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How Can 3PL Logistics Services Add Value and Drive Customer Purchases?

Consumer behaviour is an interesting field of study, and one that is in a constant state of evolution. Thanks to the introduction of new technologies, new retail and e-commerce models, and global social communications, the way we shop and evaluate our options as consumers is vastly different than it was even a few years ago.

Traditional marketing thinking often focuses on the benefits and advantages of the product itself, taking in to consideration factors like price, features, functions, and style. Indeed, while these are all extremely important elements, modern consumers are looking at the entire experience from end to end in-depth and with greater scrutiny than ever before. This is especially true in commodity-based items like consumer electronics, where 10 other retailers all carry the same models.

This means that all of the other elements that impact their shopping experience need to be carefully evaluated and optimized, and this includes your supply chain and logistics operations. When you take a step back and look at the whole customer experience that your company offers, you’ll realize just how critical your supply chain is, and how drastically it can influence the experience your customers have.

Let’s explore some of the key factors that are tied directly to your supply chain and logistics processes, and how you can leverage them as added value to your customers.

Retail & E-commerce Experience

The first point of direct contact that your customers have with your business is generally either your website or a retail location, and this is where set the tone for their experience. As your customer browses your retail showroom or navigates the various sections of your website, inventory management plays a critical role in determining if they can find what they’re looking for – if it’s available in their local store, and if they can order online and pickup in store, a popular option these days.

Inventory needs to be well-organized, appropriately stocked, and accessible to the customers. If your supply chain falls behind in maintaining stock volumes or hits delays in shipment times, the impact on your customer experience is significant. However, by enabling transparency in stock volumes and providing an easy way to navigate through all the available options, you are able to manage expectations and provide alternatives in the event that a particular item may not be immediately available.

In addition, the retail experience can be enhanced with e-commerce tools. Allowing customers to place their order for the desired products, having it either shipped directly to their home or notifying them when the products come in to stock at their preferred retail location, provides a lot of added value and convenience. 3PL logistics services can help reduce friction in these areas by integrating retail and e-commerce systems that simplify the customer shopping experience.

Picking, Packing, and Shipping

The speed of order fulfilment is also an important element of the customer experience. Once they’ve placed their order with you, how fast will it get picked, packed, and shipped out the door? By equipping your supply chain with efficient methods and tools like automation, you can reduce the time between order placement and delivery.

Leveraging 3PL services will help you refine your warehousing and distribution operations by increasing efficiency of fulfilment, as well as greater accuracy and consistency in picking and packing processes. Furthermore, 3PL logistics can improve your packaging to help prevent damage during shipping and make for a more pleasant customer experience during the unboxing and setup steps once they receive their items.

Flexible and on-demand transportation resources from 3PL logistics providers allow your company to reduce delivery times, as well as serve distant or remote markets more effectively. This means that customers that were previously inaccessible to you due to geographic limitations are now able to place their orders and receive them quickly.

Transparency & Communication

Another potential point of friction in the customer experience is the ability for customers to obtain information on the status of their orders and the availability of products. Enhanced e-commerce tools available from 3PL service providers allow up-to-date inventory volumes to be displayed directly on your product pages on your website and allow customers to track their orders in real-time directly from their account.

Communication of status updates can also be automated using 3PL services. This way your customers can be automatically notified regarding a wide range of topics that can help add value to their experience. They can receive stock level notifications, order updates, shipping times, returns processing details, and more. By providing greater transparency about the information that matters to customers, 3PL services help to further enhance their overall experience.

Reverse Logistics

Customers are also placing a great deal of importance on the returns policy and processes that a company offers in the event that there is some type of mistake with their order. While this can occur for a variety of reasons, such as ordering the wrong size or colour, or perhaps due to a missing part or component, the ability for the customer to have the issue corrected is of critical importance.

You can offer a simpler and easier returns experience for your customers by utilizing 3PL services to handle your reverse logistics. Tools can be implemented that allow your customers to easily submit returns requests online and get the information they need. Alternatively, phone systems and support can be put in place that provides personal service directly to customers and assists them with their needs.

Whatever the best method for managing returns and reverse logistics tasks will be for your customers, the most important aspect is to make sure that the process is smooth and easy from their perspective. By making it simple for customers to have their problems corrected, you can provide a lot of value and help improve customer retention and satisfaction.

Add Value in Everything You Do

If you’re sensing a theme throughout this article, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that providing value in the customer experience wherever you can is the ultimate goal, and your logistics and supply chain processes are no exception. Your business thrives when you offer the best combination of value and experience to your customers, and so it’s important to look for every opportunity you can in order to achieve that goal.

For companies looking to gain a competitive advantage through value-added 3PL logistics services, you can get started by contacting the team here at SCI today.

We are ready to help your business provide a better consumer experience, improve customer acquisition, and boost loyalty with efficient and effective logistics solutions.  Contact us today and get the conversation started.

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Mobile Tech Causing Major Shifts in Logistics Operations Around the World

Mobile technology has been causing major shifts in logistics operations around the world due to the widespread adoption of mobile technologies across the globe.  The effects have been dramatic in both our daily lives and in the world of business. With every individual now constantly connected and accessible 24/7, the impacts of mobile technology have been profound in how companies operate and engage with their customers.

Here, we will explore some of the many ways that the proliferation of mobile devices has affected the logistics industry. Mobile tech touches virtually all aspects of logistics, including warehousing and inventory management, transportation, fulfilment, customer service, and the retail experience, both in-store and online. These trends are critical for businesses to understand in order to maintain their competitive edge in rapidly evolving markets.

The affordability of mobile technology and apps that integrate and connect directly to business systems has drastically improved. What used to be a massive capital investment is now simply the cost of doing business. In addition, since mobile technology can now do more than ever before, more and more companies are realizing the value that it can bring in shorter payback times through improved consistency, accuracy, time savings and customer satisfaction, amongst other factors.

Improved Data Flow & Accuracy

Mobile devices have replaced traditional manual methods of tracking just about everything that a business would want to track. Virtually anything that used to be jotted down on paper or kept in files or on clipboards is now entered directly in to the business’ software systems with mobile apps.

In many cases, the possibility for human error has been all but eliminated with the implementation of mobile systems that integrate with existing bar code and scanning technology, making data entry of shipment or product information automatic, saving time and ensuring accuracy throughout the entire supply chain.

Precise Location Tracking

Virtually every modern mobile device includes an integrated GPS, which means the precise location of each and every truck and shipment can be accurately tracked at any moment. This level of accuracy and transparency is invaluable to maintaining an efficient supply chain. Transportation delays can be easily avoided, customer expectations can be better managed, and contingency plans can be developed more effectively.

Inventory Management & Order Fulfilment

With mobile technology accessible to every member of your warehousing and fulfilment teams, you can realize many benefits in inventory management and order processing operations. Apps can be used to track quantity and location of parts and products to make order picking and packing faster and more accurate.

In addition, stock levels can be continually updated in real time to ensure that replenishment is always done at the best time to help optimize inventory and purchasing processes. With mobile devices and apps always connected to business information systems, these types of data will flow seamlessly directly to the people that need it most.

Accessibility of Transportation Resources

One of the more intriguing ways that mobile technology has disrupted the world of logistics is the way it enables small business and even individuals to provide valuable services to large corporations in terms of local coverage, LTL shipments, and enhanced last-mile delivery.

Companies such as Amazon and Uber are two of the driving forces in this area of mobile-enhanced logistics, recruiting a diverse range of transportation resources and independent drivers to offer nimble and rapid movement of products in a wide array of markets across the globe.

Customer Service & Retail Experience

While the majority of the effects we’ve discussed so far relate primarily to the business-to-business side of logistics, it’s important to recognize how these technologies have impacted the consumer retail experience, both in-store and online.

Mobile-optimized e-commerce sites are processing more and more transactions each and every day. These sites offer a “shop anywhere, anytime” experience and the ability to compare prices between online and physical retail stores instantly. In many cases, customers will browse a physical retail location to evaluate or compare products, and then conduct their purchase directly from their mobile device based on pricing, availability, and convenience.

Mobile devices in the hands of retail store employees can be equally powerful, enabling them to check inventory levels at multiple locations instantaneously, compare products and pricing from competitors, and even complete the purchase for customers from anywhere in the store. These added capabilities help deliver a smoother customer experience and less time spent in lines or waiting for service. Retail and customer service employees become more informed and better equipped to handle a wider range of tasks.

Moving Forward with Mobile Technology

The benefits that mobile technology can bring to the logistics operations of a business are clear, as many companies have already realized. Through mobile technology, your business can obtain greater visibility in to the performance of your supply chain and identify opportunities to gain efficiencies and reduce costs.

You’ll have up-to-date insight on all aspects of inventory management, stock levels, parts supply, and movement of product throughout your warehousing and transportation systems. This type of accurate data helps to enable smarter decisions in terms of resource allocation and investment for future growth.

Mobile technology helps improve the customer experience, making their interactions with your business smoother and more seamless, with fewer obstacles to overcome. As studies have shown time and time again, the easier a company is to do business with, the more satisfied customers will be with their experience and the more likely they are to come back and repeat.

If your company has not yet deployed mobile technology in your logistics and supply chain operations, the time for action is now. Through mobile-enhanced warehousing and transportation, your business can gain a substantial competitive advantage that will help you achieve your growth objectives, reduce costs, and deliver a better customer experience.

To learn more about how mobile technology can be integrated in to your supply chain, contact the team at SCI today. 

Our logistics professionals will be glad to answer any of your questions and help you leverage mobile technology in your logistics operations. If you’re not familiar with who SCI is, learn more about who we are in this short video.

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How Logistics Companies Are Keeping Pace with Tech Trends

We tend to take technological advancements for granted a lot of the time. We all enjoy the benefits that technology provides to our businesses in terms of information distribution, analytics capabilities, communications, and operational efficiencies. However, are we truly adept at keeping pace with the advancement of technology in all areas of our business, or do we find ourselves being reactive, instead of proactive when it comes to technology adoption? The answer to this question will be different for every company, as we all have a unique set of circumstances that influence the adoption of technology into our organizations, including the supply chain.

Fortunately, there are strategies that can be employed to help any company improve their ability to keep pace with emerging technologies and set the stage for future growth and success. These strategies are tied closely to the culture of a company, and their effectiveness depends greatly on the ability for a company and its leadership to adapt and adjust to a rapidly changing business environment.

It’s essential for all companies to recognize the pivotal role that technology plays in their success, and that adopting these approaches as part of their supply chain operations can play a large role in helping any company achieve a stronger position in their markets now. and in the future.

Get Your Executives Immersed in Technology

Corporate culture starts with its leadership, so if you’re going to have a company that is dedicated to staying at the front of the pack in terms of technology adoption and integration, you’d better have a leadership team that reflects that position. This can be more challenging than most companies tend to assume. Established leadership can be rigid and dedicated to ‘staying the course’ with strategies that are familiar and have worked in the past. While this is often a sound strategy when it comes to many aspects of business, it can hinder the ability to adapt to technological advancements, which can obviously impact growth.

Leadership should be constantly informed of tech trends and be leading any important new technology adoption efforts. Recognizing the opportunities that technology can present to an organization and its supply chain operations should be a top priority for executives in all areas of the business, from the President and CEO, through to all the VPs and Directors. Having multiple perspectives on the potential impact of technology on the business will ensure that opportunities are explored more deeply, and that all the benefits that may exist are brought to light. This allows you to get a more complete understanding of the impact that new technology can have on your business and whether it’s something your team wants to pursue.

Discussions about technology should be commonplace among the leadership teams in all environments, from the boardroom, to industry conferences, to informal conversations with colleagues. It’s important to foster an open dialogue within the organization about the importance of technology and cultivate a positive view of what it can mean for the future of the business.

Attract and Retain Talent that can Lead and Innovate

Along the same lines of having leadership invested in the adoption of technology, it’s critical for companies to have a serious emphasis on attracting and retaining talent within the company that is comfortable with utilizing innovative technology in your supply chain. These individuals, who exist at all seniority levels of the business, are essential to having company-wide buy-in for new technologies and processes that improve the ability for the business to grow and succeed. Through an empowered and engaged team, companies will notice an increased frequency of new ideas and innovative thinking coming from areas and levels of the business that may be unexpected.

This cultivation of a collaborative environment at all levels of the organization, as well as with team members in your distribution facilities, in the field or in remote locations, helps foster improved employee satisfaction and talent retention. This corporate culture of engagement, appreciation, and empowerment is a huge factor in attracting top talent that is searching for a dynamic and evolving team to be part of.

Invest in Cutting Edge Digital Security

Another critical element of adopting advanced technologies is to ensure that you also invest in the necessary security measures that are required to safeguard your team members, your company data, as well as private information of customers and business partners. Cyber security has never been more important, and the dangers of breaches and loss of data have never been more severe. As more and more processes continue to shift to digital methods, and the volume of data grows exponentially, it will be essential that your company deploys an effective set of security measures to provide safety and assurance that data will be properly protected.

One important element of digital security is proper training within the organization. Even the most secure systems and technologies in the world can be compromised by improperly trained individuals. Investing in thorough training for your team will help make sure that the investment in digital security measures is backed up and reinforced with knowledgeable people who know what to do, and how to do it properly.

Conclusion

Keeping pace with tech trends isn’t something that can be ignored in your supply chain. Time and time again, it’s been proven that the most innovative and successful companies are those that invest in the right technology at the right time and capitalize on its benefits faster and more thoroughly than their competitors. This kind of success is achievable by creating strategies that include savvy and engaged leadership, a corporate culture of fostering and retaining talent, and investing in top-tier technology and security solutions.

A large portion of the benefits that can be realized through technological investment and innovation often comes from improved efficiencies and effectiveness of logistics operations.

SCI can assist with planning & strategies, as well as the implementation of advanced logistics technologies in the areas of transportation, order fulfillment, warehousing & distribution, inventory management, reverse logistics, regulatory compliance and much more.

To learn how SCI can help your company select and deploy the best in advanced logistics technology designed to grow your business, contact our team of logistics experts today.

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The Right Time to Outsource to a 3PL

When do Companies Start Thinking About Outsourcing?

As all companies grow, they must continue to evolve their business processes in order to stay successful. For many, this means focusing on manufacturing efficiency, for others it means improving the customer experience, and others may need to invest heavily in product development. Each company faces a unique set of challenges that are determined by many factors:

  • Company size
  • Market conditions
  • Technology
  • Customer needs.  

Because of this, each company will also reach different goals and achieve different benefits through outsourcing their supply chain or distribution services to a 3PL.

Understanding how your company stands to benefit from outsourcing, as well as identifying which specific tasks or functions make the most sense to outsource, will determine whether now is the right time or not.

Let’s now take a quick look at the different benefits that companies can achieve through outsourcing to a 3PL.

Benefits of Outsourcing to a 3PL

Of the numerous benefits that companies aim to achieve through outsourcing to a 3PL, the most common is cost savings. Outsourcing can allow companies to significantly reduce many types of costs, including labour, materials, overhead, transportation, and more. The scale of these savings varies depending on many aspects of the business, but for many companies that engage internationally, the savings from outsourcing to a 3pPLcan have a big impact on the bottom line.

Other companies obtain benefits from the ability to refocus efforts and resources on core values and activities. This is done by shifting internal resources away from functions that can easily be outsourced, such as warehousing or transportation, and reinvesting these resources in areas of the business that can have a much more significant impact on customer experience, product development, and other aspects that directly drive the growth of the business.

Seasonal industries that see dramatic surges in business are able to achieve much greater flexibility in meeting the demands of these cycles by bringing in additional resources through outsourcing to help manage the peaks. Once the surges have subsided, the temporary additional resources can then be released until the next surge when they are needed again.

Key Signs It’s Time to Outsource to a 3PL

While each company will have a different set of circumstances that prompts them to consider outsourcing, there are many common factors that these companies will see as outsourcing becomes an increasingly viable option for them.

Maintaining profit margins is a challenge for any business, but even more critical for businesses in fiercely competitive markets, or products that have notoriously thin margins. A common sign that a company may benefit from outsourcing to a 3PL is the continual erosion of profit margins and increasing costs. For companies that have tight budgets, outsourcing could be the right way to manage profit margins, as supply chain processes and distribution, when done in-house, contribute to a large portion of the overhead.

In markets where the workforce is not as plentiful as the company requires, outsourcing may be the only way to acquire the talent needed to drive the company forward. If a company is struggling to attract talent from the local area, it may be time to consider expansion through outsourcing to a 3PL that has established relationships with employment agencies and a greater volume of talent available to draw from.

Another potential sign that outsourcing could be a good move is if overtime is increasing in your facility beyond what should reasonably be expected. Outsourcing could provide a fast and effective way to reduce the load without adding excessive overhead or additional labour costs.

While this is not an exhaustive list of the factors that cause companies to consider outsourcing to a 3PL, it should give you a general idea of the typical warning signs to look for.

What can be Outsourced to a 3PL?

One of the most common ways that companies choose to improve their supply chain or distribution efficiency, and one of the easiest for many companies to implement, is outsourcing a variety of logistics services and tasks to a third-party logistics provider (3PL).

Shipping, warehousing, order fulfilment, packaging, and return logistics are all functions that can be managed through outsourcing. In addition, since many third-party logistics providers have resources in locations across the country or even globally, they can open up new markets that may have previously been unattainable.  Leveraging the resources of a third-party logistics provider can be a major benefit to companies that are struggling to achieve growth.

Decision to Outsource to a 3PL

The decision to outsource is not one that should be taken lightly, but at the same time it should not be shunned or discounted. If your company recognizes one, or several, of the warning signs we described then it may very well be time to consider outsourcing. It’s best to look at the trends your company has been experiencing, both internally and externally, in order to determine if now is the right time to make a shift.

By looking internally at factors such as profit margins and worker capacity, and overlaying these with trends in the market and competitive environment, it often becomes clear how things will keep going if nothing changes. Integrating some level of outsourcing can help companies reverse downward trends and improve their market position by helping to alleviate the pain points that are causing problems.

If your company recognizes these warning signs and pain points, contact SCI today and let our logistics experts help you with an in-depth analysis of whether outsourcing is the right move.

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Critical Factors in Distribution for Technology Products

Every industry has its own unique challenges when it comes to distribution, and the world of technology products is no exception. In fact, there are many factors that are critical to success in the distribution of technology products that must be carefully managed in order to prevent potential problems throughout the supply chain. Often, it is of great benefit for technology products manufacturers to leverage a 3PL logistics provider in order to overcome these challenges with greater efficiency and effectiveness. In this article, we will discuss several of the factors that affect technology products distribution, as well as how 3PL logistics services can deliver solutions to these challenges.

Distribution in the World of Technology Products

The very nature of technology products requires certain considerations regarding distribution that are simply not as critical to other types of products. For example, cartons of construction materials like nails or screws don’t necessarily need to be handled with the same level of concern regarding shock or impact as a skid full of laptop computers or HDTV’s. Many high-tech products require very delicate attention in how they are handled as they are moved, both on trucks and within warehousing facilities. This may mean investment in advanced material handling equipment, specialized transportation vehicles and additional staff training.

In addition, it’s not unusual for high tech products to be available in multiple different variations or configurations. This might mean that manual packing or kitting of individual pieces to complete an order may be required, or that stocking of several variants of an individual SKU might be needed. Either way, the need for advanced inventory tracking and stock management is extremely important for high tech products to ensure that each and every order is configured properly and product availability is accurate.

Distribution of high tech products can also include a wide range of retailers in terms of size and location. Everything from big box retailers to small specialty shops may be part of the supply chain, meaning that the scope and volume of products being transported to each location can be quite different. This might mean LTL shipments as well as full truckloads being sent to all corners of the country simultaneously.

The benefits of leveraging a 3PL logistics provider can be significant in these areas of distribution for high tech products. 3PL logistics facilities can be equipped with advanced material handling equipment that is ideal for sensitive products. They will utilize inventory tracking and stock management software to monitor every step in the order fulfillment and kitting process and will coordinate all the necessary requirements to ensure successful transportation of high tech products to all types of retailers and locations.

Importance of Speed to Market

The world of high tech products advances very quickly, and the importance of speed to market cannot be overstated. Having the newest products hit the shelves at the right time, without delays or problems, can mean the difference between a successful product launch and being beaten to the punch by a competitor. The speed and efficiency of transportation assets in the distribution process is critical and can be a significant competitive advantage.

Value of Security Safeguards

For some companies, security around products in the distribution channels extends beyond theft or loss control and includes protecting cutting-edge technology and product development from prying eyes. Intellectual property theft is a serious matter and is a major concern to high tech manufacturers. As such, ensuring that the highest levels of security are in place throughout the distribution channels can help minimize these threats.

Benefits of 3PL Distribution Services

Because of these factors, there are many advantages that come from partnering with an established 3PL logistics provider. Investing in all the necessary infrastructure, capital, and personnel that would be required to conduct all these tasks internally can be extremely expensive, and for many companies, it’s simply not feasible. 3PL logistics providers bring a great deal of value to technology product manufacturers by making their vast network of distribution, transportation, and personnel available to manage the supply chain for them, from end to end.

3PL logistics providers offer warehousing facilities with advanced material handling equipment across the country in all major cities, as well as a vast array of transportation assets including fleets of all types for moving a wide range of tech products. Throughout the warehousing and transportation process, 3PL logistics providers employ sophisticated inventory tracking and order processing tools that allow real-time views of products as they move through each step of the supply chain.

Even the most secretive of high-tech manufacturers appreciate the assurance that their products will be handled with the utmost care and security throughout the entire supply chain. 3PL logistics providers are able to deliver flexible solutions for high tech companies at every stage of product development and distribution, making sure they have the proper resources in place where and when they need them.

One other thing for technology product manufacturers to consider is the benefits to having an effective solution in place that can handle reverse logistics with the same level of service and efficiency as their warehousing and distribution processes. 3PL logistics companies are able to bring a complete reverse logistics solution to the table and can incorporate these elements into the supply chain with ease.

Conclusion

For high-tech companies who are looking to expand their reach to new markets, reduce costs while gaining efficiencies, and ensure security for their products, partnering with a 3PL logistics firm is a wise move. Companies like SCI are able to bring a great deal of value to high tech firms through an extensive nationwide network of warehousing and distribution assets.

To learn more about how SCI can help your company improve business results with our warehousing and distribution solutions, contact us today and one of our logistics professionals will be happy to assist you.

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