Linea Di Liara has quite an amazing story. Founded by a former New York-based paediatrician, who could not find lights to fit his house, he decided to get some custom made. However, to get them made, he had to put in a minimum order quantity, which left quite a few spare. He decided to try his hand and sell them on eBay. As they say, the rest is history, in just over 3 years, Linea di Liara is a seven-figure lighting company and growing.
Linea has a great problem – it’s growing too quickly and its growth is outstripping its current system. Linea sells online across various channels. They sell on Amazon, Wayfair, Houzz and directly via their own retail website.
Each one of these channels has their unique quirky ways of working. Amazon has their own interface and set of shipping and stocking rules that you are required to comply with. Houzz and Wayfair both use EDI interfaces with strict rules on shipping times and require real-time stock updates directly to their own retail websites. Linea also has its own retail site which runs on Shopify, as well as utilising eBay.
Needless to say, it is a challenge to get all these different systems to interact and work seamlessly together. Challenge is perhaps an understatement in itself!
Linea also wanted the solution to automate a lot of the workflow.
Let me use one channel to explain what I mean by automation in a high volume e-commerce environment such as this.
Amazon is the world’s largest retailer of goods, and so they are the best example to use. Currently how this works is an order is placed in their system, Amazon Seller Central. The vendor has a few options of how they can fulfil these orders.
One is to provide the stock to Amazon and they organise the shipping and distribution, very much like a Third Party Logistic (3PL) provider. The fulfilment and shipping service provided by Amazon is called Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA). Obviously, Amazon charges for this service and it can be quite a hefty cut of your margin. They have their own unique algorithm that calculates this based on a lot of different factors.
The alternative is fulfilling your own orders, with your own warehouse and distribution. This is much cheaper and as you get larger as a business, the more cost-effective/preferable option. However, in the US market, people order almost everything online. Amazon certainly prefers that vendors use FBA in order to ensure that the entire order gets to customers as fast as possible.
When a vendor receives orders that it needs to fulfil, this process is called “Fulfilled by Merchant” (FBM). The catch is that if you have just some orders, such as overflow orders and the FBA warehouse doesn’t have the stock, then you require a system that can automate a lot of the small processes to make this happen efficiently – the way Amazon likes it. Linea wanted to be able to fulfil their own orders as fast as possible, have a system that consolidates all of its orders from the multiple sales channels, manages inventory and automates the entire process from end to end with every marketplace.
As they say, the devil is in the details. Linea started looking for a solution and a number of solutions came up, Skubana, DEAR Inventory and Cin7. Out of all these solutions, Cin7 seemed to be the only solution that could solve all the requirements of Linea.
However, after deciding on the solution, Linea decided to install the solution themselves – with the help of Cin7.
Unfortunately, it turned into a mess that left them feeling quite jaded about the whole process. The owner reached out to his accountant from Catching Clouds, who in turn reached out to us to assist.
WhichAddOn basically had to re-implement Cin7 from scratch. Cin7 did a good job of connecting all the different solutions, but they did not configure the solution to meet the Linea teams custom requirements.
We customised the connections so that they would meet the stringent requirements of Amazon, Wayfair, Houzz, and their own retail solution powered by Shopify.
We also configured all the automation requirements of Linea from a sales perspective with the help of another addon called Shipstation. This covered the entire workflow from the initial order to dispatch and shipping.
However, there were a number of areas that were not 100% automated. Cin7 still had a few time-saving features that we trained the Linea staff on. This included how to bulk invoice forty sales orders at a time, as opposed to converting sales orders one at a time. The final push from Cin7 to Xero is also not an automated process, but rather a one-click process where the finalised invoice is pushed into the Xero accounting system where accounts receivables are managed.
Automation – A Little Rant
A little rant… I think the most important thing to first realise with automation is that it does not mean you won’t need to ever work again, or that you should completely stop thinking. I find it quite funny that some individuals actually think every single task can be automated, and will often even find issue with the software because it isn’t so. The reason everything is not automated is so that there is a degree of control at key points in the entire process. If you did not have these control points, things could go haywire very quickly. Anyone that has any experience with Inventory management knows how hard it is to maintain a tightly controlled system.
Ultimately automation is like a leverage arm, that basically gives one person the power to do a lot with a little grey matter, and by automating identical repeatable tasks, it takes the human error factor out. It also means admin roles will be reduced, as most of those tasks are what is getting automated and consolidated in by the power user.
Let me illustrate my point by breaking down the first and probably the simplest requirement from the list above.
Let’s break this down:
- Print out all the orders, typically Linea gets about 150-200 orders a day. (takes about 45- 60mins)
- Re-type all these orders into your inventory management/accounting solution. This takes around 3 minutes on average per order, so on a slow day, there is about 7.5 hours worth of data entry on a big day 10 hours or more.
Instead, this is now done automatically and takes about 2-3 minutes for a big day. Are you starting to see the benefits?
So for Linea, what used to take hours now takes minutes, what used to take 3-4 people can now be done by 1.5 people. Leaving more time to analyse and forecast. These are significant savings in direct costs as well as for the proactive worker, it opens up more opportunity to shine. This is the power of automation.