Sutro smart pool monitor

How Sutro Serialized Their Specialized Hardware to Track Chain of Custody

With systematic tracking across the supply chain, Sutro is able to triage issues more efficiently, giving them more room to scale their business.

Sutro makes the leading water monitoring devices for pool management. Their products can test your pool or spa chemistry and ensure it’s always crystal clear.  

The Sutro products are highly specialized—the device contains a lithium-ion battery and refillable cartridges have liquid reagents that test and monitor your pool or spa water. This alchemy of materials requires specialized shipping, inventory organization, and most importantly tracking the chain of custody of each unit the entire supply chain.  

Through their partnership, DCL Logistics established a serialization system to identify and track the chain of custody of each Sutro unit. They also helped optimize their shipping services to save Sutro 20% in overall shipping costs.

Ravi Kurani, President and Founder at Sutro says, “With a hardware product that is finally hitting the market, there’s so much work done to figure out the product, the marketing, the packaging—it’s a relief to have a mature partner like DCL really hold your hand through the rest of it.”  

Ecommerce Case Study: Sutro

  • Problem: As a first-time hardware startup Sutro needed help figuring out how to fulfill and ship a highly specialized and time-sensitive hardware product.  
  • Solution: DCL Logistics, having worked with specialized hardware brands for decades, created a system of product serialization that enabled Sutro customers to get the freshest cartridges. Sutro now uses the system that DCL set up across their supply chain. 
  • Results: With a more systematic and organized way of tracking their products from manufacturer to customer, Sutro now has 100% visibility of their supply chain and can triage issues more quickly and efficiently, allowing them to scale their business.  
Sutro smart pool monitor app

Setting Up Serialization to Track Chain of Custody

The water monitoring component of the Sutro product is a cartridge filled with reagent, a liquid used for chemical analysis. This specialized liquid can’t just sit around for months or else it will dry out.  

“We needed to figure out the storing, aging, and repackaging of our cartridges. Our business model is subscription based, so with a just-in-time capacity product, we need to make sure that our users are getting cartridges that are as fresh as possible. We realized pretty quickly that to do that, we needed a way to track the chain of custody.”  

DCL’s experience with specialized hardware was a perfect match—they seamlessly implemented serialized identification of each unit to be tracked within the fulfillment and shipping process.   

“The entire tracking procedure, honestly, I think it came from being at DCL—we didn’t have that procedure very early on.”

Ravi Kurani President and Founder at Sutro

Sutro took the system that DCL set up and reverse-engineered it and had their Chinese manufacturing firm put it into effect as well. Every single cartridge that gets printed gets a serialized QR code. That code is scanned at every stop in the supply chain: the factory in China, the filling facility in the US, at DCL when it’s received, and when DCL puts in a box to ship.  

“Now we have a trackable chain of custody for every single cartridge and device, from exactly when it was made in China to when it was filled and when it got shipped out,” says Ravi. “We can also track which reagent batch it was filled with, when it landed at DCL’s warehouse, what box it was in, and see the end-customer who got it.”  

The Sutro team, having a savvy software side of the business as well, established a comprehensive back-end chain-of-custody system, built in-house. Ravi adds, “We’ve set it up so that DCL can link into it, Shopify can link into it. We can know where any device is in the Sutro ecosystem, at any point in time.”

A More Organized Approach to Inventory Management

In the first few batches of any hardware launch it is not uncommon to have devices come in with defects or issues. Sutro realized there was a waterproofing issue with their very first batch of devices. Ravi explains, “It only affected less than a few hundred devices. DCL was quickly able triage those units so they wouldn’t get mixed up with the thousands more ‘good’ units coming in.” 

A 3PL warehouse can be complex and inventory management is no easy task when juggling thousands of units coming in and out every day. “DCL is an exquisite 3PL,” says Ravi. “Visiting their facilities, there’s so much happening all the time. To be able to triage a subset of our devices and pull them aside was impressive.”  

Most of the time, a logistics provider is only notable when something goes wrong. When everything goes right there are less customer complaints and no issues to resolve. A reliable 3PL will pay close attention to problem areas before they escalate to customer issues, giving time and resources back to the brand to grow and scale.  

“If bad units get shipped out, that causes negative reviews, customer service tickets go up, it’s basically a black mark on the product. DCL was able to triage the issue and no bad units are sent out. There isn’t really a real dollar amount you can assign to the savings—except that it saves your brand reputation entirely.”

Ravi Kurani President and Founder at Sutro

Switching to a Lower Cost Shipping Service During Busy Season

A critical component to Sutro’s business is shipping new cartridges to customers monthly. The product’s characteristics require special handling and labeling when shipping—the lithium-ion battery and chemical liquid require it to be classified as a Dangerous Good. Not all shipping carriers and services will ship Dangerous Goods, so finding the right service took them some time.  

“As a first-time founder, first time entrepreneur that’s building a hardware product, I didn’t know how things get shipped. Honestly, I was naive about it, and between USPS or UPS I thought the details didn’t really matter.” 

DCL noticed that Sutro was paying too much in shipping fees with one carrier. As things happen, this came to light in the middle of summer, Sutro’s busiest season. But when the Sutro team learned that they could save 20% on shipping by switching to another carrier with comparable transit times with the ability to support Sutro’s refills, they decided to put it in DCL’s hands.  

Ravi says, “So, in the heat of summer, Sutro, a swimming pool product, getting a bunch of orders in, you wouldn’t imagine it’s that easy to just spin up a new shipping service. But DCL was able to do that, and it was incredibly smooth.” 

At the end of the day, outsourcing logistics to a 3PL means putting trust in your provider to get things done that you can’t do yourself.  

“If you’re a hardware company, the last thing you want to go wrong is your shipping service. It’s an area where I believe many founders don’t overthink, where they probably should. They’ve poured so much money and effort into building this hardware, shipping often becomes an afterthought.”  

Ravi continues, “I had no idea how to ship a unit from point A to point C. DCL does a great job at connecting those ends to building transparency of that black box in the middle.”

Sutro smart pool monitor app

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