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Unlocking Questions About Amazon Fulfillment for Startups — a DCL Logistics Customer Spotlight with Gate Labs
There’s a balance that a modern 3PL (third-party logistics provider) should strive to achieve: sticking with established procedures that are grounded in industry experience, and implementing progressive tech tools to streamline the supply chain. This balance is crucial for a 3PL that supports hardware companies creating products for new markets.
Gate Labs Inc., a DCL Logistics customer, is one of these companies—they have built a home smart lock called Gate that helps solve a modern homeowner’s problem: giving trusted and reliable home access when needed. Gate has real-time video streamed immediately to your smartphone, and two-way audio so that you can personally welcome guests or give last minute instructions to a service provider.
DCL is proud to support the growth of Gate Labs, and in speaking with COO, Jens Voges, he was very transparent about how DCL fulfills the modern 3PL balancing act.
Tech Tools that Meets the Times-Reports, Forecasting and Custom Integrations
A technology platform is an imperative tool for any modern logistics and fulfillment company—and Jens points out that DCL’s fulfillment and inventory management app, eFactory, is much more than a single-use tool. He rattled off a seemingly endless list of its uses, then concluded with: “Having a robust system in place that can integrate with all the different partners, that can provide reporting, and automate the returns process—all these various things, DCL does for us. And all of it it is done through a web portal in an automated way. That’s critical. That’s my number one.”
There haven’t been many times when I’ve needed some information and not been able to find it in eFactory. It’s the way I would expect logistics to work in this day and age.
– Jens Voges, COO of Gate Labs
When asked what Jens uses eFactory for the most, he said, “We rely on eFactory not just for placing the occasional manual order, also observing all the orders going through from Amazon and Shopify, as well as managing our returns process, looking up our inventory levels. We also use it as the backbone of our business dashboard that we pull together on a weekly basis.”
A point of difference between the eFactory app and other solutions is the ability to customize reports and enter additional information. Jens and his team have created a custom system where they add a Zendesk ticket number to each returned item. This allows them to see literally what happened to any particular customer when they are sifting through data on their returns. He concludes, “There haven’t been many times when I’ve needed some information and not been able to find it in eFactory. It’s the way I would expect logistics to work in this day and age.”
Plugging into the Modern Marketplace-the Many Decisions Required to Sell on Amazon
Amazon has become an important place to sell, but its also a rigorous and monolithic platform to work with, making it a difficult sales channel to navigate for startups. Jens explains, “Amazon has very strict requirements and targets. It’s also really hard to get time with Amazon and talk though all of their different programs. What’s available online is sometimes a little cryptic. It’s nice to know we can count on DCL, that DCL knows how to work with Amazon.”
Since Amazon has many variants to its platform, there are a significant amount of decisions to be made by a seller—choosing Vendor Central or Seller Central, for example. “I appreciate that DCL is correctly agnostic in their support of both,” Jens explains. “We started off with Vendor Central, and have now also introduced a Seller Central site. In both cases we have been able to really quickly integrate their EDI connections through DCL. Now that we are in Seller Central, there are again two different options that we have with Amazon. We can either do Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or have Seller Fulfilled Prime—the cool thing there is that DCL supports both approaches.”
At DCL we have a dedicated account manager and team for each of our customers who are available to walk customers through these many decisions, every step of the way. “Frankly DCL has been really transparent with us, helping compare the pros and cons of both of those fulfillment options, so that we can figure out what the right solution is for us,” says Jens. “Just like every other company, cost is important to us. When you look at the black and white cost differences presented by Amazon, those are obviously things we pay attention to—but then it’s also helpful to talk through some of the other hidden costs. Having a thought partner there who has observed a lot of other companies go through that process is very helpful.”
The Proof is in Proximity-Why Hardware Startups Want to be Close to their Inventory
The basis of good logistics and fulfillment support is still solely about the tangible products. Giving our customers the ability to do physical inventory and be in our warehouse with their product is one of DCL’s most touted value-added services.
Jens explains, “I think it’s typical of any hardware company, launching a brand new product, to be legitimately concerned about missing potential quality issues. Having the ability to be responsive was important to us during the early stages of our new product introduction.”
There is no substitute for being able to review these updates in person. Jens says, “When we were just launching our engineering team was at the warehouse frequently, maybe once every three weeks. And we’re now only going once a quarter. When we want to be personally present it’s just a matter of calling up my account manager and saying ‘Hey, can we come down for a few hours later this week and go through this with you?’ It’s that simple.”
Just as our customers continue to grow, DCL is also growing and building a new warehouse in Kentucky. Jens says, “The fact that we can scale with DCL is really important to us. In the long term being able to ship out of the center of the country as opposed to one of the coasts is going to be more cost effective overall for us. I like the fact that when the time is right, we can move our fulfillment to Kentucky. At the same time, in the early days, we’re happy to maybe pay a little bit more on the shipping—for the trade off of being so close to the product.”
The fact that we can scale with DCL is really important to us. In the long term being able to ship out of the center of the country as opposed to one of the coasts is going to be more cost effective overall for us.
– Jens Voges, COO of Gate Labs
Gate was founded in 2014 by a team of three friends, Ehsan Saeedi, Danial Ehyaie and Harvey Ho, who led very busy lives and couldn’t always arrive home on time to let in personal guests, dry cleaning service, or the housekeeper. They built Gate, an all-in-one fully integrated trusted access solution that has the world’s first video camera smart lock for your home. You can give secure verified access to the dog walker, nanny, produce box delivery, dry cleaning and laundry delivery company, and have the ability to see your children come home from school too.
With Gate, you never need to keep visitors waiting anymore. Unlock your door remotely from your smartphone or grant your trusted visitors a unique pin code.
If you are looking for fulfillment and logistics support, or have questions about how to partner with DCL Logistics please contact us here.