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!

11 Common Warehousing Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

For every warehouse that exists there’s likely a method for managing the people and things inside it. But just because every warehouse is a little different doesn’t mean there aren’t some general guiding principles that should be adhered to.

To help you stay on top of your warehouse management and avoid any excessive, unnecessary supply chain costs, here are 11 common warehousing mistakes and how to avoid them:

Holding Excess Inventory

One of the most common mistakes across the industry is holding onto too much inventory “just in case.”

Whether you’re preparing for a big seasonal jump or you just haven’t yet mastered the fine balance between too much and not enough inventory, having too much inventory can lead to exorbitant extra costs that your business may not be able to absorb.

Having too much extra means you need to store more, increasing your storage needs and costs. It also leads to an increased chance of inventory loss through damage or, for perishable goods, spoilage. 

To prevent your warehouse from holding onto too much extra inventory, it’s essential to thoroughly track your inventory levels and customer demand over time, keeping your inventory levels as low as possible without completely running out of individual products.

Using Paper

Technology has made the warehouse management industry much more efficient, but there are still some warehouses clinging to the old ways of doing things.

Utilizing paper processes for everything increases the risk of mistakes and missing paperwork. It also requires more man hours to manage all the paperwork and materials, causing your costs to balloon.

By switching even portions of your operations over to digital processes, you’ll increase your efficiency and accuracy, leading to an overall decrease in costs over time.

Not Optimizing Picking Paths

Just like a library, a well-organized and optimized warehouse floor makes it much faster and easier to find the products necessary when it comes time to pick an order.

Failing to optimize picking paths by not grouping items that are commonly ordered together in the same area, or just putting the dispatch area too far away from your storage, causes your manpower costs to skyrocket.

The slower your team is able to pick items and fulfill orders, the higher your picking costs go and the more you have to charge for products to make up the increase. By carefully planning your picking routes – with help from a warehouse optimization specialist, if necessary – you can increase your profit margins and increase your team’s efficiency.

Neglecting Goods-in Processes

In many warehouses, all the focus is placed upon increasing the efficiency and decreasing the costs of the process between customer order and shipping out the door, with little to no focus on the receiving end of the warehousing process.

Not paying attention to how your warehouse receives goods and manages stock until it is placed on shelves can lead to increased damage and waste, as well as continued inefficient picking paths.

If possible, it’s best to designate specific team members for goods-in tasks, with some trained extra hands put on backup for especially busy times. This will ensure that your goods-in team knows how to properly handle the receiving process, making everything easier and more efficient for your goods-out team.

Overlapping Shipping & Receiving Areas

When space is at a premium, it can seem a luxury to designate separate areas for shipping out orders and receiving goods.

However, not separating these areas at least in some way can lead to inefficiencies and mistakes that cost money.

On an especially busy day, for example, your team may accidentally put a set of just-received products right back out onto a truck for shipping, or they may place a picked and packed order back on the shelves. Either of these mistakes can lead to an incredible amount of delay and waste, and decrease overall customer satisfaction.

At minimum, designate opposite areas of your warehouse for goods to be shipped and those just received so that there’s little chance of cross-over. However, if at all possible, consider placing shipping and receiving in completely different bays of your warehouse so there’s little chance for confusion.

Sub-par Health & Safety Management

Just because your warehouse is clean and tidy doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. You could have shelves that are unstable and overloaded, waiting to tip at any moment, or your equipment could be dangerous.

Having strict health and safety policies and procedures, as well as scheduling routine health and safety checks, is essential to keeping your workers safe and decreasing accidents.

And, when accidents and near-misses do happen, it’s important to thoroughly investigate and analyze what happened, making any changes necessary to improve safety across the warehouse.

Inattention to Housekeeping

If your warehouse has messy loading docks, aisles littered with shrink-wrap and garbage, and overfilled pallets, it’s time to pay a little more attention to housekeeping.

Too much mess and clutter is not only dangerous, it can cause increased costs as your employees have to navigate the mess to continue doing their jobs. Or, if things are really bad, you have to stop all work just to clean things up to an acceptable level.

Rather than letting the clutter accumulate day after day, try designating a portion of the end of each shift to tidying up the warehouse. This keeps the clutter at bay while allowing the following shift to get down to their duties without delay.

Failing to Plan

What works now may not work in the future, especially if your operation grows. But not taking the time and effort to plan ahead for that potential someday can really cost you a lot in the long run.

If you’re not keeping up with the latest changes to the industry, or you’re not evaluating your processes to see where you can minimize inefficiencies, your business will suffer.

Instead, take some time, at minimum, annually to think about where you’d like your warehouse and business to be in the following year, and figure out what you need to do to get yourself there. Schedule quarterly or monthly reviews of your progress toward these goals.

Taking the time to plan for the future allows you to see opportunities and jump on them as they come up, helping you avoid a sudden panic period when you need to adapt and change your business operations.

Measuring the Wrong Things

Measuring data such as average time for order picking or amount of time products spend on your shelves is great, but if you’re not getting the whole picture – from receiving through shipping – you’re not going to notice the inefficiencies and expenses that could be avoided.

Understanding just what metrics are most important to your business operations is the first step toward collecting actionable data in your warehouse.

And once you know what metrics you need to track, it’s a simple matter of putting the processes into place to collect that data and then analyze it. 

If you aren’t sure what type of information you should be collecting about your warehouse operations, consider hiring a warehouse optimization specialist or logistics consultant. Paying someone to spend some time figuring out what you should track and helping you set up your processes may be expensive at first, but it will pay off in the long run.

Ignoring Staff Training

Tight budgets and time constraints can often mean that your staff is sent out on the floor with very little training in safe practices. This can lead to injuries, inefficiencies, and added expenses.

Investing not only in a solid initial training program for all staff, but also ongoing training and development opportunities for your staff can help them become more skilled and invested in the overall success of your business. This can help your warehouse become more profitable and efficient, and decrease accidents and staff turnover.

Carving out time and budget each year to allow your staff opportunities for ongoing development and training will pay your business back tenfold, as it’s far less expensive to invest in training and development for existing employees than it is to constantly have to fill vacant positions.

Technology for Technology’s Sake

Utilizing technology is essential in the modern warehouse, but there is a point where too much technology is a negative.

Spending too much money on the newest, flashiest piece of technology a salesperson pitches to you, or investing in something that’s not going to work for your warehouse operations, means you run the risk of spending way more on that technology than you ever make back in its use.

Instead of just jumping on the latest gadget or piece of software, carefully consider whether you need everything that item claims to offer, and whether you already have something that works just as well.

Being smart about the technology you use in your warehouse is a key component to a well-run, profitable warehouse.

Warehouse Solutions on the East Coast

At Cannon Hill Logistics, we understand not all businesses are able to fully manage their own warehouse operations. That’s why we offer flexible, affordable warehousing and logistics solutions to businesses of all sizes, giving them the tools they need to become profitable. Call today for a customized quote!

4 Things Companies Get Wrong About Supply Chain Management

As a retail business, having a smooth-running supply chain is essential to your overall operations and future growth.

Without proper supply chain management, even the greatest, most helpful product in the world won’t sell well because it can’t get into the hands of the customers.

For many business owners, their struggles with supply chain management comes simply from misunderstanding the process. Many decisions are made regarding the supply chain of a company without knowing there’s a better way, and these decisions can cause major problems for the business.

Here are 4 things companies frequently get wrong about supply chain management:

Neglecting Data

Collecting, compiling, and analyzing data takes time and brain power. But, if your business fails to collect important data on your supply chain, you could easily be bleeding money unnecessarily.

Some common metrics that need to be collected and regularly analyzed include:

  • Cost per order processed
  • Cost per order handled
  • Fill rates
  • Fulfillment times
  • Cost per unit delivered
  • Average order value

Comparing these metrics can show you where your processes are inefficient or too expensive, allowing you to make important changes to positively impact your business.

Additionally, this data can be used to help you set goals for your business, and gives you a way to measure your progress toward those goals.

If, for example, you would like to increase the average order value by 10 percent, you’re only going to know what that increase should be if you’ve got data collected showing you what your average order value is now.

Failing to Future Plan

As a business owner, it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of your business.

But, to paraphrase the old axiom, if you fail to plan, you’re just planning to fail.

Not taking the time to plan ahead and anticipate potential problems, such as disruptions in your supply chain due to strikes, bad weather, or a carrier going out of business, could spell disaster for your business in the long run. Taking some time to figure out a Plan B and even a Plan C for if something goes wrong and then never needing those plans is much better than getting into the middle of a supply chain disruption and having no plan for righting the wrong.

You also need to plan your supply chain for the business you want in the future instead of simply focusing on the business you have now.

Picking, packing, and shipping all your own products may work well for you when your order volume is small, but it’s not going to serve your business for very long if you’re successful. Instead, putting into place some outsourcing or expansion measures in your supply chain while your business is still small can better prepare you for an increase in business and better protect your supply chain overall than scrambling to find solutions might.

Inefficient Processes

For many small and medium-sized businesses, supply chain management often falls on the options that are the quickest to put into place and that are least expensive.

However, these are not often the most efficient or effective processes, including:

  • Paper-based workflows
  • Putting technology implementation before actual process
  • Failing to learn from best practices
  • Maintaining processes and steps that add little or no value for customers

Rather than going with what’s easiest or cheapest, it’s important to carefully evaluate whether that process you’re putting into place will really be efficient and effective. And, as long as you’re gathering and analyzing data along the way, you’ll also be able to tell whether or not the processes you currently have in place are efficient, making it easier to swap out parts of your supply chain management process that are no longer serving you.

Messy Processes

Over time, it’s very easy for the supply chain for any business to get a little “messy.” This could come from working with too many partners, or paring the process down too far so that one little issue can cause the whole thing to fall apart.

Take a careful look at your supply chain. Do you have a lot of vendors providing overlapping services? Are you paying for something you don’t really need? 

If you find that there are too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, weed out any that you don’t need so that you’ve got an efficient, effective process across the board.

However, just be careful to not pare down your supply chain too far that, if one partner falls through, your whole chain falls apart.

It’s a careful balance between having a supply chain that’s too lean and one that’s right on target. Regularly evaluate the partners you’re working with to make sure you can strike that balance between too many and not enough for a well-running, effective supply chain.

Fulfillment Company on the East Coast

If you’re looking to outsource part or all of your supply chain management, look no further than Cannon Hill Logistics. We have more than 30 years of experience helping businesses succeed, and our convenient location on the East Coast means your products get where they need to go faster. Call today for a quote!

5 Reasons to Reduce Production Cycle Times for Business Success

Modern business relies on quick movement of goods from production to consumers. The faster you can get your products through the production cycle, the more competitive your business is overall.

If you’ve been considering shoring up your production cycle times as a way to make your business more efficient and competitive, it’s important to understand just how beneficial all that hard work can be.

Here are 5 reasons to reduce production cycle times for business success:

Innovation Opportunities

If you are consistently turning out products on a short production schedule, you will be better poised to meet new market demands. This allows your business unique opportunities to offer innovative solutions and get in on the ground floor of new products and technologies.

This ability to innovate can position you for more opportunities down the road, leading to greater success over time.

Better Positioning

For businesses whose products go to resellers or other businesses that then repackage and redistribute products, being able to quickly supply your products allows you prime positioning with your customers.

The faster you can provide your products, the better off your business looks in the eyes of your partners, and your business will be seen as more trustworthy and reliable.

Increased Productivity

When turning out higher volumes, it is essential to reduce overall production cycle times. If you don’t, you’re just running your production floor into overtime needlessly, eating into your profits.

By reducing your production cycle times, you’re making your operations far more efficient, and giving your business room to grow and produce even more in the future.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

If your company sells directly to customers, it stands to reason that the faster you’re able to get your products into their hands, the happier they will be.

By decreasing your production cycle times, you are getting products to your buyers more quickly, increasing customer satisfaction. And when you have happy customers, they’re more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family, or to make repeat purchases, helping your business grow and succeed.

Increased Profitability

The more products you can move through the production line in an 8-hour working shift, the more profit you can make.

By carefully analyzing the places in your production cycle where you can make changes and make things faster, the better off your profit margins will be. Where you could once move 10,000 units through the line in 10 hours, reducing your production cycle time allows you to move the same amount of units in 8 hours. This gives you two extra hours to move additional units through, giving you more to sell.

Experienced Fulfillment Services on the East Coast

For more than 35 years, Cannon Hill Logistics has assisted businesses across the world with all their logistics needs. We pride ourselves on developing individualized solutions to meet your unique needs, whether you need a small amount of support or want someone to run your whole logistics operation. Call today for a quote!

7 Tips for Maintaining a Great Relationship with Your 3PL

Choosing to partner with a third-party logistics (3PL) company is a big step in your business. You’re putting a lot of trust in someone else’s hands, hoping that they can help get your products to where they need to be on time.

Part of getting the best service – and the most for your money – from your 3PL, is to foster a great relationship with your chosen provider.

Here are 7 tips to help you build and maintain a strong relationship with your 3PL:

Understand Your Reasons

The first step toward getting your relationship off on the right foot is to fully understand why you want the 3PL’s assistance.

If you’re just jumping into outsourcing because someone told you you should, or you think it’s the right thing to do, then you aren’t going to get the maximum benefit out of your 3PL relationship.

Instead, really analyze why you’ve turned to a 3PL for help. 

Are you experiencing growing pains and shipping products out on time is becoming impossible? Do you struggle with maintaining staffing levels, meaning it seems you’re always hiring people for your warehouse? Is space where you’re located too expensive to support you renting additional warehousing space as you grow?

Once you’re clear on your reasons for seeking the help of a 3PL, you can better identify what you need out of that relationship, and how you can mark the success of your outsourcing venture.

Set Clear Mutual Expectations

A working relationship is only successful if you set clear expectations up front, and they’re agreed upon by both parties.

If you need a 3PL that responds quickly to changes in your shipping needs, allowing you to call them and say you need to increase their capacity right away, let the 3PL know that up front. This gives them an idea of what you’re expecting as a customer so they can respond properly. And, if they will be unable to meet this requirement, they can let you know and you can either come to a mutually agreeable compromise or you can move on and find a different 3PL partner.

When setting these expectations, always remember that you’re not the 3PL’s only customer. Your needs may outpace their ability to provide for you, and you have to be willing to either adjust your expectations or find another solution.

Get a Baseline

It’s impossible to see performance improvement if you don’t know where you started.

If you’re turning to the 3PL for improved shipping and returns response time, for example, you need to first know how long it takes you to process those requests without their help. Whatever you’re looking for the 3PL to do for your business, measure it and keep track of that baseline.

This baseline will be something you’ll be frequently comparing similar measurements to as you and the 3PL work together to evaluate their performance on your account.

Keep Your 3PL Partner Informed

Routine communication with your 3PL is essential to a solid relationship, especially because your 3PL is essentially acting on your business’s behalf.

You can’t make a big decision such as changing packaging or bringing in a new product line without letting your 3PL know of the change so they can shift their services accordingly. And always let them know when inventory is expected to arrive. 3PL’s dislike surprises!

If you’re working to shift your business and anticipate your outsourcing needs will change, even in minor ways, it’s best to loop your 3PL in early so they can be part of the conversation. Your 3PL partner may even have ideas for how to implement your planned changes more smoothly and at less cost.

Measure Performance

You’re turning to a 3PL to improve the way your business operates in some way. Whether you’re looking to save yourself time, save money, or just improve overall responsiveness, you need to be able to measure that and track improvement.

Work with your 3PL to establish how data will be collected and relayed to you, and how often you will receive this data. Some 3PLs may report this information monthly, others may give it to you quarterly.

When you have the data in hand, compare it to your baseline numbers and any other prior benchmarks you may have. Sit down with your contact at your 3PL and discuss the numbers, working together to strategize how you can continue to improve them or, if the numbers don’t show an expected amount of improvement, work through what went wrong.

Involve Your 3PL in Long-Term Planning

Your 3PL is a partner in your business’s long-term growth and success. You want to ensure that they will be able to meet your needs into the future, so involve them in your long-term planning.

If, for example, you eventually want to expand into new markets or offer new product lines, your 3PL should be part of the planning of these new ventures so they can work out how best to support you. 

In addition to keeping them informed on changes you’re going to make that impact your service from your 3PL, they can provide feedback and guidance based on their experience working with other companies. This will help you avoid many frustrating setbacks and missteps, potentially giving you greater success overall.

Find Shared Company Values

As a business owner, you have to work with a wide variety of vendors and providers, all with their own unique company cultures. However, when it comes to your 3PL provider, you want to find someone whose company culture aligns as closely with yours as possible.

You will be working very closely with your 3PL and need to trust that they will operate in ways that have the best interests of your business at the forefront. This trust can be difficult to build if you partner with someone whose philosophy is in stark contrast to yours.

If, for example, you are an eco-conscious company, it will be difficult to build a great working relationship with a company that doesn’t at least practice some form of sustainability. The same goes for working with a company that still uses paper forms and files if you’re very technology-based.

You want to do your best to find a company with whom you share some important values, which makes aligning your goals and working styles much easier.

Experienced Third-Party Logistics Company on the East Coast

For more than 35 years, Cannon Hill Logistics has provided flexible, high-quality third-party logistics services to companies across the globe. Whether you’re looking for a little help to ease some growing pains or want someone to handle all your logistics needs, our team has a solution for you. Call today for a quote!