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One of the BEST Decisions for my eCommerce Business

I often get asked what are the best decisions I made for my eCommerce business and one of my top answers is when I decided to outsource my warehousing activities to a 3rd party fulfillment service designed specifically for eCommerce sellers.

Prior to starting my eCommerce career in 1998 I worked in the corporate world in the field of logistics so I had a lot of advanced training and experience in warehousing, shipping, inventory control, buying and overall efficiently moving products from point A to point B.  I enjoy taking a process, re-arranging the pieces and creating a more efficient way of doing things and logistics is a perfect area for this.

During my early days of building my eCommerce business, I enjoyed building our warehouse operation bigger and bigger and focused on shaving off minutes within the process to become extremely efficient.  At the peak we had many warehouse workers, narrow isle high ceiling pallet racking, conveyor systems, insta-pac machines, airbag machines, handheld barcode scanners and many checks and double checks to ensure speed and accuracy.  It was nearly impossible for a warehouse worker to pick or pack or ship the wrong item to a customer and because we shipped enough product to fill a 53 foot semi-truck everyday this speed and accuracy was important.

ecommerce 3rd party warehouse service

Warehouse meeting

As I began building my eCommerce 2.0 eCommerce Money for Nothing business model focused on working smarter instead of harder, the giant elephant in the room was warehousing.  How was I going to build an automated eCommerce business like never seen before where nearly everything is automated or outsourced?  In the beginning I found myself enjoying my time in the warehouse once again, finding inefficiencies and adjusting processes to do things faster and with less waste.  I found myself in the warehouse a lot.  Re-arranging product to be in better locations, re-arranging shelving for better flow and re-designing my packing station for efficiency.  What I misunderstood for such a long time is how much time I wasted in my warehouse adjusting and being more efficient when these small improvements had very little impact on my bottom line.  Sure I could save 10 minutes here or 5 minutes there, but I spent days or weeks figuring it out and setting it up.

Some people call this being penny wise and pound foolish.  I’d have to agree.

ecommerce 3rd party warehouse service

Rows of eCommerce product to sell

Once I realized how I was focusing too much on the small details that distracted me from the big picture I decided it’s time to get myself out of the warehousing business once and for all.  I considered hiring a warehouse manager to take care of everything in the warehouse for me letting them focus on speed, efficiency and accuracy but then who would manage the warehouse manager?  Me of course.

eCommerce 3rd party warehouse service

Custom designed barcode scanner software on a Palm Pilot!

If I wanted to do this right and truly build my eCommerce Money for Nothing business, outsourcing the warehouse operation 100% was my only option.  I had to let go of the one area I deeply enjoy working on in order to allow me time to focus on the bigger picture for my business.

I was not only worried about handing over a very critical component in my eCommerce business into someone else’s hands, I was letting go of a part of the business I enjoyed working on.

I have high standards for my business when it comes to taking care of the customer. I understand the importance of quick shipping to the customer as well as total accuracy.  My customers typically order my product right before going on a big important family vacation receiving my product days before they leave.  If we ship slow or the wrong item it will totally mess up their vacation and I’ll be to blame.

eCommerce 3rd party warehouse service

Product ready to sell

I searched high and low for 3rd party warehousing services focused on fulfilling products for eCommerce companies.  I reviewed the possibility of having Amazon FBA warehouse and fulfill my orders for both Amazon and my website but had some concerns in this area so chose not to go this route.  I searched for companies that understand my needs without me needing to teach them how eCommerce companies operate.  They need to be reliable, dependable, efficient, accurate and cost effective.

I found a local company located in Lincoln, Nebraska that fit the profile.  They were close enough to me I could drive to their warehouse anytime within 30 minutes if needed.  This gave me enough comfort to give them a try so I moved all my product over and we setup integration so my orders instantly imported into their warehouse system and their tracking numbers imported back into my eCommerce system.  While there were some speed bumps along the way, I expected that in the beginning and eventually things smooth out.

I enjoyed the fact I could once again take family vacations with no worries about how my products will ship while I’m gone.

I used this 3rd party warehouse service for just over a year.  One of the things that frustrated me with this company was the employee turnover within the company.  I would spend extra time training their warehouse manager the details about my products to only have to repeat this training for the next person a few months later.  Also because my business is high dollar lower volume compared to most eCommerce businesses, I found my business was not a big revenue source for this company compared to other clients within their warehouse and so I didn’t feel my business was receiving the special attention I wanted it to receive.

Eventually, I decided to search for another eCommerce fulfillment service I felt better fit my needs. Having experience from this first warehousing service, I learned how to deal with a 3rd party warehouse service and know better what to look for as I searched for another company to warehouse and fulfill my eCommerce orders.  I visited and interviewed a few companies, even companies farther away from me.

During this interview process, one company really stood out for me as the clear winner.  One of the many things I liked about this company started at the top. I enjoyed my conversations with Steve, the owner. His background in eCommerce and his skills as a programmer to build automation, controls and efficiency fit perfectly for what I was looking for.  We speak the same language, eCommerce.  You know what I’m talking about.

I also liked the fact that this company wasn’t super big.  As a customer, I will be big enough to gain their attention without being just another number in a big machine.  They were also located in Omaha, Nebraska so a 60 minute drive from my home allowing the ability for me to drive there if ever needed but far enough away I won’t want to drive there unless it was important or necessary. The company is called TJR Fulfillment.

To this date, I’m still very happy with my decision to outsource my eCommerce warehousing to a 3rd party company and I’m very happy with the company I chose (TJR Fulfillment) and can only give the highest recommendations for you to check them out.  Give Steve a call.

How much time do you spend receiving product, organizing, labeling, sorting, packing and shipping product?  Is this the best use of your time?  Even if you have an employee doing this task, does it take your time to manage them?

I love the fact I don’t have to worry about the overhead, insurance, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, security cameras, lights, electricity, forklifts, pallets, garbage, lunch breaks, label printers, conveyors, boxes, more boxes, pickup times, theft, cycle counting, picking, packing, peanuts, box tape, box knives, truck drivers, delivery schedules, labels, stickers, sweeping, dusting, moving, barcodes, locations, light bulbs, safety data sheets, OSHA regulations, workers comp, big ass fans, heating bills, eye wash stations, gloves, pallet jacks, backup alarms, handheld scanners, scales, insta-pac machines, battery chargers, shrink wrap, recycling and warehouse employees.

Now…..I have more time to focus on the big picture!

Cheers to selling smarter!

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