How Retailers Prepare For The Holiday Season

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The holiday season is full of cheer, presents, and tasty food for consumers across the country.

However, for the retailers charged with keeping store shelves stocked with inventory, the holiday season is a frenzied scramble to forecast, service, and adapt.

How Do Retailers Prepare For The Holiday Season

If you’re a retailer looking to sail through the holiday season without any significant disruptions or hiccups, then you probably haven’t had the pleasure of working in the retail business during the holiday season.

The holiday season brings joy and happiness to most Americans, but it also delivers high consumer and market demands, unpredictable weather, rapidly changing buyer forecasts and unexpected delays in the supply chain.

As a retailer, the best way to ensure a smooth transition through the holidays is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Extend Shipping Cut-Off Date

The two most important shopping weeks of the holiday season are the final week before Christmas (accounting for 12-14% of overall transaction), and the Cyber 5 stretch.

The Cyber 5 stretch refers to the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday that are critical to driving sales over the holiday season.

Top retailers prepare for these hectic shopping periods by extending shipping cut-off dates for as long as possible.

Extending the shipping cut-off date enables a brand to increase its expected shipping allowance and capitalize on a larger section of final order volume.

It also decreases the time from when a shopper confirms their purchase online, and when the order is shipped.

Stress-Test Your Infrastructure

Purchase intent is high during the holiday season which makes it a great time to capitalize on consumer interest in your brand.

Most retailers experience strong sales performance during the holiday seasons which can put an overwhelming amount of stress on any system.

Before the holiday season, e-commerce retailers should stress test their systems and ensure they will have the ability to adapt to and overcome the excess stress exerted by the outsized demand.

Forecast From Last Year’s Data

Accurate forecasting during the holiday season is exceptionally important. It reveals consumer buying patterns and enables retailers to predict the sales and plan for a surge in consumer demand.

Retailers should utilize their sales data from previous holiday seasons to establish deals with vendors and place bulk orders at a discount.

Discounted bulk orders enable retailers to offer better holiday deals without taking a loss, and ensures enough inventory for the holidays.

Secure Transportation Ahead of Time

If you think finding transportation for your palletized inventory is difficult throughout the rest of the year, then you are in for a surprise when the holidays roll around.

Come October, truck markets dry up faster than mugs of eggnog at the family Christmas party.

Top retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, and Costco buy up all the available trucking capacity to ensure they will have the logistics infrastructure to deliver orders to their customers.

To avoid being left in the cold without the means to ship products to customers, retailers should reach out to their shipping providers before the holiday season to secure transportation.

Don’t forget to utilize shipping data collected from previous holiday seasons to forecast your logistics requirements accurately.

Develop Battle Plans

In the world of retail, things tend to go from bad to worse during the holidays. It is essential for retailers to develop battle plans and prepare for a worst-case scenario.

Weather Related Shipping Delays – It is not at all uncommon for the weather to delay the supply chain.

The winter regularly buries retailers, trucks, and fulfillment centers in feet of snow that shuts down operations and halts shipping of any kind.

Retailers should be prepared with alternate shipping, storage, and inventory options for when the weather invariably exerts itself on your holiday operations.

Let’s not forget that treacherous conditions may also prevent your team from making it work. Retailers should have a plan such a scenario as well.

Demand is Higher Than Forecasted – What is your team going to do if they run out of inventory? How do you plan on compensating customers who were oversold?

These questions and any related to out of stocks missed transfers, and broken vendor promises should be answered before the holidays.

Systems Crash – Does your team have the ability to receive, fill, and ship orders without an order fulfillment or transportation management system?

Retailers should prepare for a systems crash and train their employees in alternate methods of collecting, filling, and shipping customer orders.

In Summary

The holiday season can bring high sales, increased brand awareness, and define a company’s strategy for the on the coming year.

Therefore, it is essential that retailers do everything they can to prepare for the frenzy of the holidays and ensure that their infrastructure, their forecast and their team are ready for anything.

Flowspace can assist retailers with their holiday warehousing and fulfillment needs. Get a free quote today!

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Top Warehousing Locations in the Bay Area

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The San Francisco Bay Area is the second largest port area in California, which puts it in league with some of the busiest ports in the world.

The Bay Area is centrally located on the west coast, conveniently nestled between Los Angeles in the South, and Seattle to the North.

Thus, the Bay Area serves as the logistics, warehousing, and supply chain hub of Northern California and the majority of the west coast of the United States.

What Are the Top Warehousing Locations in the San Francisco Bay Area

The Bay Area of Northern California is an ideal location to find cost-effective warehousing with features beneficial to e-commerce fulfillment, and an efficient supply chain.

What to Consider

Location & E-commerce – E-commerce is reshaping the way supply chains need to think in order to compete on the global scale.

Now, more than ever supply chains must consider the location of their warehousing as it pertains to transportation, warehousing, and fulfillment costs.

Distance from Port – An important aspect of any warehousing & fulfillment operations is the distance of the fulfillment center from the port where their freight is offloaded.

In general, the closer a fulfillment center is to a commercial port the lower its transportation cost.

However, warehousing in close proximity of a commercial port is generally more expensive than warehousing further away.

Due to its proximity to the Port of Oakland, the Bay Area is ideally located to serve as a supply chain hub for businesses with customers anywhere along the west coast.

Port of Oakland – According to the California Department of Transportation, the Port of Oakland is the fourth largest port in the nation, handles trade from Pacific Rim countries, and delivers 99% of ocean containers passing through Northern California to the rest of the nation.

Land, Labor, and Transportation- The Bay Area of Northern California is centrally located along the west coast. Interstates 80, 580, 280, 505, and a plethora of state freeways intersect in the Bay Area enabling easy transportation anywhere in the state of California and the Western United States.

Land and labor costs are generally more expensive the closer one gets to the Port of Oakland; however, cost-efficient commercial areas surround the entire Bay Area.

Warehousing Locations in the Bay Area of Northern California

San Francisco – The cost of warehousing space anywhere in San Francisco is bound to be more expensive due to its proximity to the Port of Oakland.

A 2010 Bizcost report found warehousing in San Francisco to be the most expensive in the country, with new construction costs as high as $24.4 million.

Businesses who choose San Francisco as their warehousing location are recommended to lease space rather than begin new construction.

San Jose – Located a mere 45 miles from the Port of Oakland, San Jose is a cost-effective alternative to warehousing space in expensive San Francisco.

East Bay – According to CBRE, the East Bay industrial market vacancy rate fell to 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2015, averaging $6.72 per square foot of warehouse space and $8 per square foot of manufacturing space.

Oakland – Oakland is home to the Port of Oakland. Due to proximity to the port, transportation costs for warehouses in Oakland are often very low.

However, the cost of warehousing space per foot is on average more expensive than Bay Area cities further inland.

Stockton – Stockton California is home to one of the busiest intermodal rail hubs in the country as well as one of its largest inland ports.

Stockton is little more than an hours drive from the Port of Oakland and located with easy highway access to Northern, and Central California.

Other cities in the Bay Area that are conveniently located and offer a cost-efficient ratio of transportation and warehousing costs include:

The Bay Area of Northern California may not be the most cost-effective location to establish one’s warehousing and fulfillment operations.

However, some would argue that the Bay Area efficient and convenient transportation of goods anywhere along the west coast.

E-commerce is growing at the rate of consumer demand, and whether your product is on its way to Florida, or Chicago, there is a good chance it came through the Port of Oakland and the Bay Area of Northern California.

Finding warehousing locations in the Bay Area could be strenuous work. Flowspace is here to make warehousing and fulfillment easy. Get started today!

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Fulfillment Center vs. Warehouse: What Are The Differences?

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The terms “warehouse” and “fulfillment center” are often used interchangeably. The buildings share similar functions, and physical differences between the two are slight.

However; a warehouse and a fulfillment center are not the same. The buildings differ drastically concerning utilization and the goals of their operations.

What is a Warehouse?

A warehouse is a large, spacious building where finished goods are stored until redistribution to the consignee. (retailers, wholesalers, distribution centers)

The shape, size, and function of a warehouse are, in part, determined by the type of inventory that it is meant to house. (retail product, CBG’s, etc.) In general, there are six different types of warehouses.

Private Warehouse- A warehouse, or network of warehouses owned by one organization and used in support of that organization’s supply chain.

Public Warehouse- Public warehouses are typically sub-leased to retailers in need of extra inventory space.

Automated Warehouse- An automated warehouse utilizes technology, robotics, and even some forms of AI (artificial intelligence) to automate their processes and minimize the number of employees required to conduct operations.

Climate-Controlled Warehouse- A climate-controlled warehouse is designed to house refrigerated, frozen and temperature sensitive inventory.

On-demand Warehouse- The function of an on-demand warehouse is to provide short-term storage, transportation, and service of inventory for retailers on a month-to-month basis.

Distribution Center- The terms “distribution center” and “fulfillment center” are interchangeable. A distribution/fulfillment center is a type of warehouse, but a warehouse is not a fulfillment center.

What is a Fulfillment Center?

A fulfillment center is similar to a warehouse, and often referred to as a distribution center (DC). Like a warehouse, a fulfillment center is a building in which retailers, and similar organizations, store their inventory until distribution to the customer.

Unlike a warehouse, however, a fulfillment center is typically operated by a third-party logistics provider (3PL) who provides inventory storage and host of other operational functions, including freight transportation, handling cross-docking and, most importantly order fulfillment.

What’s the Difference? Fulfillment Center vs. Warehouse

The most significant differences between a fulfillment center and a warehouse are the extent of the operations carried out within and the customers they are intended to serve.

Customers- Warehouse operations generally serve B2B customers.

Fulfillment centers, however, are designed to service direct-to-customer, and online orders, better known as e-commerce and B2C.

Operations- Inventory ships in and out of a warehouse on a shipping pallet. Thus the majority of the logistics operations that take place at warehouse concern a freight carrier, or even an intermodal provider.

Inbound inventory shipments arrive at fulfillment centers palletized, but they ship out as a parcel sized shipment.

E-commerce retailers manage to ship products to customers across the country, and the world because they utilize a network of fulfillment centers.

A fulfillment center is intended to store inventory for a minimal amount of time, fill e-commerce orders and ship orders directly to the customer.

Goals- The goal of a warehouse is to safely and efficiently store inventory for an extended amount of time, typically several months to a year.

A warehouse is generally limited to housing no more than a handful of different inventories, for an extended period.

The goal of a fulfillment center, on the other hand, is to fill and ship orders in the least amount of time possible.

Fulfillment centers are not designed to store inventory for more than a few months; they are very expedient and streamlined in their operations.

Thus, it is possible for a fulfillment center to manage the operations for countless e-commerce retailers.

Fulfillment centers and warehouses are very similar, and it’s easy to confuse the two. The best way to remember their differences is to consider geometry class.

Comparing a fulfillment center to a warehouse is like comparing squares and rectangles. All squares are rectangles, but all rectangles are not squares.

Every fulfillment center is a warehouse, but a warehouse is not a fulfillment center.

Flowspace has hundreds of warehouses around the country who can handle your inventory. Get started today!

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Top Warehousing Locations in Los Angeles

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California’s economy is the 5th largest in the world. Nearly 40% of all imported freight into the United States funnels through California, and nearly half of that product is consumed in California.

These statistics are in part due to California’s large population, which qualifies it as the most populous state in the U.S. Such a large population is bound to consume a lot of resources.

However, many are surprised to discover that much of California’s economic activity takes places in the greater Los Angeles area.

What are the Top Warehousing Locations in the Los Angeles Area

The reason why Los Angeles is such a hot spot for commerce is the area’s proximity to the two busiest ports in the United States; The Port of Los Angeles and The Port of Long Beach.

The two ports combined funnel approximately 30% of all freight into the U.S, which is a statistic that is estimated to grow exponentially with the evolution of e-commerce.

In fact, according to the CBRE more the 1.2 million sq. ft. is needed to accommodate the rapidly growing warehousing needs of the e-commerce industry.

Before you flock to California in a 2018 rendition of the California gold rush there are several warehousing facets that first needs to be considered.

What to Consider

Port Proximity- The proximity of a warehouse to the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach is critically important to determining the cost of land, labor, and transportation.

Land, Labor, & Transportation- Real-estate is always costlier near the water, and the same rule of thumb applies to warehousing in Los Angeles.

Warehousing space and labor are in short supply and high demand in the areas that are in close proximity to either port.

However, due to the proximity of warehouse spaces in the area surrounding the ports of LA and Long Beach, transportation and drayage costs are often significantly lower.

Inventory Turn Rate- In general, the quicker a warehouse turns its inventory the closer it should be in relation to a port. A quick inventory turn-around amounts to a constant flow of containers and trailers from the port.

Businesses can reduce the cost of transportation by locating their warehouses as close as they can to either the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of Long Beach.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is home to the nation’s two busiest ports; the Port of LA and the Port of Long Beach. Because both ports reside entirely within the city of Los Angeles, a number of areas have developed into prime warehousing locations.

However; the two areas that are in closest proximity to either port is the South Bay area and Long Beach.

South Bay

South Bay encompasses the area immediately surrounding the Port of Los Angeles. Drayage and transportation costs are low; however, land and labor costs can be exuberant, if you can find them.

Long Beach

Long Beach is obviously the ideal location for warehouses with a steady supply of freight from the Port of Long Beach but, like the South Bay area, labor and vacant space is challenging to find.

Orange County

Orange County encompasses the region just south of Los Angeles and falls within 25-50-mile port proximity. Orange County is home to more than 300 million sq. ft. of warehousing space which is distributed between the towns of:

Inland Empire

The Inland Empire lays sixty miles east of Los Angeles and comprises the towns of:

Inland Empire offers much in terms of available warehousing space, modern warehouses, competitive real-estate costs and a low cost of living. Accordingly, drayage and transportation costs are approximately 30% higher than warehouses with closer port proximity.

E-commerce is growing at the rate of consumer demand, and whether your product is on its way to Maine, or Texas, there is a good chance it came through the Port of Los Angeles.

Those looking to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce should do so as close to the action as they can. For warehousing in 2018, the Los Angeles area is the place to be.

Flowspace has multiple warehouses in Los Angeles who can handle your inventory. Get started today!

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What is a Liftgate and How Does it Work?

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If you are asking about liftgates, then odds are you are expecting a delivery that requires one.

There is no need to worry. They are simple in function, easy to use, and not as rare of service as you might think.

What is a Liftgate

It is a piece of hydraulic (sometimes electric) equipment that installs on the rear of a truck which enables freight to be lifted from the ground to the height of the truck’s tailgate, or from the tailgate to the ground.

How Does it Work

A truck or trailer that has been equipped with a tailgate is not easy to miss. They are large, heavy pieces of equipment that add significant weight to the gross vehicle weight.

The standard liftgate utilizes a hydraulic pressure to force a piston through a cylinder which raises and lowers the gate. They are typically controlled via a switch box with a simple “up” and “down” function.

What Does Liftgate at Delivery Mean

When a shipment has been specified as requiring a liftgate at delivery, it generally means that the consignee (party receiving the shipment) does not have a shipping dock or a forklift to unload the freight.

Do I Need a Liftgate

They are required any time a facility does not have the ability to lift freight to the height of a trailer, or down from the tailgate to the ground.

No Access to Loading Dock- Facilities that do not operate a loading dock or shipping bay do not have the capacity to load a standard 53’ semi-trailer or container unless they operate a forklift.

They are not required for floor loaded shipments so long as the individual freight items do not weigh more than 150 pounds each. If the individual freight items weigh more than 150 pounds each a forklift or liftgate is typically required.

Construction Sites- They are common in construction areas wherein an adequate shipping dock has not been built. They are typically used on construction sites to unload construction materials from shipping container, trailers, and flatbeds.

Residential Service & Home Delivery- Very few homes are properly equipped to unload a shipping trailer or container.

Shipments that are too large for standard shipping (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.) and which require residential service will also typically require a liftgate.

Furniture and home building materials are the most common freight items that require a liftgate for residential service and home delivery.

However, if you are expecting the delivery of a large freight item, and you do not have the capacity to unload it is necessary to source a liftgate service.

What Does Liftgate Service Include

With the exception of how the freight is loaded or unloaded from the trailer a liftgate service functions in the same manner as a standard shipment.

The driver or a lumper (paid loading crew) will always be responsible for the operation of the liftgate and unloading the freight.

 

 

Choosing The Right Third-Party Logistics Provider

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How To Choose The Right Third-Party Logistics Provider

There are a lot of third-party logistics providers out there offering a litany of different services. Those in the know will tell you that not all third-party logistics providers are created equal.

Choosing a third-party logistics provider (3PL) can be one of the best decisions a supply chain can make. Supply chains that utilize third-party logistics providers report increased efficiency, greater capacity, and a lower cost of doing business.

If you are looking to increase the scale of what your supply chain can achieve on a budget, then hiring a third-party logistics provider is how to do it. So how do you choose the right third-party logistics provider?

Consider Your Supply Chain

You wouldn’t buy a car without first considering what features you would like your new car to include. The same principle is applied to choosing the right third-party logistics provider for your supply chain.

Where is your supply chain struggling?

Why do you think a third-party logistics provider can help?

How do you want to interface with the 3PL?

How important is technology to your supply chain?

Answering these questions as specifically as possible will help you determine what services you would like your third-party logistics provider to provide, and therefore which 3PL is right for your supply chain.

Do Your Research

The importance of doing your research before contracting your supply chain to a third-party logistics provider cannot be overstated.

It is critically important that you thoroughly review each candidate, the services they offer, the rates they provide for those services, and how well those services are provided.

Don’t be afraid of asking each candidate the hard questions like;

  • What happens when you can’t cover a load?
  • Do you ever run out of capacity?
  • Do you run out of space during the busier seasons?
  • How long have you been in business?

If a 3PL candidate can’t, or refuses to answer any of these questions, then they may not be the best third-party logistics provider for your supply chain.

Determine Your Technology Requirements

Technology in the logistics sphere is always changing. Transportation management systems, inventory management software, artificial intelligence, freight market monitoring programs, and advanced load tracking systems are expensive, intricate, complicated and absolutely necessary to run a profitable supply chain.

The best third-party logistics providers will not only utilize advanced logistics technology they will also be compatible with the technology used by your supply chain.

The more compatible your systems, the easier it will be to operate as a seamless, efficient supply chain.

Consider Omnichannel Expertise

Different third-party logistics providers will specialize in different aspects of the supply chain. When choosing the best third-party logistics provider for your supply chain consider omnichannel experience thoroughly.

A third-party logistics provider that is versed in the various aspects of the supply chain and whom can operate seamlessly between them is going to be the better candidate.

Furthermore, it is important to consider your omnichannel expertise. How well does your supply chain function regarding warehousing, freight transportation, inventory control, etc.?

If you find that your supply chain lacks in any of these areas, then a third-party logistics provider may be able to lend their expertise and improve those areas.

Network Configuration and Scalability

Supply chains are not static. They are always changing with the market and growing as fast as consumers consume, which is why it is critical when choosing a third-party logistics provider, that you choose a candidate that can grow on the scale of your supply chain.

As supply chains grow in scale to meet consumer demand, they change to accommodate the new and ever-increasing demands of the consumer.

A third-party logistics provider that is too rigid in their configuration and ability to operate may not be able to provide you with the service your supply chain network needs when it inevitably changes.

Avoid Utilizing Too Many 3PL’s

Every 3PL provider is in competition with every other 3PL provider. Hiring too many to your supply chain can actually drive up your 3PL costs by removing valuable capacity from the market.

For example, if you consider that at any one time there are 1000 trucks in your area bidding on freight. Hiring four 3PL’s to secure transportation in that area does not increase the number of available trucks, it simply increases the amount demand for those trucks.

Simple supply and demand indicates that the price of those available trucks is going to go up.

Understanding what services and qualities that are shared by high-quality third-party logistics providers is only half of the selection process.

By far the most important aspect of choosing the right third-party logistics provider for your supply chain is understanding your logistics, knowing where your supply chain can improve, and setting tangible goals for your 3PL to achieve.

Flowspace inspects and approves each of our warehouses to ensure they meet security and quality standards. Our warehouses are staffed with workers who are available to receive your inventory, palletize your goods, and perform custom services like kitting or over labeling. We will always choose the right 3PL for you. Get started today!

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What is a Floor Loaded Container?

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What is a Floor Loaded Container?

A floor loaded container is a shipping container stacked with freight that has been loaded from the floor up without utilizing a shipping pallet.

In other words, a floor loaded container is a shipping container wherein all of the freight has been stacked onto the floor, instead of on to a wooden pallet.

Just about every article of freight larger than an Amazon package is loaded utilizing a shipping pallet. Shipping pallets enable loading and unloading crews to utilize forklifts and pallet jacks to easily move, load, and organize freight.

However, shipping pallets are heavy. They add weight and volume to the freight which in turn costs more money to ship.

Floor Load vs. Palletized

Most shippers are restricted to either floor loading or pallet loading due to the specific shipping restrictions placed on their freight. A company that ships freight that consists of glass components would not be advised to floor load their shippingcontainers due to the likelihood of it breaking.

A more durable freight class such as used tires, however, requires no such precaution and can be floor loaded from floor to ceiling in nearly any shipping container.

Floor loading is less common, and more difficult than other loading methods. Freight that is floor loaded must be carefully sorted and loaded on to the container by hand.

Shippers are advised to consult the National Motor Freight Classification to confirm their shipments freight class and to determine whether floor loading is an option for their shipment.

Otherwise, a shipper runs the risk of securing a carrier that is not adequately equipped to carry a floor loaded shipment.

In fact, most shippers, and many carriers refuse to ship, carry or load floor loaded freight due to the added layer of liability that comes with a shipment that consists of multiple floor loaded items and components.

Types of Floor Loaded Freight

Most of the freight that is shipped today is palletized because palletizing adds a layer of protection and accountability to the freight.

Freight that includes multiple small items can be secured to one pallet and shipped as one shipment, instead of numerous items that must be sorted and accounted for by hand.

However, there are a number of different types of freight that are typically floor loaded due to their manufacture, perceived durability, and individual shipping requirements.

  • Tires
  • Parcels
  • Rolled Carpets
  • Metal Coils
  • Industrial Rolls of Paper
  • Logs
  • Concrete Pipe Section

Intermodal and sea shipment containers that arrive from overseas are often floor loaded as well, especially containers from China.

How to Properly Floor Load a Container

Because the individual freight items of a floor loaded shipment are not bound together on a pallet, they are more susceptible to load shifts and potential damage.

Floor loaded shipments require load bars and straps to be strategically placed throughout the load to prevent it from shifting. Floor loaded shipments may also require added heat, cold and weather insulation due to the lack of protection.

Most importantly a floor loaded shipment has to be properly distributed throughout the container to prevent a load shift and excessive fees associated with an overweight container.

Companies like Amazon, who frequently utilize floor loaded containers also utilize “Vehicle Sizing Software” which enables their Shipment Coordinators to “build” evenly distributed, profitable floor loaded shipments that utilize every available inch of the container, and rake in the most possible revenue per floor loaded shipment.

Some shippers have a choice when it comes to floor loading freight; they can choose to save money and sacrifice efficiency by floor loading, or they can increase efficiency by pallet loading their freight, at a higher shipping cost.

How a shipper decides to load their freight will ultimately be determined by the type of freight they ship, their shipping budget and how efficiently they can load and unload a floor loaded container.

 

What is a Bill of Lading?

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Every package larger than an envelope that has ever been shipped has included a bill of lading, however, if shipping freight isn’t a part of your daily life then you are perhaps unfamiliar with a bill of lading, what it does and why they are so important.

A bill of lading is a simple piece of paper, but it is a very important simple piece of paper that ensures every package you order arrives at your door.

What is a Bill of Lading?

A bill of lading (BOL) is a required shipping document that must be included in every shipment larger than a letter envelope.

The bill of lading acts as a shipment manifest as well as a receipt for delivered goods between the freight carrier, the shipper, and the consignee (person, address or business to which the freight is delivered.)

A bill of lading is also a legally binding contract that provides the freight carrier and the driver with all of the shipping and special freight details that ensure the freight is delivered to the right address, at the right time and includes all of the undamaged individual freight pieces.

Who is Responsible for the Bill of Lading?

The shipper is generally the party that is responsible for creating a bill of lading for each shipment that leaves their freight dock, in fact, ensuring that a bill of lading is created for every shipment is a critical job for all shipping operations.

Without a signed bill of lading, there is nothing to confirm the contents of the freight, how much of it there is and whether it arrived in whole.

Freight carriers will outright refuse to move any freight without the appropriate bill of lading because the bill of lading, besides acting as a receipt, also ensures the correct order of liability should anything happen to the freight during the shipping process.

Once the freight is loaded, and the BOL signed by the dock manager and driver, the freight is legally in the custody of the freight carrier until it has been offloaded and the BOL signed by the receiving dock manager.

What Does A Freight Bill of Lading Include?

A bill of lading is a useless piece of paper if it doesn’t include the specific information that ensures the shipments successful delivery, or at least which party is liable should anything other than a successful delivery occurs.

Shipper & Consignee Name & Address- It’s simple and obvious but also important.

Every BOL needs to include the name of the individual or business shipping the freight as well as the individual or business who is to receive it.

The ship-from and delivery addresses needed to be clearly labeled, correct and verified before signing the BOL and turning over liability of the freight to the driver.

Should an address be incorrect, it is the shipper who is liable for the missed delivery, not the carrier or the consignee.

Contacts & Contact Phone Numbers- A bill of lading should also include the shipping and delivery contacts as well as their phone numbers so the carrier can confirm addresses, call for directions, and make a shipping or delivery appointment.

The BOL should also include emergency, and after-hours contacts, so the carrier knows whom to contact should an issue arise.

Purchase/Reference Numbers- There are a lot of numbers and reference numbers involved in shipping anything.

The shipper will have their own referencing system for the freight they ship. In most cases so will the consignee. The carrier will also most likely issue their own BOL number for their reference, which means there are a lot of references, PO, and shipping numbers that need to be included in the BOL if it is to be shipped and received successfully.

When generating a BOL, it is always a good idea to include more information than you might need rather than omit important information. If there is a product or reference number, include it in the BOL.

Special Shipping & Handling Instructions– Unless the freight you are shipping is indestructible it probably includes special shipping and handling instructions.

All special instructions regarding freight handling, delivery, and scheduling should be included in the bill of lading.

Date Shipped- The bill of lading must also include the date the shipment left the freight dock. This is to ensure that the freight carrier heads directly to the consignee and takes only the required amount of time to deliver.

The majority of freight shipped over the road is refrigerated with a shelf life. The ship date on the BOL ensures that the consignee is aware of how long the freight was on the truck, and how much shelf life it still has.

Packaging Type- The bill of lading must also include the manner in which the freight is packaged.

This ensures proper handling during the shipping process and that the freight is not loaded in a manner that can damage its packaging or the packaging of other shipments.

Shipment Method/Mode- This is where you specify to all involved parties the method in which the freight is to be shipped, often referred to as the shipment mode. Shipment modes include:

  • Air
  • Less than Truckload (LTL)
  • Full Truckload (FTL)
  • Sea Freight
  • Intermodal (Train)
  • Standard Mail
  • Expedited Delivery
  • etc.

Department of Transportation Hazardous Material Designation– The bill of lading is also where the shipper is to designate whether the shipment includes hazardous material.

Authorizing Signatures– Arguably the most important aspect of the BOL is the authorizing signatures that transfer freight liability from the shipper to driver, then the driver to the consignee.

A BOL is not valid unless signed, verifying that the shipment is undamaged and in one piece when it is loaded on the truck, in transit, and at final delivery. Freight carriers will outright refuse to move any freight without the appropriate bill of lading.

E-Commerce and On-Demand Warehousing

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E-commerce and online marketplaces have entirely upended the way people shop and receive the goods they purchase.

In terms of customer expectations, e-commerce creates significant challenges when compared to a brick and mortar retail location.

Prior to the days of e-commerce, a retail distribution network could get by on a relatively low number of distribution centers in regions where they expected to sell the most product.

However, e-commerce shipments are typically comprised of small quantity products that are shipped directly to the customer, wherever they may be.

According to Annual State of Logistics Report, compiled by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals, of the $1.45 trillion spent on warehousing and shipping in the United States, $900 billion was spent on shipping and transportation costs.

The substantial cost in transportation comes from the increase of e-commerce shipments to customers who do not live nearby the warehouse that stores and distributes the product.

The obvious answer to this dilemma is to redistribute the product to a warehouse in close proximity to the customer, therefore reducing how far the shipment needs to travel to reach its final destination.

Need for On-Demand Warehousing

For many small to medium size businesses, restructuring an entire distribution network to service a small number of far-flung customers is rarely a feasible business strategy.

Warehouses and third party logistics providers typically lease out warehousing space by the square foot. Which is generally only profitable when leased in large sections over several years.

Businesses who utilize an e-commerce marketplace have little need for massive, sprawling warehouses to store and distribute gross amounts of inventory, let alone the need to lease one year after year.

This creates a gap between businesses who wish to distribute limited amounts of inventory and warehouses which have too much space to be filled by any one business.

On-Demand Warehousing & E-Commerce

On-demand warehousing is the innovative new warehousing and distribution model. It connects available warehouse space with businesses who only need a small amount of space, for a short amount of time.

It enables retailers to dynamically deploy different inventory volumes to different warehouses across the country in little to no time. It expands the retailer’s previous distribution network into a comprehensive and responsive supply chain that is ideally suited to the ever-changing e-commerce marketplace.

The Solution to E-Commerce Fluctuations

In this way, an e-commerce retailer can adjust their distribution network according to the variable demand conditions without having to lease more than the required amount of space.

By doing so, a business insures their revenue stream against variables other than a simple change in volume or demand, such as:

Regional Demand Fluctuations- The demand for a product in a certain region can swing drastically, especially for e-commerce products that are often subject to social media trends and buying patterns.

On-demand warehousing enables a business to quickly increase their warehousing and distribution capacity in regions expecting a drastic increase in demand, or the opposite should they be expecting a drastic drop in demand.

Price Fluctuation- The general cost of operation can cause fluctuation from month to month, and region to region. On-demand warehousing is uniquely suited to enable businesses to scale back inventory levels in accordance with the variable cost of doing business.

Inventory Supply Fluctuation- Suppliers can come and go causing inventory levels to fluctuate drastically.

On-demand warehousing enables businesses to easily scale back inventory levels with one supplier and switch to another without the exorbitant price of changing warehouses to accommodate variable inventory supply caused by flaky supplies.

On-Demand Warehousing Here To Stay

If the warehousing and distribution industry has learned anything over the last decade, it’s that they are going to have to be flexible to meet the needs of their customers.

On-demand warehousing fills a desperate need for e-commerce businesses, but more importantly, it enables businesses to readily respond to demand without exerting the extra cost, time and effort of securing a warehouse for their inventory that was never intended to suit their specific needs.

The need for on-demand warehousing will continue to grow exponentially as more businesses sell products online, and as the need for geographically dispersed products increases.

Flowspace has hundreds of warehouses around the country who can handle your inventory. Get started today!

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What is On-Demand Warehousing?

What is On-Demand Warehousing?

On-demand warehousing, as provided by Flowspace, is an online marketplace that allows customers to access shared warehousing and logistics services on a pay-per-use basis. By matching owners of excess warehouse space with users (generally e-commerce companies, retailers, or shippers), Flowspace boosts the utilization of its warehouse partners’ facilities while allowing end-users flexibility in an industry where demand can be uncertain, and budgets are constrained.

Let’s say you run a small e-commerce company that sells widgets. You launched a Kickstarter a year ago that did so well that you built a website to continue selling your product. Over the past year, you’ve seen incredible growth. Until now, you’ve been able to produce your product in your garage using manual techniques, and then package the goods right there on the assembly line before taking batches of outbound orders to a carrier for shipment to customers.

Today, you finally have enough orders that you are working with a manufacturer to produce your product at scale. You’ve ramped up your marketing efforts to help drive business, and are excited to start selling higher volumes. You’re receiving the first wave of inventory from your manufacturer at the end of this month, only one question: where are you going to put it all? Well, you have a few options:

1)  You can choose to work with a 3PL, or third party logistics provider. The lead time to work with a 3PL can be weeks or even months. A 3PL will want to know exactly how much space you will need, and exactly when your products will be moving out again. If you intend to be there for a longer period, they will want demand-projections and predictions on how much inventory you will be storing in six months, nine months, or one year. These questions can be hard to answer. And if your need is immediate, or short term, it often doesn’t make sense for a 3PL to work with you at all. Short term engagements are not as lucrative for 3PLs who often require 1 year minimum commitments.

2)  An alternative is to use a third party fulfillment company. Amazon FBA or “Fulfilled By Amazon” is the dominant player in this niche. This option is available on a more immediate basis, and for a less well-defined requirement, but it can be a high-cost solution. And many retailers are hesitant about handing over their critical supply chain to what is often their number one competitor in Amazon.

3)  A third option would be to lease or purchase your own warehouse and build out in-house distribution capabilities. While this path boasts an attractive layer of control and autonomy, it will involve a high, up front start-up cost and likely result in a new fixed-cost line item (either rent or building maintenance) on the company’s income statement. This is to make no mention of variable costs such as labor, warehouse equipment, and packaging supplies. This option also limits the retailer or seller to just one location, which can limit shipping speed and cost optimization.

4) The fourth, and possibly most feasible, option is using on-demand warehouse services from Flowspace. Apart from being the only cost-effective option for immediate needs, and the only variable-cost long-term option, on-demand warehousing enjoys several more advantages against traditional warehousing solutions.

To start, on-demand warehousing does not have minimum volume requirements, and yet by aggregating volume from multiple customers Flowspace can negotiate volume discounts with its partners and pass on these advantages to its end-users. No minimums and competitive pricing yields the ability to economically store goods in multiple geographies so that retailers can service stores more efficiently and ecommerce players can reduce shipping times and costs.

Finally, by eliminating fixed costs, the on-demand warehouse model reduces the risk of expanding a supply chain network. The last thing a scaling retailer or ecommerce company needs is the added stress of a rent payment or minimum payment requirement to a 3PL. We started Flowspace to enable companies of all sizes to start optimizing their supply chain today, without dependency on competitors or taking on the added risk of a long-term commitment to a lease or 3PL.

Flowspace has hundreds of warehouses around the country who can handle your inventory. Get started today!

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