The International Furniture Transportation and Logistics Council (IFTLC) is dedicated to getting products from manufacturers to consumers in good condition. At their annual meeting, they discussed the pressure on retailers to achieve perfect deliveries to Ms. Jones’ home. Whether you run your own distribution center with your own drivers or use an outside company, you will take the credit or the blame for the condition of her furniture.
The NHFA indicates that 5% of case goods and 3% of upholstery and accessory items are received damaged. Retailers that buy full truckload lots note less damage because the product is handled fewer times. Specialized furniture carriers do a better job than general carriers that haul furniture mixed with other commodities because they provide training on furniture and accessory handling techniques (this is especially true for manufacturers that deliver in their own trucks or use dedicated transportation).
Some packaging contributes to high damage rates. Retailers should avoid purchasing from suppliers who use insufficient, low-quality packaging. There are suppliers that specify and enforce packaging standards on the plants they either own offshore or contract with. The carriers delivering to your dock truly want to do the best possible job but they have to deal with what they are presented with.
Since your store name is the name Ms. Jones will remember if she is not pleased, you have the burden of providing a solution for any deficiency that occurred prior to the delivery of items to your dock. You must do proper vendor selection, receiving inspection, warehousing, prep and delivery to the customer.
Joseph Cory, Sr., Chairman of Cory Home Delivery Service got everyone’s attention at an IFTLC session when he stated that the cost of doing an exchange is typically five times the cost of the original delivery. The session dealt with problems that become evident at the customer’s home, and the high cost of taking corrective action at that point:
- You schedule a service technician to verify and hopefully fix the situation.
- If that doesn’t work, you will likely order a replacement and deliver it to the customer and pick up the original piece.
- On return to the warehouse, it has to be checked in, inspected and a disposition decision made.
- It may be sent to clearance (with or without repairs), donated, scrapped or sold as salvage.
- If it is a vendor quality issue they may offer an additional discount which still involves work for you.
- If they want it shipped back, you have to package it for safe transit and handle the necessary paperwork for shipping and credit processing.
All too often, these costs exceed the margin or even the total cost of the item. There are also costs associated with customer agitation, lost future business, and negative word-of-mouth advertising.
Some retailers achieve 97% or greater perfect deliveries by following the fundamental of doing it right the first time. Do you know your Perfect Delivery Score? Ask yourself: “If you don’t measure performance, how can you improve performance?”
By Dan Bolger, P.E., Guest Columnist
Today, with The Bolger Group, Daniel Bolger is a recognized expert in logistics, warehousing and transportation – including operations management, facilities and personnel. Bolger is the author of numerous articles on subjects dealing with retail and wholesale operations and speaks regularly at the National Home Furnishings Association’s Resource Center and regional meetings. He has also been called to testify as an expert witness to support private organization litigation and assist the U.S. Department of Justice in freight fraud investigation.