Cape Town – Automating processes obviously leads to efficiencies in a distribution set-up, but there needs to be readily available skills to solve technical problems as they arise, an operations expert said.
Head of operations at Yuppiechef, Noel Ross-Gillespie gave Fin24 10 tips for small businesses wanting to start out in online ecommerce, from a factory, distribution and automation perspective:
1. Turnaround time is very important. Focus on the products that differentiate the business, and make sure they can be dispatched quickly. If this means holding stock, make sure to plan the stockholding carefully and negotiate quick turnaround times from key suppliers.
2. A committed relationship with a primary courier is vital. Efficiencies only come with volume, so rather than distributing deliveries across multiple couriers, negotiate decreasing rates with as few couriers as possible.
3. Don’t be afraid of tackling process challenges with your own intuition. It’s likely that you understand the subtleties better than others would.
4. Implement a system which is flexible on physical layout. Avoid storing items by brand/type, rather relying on maintaining some sort of coded location lookup. This allows easy expansion/contraction when product ranges change.
5. Be aware that any technical solution to a physical problem must be kept synchronised or it will lead to pain and gnashing of teeth. This can only be achieved by rigorous discipline on the part of all people using it.
6. Aim to have processes in place which can scale in parallel. This implies formalising and documenting key procedures like picking, packing and restocking so that processes can quickly be adapted by extra people to handle peak volumes.
7. As staffing increases, make sure to have double-check mechanisms in place. For example, orders need to be cross-checked before dispatching to avoid short-shipping items in an order and incurring costs to make it right.
8. Institute fulfillment disciplines and stick to them rigidly. For example, aim to dispatch all fulfillable orders by a cut-off-time each day to avoid dangerous backlogs developing.
9. Automating processes obviously leads to efficiencies, but there needs to be readily available skills to solve technical problems as they arise. Make sure to have skilled help in-house or nearby.
10. Above all else, hire very carefully. Processes and systems will live beautifully or die painfully on the quality of the people operating and maintaining them.Small Business Centre:
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