What do stuffed animals, board games, action figures and roller skates have in common? They are all part of the classic range of toys and games. Closely coordinated logistics processes take place in the background to ensure that these lucky charms and sources of fun and entertainment make their way from the manufacturer without a hitch to the retailer or wholesaler or directly to the customer’s home.
Any good delivery service needs to have the items readily available and provide short transport times. However, many manufacturers do not have the time or expertise to devote to these logistical processes in addition to developing their products and handling sales. Professional logistics experts, which single-handedly cater for every part of the supply chain, can provide assistance.
The toy and games industry is extremely dynamic, with the market flooded by fresh designs and goods daily, which then hopefully conquer the market as the toy or game of the year or the popular new plushie. It is therefore essential to have well-organised logistical operations behind the creative marketing processes so that procedures run smoothly. Otherwise, companies are left stranded, particularly in today’s fast-moving, on-demand age.
The volumes of orders also vary dramatically, depending on the season and the occasion: it is necessary to cope with fluctuations ranging from just a few cartons to entire truckloads within a very short period of time. The number of stock-keeping units (SKUs) per order may also vary from one to more than 150. SKUs are unique codes of letters or numbers to identify, track and sort a product. They provide important information about a product’s features such as its colour, size or shape. Depending on the customer and order, specific labels or packaging types are therefore assigned so the toys and games can be identify during the entire warehousing, delivery and distribution process. Logistics specialists also have to handle additional individual requirements that retailers request in their specific orders. They can therefore respond to the dynamic nature of this sector in a flexible and scalable manner. If they have efficient warehousing, picking, distribution processes and flexible resource planning in place, they can easily cope with seasonal peaks.
Toys and games retailers often require complex value-added services such as free-standing display units (FSDUs) or counter display units (CDUs) for their goods. FSDUs are used in retail environments and make products more visually appealing to consumers. They enhance the visibility of the individual items and therefore maximise the effect of a particular brand. CDUs are placed on a shop counter to encourage consumers to make spontaneous purchases. Professional value-added logistics experts ensure that these units are produced, assembled and set up for the goods at their destination. They select the relevant material for the production process, depending on how long the displays are required in the shops.
Professional third-party logistics specialists can efficiently scale retailers’ individual requirements and quickly handle value-added services. They can then guarantee, for example, that FSDUs and CDUs are available at shops before a particular toy or game is brought onto the market. Being able to operate within short time frames is crucial, particularly when new products are being launched. Manufacturers can then meet tight deadlines and enjoy short lead times for products without any problems because of the far-reaching expertise and the extensive resources of professional third-party logistics companies.
Logistics specialists organise the labelling and packaging requirements in line with the specific order, depending on which toy or game is involved and the retailer’s requirements. They ensure that each product is handled with care. Different toys require different value-added solutions. Plushies, for example, are packed in plastic bags before being dispatched to protect them from damage. Value-added logistics specialists also work hard to prevent any damage during transportation. They rely on various processes to minimise this – by using gift boxes, for example.
Warehouse logistics in the classic sense means that companies store and manage their own goods and those of outside companies at special storage sites. Optimal storage procedures and transport using the latest means of conveyance make the material flow process is efficient, fast and almost error-free.
It is also helpful if logistical processes at warehouses are handled consistently. Logistics experts that specialise in handling toys and games are fully aware of the time pressures within this sector. They therefore perform perpetual inventory checks instead of closing the warehouse down for a particular time to count how many items are still in stock. This continual stock-taking process allows the warehouse team to process orders at any given time whilst also maintaining high standards of accuracy. This ongoing process also helps increase productivity and maintain consistently high levels of quality.
Once a toy or game arrives at the logistics specialist’s warehouse after production, it undergoes various stages until it is dispatched to a customer’s home. After scanning the article’s barcode, the logistics company first confirms that the goods have arrived. It also immediately provides notification about possible discrepancies regarding the numbers of items to prevent any confusion in the ongoing procedures. Following this, the logistics specialist completes the advanced shipping notice and enters the warehouse stocks into its system.
The articles are packed as warehouse stocks on TI-HI pallets. TI-HI stands for the number of boxes or cartons on a tier (TI) and the number of tiers or layers that will be stacked on this pallet (HI). Once the goods have been safely placed on the racking, the logistics company enters the retailer’s order into its internal warehouse management system (WMS). The order for delivering the goods to customers or retailers is then entered in the system, as are the plans for transporting them. The customer account team then pass on the orders to the operations department for picking.
The picking of orders is what might be described as unpredictable because of the many fluctuations in demand as well as seasonal peaks. The operations team process the orders at packing tables and scan the units that need to be dispatched. Instructions on computer screens inform them how exactly they need to package the toys or games to fully meet the retailer’s requirements. As soon as a box has been sealed, the system creates the required label for the retailer in question. The logistics specialist then sorts and arranges the goods on the pallets, depending on which retailer is involved, and loads them onto the transport vehicle. Finally, it confirms in the system that the order has been dispatched and the order is completed: the toy or game is now on its way to its destination.
Logistics experts support retailers and wholesalers, e-commerce customers and manufacturers in their warehousing and distribution processes by providing reliable logistics solutions that cover all the aspects of supply chain management.
Toys and games companies gain many benefits by transfering their entire supply chain to a professional third-party logistics specialist. The greatest bonus is obvious: by outsourcing their logistics operations, companies can fully focus on their core business. In addition to saving time, manufacturers enjoy increased efficiency levels and improved productivity. If just one logistics specialist is responsible for the entire supply chain, companies placing their orders can keep track of all the processes transparently. Thanks to having a wide range of different options, logistics specialists can handle seasonal peaks and manage them easily; as a result, they organise their procedures and labour resources flexibly and efficiently.
Value-added logistics specialists also help companies to easily introduce new products by providing the relevant services, processing returns and coordinating the timing and strategy for any additional items that may be required. Toys and games companies benefit from enhanced efficiency, flexibility and productivity.
Rhenus Warehousing Solutions UK currently works with four toys and games customers from its warehouses at Magna Park in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Rhenus has worked with numerous major retailers during the last 30 years and gained a great deal of expertise as a result. Thanks to its work in the toys and games sector over many years, Rhenus has developed a highly efficient system to meet the special requirements of this industry. Modern IT and warehouse systems support the processes in the warehouses and when picking. Rhenus focuses on providing high quality at all times.
Rhenus Warehousing Solutions UK will increase its warehouse footprint even further when its new, sustainable Rhenus Campus is completed at the company’s site in Nuneaton in Warwickshire towards the end of 2023 – and this will also help customers reach their own carbon-neutral targets. The warehouse campus will provide approx. 93,000 square metres of space and will receive the “BREEAM Outstanding – Fully Fitted” certification once it has been completed. Solar power units, air heat pumps and charging points for electric cars will supply the campus with renewable energy. The Rhenus Warehousing Solutions UK sites at Lutterworth and Nuneaton are located centrally in what is known as the UK’s “golden logistics triangle”. The location of the warehouses provides strategic benefits, particularly when handling late orders in the e-commerce business.
Prompt deliveries, high-quality value-added services and special logistics requirements dominate operations in the toys and games sector. Professional logistics companies adapt their services to fully meet their customers’ individual wishes and needs. Instead of individually paid-for services, Rhenus therefore seeks to establish a long-term, ongoing partnership with its toys and games customers to cater to each manufacturer’s individual requirements in the best way possible. The logistics specialist then customises its individual services to meet those specific requirements. “Thanks to our many years of expertise and our well-defined service quality, we offer our toys and games retailers and their customers the best possible experience for their products,” Kerry Delaney, the Regional Director North-West Europe at Rhenus Warehousing Solutions UK, explains. Manufacturers, e-commerce companies as well as retailers and wholesale chains benefit from long-standing partnerships. All this makes complex processes in toys and games logistics “child’s play”.
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