Archive | September, 2010

Giving Back

22 Sep

Mediascope believes in giving back! We are blessed in so many ways — the industry in which we serve, our relationships with each other and our customers, and the privilege of working in an area surrounded by the beautiful river and bluffs of Winona — that it seems only right to share and give back some of the riches we receive.

One of the ways we are able to give back is through professional and community volunteerism. We recently signed on to participate in a volunteer opportunity called Home Delivered Meals. As part of the Winona Volunteer Services program, a rotating team of two Mediascope staff members deliver lunch time meals one day a week to a list of clients in need of receiving a home-delivered meal. We have participated in other volunteer opportunities in the past, too, such as Habitat for Humanity.

We are also involved in many professional organizations, both within our community and our industry. Team members serve a variety of roles in various organizations such as Chamber of Commerce, Mail & Fulfillment Services Association, Printing Industry of Minnesota, Direct Marketers Association, Christian Bookseller’s Association, and the Society for Human Resource Management.

Our team members volunteer on a personal level for a number of organizations also, including the Rotary Club, Winona County Developmental Achievement Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters Advisory Council, Humane Society, Celebrate Recovery, and a Leadership Development Program with college men.

Investing in professional organizations and in our community is a great way to give back to those who have supported us over the years. We at Mediascope are glad for the opportunities to help others, just as we have been helped. It seems like the least we can do.

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E-Store and Fulfillment Services Terminology

16 Sep

Last week we looked at the types of terminology one might see on a sales quote for e-store and fulfillment services. Here are some other terms you may run into as you move forward with a fulfillment services provider.

Assembly
Assembly can include combining multiple products into an individual sku, labeling products, pre-packaging items into inventory, etc. One purpose of assembly is to avoid higher costs experienced when items ship out individually.

Backorder
A backorder is a status designation used to refer to orders when there is insufficient inventory to ship the order in its entirety. Depending on the fulfillment service provider, orders may be split so that the portion of the order with sufficient inventory is shipped, or the order may be held in its entirety until the backordered inventory is received.

Batch/Pick Batch
A batch is a designation assigned to a group of orders that are being processed and prepared for shipping. Batches can be assigned based on the items being picked, by client, by the physical location of the product, or by the shipping methods.

Bin
A bin is sometimes referred to as an “internal sku.” Fulfillment companies will use their own method to identify a product. Often fulfillment clients will use generic skus such as “1000” to identify their products. Because fulfillment companies use their own stock management system, they are able to keep inventory organized, regardless of the sku that the client uses.

BOL (Bill Of Lading)
Freight companies issue bills of lading as an acknowledgement that goods have been placed upon a transportation vehicle for delivery. They will include a weight, number of pallets, and the freight class.

Brokerage Fees
Carriers charge brokerage fees when parcels entering international destinations pass through customs.

Call Center
Call centers provide telephone support for customer service, order entry, and returns. Remote call centers are often utilized by companies that do not have the capacity to handle this on their own. Some fulfillment companies will provide call center services to their clients.

Carrier/Shipping Carrier
This term describes the transportation company that delivers your product to the end customer.

Carrier Service
This phrase refers to the transportation method selected for delivery. Varieties include Next Day, 3 Day, 2 Day, Ground Residential, Ground Commercial, and several others.

Declared Value/Customs Value
This is the value associated with replacing your item. For international orders, this value is also used to determine fees associated with brokerage, taxes, and duties.

Dock to Shelf
This terms describes the amount of time between the inventory arriving in the receiving department of a fulfillment operation and placed on the shelving system ready to be picked and packed.

FIFO (First In, First Out)
FIFO is a stock management technique used to prevent inventory spoilage. Typically, FIFO is used in regard to inventory that consists of goods with an expiration date.

Flat-rate Shipping
Flat-rate shipping is where you pay a fixed cost based on some simple logic, as opposed to paying shipping rates that are very unpredictable. Sample flat-rate logic would be $12.00 for a Next Day delivery package up to two pounds, regardless of destination.

FOB – Freight On Board/Free On Board
A shipping term which indicates that the supplier pays the shipping costs (and usually also the insurance costs) from the point of manufacture to a specified destination, at which point the buyer takes responsibility.

Inventory Adjustment
An inventory adjustment is made automatically when items are received, and when orders are entered. Manual inventory adjustments can be made when a shelf count is requested. These adjustments are made to accurately present the perpetual inventory counts.

LTL (Less Than Truck Load)
This term refers to deliveries made via Freight.

Merchant Account
A merchant account is an account that is set up with a bank in order to process credit card transactions. A merchant account links to a bank account, typically a business checking account, to which merchant funds are deposited or withdrawn.

Order Entry
The act of entering an order into an inventory/order management system. There are numerous ways to enter orders into this system. Manual entry of orders is a simple way to enter individual orders at a time. File upload is a more efficient method for entering orders.

Order Fulfillment Services
The act of physically managing inventory, and shipping that inventory to the end customer. Typically used in reference to a third party fulfillment provider.

Order Invoice
Invoices that are shipped with orders. Similar to packing lists, although these include payment details.

Package Processing
Package processing is a term used to describe the steps involved in picking an order, packing the order, and creating the shipping label. There are a number of methods for producing the shipping label. Traditional pick and pack involves picking the order from a packing list, and then sending it to have the package weighed, and the label then being printed. This is opposed to the batch process method, in which the shipping label is printed first, and the order is assembled based on the information printed on the label itself.

Packing List/Pick List/Pick Ticket
Certain fulfillment clients will require packing lists to be delivered with the products. The packing list shows the contents of the order, the company that sold the product, and often, return instructions, and coupons towards future purchases. Packing lists do not include any pricing details of the product, nor purchase information. Packing lists are often confused with Order Invoices.

Pallet
Pallets are used for LTL and freight shipments. The industry standard for a pallet is 4’x4’x4′. Pallets are sometimes used as a way to estimate storage fees.

Payment Gateway
A payment gateway is an online system for processing credit card or other payment transactions in real time. A payment gateway is typically linked to a merchant account. The payment gateway facilitates the coordination of communicating a payment transaction between the various back end payment networks or banks.

Per Item Fee
Per item fees are charged by order fulfillment houses to cover the labor involved in traveling between different product locations, and the additional labor required to pack those multiple items.

Per Order Fee
Per order fees are generally charged by fulfillment service providers. This fee will often include a packaging fee. This covers the expense of the set up of the order, and the time it takes to pick, pack, and ship the order. This is often coupled with a per item fee.

Perpetual Inventory Counts
Perpetual inventory is the number that represents the count of inventory, considering orders that have been shipped, are in process, and backorders. This can be thought of as the “available inventory.” This number will only match actual inventory count if there are no pending or in process orders.

Pick and Pack
The process by which a fulfillment company will locate the contents of an order, and assemble them into packaging for shipment.

Receiving
When a fulfillment client issues a purchase order to stock a warehouse, the products must be inventoried, labeled if needed, assigned a bin location, and the system updated to reflect the change in inventory. It is highly preferred to have packing lists for these inventory deliveries, as a packing list will make the receiving process more efficient.

Returns Processing
When an end customer elects to return a product, or when a package is undeliverable, it is returned to the shipper. This package is then opened, and contents inspected to determine if the inventory has been used, or is salvageable. The information is entered back into an inventory control system.

RMA
Returned Merchandise Authorization. This is a unique number that is provided by manufacturers that indicates an end customer has been authorized by a company representative to return a product to the manufacturer for repair or refund. An RMA is similar to a tracking number in that it identifies a transaction, and both parties can get information on the progress of the transaction by using the RMA.

Shelf Count/Physical Count
This is requested when a client or a fulfillment center suspects that inventory counts are incorrect. The fulfillment company will then physically count all of the inventory for a given sku.

SKU
Stock Keeping Unit. This is used to identify an individual product. Often a unique SKU is used for each color and/or size.

Storage Fees
Fulfillment companies charge fees associated with the receiving, inventory and warehousing of a client’s goods. These fees will vary greatly by fulfillment company, and range from calculations based on actual dimensional storage requirements, to per-item fees, to per-pallet fees. Many fulfillment companies will also include their administrative fees within the storage fee.

Storage Insurance
This is the insurance that covers a client’s inventory when it is under the care and custody of another party. At a minimum, this insurance should cover theft, fire damage, and natural disasters. Storage insurance policies vary by fulfillment company. Often fulfillment companies will require you to carry your own policy to cover your inventory. Other times, fulfillment companies may hold an umbrella policy to partially insure your items.

Mediascope can answer your questions about fulfillment and e-store services. Give us a call today at 1-888-644-0844. We specialize in the special touches that will set your company apart from everyone else!

Fulfillment Service Charges: What Do They Mean?

8 Sep

So you are ready to contract with a fulfillment company! This is truly a defining moment for your business.  Whether you email, fax, or have orders linked from your shopping cart, fulfillment companies charge for a variety of services.  The following terms and definitions may help you decipher the line items on the price quote:

CC Transaction: This is the charge to have the fulfillment company handle the processing of credit card transactions for you.

Kit Building:  This fee usually involves combining individual items to make sets or kits. 

Order Processing: Usually this is a cost per order that includes the printing of the packing slip and shipping label, picking the first item, plus picking each additional item.  This may also include a minimum fee for low order quantity or file alterations on your orders.

Product Assembly/Assembly: Usually, this is the cost for assembling products to make them ready to sell.  An example would be folding and poly-bagging t-shirts for proper storage. Assembly can include combining multiple products into an individual sku, labeling products, and pre-packaging items. One purpose of assembly is to avoid higher costs when items are shipped out individually at a later date.

Purchasing: This the fee to have shipping or product supplies ordered for you.  Usually includes checking inventory levels periodically and re-ordering as needed.

Receiving: This fee includes checking in product shipments, restocking storage/pick locations and entering data; usually charged per carton or pallet.

Returns: The fee to process items returned by your customers. 

Setup:  This is the initial charge that covers the cost of the preparations needed to handle your products.  These preparations may include the loading of data and  linking the shopping cart into the fulfillment software, phone connections and special storage requirements.

Warehousing:  Cost of storing your product, usually charged by the pallet or cubic foot.  Some companies count this on a weekly basis and then determine the average for the month.

Mediascope offers all of the services listed above, plus many more. Give us a call today at 1-888-644-0844 to discuss how we can help your transition to working with a fulfillment company!

Direct Mail Services FAQs

3 Sep

Here at Mediascope, we recognize that working with direct mail may be confusing, especially when complying with the United States Postal Service (USPS) regulations. To help you out, we have put together a list of the questions we are most frequently asked. If you don’t see the answer to the question you have in mind, please call us a 1-800-866-0844 and we will be glad to help you.

Q: Do I need a permit in order to mail at discounted rates?

A: Mediascope has permits in Winona, MN and La Crosse, WI. Both permits may used by our clients for either First Class Presort or Standard Presort as long as the cost of postage is paid to us  prior to delivery of the mailing to USPS. Please contact us for more information on non-profit and other types of mailings.

Q: How long will it take Mediascope to prepare my mailing?

A: From the time we receive the last component necessary to complete a mailing, we generally request two to three business days to complete a project, depending on the quantity and type of work requested. We will discuss the specifics of your project with you and work together to establish a timeline to meet your needs.

Q: Once the mailing is delivered to the post office, how long will it take for my mailing to be delivered?

A: Several factors may affect the delivery time frame of your mailing, including class of mail, destination, and the United States Postal Service (USPS) designated peak periods.

Outside of overnight priority mailing, First Class Presort is one of the quickest forms of presorted mailing, generally being delivered to the address holder within five to seven business days. Standard Presort mailings typically take seven to ten business days for delivery nationwide. Although Standard Mail pieces may take longer to reach their destinations, cost savings are available by using Standard Mail.

As with any business, the United State Postal Service experiences peak mailing periods which could affect the timeframe in which mail is delivered. Peak times include the December holiday and during recognized political seasons.

Q: What is the minimum requirement for First Class Presort Mail?

A: In order to mail pieces at First Class Presort Mail discounts, you need at least 500 pieces of mail.

Q: What is the minimum requirement for Standard Mail?

A: In order to mail pieces at Standard Mail (bulk) discounts, you need at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds worth of mail.

Q: If I mail using Standard Mail rates, will my mail be handled differently at Mediascope than if I mail at First Class rates?

A: Not at all. All mail is handled the same here at Mediascope, regardless of the type of mailing. The only differences between Standard and First Class mail are the postage costs and the estimated delivery time once we deliver your project to the USPS.  We can also deliver to Bulk Mail Centers and Sectional Center Facilities to reduce postage and increase delivery times.

Q: What about the mail piece design?

A: We encourage you to include us in the design of each mail piece.  The size, paper weight, binding type, and placement of mailing panels can all impact inkjetting, tabbing, and postage rates. We can work with you to help keep those expenses as low as possible while still achieving the maximum benefit from your mailing.

Q: What is NCOA?

A: Starting in 2008, as part of a Move Update initiative by the USPS, all databases and mailing lists must have been updated with the correct deliverable addresses within 95 days of the mail date. Penalties are assigned to mailers who have not updated their databases within that time frame. Mediascope provides NCOA (National Change of Address) services to fulfill this requirement for you. While there are other ways to comply with Move Update, we recommend NCOA as a cost-effective means of fulfilling this regulation. Using NCOA also allows you the opportunity to update your lists internally for other usages.

Q: How can I find out more information about your services?

A: Visit our website at www.mediascopeinc.com to learn more about ways in which we can be of assistance to you.