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Meet David Blain: Director of DCL Print Solutions and Purchasing

At DCL Logistics, we recognize our employees as our most important asset. In our new blog series, Spotlight, we’ll feature various DCL Logistics employees. You’ll get to know them a bit, as well as their role within the company, and get their take on the ever evolving 3PL industry. Follow along as we introduce the dedicated people whose daily efforts make our company a recognized leader in supply chain and logistics.

David BlainThe Paperless Revolution can’t be denied. Service providers, banks, hospitals and all manner of companies have moved their business online, seemingly leaving printing a thing of the past. The structure of the printing industry has no doubt evolved and, as a result, many printers have permanently closed their doors.

Over his 30 years in purchasing and print management, David Blain, Director of DCL Print Solutions and Purchasing, has seen this change first hand. Where once there was a lot of print waste, people are now more conscious of and want to curb wastefulness.

“Now, because of tech progress, people print a lot less … just what they need,” he said.

While this shift in people’s behavior has led to many failed businesses, a handful of companies have changed their model and become key players in the market. Along with DCL Print Solutions, David is riding the new wave of the print industry.

Adapting to the needs of the market, DCL Print Solutions specializes in small, print-on-demand runs.

“Our customers love the concept of print-on-demand. because they can order just what they need at that time,” David said. “Our client base includes technology, pharmaceutical and solar companies.”

The logistics side of DCL feeds the print side with customers who need branded boxes, marketing collateral and promotional products. Most everything is executed internally and all items can be bound, kitted, inventoried and shipped all under one roof.

“Our value proposition is, because DCL Print Solutions is under the DCL family of companies, lead times are shortened and accountability is tied to one partner,” David said. “As long as we provide a quality product, there is a synergy in having projects managed under one roof from printing to fulfillment.”

DCL Print Solutions’ marketing and product fulfillment activities are powered by client marketing portals, which empower customer administrators to establish budget tiers for their employees, roll out assets to be printed on demand, and inventory promotional items to be fulfilled to their sales force.

When he isn’t at work, David an avid tennis player can most likely be found on a court. With his longstanding career in purchasing, his role at DCL Print is pretty much Match Point. And while the digital age has caused instability in print management, David sees a bright future for companies, like DCL Logistics, that take a lean approach.

“Printing will never go away,” he said. “It’s just smaller and leaner.”

Meet Mike Schneider: VP of Operations

At DCL Logistics, we recognize our employees as our most important asset. In our new blog series, Spotlight, we’ll feature various DCL Logistics employees. You’ll get to know them a bit, as well as their role within the company, and get their take on the ever evolving 3PL industry. Follow along as we introduce the dedicated people whose daily efforts make our company a recognized leader in supply chain and logistics.

Mike SchneiderForty years ago people ordered goods from catalogs. The corduroy sports coat or flower patterned pinafore you couldn’t wait to get your hands on would arrive at your doorstep … eventually. Then a man named Fred Smith came along and changed the industry. Smith, the CEO and Founder of Federal Express, interrupted the game with the brand promise, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”

“From that point on, the world changed,” said Mike Schneider, Vice President of Operations at DCL Logistics and a 38-year veteran of the supply chain industry. “Now people expect their packages overnight. UPS knew they had to compete and got into air freight. Then other companies like Amazon came along with much better services free two-day shipping. It changed the whole industry as we see it today. Customers expect so much more and we have to give them what they want now.”

At DCL Logistics, Mike oversees the four facilities and ensures that we maintain the efficiency and nimbleness customers expect in the pick, pack and ship process.

“We’re a unique 3PL — one that provides a boutique feel with enterprise scalability,” he said. “One of the reasons customers work with us is because we react and maintain quality. I’ve been in large operations and customers get lost in the mix. Our warehouses are just large enough that we can still give a personal touch to our customer and their customer.”

In an age where speed and economy are key, automation has become an important consideration in order processing. Mike says that for some of its higher volume clients, DCL Logistics is now using an automated picking system that simultaneously picks, kits and verifies.

“Rather than having one person to pick, another to kit and a third person to verify, the automated system lets us process orders more quickly,” he said. “We recently began using the automation in our Louisville warehouse and will be adding it throughout our facilities in the next couple of years. We are also experimenting with a number of operational projects that will continue to drive automation at DCL for the next decade.”

Other efforts to improve efficiency have required sweat equity and a team effort. When DCL needed more room in its Los Angeles facility, Mike and other operational leadership saw to it that the wide aisle storage was changed to very narrow aisle racking. Doing so gave the facility 30% more storage capacity and room to grow for the foreseeable future.

“It’s all about maximizing space while exceeding our operational metrics,” Mike said. “As the customer’s order activity grows, they know we’ll be able to get it out the door. The more efficient we are the more we’re able to serve the client.”

Outside of trekking from one of DCL’s four warehouses to the next, Mike’s traveling shoes are well worn. To date he has visited 47 states in the U.S., and has journeyed through Asia, Europe and Canada. Mike also has a home in Mexico where he likes to get away for fishing excursions and scuba diving in the coral reefs.

Meet Victoria Maddux: VP of Sales

At DCL Logistics, we recognize our employees as our most important asset. In our new blog series, Spotlight, we’ll feature various DCL Logistics employees. You’ll get to know them a bit, as well as their role within the company, and get their take on the ever evolving 3PL industry. Follow along as we introduce the dedicated people whose daily efforts make our company a recognized leader in supply chain and logistics.

It’s an exciting time at DCL Logistics, and over the past 20-plus years VP of Sales, Victoria Maddux, has seen a shifting tide in third party logistics. The future of 3PL appears to be e-commerce, which Victoria says is projected to grow by $4-trillion by 2020.

In the early days of her career, companies in the tech space produced 2 Million units of the same software, managed the assembly and kitting, and then sold it to distributors and retailers. By contrast, the majority of clients DCL partners with today are focused on consumer electronics and more recently the Internet of Things. While funding in tech has recently cooled, over the last few years there has been a strong uptick in investment money in the space, as well as a new means to gain access to money through crowd funding. These trends have given young visionaries and entrepreneurs opportunities to bring their vision and products to life.

“For us at DCL, it translates to a very exciting, amplified time for us, because that means we have unlimited opportunities to share our 34 years of knowledge, service and quality,” Victoria said.

Customer Collaboration

For the past 12, she has worked at DCL Logistics, training and leading the sales and account management teams, which mentor and manage the accounts daily. They have collaborative meetings with clients, educating them about backend logistics, and helping them to grow their businesses.

“You go from looking at each other as business partners to collaborating as an extension of their company,” she said. “The only way we can benefit future customers is to continue to train, enhance and elevate our internal team. Many team members are DCL veterans and have been with me every step of the way, so I know that they have the same passion and interest for their clients’ products as their clients do. When clients have a new opportunity, whether it’s opening up a new .com channel or launching a new product, there is a seamless flow of information sharing between the Account Management and Sales teams that allows us to successfully execute.”

One such example is an innovative customer that Victoria and her team helped to transition out of small-scale fulfillment company and while also launching an entirely new product to market.

“Within three months DCL aligned with the client and supported that release — the client hit their growth targets this year with the upside of generating positive cash flow for the first time,” she said. “It was a successful launch and now we have really become their strategic partner.”

Decades of Distinction

It’s that quality of service, plus having had more than three decades of success in the market, that sets DCL Logistics apart from other 3PLs.

“We have great customers — repeat customers — who have transitioned from one company to another … and they continue to seek our solution and return,” Victoria said. “There’s something to say for that in this industry. Most important is the knowledge that we’ve gleaned over the past 34 years, which allows us to consult solutions that are current, and apply them to new businesses we’ve seen transitioning.”

Playing to Win

When she’s not training and leading teams at DCL, Victoria finds other conquests to sink her teeth into: namely poker.

“I’m pretty competitive,” she said. “I like to read people and I love to win.”

And win she does. In 2009 she was invited to participate in a No-Limit Hold‘Em poker event, which afforded her an all expenses paid trip to the City of Lights. To date Victoria makes three annual trips to play poker, in Las Vegas, where — as in business — she always plays to win.

Customer Spotlight: Nima, First Ever Portable Gluten Food Sensor

For most of us, life’s small challenges are often brushed off and forgotten. But some annoyances lead to innovative solutions that make us wonder why no one had thought of it before.

Introducing Nima

While at a friend’s wedding, gluten intolerant Shireen Yates realized she had forgotten her gluten-free snack pack, so she asked a waitress if the risotto ball appetizers were gluten-free. The waitress asked, “How allergic are you?” This was a response Shireen heard one too many times. She wished there was a quick way to test her food on the spot.

Shireen is now the CEO and co-founder of the San Francisco startup, Nima Labs a company that makes connected food sensors to bring peace of mind to meal time.

The company’s flagship product, Nima, is the first pocket-size sensor for gluten. It’s fast, easy to use, and its portability makes it convenient to test food anytime you’re out and about. Nima’s sensor uses chemistry to detect a protein in food at the parts per million level. It can test foods ranging from soups and sauces to fried items and baked goods. Just take a tiny sample of food, put it in a capsule, and put the capsule in Nima.

An added benefit, Nima comes with a companion iOS app. When users test foods at restaurants, the results are added to the community knowledge base, allowing others to know at a glance which foods on the menu are gluten free.

Complex Product Development Challenges

Developing the food sensor wasn’t an easy task.

Shireen says the challenge in creating Nima was finding a way to combine chemistry, mechanical and electrical engineering in a pint-sized package. Adding another layer of difficulty, typical gluten test kits take as long as 20 minutes to produce a result. Waiting that long at a restaurant would be downright inconvenient. The team had to find a way to shorten the wait, and that they did. Amazingly, Nima yields results in just three minutes.

“We had the best team who believed it could be done, and they didn’t give up,” Shireen said.

Products in Progress

The Nima Labs team is now developing sensors for other proteins. A portable peanut tester is planned for release toward the end of 2017. As well, milk and tree nuts sensors are planned for release in 2018. But detecting food allergens isn’t the only use for food sensors.

“After milk and tree nuts sensors, we’re looking at sugar, salt, fat and other nutrients and ingredients that people care about,” Shireen said. “Ultimately, we want to have a sensor for anything you care about, giving you better data about how you’re fueling your body.”

Growth in Partnership

DCL Logistics is proud to have Nima Labs on its roster of innovative clients. Shireen says DCL is playing a key role in helping Nima Labs scale and ship as the business expands to additional products and multiple sales channels.

“We wanted to work with an operation that understands the trials and tribulations of the typical consumer technology startup, and we felt as though DCL has the best balance of flexibility and scale. We are delighted to be in partnership with them and are looking forward to scaling our business,” says Shireen.

Nima is currently available online at NimaSensor.com. In the meantime, Nima Labs looks to distribute its products through other e-commerce platforms, as well as retail outlets, in the near future.

Meet Rocky Eng, Customer Support Manager

At DCL Logistics, we recognize our employees as our most important asset. In our new blog series, Spotlight, we’ll feature various DCL Logistics employees. You’ll get to know them a bit, as well as their role within the company, and get their take on the ever evolving 3PL industry. Follow along as we introduce the dedicated people whose daily efforts make our company a recognized leader in supply chain and logistics.

With 20 years of experience at DCL Logistics and seven years in retail management customer support, Rocky Eng has long thrived in a collaborative environment. As Customer Support Manager for the Silicon Valley office, Rocky has focused on being a lead mentor to his team of account managers. Earning his master’s degree in 21st Century Leadership from Saint Mary’s College, Rocky’s management style encourages individuality and collaboration.

“I see myself in this role as a leader versus a manager. A manager passes policy onto a group whereas with a leader there’s more mentoring and coaching, letting them make decisions and helping when needed,” Rocky said. “In a melting pot, people lose individuality, but with my management style, each person maintains individuality while contributing,”

Since moving to the Customer Support Manager role, one of Rocky’s main goals was to increase customer satisfaction amongst DCL’s client base. In a period of just six months, Rocky was able to increase customer satisfaction from a 75% to a 97% approval rating. The seed of this success stems from Rocky’s communication style paired with his problem solving methods.

“We were able to change the way we communicated both externally and internally,” Rocky said. “Instead of saying ‘no’ to the customer, I think it’s important to communicate to the customer that something can be done; there are always realistic alternative solutions around any problem. Internally, it’s partnering with operations and thinking through problems and all possible solutions instead of just giving up.”

Recent Projects

In 2016, Rocky assisted DCL Print Solutions with migrating the division to the parent company’s Oracle ERP system. Rocky says this inventory system will give the company and its clients more efficiency, standardization and scalability. Rocky, having knowledge of both systems, played an integral role in training the staff to use Oracle. He worked closely with the technology department to get the ERP system live. The migration of both DCL Logistics and DCL Print Solutions onto one singular platform will not only provide account management and operational synergies, but also sales synergies when selling both print and fulfillment services to a single client.

Shifts in the Industry

DCL Logistics’ efficiency and customer service are points of pride for Rocky, who says he is optimistic for the future of the company. Over the years he has seen the company successfully keep pace with industry trends and eventually transition from a mainly software-focused business to an e-commerce service company.

“DCL used to be DisCopyLabs, a company providing replication, assembly and turnkey services,” Rocky said. Most software is now downloadable, so we have pivoted with the needs of the market and now provide e-commerce distribution and related services for many startups and other emerging brands. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the need to provide a customer centric experience to the client. We are still in the service business after all!”

Claim to Fame

Print vendors might be a dime a dozen but Rocky says DCL Print Solutions stands apart in a couple of key areas. For one, DCL Print Solutions partners with DCL Logistics, making it possible to not only warehouse product, but also have branded boxes and print materials created, packed and then shipped all under one collective roof.

“DCL Logistics can partner with DCLPS to print any type of item from quick start guides and custom labels to sales brochures and posters. For other customers, DCLPS will source marketing items: brochures, pens, T-shirts, swag, and trade show booth kits – anything a marketing organization needs,” Rocky said.

The days of printing tens of thousands of brochures at a time is a thing of the past. DCLPS gives customers the ability to order only as many print items as needed. They can go to the website and print just 10 items, for example, at a fast turnaround – virtually print on demand.

Just for Fun

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Rocky seems to enjoy mixing hard work with play. For 20 years, he was a stellar softball teammate. He has also participated in multiple marathons and half marathons, raising money for lymphoma and leukemia. When he’s not breaking a sweat, Rocky and his wife, Monica, take their 6-year-old son to his own active play, such as tae-kwon-do and T-ball. The family also sail the high seas on vacation and like to visit Disneyland.

Retrospective: Chairman-CEO Norman Tu Recalls DCL Logistics’ Origins

Norman TuIn the age of Dropbox and Google Drive, it’s easy to forget the personal computer industry is just 35 years old. Norman Tu, Chairman and CEO of DCL Logistics, noticed a shift in the industry along with the personal computing boom. In 1982, he worked for Hewlett-Packard, but was eager to pave his own way in the industry.

“Some of my colleagues were leaving HP to start their own businesses in the industry. A friend came to me and told me he was copying disks for his software business,” Tu said. “He said he didn’t enjoy it and wanted to hire me to do it.”

Norman took the leap, quit his job at Hewlett-Packard, and began DisCopyLabs. Without the budget for brochures and marketing materials, he chose a name that would need no further explanation. The DisCopyLabs name was designed to immediately communicate copying software to a disc. Within the first 10 years, the business grew exponentially, and in 1992 alone the business had copied 50 million floppy discs.

“There was a need in the marketplace and I provided the service,” Norman says. “Today we copy no more than 100,000 floppy for legacy clients. My guess is in the next two to three years that industry will be gone.”

Adapting to Innovation

In 1992, the competitive landscape was fierce for companies like DisCopyLabs. With the turn of the millennium and expansion of broadband, Norman saw the need to pivot and change the business model. DisCopyLabs’ wide array of competitors from 1992 are nonexistent today, with the last competitor going out of business two years ago. DisCopyLabs has repositioned themselves within fulfillment, leaving duplication in the past. The transition from DisCopyLabs to DCL Logistics took 1o years, but was a natural progression since logistics played such a large role in the day-to-day.

“People put you in a box. They know you as a software manufacturer and when you try to step into another industry, they don’t take you seriously. It took a while to shift that perception. Over the last five years, business has really accelerated — we’re legitimized in the 3PL sector.”

Competitive Edge

Given Norman’s background, DCL Logistics places a large focus on technology. The company’s robust IT department is just one of the things that sets them apart from competitors. Using robotic systems and factory automation allows DCL Logistics to streamline their work and make the experience seamless for the end consumer. In addition, DCL has invested heavily in their online visibility portal called eFactory, which Norman believes is in the upper quadrant of similar tools that other 3PL companies offer.

“Fulfillment services are more or less a commodity, so one way to differentiate yourself is by offering customer-facing technology that provides our clients with transparency and the empowerment to work with their products virtually — even though the product is physically sitting in our warehouse.,” he said.

Another aspect that sets the company apart is their dedication to quality. Today, DCL is ISO 9001 and 14001 certified.

“We’ve never been a low price leader,” Norman said. “We’re consistent. We strive to provide the best service of quality. We’ve done customer surveys for the past 25 years — we take the input very seriously. We want to know areas where we can do better, as well as other services we can provide.”

Family Matters

Norman Tu and DCL Logistics have clearly accomplished a lot over the years, but he’s proudest when he thinks about passing down the business.

“Business is doing very well and I want to pass it to the next generation. I would be proud if as I leave this business, I could see the next generation take it to the next level.”

In fact, Norman’s son Dave has already taken over running the company as President. With three children and five grandchildren, Norman is proud of his family members and looks forward to a bright future for both them and the company.

Seasoned Advice

When he left his job at HP to begin DisCopyLabs, Norman took a risk that paid off immensely. His advice to new or aspiring business owners? Quit your day job.

“Without quitting your day job, the chance of being successful is zero to nothing. If you’re not committed or passionate about it, success won’t come. You have to make a commitment — you’re all in.”

Norman believes there are two kinds of people in the world: people who make things happen and people who wait for things to happen. He has carried a crumpled piece of paper in his wallet for 35 years. It says, simply: Make it happen.

Doppler Customers, We Hear You Loud and Clear

Hearing is a powerful sense, and yet, we don’t have much control over the sounds that bombard our ears daily. Doppler Labs, Inc, headquartered in San Francisco and Shanghai, began with a vision to change how we hear the world. The idea was to give people a toolset to curate their own audio environment.

Noah Kraft, co-founder and CEO, said the company sold nearly 300,000 units of an advanced tech earplug in their first product launch.

“We first launched DUBS Acoustic Filters, a pair of advanced tech earplugs that reduce volume without compromising overall clarity of sound,” he said. “Seeing the demand for in-ear technology, we decided to embark on something much more dynamic, which led to the development of Here Active Listening, a concept car product that focused on Real-World Sound Control, specifically for live listening experiences.”

In February 2017, Doppler launched its flagship product, Here One, which builds on the Real-World Sound Control in Here Active Listening, but also adds traditional headphone functionality, such as music streaming, phone calls, and more. For commuters and people who need help hearing in noisy environments, Here One is the first truly wireless 3-in-1 headphone, delivering premium sound quality, Smart Noise Cancellation, and Speech Enhancement.

These products deliver superhuman hearing through the magic of Real-World Sound Control, Doppler Labs’ proprietary technology that turns what looks like a normal headphone into a hearing device that mimics the natural acoustics of your ears. This has never been delivered in the kind of portable, wireless, and powerful form found in Here One.

Real-World Sound Control gives people the ability to fine-tune the sounds around them to their liking, whether that’s through dynamically increasing or decreasing the volume of real-world sound or selectively enhancing or suppressing specific sounds – like a jet engine, baby crying, or loud voices at a restaurant – so that they hear exactly what they want.

While the technology found in Here One is incredibly complex, the feature set, product, and app design have to be approachable enough for consumers to want to use them. To that end, the team at Doppler Labs has been highly conscious of balancing aesthetics with functionality, making sure not to pack in too many features right out the gate. This has helped to overcome one of the largest consumer obstacles – the stigma of wearing in-ear devices in social or conversational settings.

Between building and shipping the concept car product, Here Active Listening, and launching their first-ever flagship product, Here One, 2017 has been a whirlwind at Doppler Labs.

“Now that the company has fulfilled our Here One pre-orders, we’re focused on scaling the product to as many ears as possible,” Kraft said. “The early customer feedback has been great so far. In the near term, we’re focused on getting a better understanding for how customers are using Here One in the world so that we can use their feedback to make continuous improvements and incorporate new features through regular software updates. As we look ahead, we’re focused on rapid growth, team building, and achieving scale.”

Every fast growing fulfillment company needs a partner they can rely on to help get them over operational hurdles. Kevin Lynch, Business Operations Manager at Doppler Labs, says the company vetted at least a dozen other 3PLs before deciding on DCL, which has helped the company to overcome obstacles inherent in fulfillment.

“We’re very grateful to our partners, like DCL Logistics, especially at this crucial stage in our business,” he said. “In particular, DCL has helped us navigate several one-off logistics challenges, such as crowd-funding fulfillment and pre-order management. Additionally, they’ve guided us through retailer setup/routing guide implementation, EDI integration, B2C systems integration, and order support.”

DCL Logistics has also worked with Doppler Labs to build a robust reverse logistics and refurb operation.

“(DCL’s) ReturnTrak module allows for efficient generation of RMAs, and they’ve collaborated with us in developing a testing and refurbishment process to salvage returned units and get them back into inventory.”

Lynch says Doppler Labs plans to rely on DCL Logistics to continue supporting their fulfillment and logistics needs.

“Being a consumer tech hardware company focused on distributing hundreds of thousands to millions of units a year means that our logistics challenges will only grow going forward,” he said. “We’re confident DCL will be able to support us in this growth.”

Here One is available for purchase in 33 countries, at https://www.hereplus.me, and ships within 1-2 business days. Here One is also available online at Amazon and at more than 250 AT&T, Brookstone, Best Buy, and b8ta stores nationwide.

The Amazon 3PL Trap

Let’s face it.

Most everyone knows about Amazon. They’re the leading e-retailer in the United States with over 136 Billion Dollars in sales in 2016 alone. Not to mention roughly 300 Million active customer accounts worldwide and an average 27% revenue growth year-over-year.

With these kinds of numbers, it’s easy to see they are a force to be reckoned with.

If you sell products online, you know Amazon runs a program called FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). This service allows other businesses to utilize Amazon’s massive infrastructure to provide order fulfillment for their own customers. 

Basically, you ship your inventory to Amazon, advertise your products for sale on the web, and the online powerhouse takes care of the rest. Pick, pack, ship, and even customer service — all done on your behalf.

Seems like a great way for small to medium sized organizations to do business, right?

Well, not so fast. Once you stop and take a closer look, FBA may not be the all-in-one logistics answer you thought it was and here’s why

HIGH COSTS THAT CONTINUE TO RISE

When an e-tailer does as much business as Amazon, there has to be an enormous amount of people and infrastructure involved to make it happen. FBA is no exception.

At last count, there were over 100 fulfillment centers and 15 sort centers worldwide (with more on the way soon). All total, these facilities account for more than 70 million square feet of commercial space. If you think a network this size might be expensive to build and maintain, you’re right. Amazon has proved this out in the past, having announced regular periodic price increases on fulfillment and inventory storage fees. 

Because of this tremendous overhead, and the massive number of packages shipped each year, Amazon is actively looking for new ways to reduce operating and shipping costs. And with good reason — Amazon’s losses on shipping alone totaled over 7.2 billion dollars last year!

To remedy this problem, the web giant has the long term view that investing into their own private freight, air transport, local delivery options, and even drone programs will be the most cost effective strategy to offset rising transportation expenses. However effective this strategy is long term, these are obviously high-priced and capital-intensive expansions that need to be funded somehow.

You are likely paying for these shipping losses and future investments through Amazon’s FBA rate increases for sellers.

Year after year the cost of Fulfillment by Amazon has continued to rise. For example, the cost for storage TRIPLED during the 2016 holiday season, forcing businesses to either overstock (risking added storage expense for idle inventory) or understock (saving money but possibly losing sales during the holiday rush). Fulfillment fees in 2017 have also increased significantly compared to the rates in 2016.

That’s a tough spot to be in.

Counter this with independent logistics companies who DON’T charge extra fees for busy periods and maintain more consistent overall storage pricing. Many logistics companies have in-house fulfillment infrastructures in place that are ready to grow with your business or are willing to make the necessary operational investments to support your shipping activities. As compared to Amazon, where you are just part of the machine, your 3PL will likely have a vested interest in the success of your business. They view you as a partner; not just another contract.

LACK OF PERSONALIZATION OPTIONS

With today’s savvy consumers, there are three key elements involved in the successful sale of physical goods. Think of these as the trifecta of building a strong brand.

  1. A great product
  2. The ability to ship quickly and reliably
  3. A means to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd

While finding/developing the right product is up to you, distribution and marketing are areas that can be outsourced to others.

There’s no denying that Amazon has their act together when it comes to order fulfillment. Their billion-dollar operation is a model of efficiency that cranks out thousands of orders every day. But on the same token, this is also one of their biggest weaknesses.

In order to handle this type of volume, Amazon’s processes have to be as streamlined as possible. That means zero deviation from center. Each item is packed, wrapped, and sent the exact same way … EVERY … SINGLE … TIME. And by default, no less, in “Amazon” branded boxes (unless you opt to pay more for a generic one).

That’s fine when you’re shipping everyday items or low-cost consumables. But NOT if you want to stand out from the crowd. For the customer experience it should be about YOUR brand — not the vendor’s. One of the best ways to accomplish this goal is to implement custom packaging, gifting or some other means of differentiation in your fulfillment process.   

Partnering with the right 3PL eliminates this roadblock. As most have white label logistics solutions, which allow you to customize your order as you see fit. Whether it is branding your shipping boxes with your logo or tagline, having a specific plan for packing filler, custom inserts, or having a special arrangement for how the contents should be packed in the shipping box, 3PLs will have experience and flexibility in accommodating these types of requests.

IMPERSONAL CUSTOMER SERVICE

While we’d like to think that everything will run smoothly once set up, most know that’s simply not the case. No matter how much you plan, build, or execute, problems are still bound to creep up.

So what happens when your customer runs into an issue? How will it be handled? Better yet, what happens when YOU have a problem and need a prompt resolution?

With FBA and Seller Central, you’re pretty much in the same boat as one of their customers. That means calling an 800 number and speaking to a lower level associate about your problem. Someone who has no clue what your business is about, your history, or how you like to be treated.

Or being subjected to a barrage of back and forth emails where your case is mistakenly “closed” before the problem is actually fixed. You get passed around like a hot potato from one customer service center to the next as you wait for a resolution that never comes.

Working with a 3PL is the exact opposite. A typical 3PL is staffed with dedicated customer service representatives located mere steps from the actual distribution floor, where your products sit. Agents who know about you and your business and understand what makes them tick. You will likely develop a close working relationship with your customer service rep and they will become your advocate within your 3PL’s distribution center.

ALTERNATIVE 3PL SOLUTIONS

Fulfillment By Amazon/Seller Central is an incredibly efficient operating model, but may not be the best choice for your business needs as covered in this article. The challenges with FBA are obvious to most all who use the program now and even those who are considering it. Because of Amazon’s omni-presence and virtual reach, many feel they need Amazon FBA for obvious reasons. In reality, the decision is not black and white. You will need to determine the right solution for your growing brand — one that gives you reach and flexibility, while doing it cost effectively. Don’t feel trapped thinking that Amazon is the end all be all 3PL solution.

 

Dave Tu

President, DCL Logistics

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