Archive: October, 2015

Add Your Brand to Your Boxes to Encourage Your Customers to Shop

Packing materials are not things you think about every day. But if you ship orders, you have to consider how important they are to your customers. You have to think about boxes, padding, packing tape, and other supplies to take your merchandise safely to your customers. You need to make sure your packing materials keep your merchandise clean and protect it from damage that may occur from the environment outside the box. Packing is serious business when you ship orders, and it can considerably add to the cost of the merchandise.

One concept to consider in packing materials is advertising. Inserts and catalInOrder ERP on Boxogs are great, but using packing materials to encourage your customers to place more orders is brilliance. There are many ideas, such as printing pictures of items you sell with taglines.  Because of the expense, it might be worth discussing a cost-sharing arrangement with your vendors to purchase boxes printed with their logo. Likewise, vendors might consider printing boxes with their logos and making them available to their distributors.

Often, when I get a package delivered in a plain, unmarked box or simple padded envelope, I see missed opportunities. That unmarked box, which traveled from who-knows-where, could have been broadcasting the brands it carried all along the delivery route. Sometimes, though, when I get a package delivered, I see evidence of a smart business that took advantage of a great opportunity!  

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Cyber Security Awareness

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, and a good time to remind everybody about how vulnerable sensitive information can be if we’re not vigilant about protecting it.

Employees play an important part in cyber security, and it’s important that they have a thorough understanding of the importance of cyber security as it relates to your business.

Halock Security Labs, information security advisors based in Illinois, provides free posters with security tips that you can download and display for use in your office. These clever-posters are designed to keep your personnel aware of proper security practices while using the internet, mobile devices, Email attachments, handling information, and more.

Halock Poster

It’s scary out there. I’ll never look at a mouse the same way again. Check out the posters here.

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InOrder’s RF Guided Putaway Saves Time with Alternate Bin Selection

InOrder’s Guided RF tasks control where inventory is put away and how it gets to the correct storage location in the most efficient way possible. What if your items do not always end up in the bin determined by the system? With another RF system, you might have to put the item in the location identified, and then use the system to again move the item to another location.

If your items do not always end up in the bin determined by the system, you could save a lot of time by selecting an alternate to-bin during guided putaway.

InOrder RF Guide Putaway Alternate Bin SelectionThe alternate to-bin is confirmed with a Complete Putaway prompt.

InOrder RF Guided Putaway Alternate Bin CompleteWhen an alternate to-bin is selected, the putaway quantity to the original bin is de-allocated, removed from the original bin, reallocated for the alternate to-bin, and the added to the alternate bin.

If there is no longer sufficient stock in the original putaway bin (e.g., the stock has been allocated from that bin for another order), an alternate putaway bin may not be selected. However, a partial quantity may be putaway to an alternate bin. Additionally, an alternate putaway bin with a different hold access code that the line item being putaway may not be selected. Overpick bins behave similarly.

For more information about the InOrder RF Module, contact us for a demo, or call us at 888-667-7332.

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Doubts and Dangers of Disparate Systems in Distribution

The nature of the beast, when it comes to multi-channel distribution services, is an environment that has grown to be out of necessity. It all started with a shipping manifest system. The warehouse grew, and we needed to manage this new warehouse, so we brought in a WMS, which, by the way, had some great features we needed for building our kits. We needed to handle more calls, so the order management system was brought in for consumer direct orders, and then a contact management system for the B2B sales people’s orders. This was so successful for the business overall, but the accounting was becoming a nightmare, so the Accounting people put in some systems they knew already, for receivables and payables, payroll, and oh, a commission system for sales.

Then emails became a thing, so the growing IT Department acquired a customer service email system for that, and eventually found a vendor to do their email marketing. Finally, the Internet happened, so now we keep our inventory on a web store too. Half our customers and orders are coming from there, and going to different places.

When the websites took off, the Purchasing Department had its own PO system brought in, but then they grew and added some hosted forecasting software to use with the Marketing people, who also have a library of spreadsheets and apps for promotion analysis, key code tracking, web specials, and even a cross-sell/up-sell system.  

What just happened? Now each of these systems has its own “experts” that the company relies heavily on, but anyone else (especially management) who does not use one particular system every day feels like they are in a foreign country if they need to access it instead of their own department’s system. Management across the board needs to have information from the other systems, so naturally they protect their own data that they have access to. This is their hostage, to use in the daily political negotiations to trade for the data they need from everyone else. Silos of data, built tall throughout the organization, can be a dangerous thing. 

I.T. may step in to help with this problem by (guess what?) setting up another system, called a “data warehouse.” A system to sit on top of all the other systems, and pull data from them into one place. (Yes, unfortunately more data feeds, but for the greater good, right?) So eighteen systems now. Much to the dismay of the Accounting department, the numbers never seem to match across systems, but Marketing usually does not mind.

To make matters worse, the eighteen systems we listed above all have monthly or annual maintenance costs, occasional required upgrades just to keep them working properly on the latest version of Windows or with each other, and these crazy “feeds of data” going back and forth all over the place. The I.T. Department is always trying to keep these feeds going successfully, some as if they were donkeys going up a steep mountain trail. Worse yet is when data needs to be entered or regularly corrected in two or more places manually, such as the WMS and the Website.

Is there a better way? What if we combined some of these systems into one “enterprise wide” system (and maybe two or three add-ons)? In most cases, the argument made by the individual departments, for this type of environment, (cherishingly referred to as “best of breed”) is that each system has some compelling feature that we cannot live without (like the WMS’s kitting feature). Features we would lose if we paired down to a single system across several departments. This is rarely true. In most cases, the combined system either already has the feature (if you dig deep enough) or the feature can be added to an enterprise system. But ask yourself, if this compelling feature was reviewed by upper management, could it be deemed a “sacred cow”, which no longer “aligns with the overall goals of our organization?”

Another argument that could be made against having a single system is that we would be putting too many eggs into one basket. If the single system goes down, would the entire organization be stuck? Anyone familiar with the Theory of Constraints understands that any of these systems could be causing a bottleneck. As it turns out, keeping eighteen systems up and running is eighteen times harder than keeping one system up and running. It also turns out that enterprise level systems are built to be more disaster-proof because they know from the ground up how much more they are relied on.

A true enterprise distribution system breaks down the silos of hostage data, requires less overall maintenance costs and resources, and most importantly, it gives management direct access to a clearer, more accurate picture of what is happening at any point in time across all departments, vital for best informed management decision making.

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