If you spend much time reading about logistics, you’ll run into the phrase “just in time” very quickly, and there’s a good reason why it’s so common. Ever since it was pioneered as part of the Toyota Production System, just-in-time (JIT) inventory management has rapidly become considered the best practice for fast and efficient production and shipping. The simple name makes it easy to remember how it works, as it’s a simple idea—instead of a traditional backstock or inventory, you stock products or packages just in time for them to be used or shipped.
Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done even in the best of times. To enable this production style, the global economy has produced some truly impressive supply chains. But when supply chains circle the globe, any disruption to any part of the chain causes issues, and companies who aren’t prepared will suffer the consequences of what happens when “just in time” isn’t on time. For ecommerce companies, that means slow shipments, missed deliveries, and angry customers.
How can you stay ahead of the JIT curve, especially as a small- or mid-sized ecommerce company? Here are a few simple tips:
1. Start With a Plan
Logistics planning is vital to the long-term success of any business in today’s complex economy, so do your homework to really understand how your supply chains work, from the raw materials to final delivery. Not only will you likely spot opportunities for cost savings, but you’ll also have a better idea of where the weak links are in the chain so you can prepare for if (and when) they break down.
2. Keep Your Capacity in Mind
Fully understanding your logistics pipeline is key to avoiding over-promising and under-delivering. A smart business always keeps spare capacity available as a hedge against the failure of JIT or other hitches in the supply chain. In ecommerce, this can be as easy as maintaining a modest backstock; even a small cushion can give you the space necessary to solve an issue before it can cause you to miss deliveries or sales.
3. Multiply Your Supply Chains
Operating in an uncertain world is always tough, but while you can’t buy certainty, you can always invest in good backups. Supply chain diversity ensures that you can keep products moving despite any individual supplier or vendor’s issues. Ecommerce companies now have a surprisingly vast array of options for getting products to customers, and selecting a good range of partners who can provide complete, overlapping coverage is key to success.
4. Stick With Your Strengths
Logistics isn’t a simple business—and it’s likely not what most ecommerce businesses were founded to do! Instead of dividing your attention between your business and the logistics that support it, consider working with a third-party logistics (3PL) partner that lets you stay focused on your core competencies.
Order fulfillment is a perfect target for this kind of approach, and Rocket Shippers is a great place to start. Get in touch today to find out how we can support your ecommerce business’s unique needs with diverse array of shipping solutions.