Shipping : An Evolution

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.

Double verification

Instead of having one person just do all the physical shipping, we started splitting the procedure up further.  This resulted in:

Person A:

  • Processes Order
  • Pulls Products for Order

Person B:

  • 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.

Next Steps

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.

2 thoughts on “Shipping : An Evolution”

  1. In my experience, barcode scanners are simply data entry devices. Treat them as a keyboard.

    If you can manually enter a UPC or SKU into the system currently, you can plug in a USB barcode scanner and replace that manual data entry with the click of the gun.

    If you’re wanting to create separate sku labels to go on each inventory item, then that’s a whole other game…but to scan standard UPC, a $100-$150 scanner will easily do that.

    1. Yup, scanning isn’t the problem. It’s the program to make it useful afterwards to reduce shipping errors that is the costly bit.

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