From tall order to competitive advantage … 5 ways to optimize the last mile of your big box retailer supply chain strategy

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Whatever the size of your business, managing the final stretch of your supply chain for big box retailers like Loblaws, Costco, Walmart, and Amazon can be a tall order. More and more, getting products the final destination cost-effectively takes the skill, resources, and expertise of a team of supply chain experts. Especially when it comes to the final, critical step in delivery to the big box distribution centre.

Naturally, you want to boost your supply chain’s flexibility and reliability. But that can be tough when you’re also managing retailer relationships, transportation, carriers, and compliance too.

So, how do you get your products to the distribution centre without a hitch? Whether you’re shipping consumer goods, packaged goods, or fresh and frozen perishables, the expertise of an experienced 3PL can be a game-changer.

Check out these 5 tips for solving the biggest last-mile supply chain challenges:

1. Securing an appointment: You know you need an appointment. But securing a time that works for your schedule and all of the major retailer’s requires access to their portals – or partnering with a 3PL with portal access. The stronger your relationship with the retailers, the better positioned you are to get the best appointments and drive savings and efficiencies.

2. Mastering a maze of compliance requirements: Every big box retailer has its own set of requirements. Whether those rules dictate packaging, pallet design, equipment standards, or appointment-setting, it pays to know the rules. Failing to do so increases the risk of chargebacks and losses that wreak havoc with your bottom line. Best practice: partner with a supply chain expert who knows compliance inside and out — so you’re not paying to sell your product.

3. Optimizing transportation solutions: So, you’ve secured an appointment and know all the rules. Now, how do you make sure carriers deliver on time? The last thing you need is extra wait time or late penalties. Some retailers only let you rebook a few times for each load. Show up late and they may refuse your freight — at your cost. The smart way to protect your profits? Partner with proven, reliable carriers. Better still: partner with a 3PL who’ll manage those carriers for you — and hold them accountable.

4. Harnessing the power of technology: When delivering to the giants of the industry, technology is your friend. Caveat: it has to be the right technology. Specifically, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the industry standard for sharing product delivery documents with big box stores. Communication with the retailer is smoother when you provide your documents in their preferred format, which makes your supply chain more efficient. While EDI is the preferred method, it can be costly and complicated to set up. A 3PL with the right EDI programs, trained staff, and daily experience using the technology for other customers can be your ticket to expanding your market to big box retailers.

5. Consolidating truckloads for flexibility and savings: Getting your goods to the DC adds a new level of complexity to profit margins. Especially if you’re a small business with Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) deliveries. Sharing the load with third parties is a great way to unlock efficiency, flexibility, and cost savings. A good 3PL can help you consolidate truckloads, so you only pay for the space you use. You tap into their bulk rates – and can manage more frequent, smaller deliveries. Consolidating freight doesn’t just add flexibility to your supply chain. It can reduce safety risks and wait times for smaller loads – and speed transit time.

Getting the last mile of your supply chain to big box retailers right, can turn a tall order into a powerful opportunity. If you’re looking to solve these logistics challenges and more, consider partnering with 3PL logistics or other reputable 3PL provider. You’ll gain more than added flexibility, reliability, and precision. You’ll see the results on your bottom line.