Unboxing Logistics: An EasyPost Podcast

Tips for Last-Mile Success With Nicholas Daniel-Richards From Packiyo - Ep. 28

March 20, 2024 | 44:28

In This Episode

Last-mile delivery is one of the most important parts of the logistics process, playing a huge role in the customer experience. But it’s also one of the hardest things to get right—and carriers aren’t the only ones responsible. 

In this episode of Unboxing Logistics, Nicholas Daniel-Richards, CEO at Packiyo, lays out some last-mile challenges and explains how warehouse optimization streamlines the delivery process.

Why the last mile matters

As CEO of Packiyo, a warehouse management system, Nicholas is very familiar with the ins and outs of logistics. But when it comes to the importance of last-mile delivery, he shifts to his consumer mindset. 

“I'm still a consumer that's receiving packages … and I think the complications around last mile [involve] convenience. You know, do I have tracking information? Do I know when that package is going to arrive or when it has arrived?  Is it the right thing (or things) inside the package?”

The answers to those questions can make or break the delivery experience—and mean the difference between loyal and lost customers.

The hidden side of last mile logistics

Who’s in charge of making sure last-mile delivery goes smoothly? Nicholas says, “A lot of people put an emphasis on … the carrier. But ultimately, there is that step of how packages get to the carrier in the first place.”

He explains that businesses are responsible for receiving customer orders, picking products, packing boxes, and coordinating shipping. If those tasks lead to inaccuracies or wasted time, the last-mile delivery experience suffers. 

How to improve last mile speed and accuracy

When picking, packing, and shipping decisions are made in the moment by individual employees, there’s a lot of room for error. If it takes too long to pack boxes, last-mile shipping could be delayed. If the wrong product gets added to a package, you’ll face a frustrated customer. And the list of potential issues goes on.

The solution? Make decisions before it’s time to prep packages, so warehouse workers know exactly what to do.

Nicholas puts it like this: “You don't want to make decisions on how an order should be packaged and fulfilled and shipped at the time that you're trying to process the order. That’s a repetitive thing. [The] factors that affect that should be automated.”



Lori Boyer 00:00 

Welcome back to Unboxing Logistics. I'm your host, Lori Boyer, and I am selfishly excited for today's topic because we have a super exciting take on last mile. And you might think, oh, I know everything about last mile, but we are actually going to be talking about how last mile is impacted before you even get there.

So I say selfishly because I'm a mom, I have seven kids, which feels like seven billion, and I get a lot of packages. I have invited on the one and only Nicholas Daniel-Richards from the amazing location of Queens, New York. He is going to walk us through a little bit of last mile. Nicholas, why don't you introduce yourself?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 00:52 

That is quite an introduction. I've now been warned how many packages you expect, so I'd better make sure everybody using our software is ...

Lori Boyer 01:00 

Very true. I think there's a carrier dedicated just to my family at this point. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 01:04 

All right. So yeah, I'm Nicholas and I guess chiefly I'm a troublemaker, but my day job is leading a team at Packiyo, which is a warehouse management software. 

Lori Boyer 01:18 

I love it. Awesome. So, Nicholas, we are going to talk all about last mile, but before we do that, I want to get into a little bit of getting to know you. So, in this season, I've been asking all of our guests two questions. Number one, introduce us to Nicholas of high school years. What were you like as a teenager? Do you call it? Did you call it high school in england? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 01:47 

Yeah, we orphanage. No, I'm kidding. Yeah, Oh my gosh, high school school version of me. 

Lori Boyer 01:58 

Yeah what were you like? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 01:59

Thing is I was skinny. 

Lori Boyer 02:00 

Oh, good. Good. Good. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 02:02 

My hair was I was closer to looking like Ed Sheeran for better or for worse. 

Lori Boyer 02:08 

Nice, nice. Ed was just trying to look like you.

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 02:12 

No, definitely not. And definitely a nerd. So I was the one of those kids that was just nerding out. I'm very old, so back when I was a kid, we had just discovered the abacus, I joke. But it was like these old computers in a computer lab that I was spending a lot of time on. So yeah, skinny nerd. It was also a smartass. I do remember that.

Lori Boyer 02:38 

I, I, it's hard to imagine. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 02:40 

It's not, no. 

Lori Boyer 02:41 

Hard to imagine that. I love it. I love it. Okay, so, question number two, if you won the lottery, you're unimaginably wealthy from this moment forth, how does your life change or stay the same? What does your life look like? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 02:59 

Well, it definitely changes whether you want to or not. I think unimaginable wealth. So that's like $280 in your primary checking account. Yeah. $282. I think. So there, I mean, there would be the usual stuff, so it'd be like, yay, I would love a house with a backyard for the little puppy. And. Simple stuff like that. I think, so would you move to the country? Or are you just talking suburbia? 

Like some place, I mean, New York has like places that are just outside New York City, which are great. But if you wanted to get both, and you're talking unimaginable wealth, Then a place on Central Park. That will be, if you look at Central Park. 

Lori Boyer 03:43 

You got it. You could buy the whole building.

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 03:45

Oh my gosh, imagine that, which is why this will never happen, because that kind of money doesn't exist. But the, I think, bigger picture that would, I mean, I don't want to get too philosophical, but kind of, would probably make me rethink what my priorities are and what my role is and how I can help others, right, in maybe different ways than I've done before.

Lori Boyer 04:09 

I love that. I love that. I think there are some people who should get unimaginable wealth, so you can fit in that category. Okay, so that's awesome. Last mile though. Let's talk last mile. What are kind of your key takeaways around this topic? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 04:25 

I mean, so first off, anything logistics is it layers on an onion. So there are many different topics and many different areas to focus on. I'm glad you chose just last mile. I say just, but last mile has many different things as well. I think key takeaways for me, and you've also got to remember I obsess on the very first part of the journey to get to last mile. So for me, the key takeaways would be, and I see this across warehouses is how are operations optimized? There we go for buzzwords. But basically, how is your team reacting? What is their response time? And what is your decisioning process around getting orders out the door, right? So a lot of people put an emphasis on last mile delivery and ultimately the carrier, which is going to get to the last mile.

But ultimately, there is that step of how that package gets to the carrier in the first place. And there can be a huge difference between, and you know, you're receiving a lot of packages, right? So you're ordering a lot. If I get an order in at my warehouse today and the delivery driver is coming in an hour, can I get that order processed and ready for that delivery driver in the hour so we can take it tonight?

And if you can take it tonight that's a day ahead than if I would have shipped it tomorrow and that makes a massive difference in terms of shipping carrier options you choose and ultimately the cost of last mile, which I I that would be my takeaway 

Lori Boyer 06:01 

I love that. So what I'm hearing is that you're saying sometimes we focus so much on that last mile, but it's the 999 miles that it may have taken to get to that last mile that we overlook. And really sets up that last mile for success.

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 06:15

Yeah, that's exactly right. How do you set up for the last mile? I'm going to take that tagline. I like that. 

Lori Boyer 06:21

Okay. I love it. Perfect. Sounds good. Okay. So let's back up a little bit and let's talk about last mile in general. I guess, how would you define last mile? What, what does the last mile process look like? For those who aren't really, you know, as in the know, or what is your definition of last mile? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 06:41 

Yeah, what is my definition? This is where everybody can find out that I've got it wrong. So my definition of last mile is basically, all right, so there are all these steps of the journey of a package, right? There is how the things got into the box, then the box got a label put on it. And it got into a truck somehow that went to a distribution center, and the package gets routed to a local distribution center to where the recipient is. And then it gets put on a, some vehicle, a truck and gets delivered. So that is the journey.

But I think last mile for me, what sticks out as last mile is there are many, different companies and, and operations for all of the stuff until it gets to that last phase of how it gets delivered, and then typically your last mile is happening through the major carriers that we, that we all recognize like USPS, UPS, DHL, FedEx. 

And every now and then you may have a courier. So last mile is really, there are all of these fancy operations that can occur, but then that last step of the process, it's typically a UPS or USPS delivery truck. Unless you're Amazon, where you have your Amazon trucks that are now taking it that last mile and dropping off at the doorstep and putting it in the drop box.

Lori Boyer 08:02 

And it's a very visible step. It seems that, you know, for most consumers, all of that is all the complicated, crazy, running through the warehouse, getting the labels, flying, and they don't know anything about it. It's just that last mile, really, where the consumers really kind of have an input, and where is my package, and what's going on.

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 08:23 

Yeah, why is this FedEx truck pulling out in front of me on the road right now? Oh, he's got to get his packages to ...

Lori Boyer 08:27

Exactly, exactly. So there are a lot of challenges with last mile, you know? Yes. I hear things that like, last mile's the most expensive step in the journey. Last mile's the step where we have a lot of sustainability concerns. Last mile is, you know, just where a lot of challenges can run in. What kind of, what kind of things are the challenges? What, what are the problems that we see in last mile? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 08:51 

I, I mean, I guess. Wow, you got some good questions, by the way. I'm having to actually think, which is annoying. 

Lori Boyer 08:58

It's not fun. There's a time limit. You're okay. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 09:02

I'm not gonna need to drink more tea. I would say the so again, it goes back to the beginning, right? So complications around last mile can  can be as simple as do you have the right address?  Where is that order getting dropped off?  Timing. You know, I, I always tend to, I know that I'm someone that's, I guess, in the world of logistics. It sounds like a movie trailer. But where I tend to use my brain in terms of trying to have empathy and understanding for the process is really as a consumer, because for as many packages that are shipped out using the software we're building, ultimately, I'm still a consumer that's receiving packages, you know, from silly things I bought it off eBay or Amazon or whatever. So for me, the last mile comes down to what has happened at that first step to set up for it. And I think the complications around last mile is its convenience. So I live in an apartment building.

Okay. You know, do I have tracking information? Do I know when that package is going to arrive or when it has arrived?  And is it the right thing or things inside the package? Like, that, that's where I tend to go. And I think from a, you know, if I were to sort of put myself in the shoes of the logistics, like the delivery delivery carrier, then last mile, like, I can't imagine being a, like, a USPS in New York City, like, because it's so crazy.

So, like, the complexity of  being able to get that package into the right building, to the right door  especially in cities. You know, I think, you know, over the years we've heard about drones. You won't, you won't have a drone going up to a door to a you know, you know, a concierge in a building in New York and saying, excuse me, could you drop this off to 28B?

Lori Boyer 11:06 

Maybe they'll come to your window. Tap, tap, tap. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 11:10 

That's not, that's not creepy at all. So maybe Amazon is already on there. But then yeah, that's, that's where I tend to go with that. 

Lori Boyer 11:19 

Okay, so let's go, let's go back to step one then. How do you set up the process to make last mile easier? You know, what are, what are the key steps before we hit that last mile delivery that you feel like are the most important steps?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 11:34 

When you think about the people that are responsible for getting the packages to the carrier, right? So you've got products, you've got your widgets on your shelves, those orders are coming in, you've got to get those widgets into the boxes and get those boxes to the carrier. Very rarely are you dealing with logistics educated PhDs running around the warehouse.

It's just people running around the warehouse trying to follow process and procedure and trying to get stuff done and do it fast. So I think where it starts is  what's your, what are your tools? What are the tools that people in your warehouse can use that can guide them? I'm a big believer in right time decisioning. How's that for? 

Lori Boyer 12:23

Okay. Yeah. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 12:24 

Define. Yeah. So define that. That's basically, you don't want to keep making decisions on how an order should be  packaged and fulfilled and shipped  at the time that you're trying to process the order. That should have, it's a repetitive thing.  There are factors that affect that, that should be automated.

Lori Boyer 12:43

Okay, so I'm hearing, this is, so you've said a bunch of really cool things here and I want to key in. So this sounds like process. I heard you talk about process, tools, and people, which I think are exactly, you are right on the nose in terms of those being the elements that are critical. So let's talk process a little bit. First, right time decisioning is part of that process. So when is the right time to make those decisions?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 13:18 

Way before the order comes in. So basically what you want to do is you want to know you're, you're going to know what your products are. You're going to know what shipping options are available to you.

And basically you want to set up your, the decisions that are made and automated are going to be things like, okay, if an order comes in and the customer has specified expedited on their delivery option, assign the shipping method, put this in the queue here, it's a priority order. Versus, oh, a customer came in, they used this coupon code, include this SKU, which could be an insert.

 And use this shipping option and use this package. And you can basically set that up. Any warehouse management system worth its salt you're going to be able to set those rules up. So basically as the orders are coming in  those conditions are going to be met and what your team is focused on is I've got to go and pick things.

I've got to bring it back to the pack station. I've got to pack them and put them in boxes. And the label automatically comes out. I don't need to make a decision on, is it USPS? Is it UPS? I don't need to think about any of that. I just need to make sure I'm scanning the right items. And the system is going to tell me if I got it right or wrong. And get a package, get the label on it, and next. And just keep repeating that, right? Okay. And that's, yeah. 

Lori Boyer 14:33 

Yeah, so having the right tools then, the right technology, is really what. So I'm thinking of a, a business, so let's say that I am trying to run through all the scenarios and get my right time decision making in.

I'm trying to do it in advance. But as you mentioned, there's a lot of different scenarios. This coupon at this site with this package. So is it solely through technology? Is that the way that I'm going to make sure that I've made all those decisions ahead of time? Is it in a WMS? Are there other tools that I need to look at as well?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 15:05 

It depends, right? Again, logistics, we could go on about this for years. I think the thing to think about is how. So a lot of the customer experience on the purchase side is happening through marketing, right? So it's a function of marketing. So what are the tools that are available, or at least what tools do you have available  that connects your marketing and sales function with your warehouse operations function? Because ultimately a lot of that automation is really optimizing a customer experience that should be experienced, that is going to be experienced when that customer receives that box and now they've physically got the products that they ordered from your brand. So I think you know, the first part is what are you making available to marketing? At what speed for example, could they spin up a new campaign? Add a coupon code, add this code at checkout get this free gift. 

Or we've decided that if you spend over a hundred dollars, you get a free item or whatever it is for them to be able to come up with those campaigns and promotions and the speed in which that can get implemented in a warehouse. Legacy would tell us that that stuff takes months of planning sort of old school whereas now the expectation especially with ecommerce brands that are emerging and the sort of the more recent DTC ecom brands, they want to be able to make that decision and within I don't know, hours, have that implemented on the logistics side and then be able to support that customer experience. So, yeah. 

Lori Boyer 16:54

I love that. It, I work in marketing, so I totally get, I totally get that sometimes we get a brilliant idea. And it wasn't three months in advance. So implementing that, I mean, that is critical, that technology piece. And what I'm hearing as well, then, is that your systems have to work well together. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 17:15 

Yeah, they need to be usable. 

Lori Boyer 17:18 

So how do you ensure that?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 17:19 

So how the systems integrate, right? Always look at that. You know, what is, what are you on? Are you on Shopify? Well, any system that you should be using should at least, hook into Shopify, right? Which I hope is the word. You know, are you hooked into the shipping carriers? What you don't want to do is you don't want to get, create, like you don't want marketing to come at you and say we've got this fantastic idea.

It's going to require you to go over here, log in with that account, do this thing, then take that data, import it into this tool, then do these three things. Like, it's going to go wrong.  So what you want to be able to support is all the systems communicate that are involved in the process. Typically that sales channel your actual inventory management, warehouse management system, and then your shipping carriers, all of those are connected.

We have your WMS at sort of the center of that. And then, you know, when we're talking about that idea from marketing and you have an automation. It's one thing to have the idea and say, let's implement it. If you've got the right system, it shouldn't actually have any impact whatsoever on the day to day life of someone working in a warehouse. And this is where we come back to that that right time decisioning. The decisions have been made, so there's no having to figure it out.

I'm just I'm, we got a new campaign great. To me doesn't make any difference I'm going to pick these things that I'm being told to pick and bring them back to the pack station. And someone's just following the instructions to pack them and get them out. So I think everything around this critical stage on how that order gets processed out the door. Ultimately, it's gonna affect both the customer experience and the time and convenience of that last mile delivery. 

Lori Boyer 19:10 

Okay, so let's say that I am an ecommerce owner and, and not a very smart one, obviously. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 19:17

No, let's say you're smart. Let, let's go with it. 

Lori Boyer 19:20 

Okay. We'll say I'm a smart one and uneducated in the logistics field. We'll say that, exactly. So I've got my, my WMS. If I come up with an amazing deal and it blows up, you know people, I've gone viral, people are going crazy. Do I need to have a WMS? I mean are there things I should be looking for in a WMS that can scale up and down, you know, how do I balance the the money I'm putting into my WMS with kind of the balance I may need to have to make sure it is flexible enough to respond quickly? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 19:58

Well, I mean you're you're hitting it right on. You said you were not that smart with logistics. I think you know it all. I, I think that's why you would choose a WMS in the first place.

So you're obviously scaling because if it comes to, you know, and I see this a lot, I've been seeing a lot of this for years. But you'll, we'll have someone that comes to us and they're, they'll talk about, you know, the growing pains and the reason why they reached out and it's like, well, what are you using now?

They're like a ship station, right? So they're using something that's printing the shipping labels, but really where they're struggling is once you start to scale, now you're running into the issues of, well, what's the state of my inventory?  And that's critical because if you are seeing  sales growth, then you want to have a really good understanding of inventory to be able to replenish it.

So so everything has a ripple effect and I think that, or cascading effect, I think the you know, the point of a WMS is how can you eliminate the  thinking and sort of these manual processes that sort of is stuck in someone's head in the warehouse. I mean, I've seen warehouses where it's a person that knows where the inventory is to go get it like oh, we got an order in for widget A  and this person is Is the inventory management system.

They know where it's at. And that, that's a huge problem. 

Lori Boyer 21:34 

That's a huge risk. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 21:35 

Yeah, it's a huge risk. So the, the, I think, and there are many different scales of company, but I think for your  small to medium enterprise  looking to simplify  their operations on the day to day warehouse wise, your WMS should at least come with the basics.

Good inventory tracking, because everything that's happening in the warehouse affects impacts inventory, whether it's coming in or it's going out.  And then what is your order management system, and what does that afford you as far as getting rid of the decisioning that's happening on the fly and sort of pre loading all those rules so your team just follows like easy to follow, repeatable processes. 

Lori Boyer 22:24 

Okay, so I'm gonna I'm gonna put you on the spot here. We're gonna pretend that you are now the business owner of a variety of sizes of business. And I want you to share with me what your tech stack would look like. What are the the tools that you feel like would be critical at different stages to have? Okay, so let's say that you're just starting out. You got this Nicholas.

You're just starting out We'll, we'll even say you've moved out of your mom's basement and you're doing fairly well, but you're kind of at that starter stage. You know, are you okay with spreadsheets? What, what, what is the tech you feel like you need very early on? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 23:02 

You know, early, early on. And I did, I owned an ecommerce brand and it was like an experiment because I wanted to learn, you know, it's all about putting yourself in the other shoes. So I had this ecommerce business and it was low order volume. Like I'm doing five, 10 orders a day. Right. And I've got my main business. So this is a side hustle. 

Lori Boyer 23:24 

Yeah, got your side hustle. That's great. Lots of side hustle people. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 23:26 

Yeah. So I had Shopify, Etsy. And as far as shipping, I was just printing out the labels manually.

Lori Boyer 23:38 

Okay. Were you directly connected to like carriers? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 23:42 

I was, I was doing it through Shopify, but it was only and, and I, you know, I wasn't optimizing for best rates. I was just trying to get the orders out of the door. And that was, it was about, and then I would be off at the post office.

I think if I were to, if I had the time, I unfortunately didn't. You, you have to put time into these things to grow them. But if we were to sort of fast forward the scale of that, so say if it now was a hundred orders a day. So  Shopify is great. Etsy's great. They need to now feed into some form of order queue.

I don't want to be logging into them individually and printing out labels manually. So, some form of  warehouse management system. Hmm, I wonder which one? And then  I would want  you know, that to be integrated with, I mean, a no brainer EasyPost, obviously.  Because then I can optimize around my shipping label.

So, that's the day to day. But then, I need to  probably get some better insight as to what I need to order from suppliers.  So I would look at  inventory planner. And there are some other tools out there. I mean, my world is my world in which I obsess on, but if I were to do this, I would use, there's a tool called Lumi AI, and we just we just integrated with them. I'm not a huge AI, AI this, AI that. I've just used it for generating awkward images mainly, but the ...

Lori Boyer 25:18 

Nice, nice when people with lots of extra fingers or missing fingers. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 25:23 

It's like, where did that arm come from? Okay. But the you know, what's been kind of fascinating with Lumi is as much as I obsess on a product and sort of how we build this for our clients.

I consider our clients to be way smarter than me when it comes to they're dealing with, you know, thousands of orders a day. So they're looking for insight. They're looking for those answers on what do we need to order? What is stale?  How is my team performing? And I think, you know, we're seeing this with Lumi AI, how it's exposing those kinds of answers. And I think that's something that's going to continue to evolve. I know that I'm getting sort of a bit ahead. 

Lori Boyer 26:03 

No, no. I actually it's bringing up a question for me. So we're, we're going off track, but we're going to come back. We'll circle back. We're, we got our lingo in here. We, so data. I, you know, I go to conferences, I talk to people every day and data is so, so, so, so critical in our industry, but I'm also hearing a little bit about data fatigue.

Data overload, kind of the idea of like, there's so much data we have with all our technology. What elements of data do you feel like are the most important for shippers to be paying attention to? For, you know, ecommerce people, what, what data elements should they be looking at to make sure they're making things as smooth as possible to get to that last mile as well and, and quickly, and, and as optimally as they can. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 26:46 

I mean, it's a good question, and I think it's going to come down to. So this is the problem with data.  It depends on your ability to  translate, right? To be able to figure out what's going on with it. And I think, you know, you hear of people that are amazing with data. And they have data scientists.

There are actual scientists out there that that's what they do. So I think the first thing I would look at is I would want to pair what I'm going to try and get out of the data based on what resources and skills  that I have at my disposal first off, right? I'm not going to try and take on a six month data analysis project if it's just me and an ops guy in a warehouse. 

Lori Boyer 27:36

Let's say we've got you and your ops guy and you've got a WMS. What is the data in your WMS you're looking at? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 27:43 

Right. So I would look at, when it comes to last mile delivery, I think the first thing I would look at is how long does it take us to get an order at the door? So that is order comes in from a, from Shopify, say, right? From sales channel is in the system. Did it take us a day, six hours, two days? The next thing I would look at is what is the error rate of those orders that I'm getting out the door? Are we 90%, 99%? And when I mean error rate, did we put the right items in the box?

Did we  did we use the right box? You know, simple stuff like that, right? What is our accuracy? The next bit of data I would look at. 

Lori Boyer 28:24 

And Nicholas, is that in the WMS? Can you find that data? Where do you, that will be in there, okay. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 28:30 

Yeah, you can find you can find in a couple of ways. There's like shipments reports. I mean you can find it in most ecommerce platforms as well. Pick and pack reports, right? You can see inside into your team. The next bit of data that I would look at is, and EasyPost actually makes this available for you as well, so you don't need to just use Adobe Mass. How are your carriers performing on their SLAs?

So, you know, yay, we're using this carrier and they're saying two to three days. Well, why is it that 15 percent of our orders are being delivered three to five days, right? 

Lori Boyer 29:06

Yes. That is one cool place that AI and stuff I do love. I'm with you. AI is on the cusp. It's got a lot of potential. It's not quite there yet, at least for us in the logistics. There are little pieces though. And that's the one I love is being able to look at it and say, 95 percent of the time it's taking this long. And so it's still that error, but you can look at it and be like, okay, you're saying one to two days and it's taken three to four, 95 percent of the time. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 29:32 

So, you know, you were, sort of keeping on that AI theme for a second. I think, you know, when we think about AI overall and what we hear in the media, it's kind of like, it's going to take over the world and we're all be subservient. Well, what I think about in terms of logistics is, I can ask something that's looked at a large data set, some basic questions, and it's going to help me get to the answer, right?

 And, Yeah, it's not doing anything other than that. Maybe we'll get to a point where, and we're, we're looking at this at Packiyo, but this is not something we're going to be implementing this year. But how do you get to a point where AI can be more active in the decisioning around trends and things that it's seeing in the warehouse and how the warehouse team sort of optimizes ops? I think we've got a while to go there. 

Lori Boyer 30:22

Yes, I love AI in terms of simplifying the complex, because I feel like that's where we've got a lot of potential. So we don't need to, you know, we talked about data overload and data fatigue. Hopefully that'll remove some of that as we get into, you know. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 30:36 

But that's where you, I mean, you're hitting it right on the head. And that's where I come from. And that is, how do you simplify, right? How do you get down to, like, when it comes to those metrics, you can go crazy with metrics, but start somewhere simple and you can build out from there, right? So, okay, well, our metric on how long it takes to process an order right now, it looks like on average, it takes us two days. All right, well, why does it take two days? And maybe there's some metrics around there you could start adding. 

Lori Boyer 31:06 

And make small goals to improve and look into that data. I absolutely love that. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 31:12 

I should do that with my diet. Small goals. 

Lori Boyer 31:16 

Don't look too closely, Nicholas. That's what I say. Don't look at those numbers too closely. Okay, so let's say, I think we've covered that really well. We've got the technology. If you're a larger corporation or you're really scaling, you're, you've been expanding, you're needing new warehouses, technology wise, do you feel like there are additional things that people should be adding to their stack tech stack at that point?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 31:40 

Well, I think at that point you're starting to get into, I guess, from a data perspective, you want to start separating that data out into, I mean, depending on the size of the org, but probably into a separate pool for machine learning, right? Not having a machine learning happening directly in your WMS because I think the data set is going to be larger.

I also think once you start getting into multi warehouse, you now have decisioning that's not happening just within the boundaries of a building. It's now happening across a network of nodes. So now you have to, the decisioning gets a bit more complex, right? How are you optimizing where things go to in that network for final mile delivery, right? And that's where we start to get into some fascinating that is a fascinating topic. 

Lori Boyer 32:35 

Yeah. I, when, when we get to that stage, it's really interesting. Cause that's where every single package and every second and every inch of size and all of those different things really starts to balloon up into huge dollars and and huge amounts of time. So so as we're then going and we're hitting that last mile stage, what, are there anything else that we could have done before to make it more smooth or that would have prevented that last mile from really taking off?

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 33:03 

I mean, I, it's funny because we get into all of this, you know, we're talking about AI and we're talking about like networks and, but it really, I mean, it really is like simple stuff. So we talked about how we're going to optimize the orders when they're coming into the system and how they get treated.

Are you doing analysis on cartonization, right? So how much air is in the box  which can have an impact in, well, obviously can have an impact in terms of your DIM and the cost of delivery, but it can also have an impact of if I now have to put an item in the box and also grab some paper or some air bubbles, and put that in I've added in another step It's elimination of steps required to fulfill. 

And then I think simple stuff,  address validation. Is it a residential or is it commercial address? Is this a valid address? You know stop it before the packer gets to a problem They're like well I've packed it, but I can't generate the shipping label. I think we as consumers, sounds terrible, but when we're shopping, we're expecting delivery.

Sure. Same day, two day delivery is awesome. In some cases, you may be ordering same day because you're going on the road in a couple of days. So, you know, all of that's very convenient. However, I think the number one area of convenience is information on what the status of the order is. So in your WMS, in your sales channel, your customer gets updates that, hey, your order has been shipped.

Your tracking number is pending. Here's your tracking number. Oh, the carrier has picked up a scan, the tracking number. It's now en route. It's in the final delivery mile. It's out for delivery today. I think all of that stuff. While nothing that's mind blowing in terms of tech. It is amazing how many ecommerce brand warehouses and 3PL warehouses that we come across, before they have a good WMS in place that really struggle with that stuff because they don't have the tool at the center of it to keep it all sort of streamlined.

Lori Boyer 35:16 

I feel like we've really talked a lot today about simplifying and taking what is an extremely complex process and and looking drilling it down so it's really simple. I I do have a question for you. So you mentioned, you know, are you when we're talking about cartonization and whatnot and having extra space in the box?

Are there, is there anything you recommend to somebody? Let's say they're listening right now and they're wanting to figure out maybe where they're having some waste where some time is getting wasted where some processes are slower than they need to be. Is there something specific they can do? You know, would you recommend they walk through the warehouse?

Would you, you know, as you said, you went and ran an ecom business yourself, and there's so much you learn from kind of doing hands on. Would you recommend that they get, you know, feet on, boots on the ground? Are you recommending they look more into their data, that they get a consultant to help them?

You know, how, how, what are the best ways for somebody to identify where they may have waste? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 36:18 

I mean, possibly all of what you just mentioned. I think if I were to approach it I would approach it with. Boots on the ground. My boots on the ground, you know, I mean, it depends on the problem that you're trying to solve.

So if it's an operational problem, you know spending time  with the operations team, understanding, you know, what's happening, I think is good, right, gives you context. Then maybe being able to use as a benchmark or comparison. You know, there are plenty of companies out there that we have people reach out to us and say, hey, we're struggling in terms of operations. Is there a place where we can go visit a warehouse? Right. There's a, so you can go visit warehouses. There are people that love to show you their operations. 

Lori Boyer 37:06 

So you can go visit peers. Like get advice from them. I would guess also talk to talk to your, your, not just your boots on the ground, but obviously you've got people in the warehouse. People as part of that. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 37:18 

Yeah. I mean, you could do undercover boss. I'm kidding. 

Lori Boyer 37:20 

You could, I know. Find out all sorts of things. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 37:26 

You know, so for me, what has been a consistent  really consistent way of getting a pulse on what's happening is to put myself in the shoes of  customer support. We call it client success. It was something that I saw at I had a couple of friends in the early days of Slack.

And Slack the messaging app, and Slack, what they were doing is they were rotating everybody in the company to spend at least, I think it was like a day or something like that, on customer support every several months, right? So give everybody exposure to, you know, what a customer's asking, what, what are they struggling with?

What are the tech support things that they need to do? So it helped them improve products, how they communicated it sort of kept everybody grounded and gave everybody empathy for the problem. So I think that's very important when it comes to, you know, for me how I work with my team. I spend time in client success.

I think anybody that's, you know, running a warehouse, what is going on on your customer support side, right? They're the ones that the they're really at the front of the brand.  So they're really getting  information back from your clients, from your customers. And in most cases, You know a customer is going to be reaching out to customer support because they have a problem. So what are the problems?

I think I I would start there. The benchmarking as we mentioned earlier. And then I mean I'm not, I'm not a huge fan of going to all the conventions in the world because I actually do like to work for a living. But I think you know going to you know in logistics, there's a couple of really good show, I mean, there's a load out there, but the ones I know have been really good for me Manifest, Shoptalk have been great.

So I think it's also good there to you know, try and meet with your peers. Get some, get some of those keynotes in, like, even get pitched by a couple of these companies out there and see what they're seeing and see what they're saying and see what they're trying to solve. I think all of that is, is out there.

Lori Boyer 39:46

Yeah, I say, I have found that something I do love about those shows, and I know you said there's a lot of them and we all need to work and we need to get our stuff done. Sometimes it does help us step back for a second though. And kind of get a bigger picture. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 39:58 

Yeah, it gets you out of the bubble. 

Lori Boyer 39:59 

It does. It gets you out of that daily grind of I'm fixing all these problems and putting out fires and start thinking, whew, I need to think proactively and what kind of changes do I need to make? And so I love that. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 40:11 

You know, there is, there's something else Lori, and that is forums. So, you know, you have like Reddit and Facebook, LinkedIn. There are, there are lots of groups. There's I mean, there are these communities out there. There's like Fulfill. There's, I know there's like logistics groups on Facebook. 

Lori Boyer 40:33 

There are. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 40:34 

And you have, like, very passionate people in these groups that are willing to give you, especially if you're now in the stage where you're looking at another solution or implementing other tools.

Have other people used it and what has been their experience? So you can, you can find out like. All right, what is the what is the real impact that this is having and sort of what is the fit for it, right, in terms of maybe something you're evaluating. I think that's a... 

Lori Boyer 41:02 

Love that advice. You are the first person in my podcast to ever advise going into these social media groups, and I love that. We're, we're just friends, Nicholas, because I join all of those. It's one of the first things I always do, because you do start to see trends and you start to get whispers of what's going on and, and opportunities. And so it is a way that without you necessarily thinking, I mean, there's some great great opportunities out there.

So thank you so much. We're out of time, but I just wanted to hear from you. If you had any final pieces of advice, I'm going to sum up a couple of things I heard today. And when we are focusing on getting to that last mile to the last mile, the most critical elements really are what happens before. And in that you need to be looking at your people, your processes, your technology, you need to be looking for ways to simplify.

Take all of that crazy tech and see how you can simplify it down and reduce waste, become more efficient you can do that with your boots on the ground. You can do that by talking to your people. You can do that by visiting warehouses. You can do that by going online, social media. There's lots of ways for you to look at and find little mishaps, including looking in your technology, as we mentioned, you know, what were your, your error rates, things like that.

Keep an eye on that. And take advantage of data, but don't let it overwhelm you. Did I miss anything, Nicholas? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 42:32 

No, in fact, you said it in the right order as well. Oh. So I think you're showing off anybody would think you live and breathe this stuff, Lori, but. 

Lori Boyer 42:40

I know, you think its my life. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 42:41 

People process tech. Right. So a lot of people approach approach tech first. You know, I, I'm a recovering software engineer of many, many years. So I would say. 

Lori Boyer 42:54 

My husband's still an addict, so I know. He's a software engineer. 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 42:58 

I would always  lean on people first, right? So your technology is only as good as how you use it.  So what is your  capacity to use it?  And it could be that there are certain technology solutions that are great, but are you at the right stage to use them, right? So there's been thinking about that. But yeah, I, you know, for me, it really is, it's the humans  that are powering your warehouse. Sure there are robots out there, but the majority of warehouses that we deal with, it's people  making a living, trying to get a trying to do a good job. So you know what are the what are the ways in which you're setting them up for success? And if you really want a good gauge as to what's going on as a business owner, spend some time with your customer success team and see what they're living and I think you'll get some good feedback 

Lori Boyer 43:58 

Thank you so much. That is awesome. Thank you everyone for being here today We love you. We love having you here as part of this community. And I am so excited that we will be able to see you next time.

Nicholas, any final goodbye? 

Nicholas Daniel-Richards 44:12 

Drink more tea. 

Lori Boyer 44:14

Drink more tea, says our British guest. So have a good one, everyone. Bye bye.