After 10 years of managing their own logistics, Polish award-winning brand 9design decided to hand their logistics management over to Omnipack.
Not just a run of the mill furniture store, 9design was founded by applied art enthusiasts, Anna and Krystian Dobrzycki. The brand is well known for its wide selection of original furniture and accessories from recognized global brands. When 9design opened their showroom – a 350 m2 space they envisioned the space as a place to showcase unique furniture, lighting and interior accessories created by amazing designers – from global producers to small manufacturers.
– The selection of furniture offered by 9design is curated very carefully. We present not only unique pieces that are new to the showroom, but also vintage furniture that beautifully complements modern interiors. (…) I make the selection myself. I don’t want our offer to only focus on interior design – pieces must also be inspire with their comfort, modern design and high quality materials – says owner, Anna Dobrzycka.
A warehouse just behind the wall
For 10 years, 9design’s warehouse was located just behind its showroom wall. This was undoubtedly a comfortable solution for logistical and “administrative” reasons. The goods could be delivered to one place, vastly simplifying transport. Fulfillment was a breeze, as well, since ordered products could be shipped from one place and, if necessary, inventory could be easily moved between the showroom and warehouse.
In terms of administration, having a warehouse nearby allowed the brand to closely monitor all aspects of order implementation, e.g. quality, stage, time of execution, and process. This close oversight enabled the company to arrange individualized delivery for each client. 9design’s personal touch, and the way it built of close relationships with its clients – gave the brand’s customer service a human touch that earned them high accolades.
Despite these successes, it can’t be denied that managing logistics for an online store can be a big challenge, especially when it comes to furniture retail. With certain order volumes, designing appropriate logistics processes to ensure quality order fulfillment and customer service can take a lot of time. This is time that could be better spent focusing on the brand’s development and growth.
Development was the main reason why Anna and Krystian decided to consider outsourcing 9design’s logistics. Clearly, outsourcing would give them more time to spend on marketing and sales activities or the development of their franchise network. With this potential growth, new needs would come as well, for example, a larger network would require a central warehouse, experienced logisticians and the introduction of improvements to 9design’s logistics processes.
– I must admit that we considered entrusting our logistics to Omnipack for quite a long time. It was clear from the very beginning, though, that Omnipack had won us over with its experience in logistics for e-commerce, especially in the furniture industry – admits Krystian Dobrzycki, owner of 9design. – Tomek, who had been the head of Westwing CEE; Rafał, who created the logistics center for this store; and even Artur – in charge of managing our onboarding process – all had prior experience with Westwing. We understood that this kind know-how could give us a completely new approach to our business and was a huge opportunity for our development, so we went for it.
From a cup to a three-door wardrobe
The furniture industry is a logistical obstacle course, that is why ‘gained experience’ is so important – whether it comes via lessons learned from past mistakes or successes. Starting from three-door wardrobes and beds, and ending with vases and lamps – almost every product can cause small or big problems during packaging and transport. Weight, non-standard dimensions, and material fragility – all of this must be taken into account when designing an order processing process. This was not a case of minimalist solutions straight from IKEA that could be broken down into single elements and sent in standard, flat boxes. 9design offers around 5,000 unique furniture items and accessories that require individual approach and attention from the moment they arrive at the warehouse until they are unpacked in the customer’s home.
#1 A Special Team
Although most of our team (particularly Rafał, who personally supervised 9design’s implementation) had extensive experience in the industry, we knew that there was one thing we lacked – hands-on experience with 9design’s products. Despite our desire to excel, we didn’t have the intimate knowledge that 9design’s employees had gained over the years. We also knew that, no matter how amazing our processes and implementation were, this was the obstacle that could hold us back from creating the very best logistics solution. Then we came up with the idea of bringing a 9design manager onboard and drawing on their in-house expertise. And it worked! Janusz, a long time 9design warehouse worker, joined our team and was able to pass along knowledge that would have taken us a few crucial weeks to learn otherwise. When Artur as the dedicated onboarding manager, was joined by 9design’s man on the ground, we were able to ensure a smooth and successful transition.
#2 Twelve Categories
With the expert team sorted, we then started analysing how to handle orders. Determining the specifics of individual product groups, we divided them into four overall categories. Each category is handled in a slightly different way. For example, packing and preparation for shipping products in the “small size” category (cups, saucers) requires a completely different amount of time and labor than items from the “2MH” category (i.e. ‘two man handling’ – products over 32 kg). The latter category also requires, for example, moving an additional employee onto the order.
The variety of products also required the creation of 8 different cost categories. The main factor that influences the handling specifics for 9design’s price list are: the size and necessity (or lack thereof) of checking products during initial admission to the warehouse. Each of the four overall categories is divided into two subcategories. For example, the 2MH category has been divided into products that need to be checked and those that do not.
This non-standard 8-category price list also required encoding new functions in the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, because the standard solution lacked proper functionality. The team, supported by the Business Intelligence Manager, prepared additional scripts so that settlements with the client were not only transparent, but also quick and efficient.
#3 Acceptance Process
Another important element of 9design’s service, as mentioned above, is checking selected products (those marked as particularly delicate) that come into our warehouse. A thorough knowledge of the product is also quite useful here.
– Based on Janusz’s experience, we assigned specific verification sequences to each product to take into account the item’s condition. For example, we verify that the wood has no scratches, that the lampshade has not been bent or, of course, that particularly fragile elements, such as glass or ceramic, have not been broken during transport – says Artur Żelazny, Client Success Manager at Omnipack, and 9design implementation manager.
#4 Warehouse-showroom Pendulum
It was not an accident that 9design’s warehouse had been situated behind their showroom. This allowed them to ensure that any display changes or required shifts between locations remained mostly problem-free. We understood that this frequent transition was an important factor for both the owners, as well as for their showroom management strategy. It guaranteed that every customer’s visit to the showroom would be a fresh and interesting experience. Our goal was to enable them to maintain this approach, so we decided to launch a weekly “pendulum” initiative between our warehouse and their showroom. The goal is to provide new products and refresh the display, while also returning some of the furniture pieces to the warehouse and putting them up for sale via the online store.
#5 Customer Care
This year, 9design is the winner of this year’s prestigious Global Innovation Awards (GIA): “Digital Commerce Award for Excellence in Online Retailing”. The award was based on customer service, website design and marketing. Therefore the final challenge that we faced was to maintain 9design’s highly successful level of customer care.
We were aware that new processes, a new warehouse, and new employees would increase the risk of mistakes. While the storage and packaging of this type of product was not such a big challenge, thanks to our team’s experience at Westwing, the very fact that the 9design customer service team was somewhere else was a potential problem. For example, a customer assistant would no longer be able to “check” the order status with their own eyes. This previous benefit, had facilitated, among other things, an easy and efficient scheduling process for order delivery within Warsaw and the surrounding areas. Our goal was to maintain the same high level of customer service throughout the proposed implementation and warehouse move. We know perfectly well that proper packaging and efficient, fast shipping are crucial in this process – that’s why all warehouse operations for 9design are optimized and subjected to continuous monitoring.
– The trust that the owners of the 9design store – which is famous for its very high level of customer service – have placed in us, is a great honor for us, but it is also a weighty responsibility – says Tomek Kasperski, CEO of Omnipack. – That is why we have invested a lot of attention in the design of operations for 9design, so that further processing of orders could remain at the same level, and even, eventually, improve.
– Co-operation with the Omnipack team has gone really well so far. The role of a dedicated manager was invaluable in the entire implementation process and ensured a smooth transition even though the onboarding was not so simple – emphasize Anna and Krystian Dobrzyccy.
The 9design online store is located at https://9design.pl/
Showroom on ul. Lucerny 25 in Warsaw.