The KUIU Warehouse

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We have been shipping a high number of orders over the past few weeks, so with the warehouse firing on cylinders I thought it would be a good time to highlight our pick and ship process. KUIU has been using the same warehouse located in Vacaville, California since day one. While the team, floor space, and volume has grown considerably over the past four years, the simplicity of processes has remained the same. Efficiency and attention to detail are the keys to success in our warehouse, even though we still do many things the old fashioned way. At the helm of the operation is Laura Ojeda, who has been running a tight ship in the KUIU account since 2011.

A couple months ago I posted Following a Pack Order which focused on the pack section of the warehouse, and this week we will take a look at everything else. While the warehouse operation of any business is almost entirely behind the scenes and rarely glorified, it plays a huge roll in the customer experience. As a result of the consumer-direct business model, our warehouse team members are the last ones to touch each and every KUIU purchase before it reaches the customer. This ensures consistency in the quality of packaging and accuracy of fulfillment, but at the same time it leaves little room for error. While mistakes do happen from time to time, we feel that our warehouse crew does a remarkable job at creating a positive customer experience through timely shipping, accurate and thoughtful packaging, and prompt processing of returns.

Orders From KUIU to the Warehouse

Twice each day Laura loads a new batch of orders from KUIU’s order management system to her warehouse software. Each batch produces a printout of every new order in the system that’s ready to be pulled, packed, and shipped. As soon as a new batch of orders is printed out, they begin getting filled. Below we see an order as displayed on KUIU’s system, followed by the format in which it is printed at the warehouse.

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A day’s batch of pack order tickets ready to be filled.

Receiving Shipments

With three dedicated bay doors in the KUIU account, new shipments of product are dropped and checked in very quickly. Once a new shipment arrives Laura and her team sort, count, and check the cartons for damage or shortages. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the size of the shipment. As soon as quantities and quality is confirmed, Laura relays the message to the KUIU office, at which point the inventory counts are loaded to the online system. At the same time, KUIU employees begin processing any backorders for the product. Many times, backorders for the newly arrived items begin getting filled before the cartons are even transferred to their permanent storage location on the warehouse racks. We understand that customers want their items as soon as possible, and we do everything we can to expedite fulfillment as soon as shipments land.

Below, Cecilia is pulling a Yukon Jacket to fill a backorder within hours of last week’s Chugach NX and Yukon shipment arriving.

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Picking/Packing

Each order is carefully picked by hand by a warehouse employee. The worker typically takes a cart and a small stack of tickets and efficiently cruises up and down the aisles pulling multiple items for multiple orders at a time, until the cart is full. From there, the cart full of organized items and orders goes to the shipping table for packing. We use a variety of different sized grey bags and boxes, depending on the volume and contents of each order.

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Vicki carefully checks off items before packing an order to ship.

High Volume Shipping

Once orders have been bagged or boxed, they are placed back into a cart and wheeled to one of the four shipping stations. Each station is equipped with a scale, shipping label printer, computer, KUIU packing tape, and paperwork. This is the point at which invoices, return forms, ride-along ads, and sometimes coupons are inserted into each package. With all four stations running at once, we have the capacity to ship up to 1,200 orders in a day.

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After labeling and sealing, orders are placed in a bin at the end of the table, sorted by FedEx or USPS. As soon as a bin is filled, it rolls off to the pickup area in another section of the warehouse.

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We have received some criticism over the years for restrictions in making changes to orders after a certain amount of time has passed since initial placement, but many times an order has already been packed, labeled, and delivered to the parcel pickup area of the warehouse by the time a customer requests a change. Once a package has reached this stage- sometimes as soon as within an hour after placement, the order is as good as gone.

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A day’s orders ready to be loaded onto the USPS truck.

Returns

If you’ve made a return to KUIU in the past year and a half, you were likely instructed to send the item(s) to our warehouse address. Up until the Holiday season of 2013 we processed all returns at our Dixon headquarters location. As the company grew, so did the pile of weekly returns- until it was too much to handle. By having a dedicated returns employee (Carmen) and section at the warehouse, we are not only able to get refunds processed quickly, but product doesn’t need to be driven anywhere to go back into inventory. On average returns are opened, inspected, re-bagged, and labeled within 24 hours of arrival. Credits are typically issued within 48 hours of return arrival, a process that is finalized by Brenda back at the KUIU main office. Returned product is placed back into inventory in a large batch once per week.

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Carmen carefully inspects a pair of Chugach NX Pants while processing a return.

 

I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look into KUIU’s warehouse setting. It’s a very fast paced and hard-working portion of the business, and we hope that their dedication to accuracy and detail helps you enjoy a quality experience on your next order or return.

Todd Harney

 

Following a Pack Order

The pack department has come a long way since KUIU’s inception in 2011, with multiple moves and expansions as popularity and volume have increased. Up until Q2 of 2014, packs were assembled in a small dedicated back room at the Dixon office. Every day a truck load of bags and suspension would be picked up from the warehouse and brought to the office to fill the days orders. In the mornings an Excel spreadsheet would be printed, containing information for each pack order- customer name, order number, order time/date, and pack style/size/color; which would then be written out manually onto a separate form for each order before the building would proceed. Once assembled, each finished pack and form would be loaded up and brought back to the warehouse the next day for shipping.

I still remember the 2013 Black Friday sale like it was yesterday: The spreadsheet was at least fifteen pages long and took over 2 hours to hand write onto individual sheets. Ben Britton and I assembled packs in the back room until the wee hours of the morning for days on end to catch up. The only thing that kept us going was our goal of lining each hall in the office with a solid wall of packs on each side- which we ended up doing more than once. One morning Jason walked in and said “Okay, enough is enough- what do we have to do to get this operation moved over to the warehouse?”

The photo below depicts the gauntlet of packs that would pile up in the hall on an average afternoon in the weeks leading up to the department move.

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Just in time for the arrival of the ULTRA line in 2014, I got the pack department moved to our spacious warehouse in Vacaville, CA. The assembly team has grown from one full-time employee when I arrived in early-2013 to four full-time assembly employees today.

As a company we spend a lot of time focusing on product transparency, but what’s rarely highlighted is the day-to-day, behind the scenes operation that makes KUIU run. I came up the idea for this article on January 20th, at which point I emailed the Customer Service team asking for a customer willing to have their name and order tracked as a sample. Ricky, one of the newer members to the KUIU team, replied the next morning with a name: D.R. Horrocks of Vernal, Utah.

D.R. Horrocks ordered a Clearance Icon 5200 in Phantom over the phone with Ricky at 11:51am on January 21, 2015. (Notice the brand new Customer Service building).

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New orders are loaded twice per day at our warehouse in Vacaville, CA- 11 miles down the highway from our Dixon headquarters. During this process, the warehouse account manager Laura syncs her warehouse management software to KUIU’s order management software, and copies a large file containing each new order that’s been placed since the previous batch. Laura’s software then splits this large file up into individual orders before proceeding to print a “pick ticket” for each order to be packed and shipped. Once the batch of orders has finished printing, Laura manually sorts out any pack orders which are then delivered to Cody, our pack assembly and quality control supervisor.

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D.R. Horrocks’ order ticket was loaded and printed at 12:10pm on January 21st, just 19 minutes after his order was placed. Once the new batch of pack order tickets reach the assembly area, Cody, Abel, and George begin work to assemble each pack. Below we see D.R.’s order ticket next to the parts for his new Icon 5200, which Cody is beginning to build.

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Each KUIU Full Kit pack requires roughly 17 minutes worth of assembly before it’s ready to ship. Frames, which are received in weekly batches from the frame maker in Sacramento, CA, require sanding and an acetone cleaning before the specialized 3M Velcro is applied. A strip of edge trim is also applied to the bottom of the frame. Next the guys install the necessary webbing and hardware, used to attach the bag to the frame. The final steps include installation of the shoulder straps, waist belt, and bag. The photo below displays each step from start to finish for an Icon Pro Full Kit.

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Once a pack has been assembled and bagged with a manual, it’s then taken down to the packing area to be boxed and set in line for shipping. This is also the stage where any additional non-pack items are pulled from the warehouse shelves to be added to the outgoing order. Below Cody is boxing D.R.’s pack for shipment, still within two hours of the order being placed.

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After boxing, the pack moves to one of the four shipping stations where it gets weighed and ready for exit. Unique address and product-specific bar codes on the order ticket are scanned into the shipping software, where a number of actions are initiated: 1) The customer’s address and shipping preference pops up in a shipping document, 2) A packing slip with all items on the order is generated and printed, and 3) a shipping label is made. Additionally, this is the point at which a return form and any special offer coupons go into the package as well.

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Once the documents and shipping label have been inserted and attached, the package is securely sealed with KUIU packing tape and set on the day’s outgoing order pallet to be picked up by day’s end. FedEx and USPS back up to a bay door roughly 75 feet from the shipping station. Below you see D.R. Horrock’s pack boxed and ready to be shipped via FedEx, just three hours after placing his order.

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D.R. was nice enough to send us photos of himself opening the package at his home two days later on Friday, January 23rd.

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Having efficiently shipped over 8,000 pack orders in 2014, we feel we have a great program in place- with room to grow as needed. The key to the pack department’s efficiency is having great employees in place who care about the quality of both the product and the customer experience. Even as volume picks up this Spring and Summer, it is our goal for 2015 to get all packs assembled and shipped within 3 business days of the order being placed.

If there’s a another portion of KUIU that you would like to see highlighted in the future, email me your thoughts at toddh@kuiu.com.

-Todd Harney