Back In Lockdown23/08/2021
New Zealand was suddenly placed in lockdown last week. This one is different from that imposed in March of last year. We are no longer required to lock up our distribution centres and can accept incoming shipments. We can ship direct-to-consumer orders of products that our clients consider to be essential. Retail stores are to remain closed, but we can ship orders to other distribution centres or to retail stores that want to receive them in preparation for reopening.
We are focusing on unpacking containers and counting and putting the contents away. Our dedicated staff are available to perform the work, until they find themselves in the company of more than 10,000 “close contacts” or visit a place in the ever-growing list of “locations of interest”. Then, they will have no option but to self-isolate.
Our contractual KPIs are suspended for obvious reasons of force majeure. It takes longer to unpack a container under strict social distancing rules and not all pallets can be immediately placed in pickable locations. We will be working on a best-endeavours basis during this period and for some time after it ends. We will keep you informed.
Stock Management Page16/03/2021
Our Stock Management page now includes more information to help you manage your stock:
Please let us know if there are any other useful metrics that we can include for you.
Looking Back on 20204/12/2020
This article was first published in Exporter Today
One day last March, we had the awful task of telling more than 100 of our staff that they were out of work. Go home, don’t come tomorrow.
This was not because we chose to but because we were ordered to. Government told us that “we need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate Covid-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.”
There was a stiff jackboot behind all the ‘be-kind-to-each-other’ niceness. There was just no way that we could keep our distribution centres open.
Almost immediately, we started getting requests from clients, keen to claim one of a fast-growing number of exemptions and loopholes. They wanted us to bring staff back from isolation to unpack containers, where some goods deemed to be essential (with vanishing degrees of plausibility) could be found. We tried to accommodate those urgent requests as best we could.
The Government’s decision to try to distinguish between essential and non-essential services/people was a mistake. Flowers were essential if you bought them at a supermarket, but the florist shop had to remain closed - just like the butcher, the fishmonger and the fruit and vegetables shop.
Meantime, the new 'Zoomocracy', secure in their public sector jobs, enjoyed quality family time going on teddy bear hunts and signalling their environmental virtue by riding electric motorbikes (disguised as bicycles) through the car-less streets of their neighbourhoods.
It is easy to criticise the Government for these missteps, but we must forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing – and neither did most of us. These matters are not normally part of the curricula of media studies, political science, or public relations courses from whence many of our leaders graduated.
Furthermore, their lack of business experience was aggravated by calls from a pandemic of epidemiologists, dazzled by being suddenly catapulted from obscurity to stardom and oblivious to the economic and health consequences of their preferred response – lockdown.
Some importers panicked and stopped ordering, reckoning that, if stocks run low, we can always top them up later. Except, they couldn’t because the top-up shipments come by airfreight and most of it is carried in passenger flights, of which there are precious few these days. So, they compensated by ordering more by sea freight.
The ports, unable to recruit staff internationally and constrained by substandard road and rail infrastructure, choked. That’s the problem with supply chains, they are complex and a disruption to any part will usually raise unintended consequences elsewhere.
Not all our clients survived the lockdown, but most did. Some pivoted to web sales, which kept us busy. All staff came back to work.
As we come to the end of the horribilis year 2020, we are still to find out if our attempt to isolate ourselves in a bubble, separate and distant from the rest of the world, can work. With the help of real science (vaccines) we may yet get away with it and make 2021 a year to remember. Let's hope so.
We have seen a big increase in direct-to-consumer orders since March. We have also seen an increase in problem deliveries due to addresses on parcels not being formatted correctly.
We have updated our address validation processes, using the address validators in use by the larger couriers. When an order fails that automated process, our system flags it to us for action. We will try to fix the address. If we can’t do that, the order will be placed on hold and our system will notify you by email. Please email me (email@example.com) with your preferred email address for notifications.
The main issues that we come across are:
We would like you to do an audit of the customer addresses stored in your system. Thank you for your support in helping us to get this project underway quickly, to help us to serve you and your customers better.
- The street address and the suburb are entered on the same line.
- Addresses have a street name but no street number.
- Addresses have a street number being a range i.e. 32-36, instead of the main number.
- Addresses have no suburb, only the city i.e. Auckland instead of Epsom, Auckland.
- Inconsistencies, like web orders coming through with a street address in line one, and store orders having the street address in line 2.
Back in Level 312/08/2020
Last night, we were suddenly placed under Alert Level 3. That means the we can operate by reinstating all social distancing and safe working practices. This morning, we issued these instructions to our team:
If you have any instruction contrary to the above, please let us know now. We suggest you log in to the DSL portal and review all current orders in our system.
- Web orders: process and dispatch as normal.
- Store orders for outside of Auckland: process and dispatch as normal.
- Store orders for Auckland region: pick and hold.
- Inwards goods: process as normal.
If you have any store orders for Auckland that are considered ‘essential goods’ you will need to advise us so we can lift the holds on those orders.
Your usual Customer Service contacts are all still available via email or phone and you can contact me at any time on mobile 021 769 561.
Create Your Own Portal28/07/2020
You use our portal to keep track of your orders. This reduces your need to contact our Customer Services team, as the portal contains information about the status of each order, from when we first receive it until the goods are delivered.
We have now developed a facility to create similar facilities for your own clients. That means that we can create an order tracking facility for orders supplied by you (from one of our distribution centres) for any one of your clients or for a group of them. The portal is branded with your logo and only includes their orders from you.
It is then be up to you to notify your client of their login and password, once you are satisfied with the information that it contains.
If this could be of interest to you, please contact Daniel (firstname.lastname@example.org +64 21 877 015) or Phillip (email@example.com +64 21 769 567) with the names of the clients involved or with any questions about this service.
New Stock Page30/04/2020
We have improved the Stock page in our website. When you search for a product, you can now key in either the product code or its description in the search box and you’ll see a drop-down box listing those SKUs that match what you type, changing with every keystroke. This technique, called intellisense, is that used in Google searches and its inclusion in our site was the brainchild of young Kyle, a rising star in our programming team.
There is a new link in the search box called STOCK which exposes:
1. Chart of stock on hand at month-end in the last 13 months.
2. Your current stock turns.
3. Your current stock on hand.
4. Number of units that have had no movements for a period (obsolete stock).
5. Number of units where the stock on hand is five units or less (tail-ends).
The last two categories are also shown as a percentage of total stock on hand and you can get listings of the units of each category.
Storage is a significant part of your costs and these utilities are intended to help you manage that cost. To keep a unit in a pickable location, i.e. for us to be able to find it quickly when you order it, takes up a lot more space than simply storing it away in a pallet. So, your storage costs can become higher than necessary, simply by leaving tail-ends in pickable locations or by storing obsolete stock. Both could best be sold at a discount.
We hope that you will find these new facilities useful. Please let us know if there are any other metrics that we can include in our site for you.
Transition to Level 320/04/2020
The Government announced today that we will move to Level 3 on 28 April, and that level will also be revised from 11 May. We restarted our operations last week to (1) catch up on the backlog of inwards containers; (2) fulfil web orders for ‘essential goods’ (like winter apparel and footwear); and (3) ship out orders to other distribution centres. Under the new conditions, we are also allowed to get stock ready for shipment.
We can now work on web orders for all goods. We can get them ready for shipment and you can put them up on the web for sale now, but they cannot be shipped until 28 April, unless they fit into the Level 4 essential categories (which we can ship immediately). We expect courier companies to be quite busy during the first weeks of Level 3, so we recommend that you prepare as early as you can.
We have received inquiries from some retail clients who are now gearing up for web sales, for the first time. If that applies to you, talk to us to ensure that your systems can be integrated with our warehouse management system as early as possible. We are experienced in doing that work and our in-house team of software developers can help you through the process.
The Government announced yesterday that web sales of some essential goods, like winter clothing, are now to be allowed. Considering this announcement, several of our retail clients, whose normal business is in lockdown (like ours) are gearing up to launch sales in their websites, some heavily discounted to get badly needed cash flow.
We have decided to partially restart some of our services to do that work. We will have limited number of volunteer staff working in our distribution centres to (1) fulfil web orders sent directly to clients via contactless delivery (couriers); (2) fulfil orders from our wholesaling clients to other companies that operate their own web fulfilment centres; and (3) start work on the backlog of inwards containers awaiting unpack and put-away.
Our staff will be working under systems that comply with the legal requirements for social distancing and workplace hygiene. We will attempt to observe the usual KPIs, but that may not always be possible in this force majeure situation. Our pricing will remain unchanged, unless special requirements for working during weekends and holidays are negotiated in each case.
Today, we had the awful task of telling 107 of our friends that their job was over. They had to go home – don’t come tomorrow. There may be some Government support (it is all a bit fuzzy right now) but we will do what we can to make sure that they get as much support as is available.
We also had to tell our clients – you – that we have closed down. Not because we chose to but because we were ordered to do so. Government has told us that “we need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.” There is a stiff jackboot behind all the ‘be-kind-to-each-other’ niceness, make no mistake. There is just no way that we could keep our four distribution centres open.
Our priority now is to ensure that your goods are stored safely until circumstances change (or, if you prefer, politicians get mugged by reality). When trade resumes, as it inevitably will, we will be here for you. We sincerely hope that you will still be here too.
There is some uncertainty about what exactly is meant by “essential goods” – exempted from the restrictions. A truck company operator got an indication from the Ministry of Transport saying that the Government does not intend to disrupt supply chains and the Government website notice has an ambiguous reference to “fast moving consumer goods”, no doubt some jargon picked up by a junior bureaucrat. We have decided to take a common-sense approach and interpret the words ‘non-essential’ for what they are. Until the meaning is redefined.
We have kept a small team of key staff on. The four directors and our two accountants are here (at their homes, of course), as is our Customs Manager and a few other indispensables.
If you have incoming goods, we will endeavour to receive them. If we are doing the Customs clearance or 3PL work for you, we will arrange to receive your incoming containers in our secure yards but cannot unpack them or count the contents. If you are using other forwarders or Customs brokers, ask them to book their deliveries with us (if the forwarders cannot store then) and we will do our best to receive them when we can. Again, they will not be counted into stock and you need to make your own arrangements with the relevant parties for container demurrage and detention.
We will be charging our clients for weekly storage costs (when we are not already doing so) as our landlord is so uncouth as to expect us to continue to pay rent. Likewise, we will be asking you to prepay all disbursements on Customs clearance imports, like duty, GST, Port Service Charges and Freight collections, as our bankers have about as much sense of humour as our landlord.
We are home but available. You can get us on Zoom or FaceTime, of just call us on our mobiles or email us. Daniel 021 877 015 firstname.lastname@example.org / John 021 769 560 email@example.com / Phillip 021 769 567 firstname.lastname@example.org / Aaron 021 769 561 email@example.com.