventory, transfer freight, and building upkeep. In order to optimize profits, a careful balance between the multiple goals of the business must be met. 

Visualizing all these different factors can be difficult, if not impossible, which brings us to the next tip…

Use the Right Tools

It is imperative that you use the right software in order to conceptualize all the numbers that make up a distribution network. In addition to digital spreadsheets, you might also want to consider:

  • Mapping software
  • Mileage calculators
  • Supply chain simulation software

Using these programs, you should come up with a few different models. First, your baseline model, also known as the “do nothing” scenario. This is your visualization of the current distribution model, which can be used to highlight the areas needing the most change. 

Other models should include all the different scenarios that may possibly enhance your distribution network. This will help you discover the optimal balance between the needs of your customers and the profits of the business. 

Consider Multiple Perspectives

Designing a distribution network is hardly a one-person job. With all the factors that go into effective sales strategies, it’s a good idea to include all areas of management in your analysis. 

In addition to the owner or head of the company, you should seek perspectives from stockholders and managers in departments such as sourcing, product development, merchandising, and sales. Making sure every facet in the company is optimized and benefits from the distribution design is crucial for a successful business. 

This will also help to spot issues in the network that may go unnoticed in a traditional business model, such as government incentives and availability of labor in the area of the proposed distribution site.

It will also encourage you to think about the future goals of the company and future trends in the industry. Your distribution plan may work for the state of the world and business right now, but what about in a few years down the line? 

Considering room for growth now can save you a lot of time and hassle when the potential for expansion becomes a reality. 

East Coast Fulfillment Company

If you’re looking for a third-party logistics (3PL) company for your expanding business, look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics! We can help with all your warehousing, storage, and shipping needs so you can focus on the tasks more important to you. Conveniently located and backed by years of experience, we are the perfect choice for your small business. Call us today for a quote!

4 Strategies to Make Your Supply Chain More Resilient

A whole host of factors in recent years have caused many businesses to see serious disruptions to their supply chains. The COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit, and increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters have made it a nightmare for some companies to get their raw materials and products from one place to another.

To help weather these storms, many companies are reevaluating the resiliency of their supply chains.

A resilient supply chain is one that is able to rapidly respond to challenges, keeping the flow of products and materials as uninterrupted as possible even in the face of difficulties.

If you’re seeking to make your business’ supply chain more resilient, here are 4 strategies you can employ:

Inventory & Capacity Buffers

The best and easiest way to insulate your business’ production chain from a slowdown in the receipt of raw materials or products is to maintain a buffer in either – or both – your inventory or your production capacity.

This could mean keeping additional stock of key products or materials on hand at all times, or maintaining additional production facilities that can be turned on or off at will.

The main drawback to this method is that it’s expensive. Keeping an inventory buffer requires the pre-purchase of all the additional items, as well as the space to safely and properly store them. And maintaining a buffer in capacity means you must have at least additional machinery and staff, if not an entire additional production facility, at the ready for when you need it.

Diversify Your Network

Where you sourced your materials and products from a few years ago may not be the most prudent choice right now. 

Trade embargoes, weather conditions, or simple rising costs can all greatly impact the way your supply chain operates and whether or not you’re able to respond quickly to conditions that require you to change things up.

By carefully examining where you source your materials and products, you can discover whether there is another option that is going to be less disruptive to your supply chain in the long term. This may require you to source your items from multiple producers rather than one. Rather than waving off the option of multiple sources as too expensive or logistically complicated, you may come to find that diversifying your network means fewer disruptions and lower costs.

Plan Ahead

Part of what causes many companies to struggle when their supply chain experiences disruptions is not having a plan for when these conditions arise.

By taking the time to sit down and lay out what steps they’ll take in the event that part of their supply chain is disrupted, many companies are already light years ahead of their competitors in terms of preparedness. 

Relying on memory or someone to step up and take the reins in a crisis is a mistake; having a detailed, written plan for disruptions to the supply chain is essential to keeping things rolling. By writing it down, it’s available for anyone to read and use and it can be put into action regardless of who’s on the clock.

Form a Crisis Management Team

As part of your crisis management plans, it’s essential to form a crisis management team.

In this portion of your plan, you lay out who does what in the event of an emergency. Each person should fully understand and be trained in their role, and able to step in at a moment’s notice to respond in a crisis.

Having a team of people with clearly defined roles – and who know what they’re supposed to do in an emergency – is key to being able to quickly respond. Your crisis management plan should be available to anyone in your organization if necessary, but the people on your crisis management team should be able to jump in and begin acting right away. 

A quick response can be crucial in saving time and money when something goes awry, protecting your business against further loss.

Your 3PL Partner on the East Coast

For more than three decades, Cannon Hill Logistics has provided individualized third-party logistics services to clients of all kinds. Whether you need someone to manage a small portion of your operations, or you want to be able to outsource everything, we’ve got the skill and knowledge necessary to become a partner in your success. Call today for a quote!

5 Reasons to Outsource Your Warehouse Kitting

The process of picking, packaging, and listing groups of items under one product number is called kitting. It’s a common practice in online retail sales, as offering bundles of the same or related items can help customers feel as if they’re getting a deal, enticing them to buy more.

But handling the kitting process yourself can be time-consuming and frustrating, leading you to consider outsourcing your kitting process to a third-party logistics company.

Here are 5 reasons to consider outsourcing your kitting, making your business stronger and more efficient:

Lower Labor Costs

It takes time and training for employees to be proficient at properly kitting your products. This can cause your labor costs to skyrocket, virtually eliminating any benefits you get for selling products grouped together.

By outsourcing to a 3PL, someone else handles the hiring, training, and overall management of the employees doing the kitting.

You don’t have to worry about finding extra people to cover your kitting during your busy season, or making sure you have trained employees ready to take over in the event that someone calls in sick. Everything is left up to the 3PL, and all you have to worry about is getting your fully kitted products back and ready for sale.

Space Savings

Kitting products requires more space than you’d need if you didn’t repackage your products.

Individual products must be picked off the shelves and, depending on the situation, unpackaged to be grouped into bundles. This could require you to have a handful of different products off the shelves awaiting kitting at any given time, meaning you need a lot of extra floor or table space.

Then, once the bundles are made, you need to have the space to store the fully kitted packages prior to their sale.

When you outsource, you don’t have to worry about finding space in your facility for all this to happen. Someone else has to manage the logistics of kitting your products, keeping your space requirements much lower than if you handled kitting on your own.

Scalability

Sometimes, your business needs a lot of kitting help. At other times, you don’t need much.

If you handle your own kitting all the time, you are responsible for ensuring that you’ve got the staff to take care of the busy times, while making sure you’re not keeping too many people on the schedule when things are slower. And, if you have an unexpected uptick in demand for your kitted products, that can mean a major scramble to find and train enough people to keep up with demand.

Partnering with a 3PL, on the other hand, gives you all the flexibility you need to respond to ebbing and flowing demand without any of the stress.

Your 3PL dials up your service level to meet increased demand, and can easily pull that service back as your demand dips. This allows you to continue to provide the same level of service regardless of demand, making your customers happier in the process.

Better Customer Service

Your customers want the right product, on time, every time. As a small operation handling everything yourself, this can be difficult as you spread yourself and your staff very thin.

Whether this means you send orders out that are full of mistakes or you let your responsiveness to customer requests slide in order to accurately fulfill orders, an inability to provide a solid level of customer service at any time can cause you to lose business from current customers and may dissuade potential customers from purchasing.

By outsourcing, you get to provide all those kitted products to your customers on time without causing your responsiveness to customer requests and demands to slide.

This allows you to maintain a higher level of customer service, leading to more repeat and new customers and helping your business grow.

Increased Focus

No matter how hard you try, you can’t possibly offer a high level of competency for every single task that comes with your business.

You may be great at developing and marketing products, and responding to customer requests, but your ability to manage picking, packing, and shipping orders isn’t so great. That’s OK! No one is great at everything, and part of owning a business is realizing where you need to ask for help so you can give your customers the experience they deserve.

Working with a 3PL for those tasks you may not be so great at, such as kitting, allows your time and attention to be freed up to focus on the things you are great at. 

In the long run, this ability to focus on your core competencies and to, in turn, partner with people who are good at the things you’re bad at, will strengthen your business and help it grow faster.

Skilled Kitting Services on the East Coast

If you offer products that need to be picked, packaged, and listed under a single product code, don’t spend your time dealing with this task! At Cannon Hill Logistics, our team is experienced at kitting from end to end, offering you experienced, detail-oriented services that help your business reach its potential. Call today for an individualized quote so we can meet your business’ needs!