December 18, 2014

This is part two in our ‘Unpacking’ feature focus on order fulfillment technology. You can read the first piece here, or check out other entries in the ‘Unpacking’ series on our archive page Continue reading Unpacking Order Fulfillment Technology – Part Two

December 15, 2014

Our recurring “Unpacking” series digs into the deeper meaning of commonly used terms and trends in the supply chain world that prompt a lot of questions. You can read all of the previous entries here.  

Fulfilling orders can be smooth execution or hard duty. Which you end up with for your business lies in direct proportion to the software and people you bring together to perform the service. Both play a key role, but one may prompt more work than the other, depending on the technology you put to work.

Today we’ll focus on the order fulfillment technology that brings the best out of your team and delivers the most  , based on an answer from our CSO and co-founder Thom Campbell on Quora.

For us it comes down to this (deeply mathematical) equation: Good software + well-integrated workers = fun, fast accurate work; bad software + workers = hard times on the production line.

This places a lot of emphasis on the quality of the technology you choose, and with good reason. A hard-working, smart and motivated team is always important and sought-after in the warehouse and beyond, but the software they use can easily be overlooked if you don’t know what works best.

When it comes down to it, we’re actually a software company that does some heavy lifting; a solution provider for challenges relating to efficiently getting orders to our clients’ customers, both individuals and retailers.

 

one click buying button

Of Orders and Acronyms

To follow an order through the supply chain, first you need to get it from your e-commerce platform or drop-ship retailer to your fulfillment provider, whether it’s internal or a third party.

The main means of integration are (apologies in advance for the government-like flurry of acronyms to follow):

  • FTP (file transfer protocol),
  • API (application programmer interface, or web services),
  • EDI (electronic data interchange), and
  • XML (extensible markup language.)

Most of our e-commerce integrations are via a secure FTP server we host. Capacity clients submit orders in batches at preset times and they are uploaded into our system. Our system screens for duplicates, items or shipping methods we don’t recognize, or other common issues which might cause the file to ‘bounce’. The next most common approach is API, where a client reaches out to our web services server with a real-time query. For example a query might be ‘here’s an order’, or ‘what is the tracking # for this order’, or ‘what is the inventory level for this item’.

So the order software has to have that ability to integrate and validate order data. Sometimes it’s important to perform address validation, sales tax calculation, and other services, but mostly we see that happening upstream, at the e-commerce platform level.

package assembly line

The system we use to provide dashboard visibility into our services is an internal proprietary order management software (OMS), which we imaginatively called ‘Intra’ because it is located on our intranet. Our clients get a ‘through the firewall’ version called, again with all our imaginative forces brought to bear, the ‘Capacity Client Center’.

Its purpose is much what it sounds like: providing clients with real-time online access to order status and inventory information, modifying SKU/product information, changing ship methods, creating and downloading reports, and many other aspects of our service. Intra is also very involved in how we integrate with retailers, housing the tables and rules for dealing with over 300 of the retailers we ship to who require EDI.

We’ll break off here to give you some time to digest how your order handling system stacks up against the ideas above. The next entry moves into how technology drives the physical fulfillment process, from picking to shipping and delivery. You can read part two here.

Read the rest of our Unpacking posts here, or connect with Capacity LLC on Facebook or Linkedin to let us know what you’d like to see next.

Contact us if you’d like to talk more about how order fulfillment technology can work for your business.

April 1, 2014

AP Deauville LogoThe HBA Challenge:

When men’s care product manufacturer and marketer AP Deauville purchased the license to manufacture the top value deodorant PowerStick™ the company wanted to keep the manufacturing in-house at its New Brunswick, NJ facility. It also wanted to contain costs by continuing to run its business on a Just-in-Time (JIT) basis. Warehousing, however, proved to be a major obstacle to building and scaling the business. A lack of coordination between manufacturing and distribution and inventory management posed a serious impediment to growth.

 The Capacity LLC Solution:

AP Deauville contacted Capacity LLC to provide third party processing of its Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) orders to retailers as well as warehousing, fulfillment and assembly. That was just the beginning.  Over time, the company’s business needs grew in complexity and size to include International Air Transport Association (IATA) mandated processing of aerosol products, a task requiring caged storage and specialized handling capabilities.

Capacity LLC took on the challenge, making capital investments to handle these new specifications and training key members of Capacity LLC’s management team to ensure that all IATA requirements were met. As AP Deauville took on additional EDI trading partners, Capacity LLC developed increasingly sophisticated and scalable EDI and product fulfillment capabilities. When AP Deauville needed help with a complex returns processing job in California, our West Coast warehouse made it possible and cost-effective.

Over the last decade, AP Deauville has enjoyed exponential growth without ever investing in or modifying additional warehouse space of its own. The company has never had to expand its team to handle EDI, IT, IATA handling or other special services. Because our facilities are mere minutes apart, AP Deauville can run a true JIT business. There are as many AP Deauville pallets on the dock at Capacity LLC, ready to ship, as we store in the racks, providing the optimal balance of maximum inventory and full scalability.

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September 20, 2013
Warehouse #HDR #photog
Warehouse #HDR #photog (Photo credit: mescon)

Warehouse management is set to see significant benefits in the near future thanks to advances in mobile technology.

As strong advocates for improving order management through the application of new technologies, Capacity LLC has embraced developing systems including custom online order management and EDI-controlled fulfillment.

These may be just the tip of the iceberg, however, as mobile data integration begins to permeate what is an increasingly tech-driven profession. A recent survey by Motorola confirms this, finding that 66% of respondents plan to better equip staff with new technology in the near future, and identifying new areas of business growth driven by smarter warehousing.

Perhaps surprisingly, much of the technology at the heart of moving warehouse management forward is already at work, in our own pockets. Our mobile devices can monitor where we are, where we end up, many of the points in between and how long it took to get to each. When applied to the moving parts of the warehouse environment – fork lift trucks, tagged pallets of stock, communications devices on staff, and much more – a potential treasure trove of real-time and archival data is unearthed.

The pressing questions for solutions providers then become where to utilize it and how to effectively integrate the systems reliant on these data?

Thankfully there are plenty of excellent data analysis experts out there to do that legwork for warehouse management, not to mention software that can be employed to manage much of the process. This frees up managers to make plans and decisions in their own area of expertise, judging the information that will be of most use and applying the findings to improve system efficiency. This will become a continuous process of data collection, analysis, implementation and refinement as all of the parties involved begin to put together their preferred solutions
Our own warehouse management system is provided by Foxfire Technologies and employs specifically programmed elements that allow us to handle bespoke client profiles, locating and picking right down to the item level. Learn more about the system and the way we approach warehouse management here.
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