Over the years, we’ve evolved how we shipped orders from the store. I thought it might be amusing to some to see the evolution and changes:
In the Beginning
It was kind of simple in the beginning with one person doing it all. The order system was pretty simple and all handled by 1 person:
- Print order out
- Pull products (which we had only about 400 SKUs or so then!)
- Pack order
- Drop off at Canada Post outlet
3rd Party Logistics Company
When that became too much work for 1 part-time person; we looked into and moved to a 3rd party logistics company. They would store all our products, do all our receiving and then ship them out for us. Things got complicated then as we would:
- Receive an order
- Process order into 3rd Party’s software (essentially creating a 2nd order on their system)
The 3rd party company would then:
- Print out packing list
- Pull products from list
- Package the order
- Have Canada Post pick-up orders
In-house Shipping Again (1 person)
Unfortunately, we just weren’t big enough to handle the kind of costs the logistics company was charging us. On an average order; we were getting charged an additional $4.00. So we brought everything back in-house; with one small change. We started getting Canada Post to come by to pick-up the orders instead of manually dropping them off. This 1-person procedure would last for a few years till we had our first full-time hire.
The first 2 person ship procedure
Finally, when we hired someone we started splitting the process a bit; making it a tad more streamlined. We split the Processing of the Order from the physical Packing, having 2 different personnel working on this. This gave us a tad more flexibility; which was a nice addition.
However, what we noticed was that our error rate was slowly creeping up. This came from a few things:
- less experienced packers
- much larger stock – SKUs of over 1,500
- higher volume of orders
All this resulted in us re-thinking what we were doing and bringing in a new process.
Instead of having one person just do all the physical shipping, we started splitting the procedure up further. This resulted in:
- Processes Order
- Pulls Products for Order
- Double-Checks Pull
- Packs Order
- Ships Order
With the actual products being double-checked, we started seeing a slow drop in error rates. It’s still not perfect yet, since humans do err but more errors are caught in-house than going out.
So what’s next? More automation. The ideal would be the addition of barcode scanners to the entire process. Each order that we ship would have a barcode on it; with each product a barcode associated. We’d then scan the products as we pack, ensuring that the right product (and the right number of products!) went into each order. That’s a while away though – that will require a huge amount of work including scanning all our products and having a program to do all the above or finding one that does it. For now, our little 2-person procedure is working out.