Logistics planning is the art and science of getting goods from Point A to Point B. It’s the backbone of your e-commerce business. Imagine you’re selling bowling shoes online. Logistics planning helps you figure out how to get those shoes from the warehouse (that’s Point A) to your customer’s doorstep (Point B) and on their feet in the most efficient way possible.
Good logistics planning and strategy can save you money, meet customer demand, make them happier, and, let’s be honest, save you from a logistical nightmare. It’s not just about moving goods; it’s about optimising your entire supply chain management, from your suppliers to a fleet of delivery vans.
Logistics Planning Stages
Logistics planning involves a lot of key components and moving parts in your effective supply chain(pun intended). There are different types of logistics management to consider, and each has its own quirks and perks.
- Production Logistics: The first stage is finding the right suppliers for the goods and services you need. Then, you have to consider the process of moving raw materials to the place where they’ll be turned into finished products. Think of it as the journey your product takes from being an idea to something tangible that people can buy. It involves steps like sourcing raw materials, manufacturing, and finally, storing the finished goods.
PRO TIP: It’s important to have multiple suppliers to reduce the risk of running out of stock.
- Handling: This is about how your goods are treated from the supplier to the customer’s door. Proper care ensures your goods arrive in good condition.
- Inventory Management: This stage involves keeping track of how much stock you have, where it is, and how much you’ll need in the future. Inventory management software can be a big help here. You need to know what you have, how much you have, and when you’ll run out. It’s crucial to make sure you don’t disappoint customers by running out of those bowling shoes we talked about earlier.
- Packaging: This isn’t just about keeping your products safe; it’s also about the customer’s unboxing experience. Make sure your packaging is both functional, sustainable and cost-effective.
- Fulfilment: The final stage starts when a customer places an order and ends when they receive it. This includes order processing, picking, packing, and shipping. This is Delta Fulfilment’s specialty.
- Transport: This stage involves selecting the right courier network to move your goods. At Delta Fulfilment, we cut out the stress of having to select the best and quickest courier by giving you access to our network of couriers. We want to ensure your customers always receive their orders pronto, without breaking the bank, so we seek out the best deals and service from our couriers.
- Real-time logistics visibility: This is a fancy way of saying you can track where your goods are in real-time, at any point in the supply chain. It’s like having a GPS for your products, and it’s a game-changer for making quick, informed decisions. Forbes even says it can lead to benefits bigger than any one solution could provide:
”It really isn’t one single component, it is the combination of demand, supply, and logistics planning. It’s the way all these pieces work together to provide flexibility, resiliency and better value for our growers and customers.”– Steve Birgfeld, the vice president of information technology & services at Blue Diamond.
If you’re an e-commerce owner who’s not keen on handling all these logistics tasks yourself, working with a 3PL partner (like us!) can be a lifesaver. 3PLs handle logistics operations for you, from warehousing to shipping, so you can focus on growing your business.
The Importance of Logistics Planning
So, you’ve got a basic grasp of what the logistics planning process is and the types you might encounter. But why should you, the busy business owner, give two hoots about it?
First and foremost, cost-effective logistics operations can save you a pretty penny. If you’re shipping goods in the most efficient way possible, you’re cutting down on fuel costs, labour, and even storage. That’s more money you can put back into your business.
Efficiency is the name of the game in logistics planning, and inefficiency can ruin that. The quicker you can move goods from your warehouse to your customer, the better. This not only makes your customers happy but also frees up space in your warehouse for more products. It’s a win-win!
Remember that real-time logistics visibility we talked about? It’s not just a fancy add-on; it’s a necessity. With real-time tracking, you can make quick decisions that could save you time and money. For example, if a delivery truck is stuck in traffic, you can reroute it in real time to avoid further delays. It’s like having a crystal ball for your supply chain.
The 3PL Advantage
If all this logistics talk is making your head spin, don’t worry. That’s where Delta Fulfilment comes in. By outsourcing your logistics to a third-party logistics partner like us, you’re freeing up time to focus on what you do best: running your e-commerce business and making sales. You can leave the logistics to us!
Logistics Planning Challenges
When it comes to logistics planning, there are challenges you’ll likely face, and it’s better to know them now rather than get a nasty surprise later.
- Unexpected Events: Shopify mentions that e-commerce logistics can be a painful drain on resources, especially when unexpected events occur. Weather delays, traffic jams, or even a sudden surge in orders can throw a wrench in the best of plans. There are things you can’t control, but you can prepare for them. How? By having a solid backup plan.
PRO TIP: Always have a Plan B (and maybe even a Plan C) for when things go south.
- Budget Constraints: Logistics planning can get costly, especially if you’re not careful. Pitney Bowes discusses the challenge of controlling shipping costs by not diversifying your shipping couriers, you can potentially increase them. This is where working with a 3PL partner can come in handy. We can handle the logistics while you keep an eye on the budget. At Delta Fulfillment, we don’t tie ourselves down to one courier service, so we can always get the quickest and cheapest price for you and your customers.
- Supply Chain Disruptions: If one part of your supply chain faces issues, it can have a domino effect on the rest. Shopify highlights the importance of having a well-thought-out logistics process to meet customer expectations and avoid disruptions. For example, if your supplier can’t deliver raw materials on time, it delays your production, which in turn delays shipping to customers.
How to Choose a 3PL Partner
So, you’re convinced that logistics planning is crucial, and now you’re considering finding a 3PL partner to help you out. Here’s how to choose the right one for your e-commerce empire.
What to Look For
First things first, you need to know what you’re looking for in a 3PL partner. Do they offer real-time tracking? Can they handle the volume of goods you need to supply? These are the must-haves, the non-negotiables. The UK is the #3 largest eCommerce market in the world, which is why, at Delta Fulfilment, we have 200,000 square feet of warehouse space across the UK. Our systems integrate with your eCommerce platform in real time, ensuring we get to work on your orders right away.
Questions to Ask
Before you sign on the dotted line, there are some questions you need to ask. How flexible are they with scaling up or down? What’s their track record like? Here at Delta Fulfilment, we process 1 million orders per year and have a 99.85% pick and pack accuracy, making us a reliable choice.
Contracts can be tricky, so make sure you read the fine print. Look for any hidden fees or long-term commitments that you’re not comfortable with. If you’re thinking of partnering with us as your 3PL partner, you’ll be relieved to hear that we are transparent about our services, so you know what you’re getting into.
Your Logistics Planning Roadmap
Logistics planning isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a vital part of your business that can save you money, time, and a lot of headaches. From understanding the basics to tackling challenges and choosing the right 3PL partner, you’re now armed with the knowledge to optimise your e-commerce business logistics for the best results.
Whether you decide to go it alone or bring in the experts (like us!), the choice is yours. But one thing’s for sure: good logistics planning is the key to a successful, efficient, and customer-pleasing business. Contact us today to get a quote and learn more about our e-commerce order fulfilment solutions. Your business (and your customers) will thank you for it.