Out of the Box: My Post Holiday Evaluation

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A Recap from Rakuten Super Logistics Chief Operating Officer Michael Manzione

One of our main goals in 2015 is to accelerate the accuracy and time of receiving inventory. With your help, following the tips provided and our guidelines in our Customer Service Manual it will be a “win” for both of us.

The holiday season is in the rear view mirror and like “you”; we’re catching our breath and evaluating our performance. One of our core values is to “Always Improve, Always Advance” and as we critique our performance, our goal is to share our findings with you and work together for both our benefit. The reality is that if you’re going to have a successful “Holiday” season you need to take a 360 degree view of your business and plan in advance. As I spoke to one client this week, they were already planning their trip to their domestic and foreign suppliers to have their inventory manufactured in May at their retailers’ facilities by August and to us by September for the 2015 holiday season.

Tip #1 – Receiving Inventory

Between the clients that provided forecasts and our projections, we were surprised at how much inventory came in post Black Friday. As we review the numbers, receiving inventory increased in a predictable manner in September, October and November about 3.5X normal. In December our receiving was almost 8X normal which usually reflects outbound inventory, not inbound. Taking a closer look, those numbers really weren’t reflective of the month, but rather the two weeks after Black Friday – our two busiest outbound weeks. Picture a highway at rush hour and that’s what some of the warehouses arriving lanes looked like.

What we need from you:

  1. Communication – Tell us what’s coming in and tell us as early as possible. We use ASN’s to schedule receiving inventory and we rely on having that information at least five business days in advance. This allows us to plan for unloading a container, labeling product and training any temp staff that has to be brought in. When we're receiving inventory that has no ASN, it slows down the process and if it has no packing slip, the receiving comes to a screeching halt.
  2. Number of ASN’s – One ASN per truck load, container or LTL all arriving at the same time is acceptable (but not ideal), however when inventory arrives to us in multiple boxes or shipments over multiple days the receiving process can become complicated. Ideally, we want to start and close an ASN in one receiving event. This ensures that if there are any discrepancies that they are easily revealed and reviewed. Receiving product without an ASN is unacceptable and will delay your product from being received.
  3. Packing Slips – One packing slip per carton, pallet or container is acceptable. The more you breakdown the inventory to match the packing slip in the manner it arrives to us - the better. Receiving a carton, pallet or container with no packing slip is unacceptable and will delay your inventory from being received.
  4. Mixed SKU’s – Receiving inventory with mixed sku’s slows down the process and potentially creates issues. If you must send us mixed sku’s, try to keep them in the same cartons or pallets to minimize the touches. Mixed sku’s in a carton or pallet, increases delays and the chance for errors.
  5. Missing Bar Codes – The simple truth is, we do not want to bar code your product. It complicates the process. Typically, we aren’t informed in advance and have no way of planning for the time it will take and it increases the chances it’s labeled incorrectly. It’s always better to have your product bar coded by the manufacturer. However, when we do have to bar code your product it will typically fall outside of our normal SLA.
  6. Schedule a dock appointment – It’s critical that you notify us a minimum of three business days prior to a container to be unloaded and one day for truck loads. Most container companies have time requirements to unload the product and impose stiff penalties if it does not get done in time.
  7. Time – Account for extra time at the manufacturer, transit times and receiving. Manufacturing delays are common and expected. Depending on the “type” of inventory, clearing customs can be unpredictable and not surprisingly, when we open up your product, we frequently find many issues from no bar coding, to incorrect inventory counts or outside carton labeling that doesn’t match the contents. We would recommend using a 3X rule. It will typically take three times longer to get inventory from the manufacturer into a selling slot than anticipated. For Holiday planning purposes have your inventory arrive no later than September, so any discrepancies can be addressed.

Ultimately, we have the same goals as you: To accurately and quickly receive your inventory so that you can sell it and we can ship it.