It’s impossible to be perfect, but Top 40 distributor Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601) comes awfully close in getting orders right. The Kansas-based firm boasts a 99.9% order accuracy rate – a number the company is proud of and takes very seriously. “We are vigilant to brand standards and guidelines that are understood by and accessible to team members on any given account,” says Bill Gossman, vice president of sourcing and logistics at Staples Promotional Products (SPP). “We also proof in many forms.”
Besides taking fundamental quality control steps, SPP also leverages new technology, using a high-end pick-to-voice system and a digital interface to maximize efficiency. The company organizes its fulfillment sites to make the order process easier for its employees, too. “We manage and designate space per client as to not mix logos,” says Gossman.
Keep reading for Gossman’s tips to boost order accuracy rates, including suggestions for smaller firms.
Q: How has SPP achieved a 99.9% order accuracy rate?
A: Several factors contribute to it and I’ll illuminate a few. First, we have dedicated quality controls throughout the order management process. Second, we have stringent digital asset management controls in place. Lastly, we also partner with the best suppliers in the industry and use a score card to judge performance.
Q: What does quality control involve?
A: We have well-defined skuing requirements, plus protocols on order process, receiving and shipping.
Q: How do you work with clients to make sure logos, colors and messages are properly proofed and approved?
A: It starts with stringent brand guidelines that are easy to use. This is also where the digital asset management system comes in because it helps to control usage and access. We proof in many forms: physical, paper, virtual – it depends on level of order complexity as to which level of proofing we would employ.
Q: Are personnel continually trained to improve order accuracy?
A: Absolutely. In our distribution center, we train and measure performance and continually counsel and re-train as necessary.
Q: What role does technology play in high accuracy? What tech improvements has SPP recently put in place?
A: SPP has a state-of-the-art pick-to-voice system that has improved both efficiency and accuracy.
Q: How does SPP partner closely with suppliers to ensure correct products are being sent?
A: We are really working toward increased EDI/electronic interface. We work in a high touch, all-custom business, so finding ways to streamline data flow improves accuracy and reduces costs per transaction.
Q: How are SPP’s fulfillment sites designed and organized to create maximum efficiency and reduce picking errors?
A: We manage and designate space per client as to not mix logos. One thing our system does that helps is “velocitize” the product by location. It simplifies the pick process and allows for more time spent for quality control by the order picker.
Q: What steps can smaller firms – without as many resources as SPP – take to improve order accuracy?
A: It’s cultural in many regards. Incent your distribution workers to identify errors and get them to recognize the right logo applications or see differences in logo application or product colors. Reward them for their finds. Additionally, you can look at having one person pick an order, and a two-person team pack an order. Remember to always monitor the error rates. But again, it’s so important to reward the accuracy and to reward the findings by the packer.
Q: When an occasional order goes wrong, how does SPP respond to the mistake?
A: Very simply, we’ll do whatever it takes to make the customer happy.