Monthly Archives: May 2020

Learning to Ship Properly

The business world is full of complex and also simple processes that can be the difference between being successful and going broke.  There are lots of small nuances that are able to help most individuals thrive in some areas that are really hard.  When you are part of a department of a company that is based on shipping items or receiving them the processes that the department creates are key.  Especially when a job is designed around physical movement and repetitive tendencies lots of good plans need to be in place to ensure that the department is running smoothly.  In the area of shipping this is a key element to success. So I want to run through a few processes that I have found to really bump up production and lower time involved.

The first important thing is make sure that all your shipping supplies are ordered and accounted for and documented.  This means knowing what items you have on hand.  This can be done by making an inventory of everything that you use on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  It is important to know what you have and what you use.  This is best done by creating a spreadsheet, and it is easy to do on a computer.  Excel or google sheets can create a simple sheet where you can label your shipping supplies.

Now the next thing to do is to track them.  Everyone morning track how much you started with and how much you ended.  If its tape that is used, count the rolls and make each person responsible and let them know this is to understand what we are using and to save money. Be honest with your staff and they will appreciate knowing that they are contributing to lowering costs and then hold them accountable.  From here once you know how much is being used. Start creating the most efficient way of using the products.

If you are taping boxes and using bubble wrap, have the staff work on finding the most efficient way to pack and ship everything. Generally, the most efficient way and cheapest way actually saves time.  Have them work on creating separate processes that speed up their job and allow them to do more faster and then reward them for it.  Don’t put more on their plate by being more efficient. Give the staff a bonus or reward or extra time. This is how you create a great department.

Making patterns

This year I found myself and my family had lots of extra time on our hands.  The Corona Virus has given us lots of more time to work around the house.  This has been great for our home because we have improved many needed areas and it has been great for our summer because now we will have more time to go out and enjoy it.  Hopefully, the country does open back up soon, but if not this is a really great time to create, build, and explore new hobbies.  So my wife and I have decided to create a new product while we are trapped inside. This has been a crazy process but it has been fun and kept us busy.

The first thing we did was to create an idea.  We got a useful idea in our head that we believed many people needed and that there was not a proper item to fill that need in existence.  Once we wrapped out head around this plan, the idea soon came.  We found a need that was not filled and found it was not patented either. 

From this point on we then created a plan for it.  We started to build the dimensions of the product and what it would be made out of.  The goal is to make it look really good so this was a painstaking process.  We started on the computer to sketch out the idea. Then once we were thrilled with the initial plans we needed to build a real outline pattern of it.  So we went to the closet and grabbed shipping supplies and wrapping paper to make a pattern to create the product.  It did take a little while to measure and cut it all correctly.  Lots of tape was needed  to hold things together, so I did make a few extra trips to gather more shipping supplies. From that point on we were on the way to making the first prototype.

Getting the pattern was really important because it allows us to use real materials only on the actual prototype.  The materials are simply more expensive that paper and tape, so remember to put your product together accordingly and not waste money on good materials when paper and tape will do. Finally after many weeks we had a working prototype and were able to test it.  It was a great journey and we hope to start an actual business out of the work we put in while on quarantine at home!

Getting Rid of Shipping Boxes

Really I am not sure how your life has been over the last few months, but for 7 weeks my state has been on a stay at home lockdown.  The stay at home order was put in place due to covid-19.  This virus has fundamentally changed the way I have lived and worked for the last 7 weeks of my life. 

What has really been a big difference is the extra amount of orders I have done online.  This is because we are only supposed to travel for essential items or for emergencies.  So I have been placing lots of online orders for the things I need around the house.  Some of those items have come in massive boxes and I am only allowed to get rid of so much trash each week.  So I am going to go over a good way to break them down and get rid of all the extra shipping boxes you may not need around the house.

The first step is to find a good way to get rid of all the cardboard.  I found that for me since I do not have recycling the answer was going to be to go out with my normal weekly trash.  For me it only comes once a week to be collected and I only have a few extra bag loads that I can use beyond my normal amount of trash.  Since I don’t have a way of recycling the boxes I am now forced to get rid of them through the normal trash.  So my way of eliminating the 3 foot by 6 foot pile in my garage will be with a trash bag.

Now I suggest if you can, get heavy duty 55 gallon trash bags because anything else and it will tear.  I have many that I have picked up in a giant box at Costco so I was well prepared for box destruction.  Next I gathered up all the boxes and began to deconstruct them.  I pulled out a fixed blade knife with a comfortable handle and started to cut the tape holding them all together.  From there I cut the boxes into a size that would fit in the 55 gallon bag.  Then you fold it flat and try to fit as much in each bag as possible.  It does take a while and I suggest gloves. Not only use gloves because of the knife, but because cardboard can cause large paper cuts that border real cuts very easily on human skin.  So stay safe, pack well, and get those bags filled with shipping boxes to the trash.

Shipping in a Pandemic.

The times are getting a little crazy as retail stores have had to change.  The Covid-19 Pandemic has systematically altered the American Economy and many stores are having to adapt quickly.  Lots of stores have gone from open storefronts to only being allowed to operate as e-commerce companies.  What the unforeseen effects have been is that now every item is being shipped instead of having a customer pick it up in the store.  This is creating lots of extra costs in many different areas. 

The unforeseen cost in all of this is time.  Changing a company from a brick and mortar store to a ecommerce business takes lots of time.  Now entire departments have to be created or changed in order to actually ship out orders. There now is no longer a cash register but a computer telling you to gather up an individuals order.  This could be lots of products from all around a store.  There now has to be essentially a new position of shopper created to gather all the orders. This takes time away from current employees doing their normal jobs because the orders have to actually be gathered and then moved into a new shipping area.

One area that many store did not quantity in their change to becoming e-commerce retailers is the cost of shipping supplies.  Products that were once going to be sold directly on off the store shelf and put into a bag are having to be packaged into shipping bags or boxes. Each and every box or bag now comes with separate costs.  The retail stores purchase the shipping back or box.  Some products require extra cost due to their weight.  Some heavy duty boxes cost between 12 and 100 dollars just for the box.  Then each package must then be sealed.  The costs go up because many different types of tapes have to be used.  Before they can be sealed some products are fragile and have to be packaged with extra materials.  So stores must now purchase packing peanuts, or air buble products and in some cases massive amounts of paper to make sure products wont shift during shipping. 

The shipping supplies  stores are having trouble keeping up with demand.  Amazon just hired 100,000 workers in order to keep up with demand and now prominent packaging stores are struggling to create enough boxes and packages themselves to ship to all these new e-commerce retailers. So take this into account that there will be extra time for supplies to reach you. Try to keep up with the correct quantity of orders coming in and purchase ahead of time.

Working in a warehouse

Back in my college days I have the pleasure of working in lots of different roles.  The summers were filled with many different opportunities and jobs in lots of different industries.  One year I had the opportunity to work in the auto industry.  I found myself working at an Porsche dealer and found myself in the parts department.  My jobs was to manage the entire parts department and keep all the inventory in stock and in its proper location. This unique opportunity lead me to become good friends with lots of different parts of the business world and not just the auto industry.  I found right off the bat that being friends with the local delivery companies was paramount to having a shop that ran well.

Knowing what type of shipping boxes would work best in multiple situations was also key. I found that talking with my local FedEx and UPS delivery driver was a crazy amount of knowledge.  They understood warehouses and what made good ones work.  The vast knowledge was worth taking time out of my day to be friends with them and get to know different aspects of their life.  They were able to walk me through different ways to ship items to be the most efficient. They also told me their preferences as driver and deliverers as to how they were able to load their truck and keep items the safest.

In tern, I was able to take their advice and purchase the best shipping boxes possible.  It lead me to spending less on damaged parts and overall a more efficient parts department.  The cost of many of the high end sports parts I was purchasing and shipping across the country was in some times extravagant.  The cost of fenders and wheels for racing vehicles was nearly always in the thousands and having them arrive damaged would cost much more than the cost of proper packaging.  These small details meant the return rate for my products went way down to a nearly non existent percentage.

I was able to save thousands of dollars in a single summer and it lead to rave reviews from my supervisors.  From there I was able to take their praise and get a higher paying position for the next summer.  In tern, I was able to hand off my process to the company and give them a sustainable way of decreasing their costs on a yearly basis.  It was a great job to have and much experience was gained at it.