When running an ecommerce business, boosting your net profit often means finding ways to cut costs wherever you can, without…
The word quality is often used liberally by logistics and fulfillment companies to describe their services and values. However, it’s not often clearly defined or measured.
In industries outside of logistics and fulfillment, it’s clear what quality means when describing a product or service. For example, certified organic produce is synonymous with the term quality. As a consumer, we know that the environment in which it was grown was checked by an objective party to make sure the soil and fertilizer were up to standard. Many people are willing to pay a premium for the quality of that food.
At DCL, we take quality seriously. It is one of our core values in our mission statement. We want our customers to know why quality matters, how it’s measured, and how it impacts their own business.
A Brief History of Quality at DCL
When DCL (originally named DisCopyLabs) was founded in 1982, we were a software manufacturing company. We duplicated, packaged, and shipped physical software for companies. We manufactured many types of software, from 8” and 3 ½” floppy diskettes, to CD-ROMs. At the peak of our software business, we manufactured 100 million software copies and shipped to retail stores on behalf of our customers. Our clients included innovators in the space, including Symantec and Adobe—30 years later, we’re proud and lucky to say that they are still our customers!
To survive and grow in software manufacturing, we needed to have a near flawless operational process to ensure that each piece of software we produced was identical—from the first copy off the line to the last one. We lived by the slogan “Each a perfect original.”
How DCL Defines and Measures Quality
Our early success in the cutthroat world of software manufacturing allowed us to establish high caliber quality standards which carried us forward to the next phase of our business in logistics and fulfillment.
That first slogan—“each a perfect original”—still lives in our core philosophy. The concept is straightforward: every order, from the first to the last, must go out on time, picked accurately, packed according to its specifications, and get to the accurate destination. Every. Single. Time.
While on the surface this seems really simple, it can be difficult if you don’t have the proper operational foundation, experience, and discipline in place, especially at high volumes and with a mixture of different order profiles, which increases complexity.
Fulfillment and Operational Quality
At the core of our operations we focus on developing processes for everything, clearly documenting these processes, and constantly iterating to make improvements. Our approach is derived from requirements defined by the International Organization for Standards (ISO), a standard-setting body composed of representatives from national organizations across many industries. DCL has been ISO 9001 certified for 17 consecutive years and is currently operating under the ISO 9001:2015 standard. While it’s an onerous and resource heavy certification to maintain, we feel it’s necessary to uphold the quality standards that we’ve established for our customers.
At the core of it, ISO requires a company to document their processes across the entire organization and to ensure that the company is following their stated processes .
Implementing and maintaining ISO 9001 processes is a tall task and we have a dedicated Quality Team who oversee the training, documentation, and day-to-day implementation. The entire team consists of a dozen people, a few work out of each facility across the company; their sole responsibility is to ensure that the DCL personnel keep to the standards, processes, and requirements set in place by the ISO 9001.
There are many quality metrics we track, but two of the primary ones we track importantly are Error rate and shipping times.
Error rate is defined by how many errors we catch and document when fulfilling orders for each customer. We have a number of quality check points during the fulfillment process and when an error is detected, our team is required to log each error into our system. These errors are flagged for our Quality Team to address and develop a corrective action report (CARC) to ensure the error doesn’t happen again. The CARCs are reviewed by management on a weekly basis to certify they were addressed properly and ensure corrective action is implemented across all our fulfillment centers, regardless of where the issue occurred. Our process of capturing and addressing ongoing errors creates a feedback loop for the teams to help us continually improve our operational processes across the company.
Shipping time is another important aspect of how we measure the quality of our work and service. For each customer, we have specified when we will fulfill and ship their incoming orders (also known as shipping cutoff time); the shipping time needs will vary from client to client and are agreed upon upfront in their contract. Order receipts and shipping times are captured in real-time through our order management and inventory platform, eFactory, where customers can measure and track the entire process specific to their orders. This gives our customers 100% transparency on our performance and ensure we’re meeting our contractual obligations.
We understand that getting the product to the end consumer quickly and accurately is a critical factor for their overall satisfaction. DCL strives to improve our systems and operations to minimize the amount of time between when the order is received and when the product is shipped out.
The Future of Quality
The team at DCL will continue to maintain and exceed the highest quality standards we can. At the founding of this company, quality was identified and defined as one of DCL’s core values—it has always been part of the company culture and DNA.
Whether it’s continuing to build out new measurement tools in eFactory, provide quality training to all DCL employees, or introduce more automation (robots!), our promise to our customers is that we will deploy the necessary resources to ensure we meet and exceed the highest quality standards. We believe that by doing so our clients will reap the benefits by also having happier customers.
— Brian Tu (@briantu) April 4, 2019