Fulfillment & Third Party Logistics Blog

Food Logistics: Protecting Perishables on the Move

We’ve all been there.  After a long stroll through the aisles at your grocery store, navigating shopping carts and couponers, you finally get your haul to the trunk of your hot car.  As you load your milk, ice cream, ground beef and eggs, you say a little prayer that you make it home before it all goes bad.  Sure enough, the gas light is on as you start the car and the radio announces that there is car accident blocking a lane on your drive home.  If a couple small snags can derail your trip home from the grocery store, imagine the obstacles that lie between a fresh food product in the warehouse and getting it to your grocer’s shelf. 

The supply chain that brings fresh produce, meat, dairy and other perishables from suppliers to your refrigerator is a complex process.  As the quality of these products degrades over time, it is vital that they are handled, stored and delivered accurately and precisely.  With temperature being the essential element in delaying the chemical decay of these products, turning your supply chain into a streamlined “cold chain” is imperative.

  •          Understand the science:  Know what products will be in each shipment and their corresponding shelf life and limitations.  The greater chemical knowledge you have about these items, the better you can prepare to maximize their quality and freshness.
  •          Use the technology:  Once you understand how, why and when different products begin to decompose, you can implement the appropriate technology and process to prolong quality. 
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Opportunities and Challenges in Footwear Fulfillment

Logistics operations, like many other things, are constantly evolving.  This is especially true for the footwear industry.  As technology creates new opportunities for consumers and new efficiencies for companies, it can also introduce new challenges. 

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The Right E-Commerce Strategy for Cosmetic Products

There comes a time in history when grasping the reins of a new “trend” is a must.  Imagine being the last person in town to jump on the automobile bandwagon.  Where would you tie up your horse?  Once the light bulb caught on, how long would you keep carrying your kerosene lamp around the house?  These of course are old, yet revolutionary, advancements that have made life much more convenient and spurred on countless other developments.  However, in the not-too-distant past, e-commerce was an element that the health and beauty sector tried to keep at bay.  Eventually though, it could not be ignored.  What was shortly ago seen as an industry that required physical access to smell, sample and touch, e-commerce has become the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics industry.

A study by L2 Think Tank shows that e-commerce sales for beauty products grew by nearly 30% in 2013.  This outpaced only a 6% in-store growth.  As this new opportunity continues to show  great potential, it’s important for health and beauty companies to embrace and implement an e-commerce strategy as a competitive differentiator.

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3 E-Commerce Tips for Apparel

You can hear the groans now.  Time to go to the mall.  The kids need new shoes for school, you are due for a new suit and you have a laundry list of other things to freshen up in your closet.  After 10 minutes in traffic you are already starting to question your judgment.  After three prime parking spots have been stolen right out from under you, you’re sure this is a terrible idea.  Finally, after navigating a stroller and a dozen shopping bags through mobs of teenagers and crowded food courts, you promise yourself you won’t be returning.  If only there was another way... 

With the emergence of e-commerce as the preferred way to shop for clothing and apparel, there is a convenient alternative to the mall.  On-line shopping is seeing double digit growth year over year, ending 2013 up 16.9%.  More and more people are choosing the comfort and convenience of their laptop, tablet or phone to make purchases.  This makes the apparel sector ripe for disruption.  This disruption is coming in the form of e-retailers.  While this is a growing sector, it is also quite competitive.  Here are three tips that can generate success in your e-commerce apparel operation: 

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5 Ways a WMS Can Improve Your Food and Beverage Company

The time has come to finally clean out the menacing, wooden behemoth that has become your desk.  As you sift and sort through mountains of paper, piles of folders and disorganized heaps of phone chargers, camera batteries and ear buds, you discover something quite valuable and long forgotten.  Tucked away in an envelope, quietly resting is a gift certificate to the best steakhouse in the city.  It somehow got lost in the shuffle, but now this gift from an occasion you can’t quite remember has made its presence known.  While dreaming of the beautiful evening and amazing meal that is in your near future, you peel open the envelope and scan the pertinent information, but one glaring, disheartening fact jumps off the page.  This gift certificate became null and void over three months ago.  If only there was a system that made it possible for you track, manage and monitor the status of such an important asset.  While there are trays and file cabinets for your desk, fortunately there is something more sophisticated for your food and beverage logistics; a warehouse management system, or WMS.

While losing the opportunity for a free steak dinner can be disappointing, there is much more at stake within the food and beverage supply chain.  In addition to health and safety concerns, operational costs and efficiencies must also be balanced in this competitive sector.  Implementing technology to control costs and streamline operations enhances visibility and food safety.  This is a critically important strategy within the warehouse of food service organizations.  To optimize this critical hub, a warehouse management system can be a game-changer..  Here are five ways that leveraging a WMS can improve your food and beverage fulfillment operation.

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Footwear and Apparel Accuracy: The RFID Solution

Finally, five o’ clock has rolled around at the end of a long day.  After gathering your laptop, notes and sunglasses, you are greeted at the front door of your office by a clap of thunder and a torrential downpour.  You see your car about 20 feet away and before you begin to negotiate the puddles and lightning, you pull your key fob from your pocket, unlock the driver’s side door and count your lucky stars you don’t have to fumble with your keys and briefcase trying to fit the key into the door lock as you become inundated with rain.  This is just one of the modern conveniences made possible by radio frequency identification technology, or RFID.  Even though the shoes on your feet are now saturated, thanks to RFID tags your footwear and apparel supply chain doesn’t need to end up underwater.

The challenges posed by today’s hyper competitive landscape in the footwear and apparel sector can be met through a number of ways.  RFID technology makes two of the most crucial possible: lowering costs and increasing visibility.  The fact that this technology offers the opportunity to meet these critical objectives is evident in IDTechEx’s forecast that the apparel RFID market will grow to over $1 billion by 2021.  This is an increase from only $36 million in 2010.  Let’s take a closer look at how RFID tagging can enhance supply chain accuracy through decreasing cost and increasing transparency.

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Footwear Supply Chain Sustainability

Shoes are essential.

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Barrett Distribution Centers Named to the 2014 Inc. 500 | 5000 Fastest Growing Companies List

Franklin, MA – August 25, 2014- For the third consecutive year, Barrett Distribution Centers has been honored as a part of the 2014 Inc. 500 | 5000 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation.  This is Barrett’s sixth appearance on the list.  Prior honors include 2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

“Barrett Distribution Centers is proud to be in the company of so many of the most respected companies in America.  We are grateful to our customers and team for making this achievement possible for a sixth time.” 

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Traceability in the Food Supply Chain

You just logged into your eBay account and strategically placed the winning bid for the putter you’ve had your eye on for months.  In only a few short days, your golf bag will receive the final piece of the puzzle and your odds in the approaching club championship just improved.  So as you scrub, shine and polish the other residents of your cart bag in anticipation of your newest addition, you can search, refresh and track each step your putter makes on its way to your doorstep.  From the desktop in your office to your phone in your pocket, the location of your purchase is at your fingertips.  The ability to trace your order from a warehouse 1,200 miles away to your mailbox is an incredible thing.  The traceability available in the food supply chain is, however, more complex.

When you consider the multitude of elements that make up the ingredients that comprise our food supply chain, it is staggering.  Add in the wide ranging destinations from which they originate, and maintaining visibility becomes quite challenging.  The importance of food safety spans much farther than your bottom line. The ability to track a food product to its origins is essential in effectively enforcing a recall, as well as controlling and preventing an outbreak.

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Electronics Fulfillment: The Growing Role of Reverse Logistics

After a long spring and summer, football is finally back on the horizon.  NFL teams are in camp, preseason games are quickly approaching and this is the year you’ve finally decided to upgrade your viewing experience.  We’re not talking about season tickets.  This is better.  A brand new, 70-inch ultra HD television.  The gameday experience is going to come alive in your living room.  It will be as if you’re actually on the field. 

So the day finally comes.  The delivery truck has left your driveway and as you peel the box back you notice a crack that spans from one corner to the center of the screen.  Luckily for you, there are still a few days before the first game kicks off.  For the electronics retailer and manufacturer, this will be another component that enters the reverse logistics cycle.

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3PL and E-Commerce: 10 B2B Stats

It’s that time of the year again.

The time of year when we see more school buses than cars on the street.  The time of year when school zones are bustling with kids and crossing guards as we make our way to work.  The time of year when aisles at Wal-Mart and Target are buzzing with parents trying to find those last minute school supplies.

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Food Logistics: A Focus on Safety

According to Statista 86% of Americans are seriously to moderately concerned about health or safety related food recalls.  And rightfully so, considering that many foodborne illnesses are potentially lethal, including salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and even Hepatitis A.  As a core concern of American families, there is nothing more important to preserving your brand image than maintaining a safe and clean food supply chain.  Do you remember the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA)?  In 2008, they were forced out of business shortly after it was discovered that they were the cause of a major salmonella outbreak.  More than 700 people became seriously ill.  9 people died.  The PCA underwent Chapter 7 bankruptcy and is still fighting civil lawsuits in court to this day.  The damage didn’t stop there either, but extended to retailers who used the peanuts in their products.  PCA had distributed contaminated peanuts as raw goods for companies such as Kellogg and Walmart, costing the two retailers over $70 million in recall related expenses. This may be an extreme example, but it is an eye-opening anecdote illustrating the potential impact that poor oversight of your food supply chain can have.

As you can see, it is not enough to control what happens inside your facility.  Your suppliers and vendors are also responsible for the safety of your products.  In recent news, a Chinese meat processor came under fire for selling expired and contaminated meat to popular fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell.  Already, Yum! Brands, owners of KFC and Taco Bell, have announced huge losses of sales and a 5% slump in their stock.  As you can see, it is not enough to oversee your own operations.  It is crucial to have oversight of your supplier’s operations in order to ensure that what comes in the door is safe. 

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