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    Shipping and Supplies
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There are many things that suppliers do (and don't do) that result in additional (and avoidable) labor at the warehouse for your fulfillment projects.  Here are instructions to send to your suppliers to avoid erroneous labor,  speed up receiving and fulfillment operations and eliminate error paths.  What's more, your fulfillment company will love you.
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Dear Supplier:

We are looking forward to working with you on the ___________________ project.
To prepare for efficient handling at the destination warehouse, would you please ensure the following?

* Bundle small units. For small items like pens, straws, wristbands, etc., bundle together in sets of _____ to avoid hand counting during the assembly process.
* Don't wrap anything that will need to be unwrapped.
* Bag and tag all apparel.
* Pack cartons single SKU per carton.
* Fully identify each carton. Each carton should have the client/project name, the product, the SKU ID for the product, the style/color, a barcode and case count for the shipment (1 of 16, etc.).
* Fully identify each pallet. Provide the number of cartons on each pallet, the pallet dimensions, and the pallet weight. Please also floor load pallets on the truck.
* Use sturdy boxes. Please use cartons that will sufficiently protect the product and be sturdy enough to re-pack and ship to ultimate destination (Note: Cartons from Asia are notoriously thin).
* Provide an ASN. Please send an Advance Shipping Notification to the warehouse for quick receipt and identification on the loading dock.
Sincerely, your valued client:

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Pre-Planning for Fulfillment Projects

Fulfillment pricing goes beyond the cost of actual assembly of the items to be shipped.  Here are some suggestions of things to review and clarify with your warehouse before finalizing the client estimate.  Doing so will help lower production costs, give you a reality check on pricing and avoid surprises on the loading dock and your invoice.

1.  THINK SKU, not category

Identify the quantity of each unique SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) instead of a generic category, as in "t-shirts". A t-shirt project with sizing would be with XS/S/M/XL/2XL, would be five SKUs, not one.

2.  THINK about hand movements

The fulfillment company needs to identify every hand movement and the number of seconds each unit will take on the production line.  Do polybags need to be removed? Do zippers need to be opened and closed?   Make sure your supplier ships the product in the most efficient manner for receiving and assembly on the back end.

3.    THINK about materials

Additional materials (cartons, envelopes etc.) are often overlooked in fulfillment bids.  When asking for an estimate, provide your warehouse with specific dimensions so they can select the proper packaging to ensure protection, least-cost shipping and best presentation of the client's brand.

4.  THINK about shipping

Shipping is the highest cost of fulfillment, often equaling or surpassing the cost of the production itself.   Ask your client for their shipping rates so you can compare to the warehouse rates. The larger fulfillment companies negotiate exceedingly good rates from UPS and Fed Ex (up to 70% off retail) which will greatly benefit your client.

6.  THINK about what happens AFTER the items have shipped

There may be undeliverable shipments, consumer product returns, post-shipment assessorial fees and the costs to return or store excess merchandise.

And finally.....

7.  DON'T THINK all fulfillment companies are the same.

Warehouses vary greatly in terms of capabilities, IT sophistication, payment processing systems, overhead, labor pool and proximity to Port and ship-to destinations.  It is extremely important to work with the warehouse that is an expert in the nuances of your program while offering the best service and lowest cost.

March 2019 News
Citing positive talks with Chinese officials, President Donald Trump delayed the March 1 deadline to increase tariffs on Chinese imports. This decision keeps the U.S. from increasing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese exports from 10 percent to 25 percent.  Trump plans to meet with the Chinese President before the end of March to revisit this important issue.  This policy has significant importance for the domestic promotional products industry, which imports the vast majority of items sold stateside from China.

The Amazon Effect and eCommerce trends have had a major impact on buyer expectations in that most customers now expect the option for next day or 2-day delivery across domestic markets. Warehousing and manufacturing operations alike are investing in systems and equipment to meet the demands of new customer expectations that speed up the timelines for receiving, production and fulfillment.
To remain competitive in the current shipping environment, Fed Ex introduced FedEx Freight services for LTL (Less Than Truck Load) and full container deliveries.  Customers may now receive delivery one day earlier than standard delivery dates.  Morning delivery (by 10:30 am) will incur a $105 up-charge.  Afternoon delivery (by 5:00 pm) will incur an additional $89 up-charge.  Delivery dates are based on existing zone-to-zone transit time (other restrictions apply).
Sources: Advertising Specialty Institute, Federal Express, Promo Magazine, Wall Street Journal

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