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Inventory Tips

June 9, 2009

Shipwire was recently interviewed by the e-commerce times to discuss inventory management tips. Many of our tips didn't get used in the final article so I thought I would share them here.

Generally, when looking at inventory control and using an outsourced order fulfillment service it is helpful to think of inventory in each stage of the planning and shipping process.

Inbound tips: Getting products into the warehouse

  • Move in bulk and save on shipping  (It cost less to move products when they move as a large heavy unit that can go slower…aka container).
  • Know the time it takes to get from manufacturer/supplier to warehouse. You will need this when trying to time resupply shipments.
  • Use a reputable carrier and insure your product.
  • Get a packing list and confirm that it matches at each step of the process (boat, customs clearance, freight, receiving dock).

In warehouse storage tips:  Once the product is in the warehouse

  • Make sure you have access to real-time inventory numbers. Real-time information will help you keep track of how much you have left so you don't run out.
  • Make sure you can push your inventory data to your shopping cart or marketplace.  Shipwire provides real-time inventory connections to shopping carts, marketplaces and in Dashboards to the merchant.
  • Make sure your warehouse knows what type of sales you do. Direct to consumer shipping (1 piece to a buyer through your website) can be different than business-to-business (10 cartons to a retailer).

Outbound shipping tips: Shipping out of the warehouse.

  • Make sure your warehouse has the flexibility to pick, pack and ship individual orders and wholesale orders.
  • If you deliver loose product (box of individual items with no shipping packaging), make sure your warehouse has the right packaging to ship it.
  • Insure your outbound shipments so that if the carrier damages your shipment you will have some recourse.
  • Automate your online store to your warehouse so that each order automatically gets pick, packed and shipped to the buyer in real-time without manual intervention on each order.
  • Save on shipping by storing inventory closer to buyers.  This will make your product more competitive in marketplaces because you will have lower shipping costs. This is why Shipwire offers multiple warehouses in the U.S.A. and Canada.
  • Keep track of sell through rates per SKU/product. Be prepared to order fast selling product more frequently and know the length of time it takes to get to you.

Tips for working with suppliers:

  • Packaging often cost less if it is bundled into the product manufacture cost.  So consider manufacturing product with packaging that matches your outbound shipping methods.
  • Make sure your packaging will fit a standard shipping label.
  • Know how you will outbound ship so that you can have the correct packaging.
  • If you ship wholesale, know your minimum order quantities and ensure that is quick and easy to ship.
  • Know how long it takes to resupply from your manufacturer and the minimum resupply amounts.

Hope some of these help as you consider outsourced order fulfillment. Feel free to check out the E-commerce Times article on small business inventory management that inspired this organization.

Nate Gilmore

Nate is the Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Shipwire. He oversees channel development and the developer network, as well as our marketing and public relations. Previously, Nate spent six years at Concentric (acquired by XO Communications), where he ran product management, sales, and marketing. Nate has also held various legal positions in intellectual property and business law. He holds a B.A. in History and a J.D. from Santa Clara University.