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Shipwire Anywhere powers “local” manufacturers, is Walmart next?

October 19, 2010

Shipwire Anywhere™ order management was released out of our private beta a few weeks ago. It's the ability set up a "location" anywhere you have inventory stored. For example, your own warehouse, garage, office or retail store can become locations inside your Shipwire account. These locations get order automation and can be plugged into your online store for shipping rates and order notification, just like Shipwire warehouse locations.

We have been learning a lot from our users since the launch. In essence we launched a full suite of inventory management, order management, order validation and online label printing Web software, for FREE. Orders come in from one of the 50 online stores that Shipwire works with and we route the order to wherever the inventory is located – Shipwire facility or a customer location.

Local Manufacture Rocks!
One of the most fun and vocal beta users of Shipwire anywhere order management is routing online orders to his "red barn". As orders came in from his online store they route to his custom manufacture on-demand and ship location, in this case an actual red barn turned production facility in Seattle.

As the recession continues, we have seen renewed vigor in local manufacture and even local supply chain. There are great business plans in "local" and "custom manufacture"! It's a natural fit for artisans who have flocked to Etsy over the past 3 years to sell their unique and custom-made products.   Another example is the winner of the very high-profile Shopify Store Contest – Dodocase, a local San Francisco business that sells an ipad cover manufactured in San Francisco using a traditional book binding method. A lot of these local businesses only build products after the sale has taken place and part of their online sale process is informing customers that the product will be built after it is ordered.

Shipwire Anywhere is perfect for local and manufacture-on-demand product. Full order automation from most online stores to anywhere you have or make your goods. Small apparel shop, t-shirt screen printing warehouse, or a red barn turned production facility.

A couple other use cases revolve around products being sold that are very early in the product design life-cycle. If you have that "Million Dollar" product idea, you will very likely create a couple hundred prototypes that you sell online and take back-orders for. When you get the first prototypes in from your manufacturer, they go right into the garage or closet and then you need to spend a night or a week shipping them to the first buyers.   This is a perfect opportunity to automate your shipping using Shipwire Anywhere. Just create a location called "MyGarage" and plug in the address. When orders come in from PayPal or your Webstore, you will automatically get the order and a shipping label. Pick, pack and ship the product to your anxious buyers and then go back to designing the next prototype. Once the product design process is done, you can send the large "production" run to a Shipwire warehouse and we'll pick, pack and ship the orders as they come in.

Shipwire Automation for All Types of Products
One of the cool implications of offering our shipping software to be used for inventory outside of Shipwire warehouses is the breadth of product and business that it can address.   Shipwire warehouses and our outsourced fulfillment warehouses are great for products that have some sales velocity behind them, are higher margin products and can be sent to a warehouse. The best examples of perfect products for outsourced warehousing tend to be – toys, consumer electronics, apparel, health care and other consumer packaged products.

Lots of business owners have called us over the past few years to ask if they can use our software without sending goods to our warehouse. What we found out after talking to them is they didn't have product that would be a good fit for our warehouses; but, our software service were a perfect fit for their businesses. For example:

  • Custom manufacture/local manufactured products.   There was no inventory to send to the warehouse.
  • Unique and 1-of-a-kind items like antiques, art, coins and jewelry.
  • Low volume inventory that have lots and lots of products; but, not a lot of them sell in large volume. A good example of this is auto parts.
  • Perishable or refrigeration needed food stuffs
  • Items that need to be personalized before shipping (e.g. etching "You light my fire" on a lighter in Old English).

Now these users can benefit from the Shipwire platform, our e-commerce connections and all our shipping automation infrastructure. When they have products that are a fit for our outsourced warehouses, these facilities are just a few clicks away.

But, who really needs "local" shipping automation? Ummm….Walmart apparently.
The trick to scaling a business is to automate the repetitive processes and create a business machine that works as your business grows and changes. In the examples above, our seller with the "red barn" had multiple product lines already outsourced to Shipwire warehouses. Because he could use Shipwire Anywhere to automate his sole custom manufacture product meant that he could sell this new product through his same online store and have full shipping automation to save a mountain of time.

Lets see how this idea scales..

International Juggernaut Walmart is going local. When I say Jaggernaut, I mean it – Walmart is now a $405 billion company with two million employees — more than the populations of Alaska, Wyoming and Vermont combined. Walmart grocery division has committed to revamping the entire supply chain to increase its local produce suppliers.

In the United States, Wal-Mart plans to double the percentage of locally grown produce it sells to 9 percent. Wal-Mart defines local produce as that grown and sold in the same state.   Still, the program is far less ambitious than in some other countries — in Canada, for instance, Wal-Mart expects to buy 30 percent of its produce locally by the end of 2013, and, when local produce is available, increase that to 100 percent…In emerging markets, Wal-Mart has pledged to sell $1 billion of food from small and medium farmers (which it defines as farmers with fewer than 20 hectares, about 50 acres). It will also provide training for the farmers and their laborers on how to choose crops that are in demand and on the proper application of water and pesticides. Both in the United States and globally, Wal-Mart will invest more than $1 billion to improve its supply chain for perishable food. For example, if trucks, trains and distribution centers could help farmers in Minnesota get crops to Wal-Mart more quickly, the result would be less spoiled food, a longer shelf life and presumably more profit for the farmers and for Wal-Mart.

Imagine a platform that allowed local producers to inform Walmart of inventory levels of specific types of perishable foods, when it was available and when Walmart could expect it. Could be anything from cases of apples to bottles of Zinfandel. Walmart could see live inventory levels and route local store orders to the closest local producer with inventory available (measured by how fast it could get to the store and the costs including transportation). As product was shipped or available for pickup, Walmart got notified of the order ship status and arrival date. When product arrived, the seller was notified.

Welcome to "Shipping as a Platform", the possibilities are literally endless. Lets see what the market does with Shipwire Anywhere. [ Clearly, this last Walmart example is stretching the use case; but, the point stands – we've build a very flexible shipping tool that can be used with a lot of use cases.]

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.