When Peepers decided to move on from its third-party logistics (3PL) provider and bring distribution operations in house two and a half years ago, building up operations from scratch in its 25,000-square-foot warehouse was no small feat.
But the work and systems put in place to move from a partner handling the company’s warehousing and logistics to an in-house operation better prepared the business to deal with the extraordinary conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic — from being able to sort its pick processes in ways that enabled greater social distancing in the warehouse at the push of a button to having superior visibility into stock and the status of customer orders across three different channels.
“It really prepared us for navigating this pandemic,” John Hart, vice president of operations and ecommerce, said on a recent NetSuite Now OnAir event. “NetSuite offers us customization and integration we think we’d be hard pressed to find on any other platform.”
Family Business Sees Sharp Growth
Peepers is a 4th-generation, family-owned company specializing in fashion-forward eyewear. Its readers, sunglasses and blue light lens eyewear have been picked as one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” for four years in a row. In seven years, it has grown 900%. In addition to its fun designs, it’s known for its outstanding customer service, with a dedicated team that answers every customer chat within two minutes, every phone call within 30 seconds and every email in 24 hours. The company has free, two-day shipping for B2C orders of more than $100, website functionality that guides personalized frame selection and has achieved a consistent brand presence across its three channels – B2C, wholesale and Amazon.
At the heart of its multi-channel inventory management is NetSuite, which Peepers uses to create custom forms and scripting to call up data and build the workflows that automate many inventory management processes.
“The flexibility that NetSuite provides us with scripting and all the scripting objects is huge. Anything can be a button push and most anything can be automated,” Andrew Reeder, Peepers’ NetSuite developer, said on the event.
Peepers’ nearly 5,000 wholesale customers often want to order some combination of glasses that includes best-selling styles, new designs and more and leave that mix up to the order entry team. Prior to NetSuite, coming up with the right combination involved a lot of guesswork. Now, the order entry team can select style combinations by using drop down menus on a custom form. Saved searches call up the most recent data on, for instance, the best SKUs for sun or the best SKUs for readers, to speed up order entry time.
A Vision of Custom UPC Label Data
Another practice that was extremely manual and time-consuming before NetSuite was the process of accommodating augmenting UPC codes for 5,000 different customers. Universal product codes (UPC) are12-digit numbers, typically displayed with a barcode. In addition to unique UPC labels for its products, different customers had different requirements for that description. Some want price, lens type and focus. Some may only want price and lens type.
To accommodate this, the warehouse team had to look through orders with hundreds of lines, make sure they were using the right information, type that into Excel and print out the labels to tag all the different frames. Now, all the different UPCs offered are assigned to the customer record in NetSuite. That is sourced to every sales order the customer makes and appear as a line item entry on that sales order. The UPC labels can be printed from the sales order, and then scanned and matched against that data to ensure accuracy. This has saved hundreds of hours.
A Clear View of Inventory
When it comes to inventory control across channels, NetSuite has had a huge impact on preventing stockouts, accommodating backorders and partial fulfillment and ensuring accuracy in cycle count, Reeder said.
If an item is on backorder, for instance, the system kicks in to peel those items off the related invoice and sends them over as opportunities in the customer record. The opportunity is tracked as a potential sale and flipped into a sales order when the inventory comes back in stock.
NetSuite has enhanced accuracy in cycle counting by better tracking of low count items. Sometimes the order entry team might not trust the system when it tells them there are two items of a discontinued item left in the bin. With NetSuite, the warehouse staff can pick up an iPad, scan a bin on a target list and physically count those items to see if they are actually there. If the number is not correct within 10 units, that person can adjust the inventory directly in the system. If it’s off by more than that, an additional layer of control kicks in, whereby a manager is alerted to vet it against other information in back-end system. Perhaps, for instance, the count is correct and the items are earmarked for a large order that hasn’t been fulfilled yet.
Maintaining Social Distancing in the Warehouse
Finally, with NetSuite Peepers can keep its warehouse staff safer during the pandemic. In the warehouse, pick processes often involve 10 people starting at the same point and walking in the same direction in a small space — something that is obviously not conducive to social distancing mandates. Peepers added a button in NetSuite at the top of the pick path screen to enable reverse sorting paths. Pickers are assigned an odd or even number and presented with a path that splits the jobs to start at the front or back of a pick path — making sure they can accomplish the job at the same pace without crowding with fellow employees.
“This pandemic has not spared anyone, even the pickers in the warehouse. I’m really happy that we were able to provide that,” Reeder said. “I think it’s at least somewhat of a contributing factor to us being healthy and successful during this time.”