Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Overcoming the Greatest Challenge - Logistics


Kraftinn Lamp at Client Location
(... continued from Kraftinn Journey- Learning the Process)
We see bamboo home furnishings and lamps as a winning opportunity as there were no other players in this area but we realised after making many mistakes that the best delivery and the best customer support systems will only win the game. When we were ready with the product, we realised that there is a very limited option for delivery. Quality service sometimes has a surprisingly high cost and because of geographical disadvantages of operating from Assam, it was very difficult for us to find reliable resources.The logistical challenges of delivery are far more challenging and costly than we anticipated. The challenges of delivery cannot be compared to delivering books, clothes or electronic items.

There were many secondary materials like good quality electrical wires, holders and packing materials etc. were not easily available. We got the wired sourced from Bangalore. Then the challenge for us was to identify packaging materials that are fit for our products at a minimum cost and with minimum environmental impact. At the beginning we tried a mixtures of materials like bubble wrap, corrugated box and heshion cloths for outer layer packing at a surprising high cost.There were times when we spent the whole night engrossed in packing the lamps to ensure that the product reaches safely to the customer. We have verified several number of times that the product is satisfactorily packed and appropriate to get the delivery to the customer’s place safely. When you are in a startup, you have to do all the things on your own to ensure that everything is perfect especially when it is the first order.

Packages meeting the weight and dimension requirements of courier companies are not the easiest. Our products were very light in weight but very voluminous in dimensions and the shipment cost of a particular consignment was much higher than the actual cost of the product. Customer experiences cannot be compromised regardless of issues you cannot control. Then we decided with a approval from the client, to dispatch the shipment via speed post services of Indian postal services which charges the consignment on the basis of weight. So we managed to ship the items.

After the first layer of packaging
Unfortunately for us, out of the 8 packages we shipped, 4 packages were completely damaged during transit. For us, our reputation and customer service is of paramount of importance, so without taking much time, we immediately replaced the damaged lamp and I personally went to Delhi and hand-delivered the lamps at the clients place. The client really appreciated the service and very satisfied with the product. So, our first order, was a complete loss but we have learned a lot by making mistakes. We realised that, despite how good your products are but if you are not able to deliver it safely it has no value.

After the second layer of packaging
Given the fact, and taking so many measurable steps, most of the lamps arrive broken at the client’s place. Unfortunately this is an all too common problem, one that results from rough handling during shipment. We knew that we cannot control the handling of the Indian Postal Service, Blue Dart or any courier services, so we need to make sure that the lamps are fully damaged proof prior to shipment. I would also like to share as per my experience, the differences between the various courier companies and Indian postal services aren’t any, because none of them handle packages gently than the others. Indian Postal services are good, but if the item is bigger, they don’t deliver at home, you have to collect it from the nearest post office which many customers don’t prefer. So, we need to reach a balance by de-risking the delivery into multiple courier companies.

The product after final layer of packaging
We cannot afford to ignore the packaging and transportation and the ever-rising cost of shipping makes it desirable to keep the packing as small and light as possible. We need to facilitate safe transport with minimal expense. It is the time; we need to assess the packaging as a part of the product. We need to monitor each element of the packaging process. So, we make some changes in the products and avoided products which are easily breakable and very voluminous.

The Product remains safe even if a man stands over it
The selection and use of packing materials is very important. This is another area where economics play a part. Corrugated box. thermocol, bubble wrap or foam and the cost of packing has significantly impacted our expenses. This is where recycling comes in. We visited few of the warehouses or small retailers who like many tend to have many packages coming in and we started collecting what can be reused. I've found that the thermocol which used to protect electronic products such as computers, TV and such can be easily cut to fit. We used newspaper as filler so that the lamp is centrally positioned inside the package and the shape of the lamp is not distorted. We used foam to wrap the lamp so that the slit of the bamboo doesn’t come out while unpacking it. After that, we cut the thermocol according to the size of the lamps. Then the package is stitched with SDP or heshion cloth as the outer layer so that the product inside is intact. Given, the effort and values of Kraftinn products, we cannot afford to run risk of having the lamps broken again. So, we have started a practice where all the ready packets has to survive the drop head test, wherein we drop the products several times from top and check whether the package can withstand several such drops and what happened if something weighing 50 Kgs dropped on it.

Finally, with some little effort and learning from mistakes, we have overcome the challenges of packing and our approach varies from one product to next. Now, we can practically guaranty that our products are shipped damage free and it is well reflected in the feedback and reviews of our product.

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- +Parikshit Borkotoky 
Founder, Kraftinn 


(to be continued..)

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