resolve component and material issues. “We went down as far as we could to book materials and give visibility to our orders to ensure our suppliers could meet demands,” Lancaster says. Lancaster began booking shipping containers further in advance, reserving capacity even before Wilson had material to ll them. “This ensured availability when parts were available,” he says. There was a risk: If Wilson couldn’t ll the containers, it still would have to pay for them. As far as Lancaster recalled, that didn’t happen, likely in part because Wilson is large enough that it can consolidate orders from suppliers to ll the containers. Over the past 20 years, CarParts.com, a leader in the e-commerce automotive aftermarket, has delivered more than 50 million parts. Several moves made prior to the pandemic bore fruit over the past few years, says Sherry Liu, vice president of international supply chain. A largely new leadership team came on board several years ago, when the company was struggling. Team members recognized Carparts.com wouldn’t be successful entirely on its own. So, they worked to develop strategic relationships with a range of partners, including the company’s ocean carriers. As congestion intensied at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, Liu’s team asked CarParts.com’s ocean carrier to instead send products to the Port of Houston, which is near one of their warehouses. The carrier did. “The main takeaway is to maintain good relationships with external vendors,” Liu says, noting that when CarParts.com asked for additional support, their partners were willing to work with them. Historically, many agreements between shippers and carriers are non- binding. In another move that proved fortuitous, CarParts.com agreed to a binding contract. It reserved a set amount of space with its ocean carrier, at
In the early days of the pandemic, orders at TapRm.com, a platform for everything beer, jumped from about 10 to 800 per day, says Jason Sherman, founder and chief executive officer. A positive development, but not without challenges. Alcohol distribution in the United States is both highly regulated and inordinately complicated, a lingering consequence of prohibition. TapRm operates within a three-tier distribution system that separates producers, distributors, and retailers. In 2018, Sherman decided to build a platform that would enable beer brands to work within the system to sell online, and with a degree of accuracy that would rival Amazon. More than 98% of TapRm’s orders are delivered on time, intact, and accurately, Sherman says. Some competitors’ accuracy rates are in the 50-60% range, he adds. Initially, TapRm shipped only within New York state. As it considered expanding to other states, freight rates were exploding. “That led us toward a micro-fulfillment center model,” Sherman says, which would offer faster delivery, lower freight costs and greater regional variety. TapRm began partnering with beer retailers around the country, essentially creating dozens of smaller fulfillment centers, keeping freight costs down and speeding delivery times. The company’s partners receive fulfillment software, information on best practices, exclusive brands, and a network of couriers, among other solutions, that can “turn them into one of the largest alcohol e-commerce delivery centers in a given city,” says Sherman. TapRm currently covers about 40 cities in 34 states. Along with multiple locations, the ability to take a deep dive into sales and inventory data helps ensure TapRm has the right products in the right places, and can dispatch items to customers at the right time. Also important? “The number one thing that saved us has been hard work,” Sherman says. Especially when expanding to a new city, he and his team are comfortable showing up, packing boxes, and handling other functions, working into the night when needed. “You get great operations when people at the top see the challenges in real life,” he adds.
March 2022 • Inbound Logistics 53
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