E175: Ciaran Duffy

The Rise Of Automation In Warehousing: Strategies For Growing An eCommerce Brand In A Very Specific Niche

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eCom@One Listen on Spotify

Podcast Overview

Efficiency. The dream of every warehouse operation. Slick, smooth and seamless. A triple threat. 

Every eCommerce business should strive for a system as efficient as Amazon. And it’s possible. You just need to be willing to try new innovative strategies. 

It’s time to incorporate automation into your processes to save you time, money and human error. 

Ciaran will talk you through how you can achieve a smooth operation with your warehousing and third party logistic distribution. 

eCom@One Presents:

Ciaran Duffy

It’s time to automate those tasks that are killing your time. In this episode, Ciaran Duffy, Director at Rackzone, discusses warehouse management, third-party logistics and innovation. Rackzone is a business that provides storage solutions such as shelving, pallet racking and storage bins, to private and commercial clients in the UK and Ireland. 

With over 13 years of experience in this industry, Ciaran has seen all the changes and advancements in this area of eCommerce. That’s why we invited him on the podcast, to share his years of experience with you. 

Richard and Ciaran delve into the world of warehousing, discussing the impact of automation and technology investment. He shares his experience, challenges and strategies in growing his own eCommerce business. Listen for valuable insights into his company’s growth, expansion into new markets, implementation of new tools and tactics.

With a real focus on innovation, efficiency and adapting to industry trends, this episode promises an engaging discussion on growing a business in a very specific niche and the rise of automation in warehouse management. Listen now!

Topics Covered

00:12: Ciaran discusses his journey in eCommerce, warehousing and logistics 

06:13- Automation in eCommerce: various types of systems for efficient warehouse operations

09:51 – Consider long-term investment in ERP for business growth and expansion

11:14 – Clients initially hesitant, then expand to larger spaces due to comfort with change. Company also expanded due to space constraints.

18:24 – Considerations for commercial space and investment, especially in relation to lease commitments and market downturns

23:28 – Seizing new opportunities in planning and relationships, referencing past experiences with currency rates and suggesting potential price increases

24:52 – Warehouse configuration for maximising space and efficiency

28:32 – eCommerce business targeting niche, website success and tech stack

32:52 – Influencers must be professional and deliver quality content

34:51 – Utilise technology, including ERP systems and AI, for successful eCommerce operations

37:27 – Book recommendation 

Richard Hill [00:00:04]:
Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eCom@One, and welcome to episode 175. In this episode, I speak with Ciaran Duffy. Now Ciaran operates out of an 80,000 square foot warehouse in County Galway. Now that's a serious, serious warehouse. And he's built a fantastic business in what I think is the majority of our listeners have bought, in an industry that I think you've all bought something from, And that is racking and all things shelving, pick and pack, all those things that a a very well organized warehouse needs. And Kieran Pretty much supplies, you know, all around the world, thousands of orders on a monthly basis. Now Kieran dives into the pros and cons of using third party logistics, And then we drill into sort of the challenges around the global supply chain right now and how companies can improve their performance by planning, Ciaran's advice on configuring your own warehouse, on what's working with Ciaran's own tech stack and marketing stack, and, of course, so much more in this one.

Richard Hill [00:00:59]:
If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe or follow button wherever you're listening to this episode So you always be the 1st to know when a new episode is released now. Let's head over to this fantastic episode. Hi, Kieran. How are we doing? Richard, how are you? I'm really good. I'm really good. Really good indeed. Beautiful day out there.

Ciaran Duffy [00:01:19]:
That'll be alright, John. Thanks so much for having me on.

Richard Hill [00:01:21]:
No problem at all. So I think before we get stuck in, I think it'd be good for you to introduce yourself and tell Ollises how you got into the world of ecommerce.

Ciaran Duffy [00:01:30]:
My name is, Ciaran Duffy, and I'm director of Rackzone. We're based in Ireland, predominantly, and we, sell Storage, solutions to, customers, and then from a garden shed commercial premises, the whole way up to 50,000 square foot. So we were started, approximately about 12 years ago. What happened in the recession of 2008. We would have lost our family business. My business partner, also my brother, would have been involved in that. I was mad redundant myself from, my job, which was a a sales rep. So with that, we went into, went into business together.

Ciaran Duffy [00:02:11]:
We started, initially selling appliances, actually, and Yeah. We were getting, we're selling that's we're doing that for about 2 years. And the Olympic Games came up in the summer of 2012. And at the end of all that, they were selling off Everton. And one of the particular things we're selling off for is, Sheldon. So we bought a a 4 foot load of Sheldon.

Richard Hill [00:02:33]:
I actually

Ciaran Duffy [00:02:33]:
bought a 4 foot load of bottled water as well. Thank you. Shelving sold yeah. The shelving sold a bit better than the bottled water, so we kinda continue off from that. And then we just got suppliers on from there, and we just built out the business, to what it is now. We will start off at the time to a 1000 square foot, went to 5,000 square foot to 12 a half 1000 square foot, and we're in 8 1,000 square foot, premises now.

Richard Hill [00:02:54]:
Wow. That's a journey, isn't it? I love those stories from that, initial sort of, I guess, a bit of a punt in a way, obviously, buying that stock from the Olympics or the excess stock from Olympics, and it just happened to be racking then. It could have been something else maybe. Yeah. But it happened to be the racking and the pallet rackets and warehouse Yeah. What you know? And then I was like, hang on a minute. I guess you did quite well out of that 44 containers' worth.

Ciaran Duffy [00:03:18]:
Yeah. Yeah. It worked out. It's just it's just something that sold. It was it was something very simple. And the great thing about it actually as well was that it was something we could sell online as well, And that's that's where it kinda just kicked off for our ecommerce journey then from there.

Richard Hill [00:03:32]:
Yeah. That's interesting. So, obviously, scaling from, You know, getting that initial idea, getting that initial stock, which happened to be racking, then getting your 1st premises, and then building that to what is now I mean, 80,000 square feet For those that are trying to visualize that, you know, when you think of it like an RAF hangar, but I know there's quite a lot of those in the county that I'm in. They're normally about 40 to 50000 square feet, And they are massive. So 80,000 square feet, I'm sure most of our listeners will, will, will understand that's a huge, Huge, undertaking and commitment. And obviously, you build that over. Is it, like, 12, 14, 2008? So I guess 14 plus years, 15 years.

Ciaran Duffy [00:04:07]:
With you, it would have been 1012, actually. It was January 2013 because it it was after the Olympic Games, which was 2012. So they, oh, yeah. It was January 2013 that we kind of kicked off from there.

Richard Hill [00:04:17]:
Yeah. So so many things spinning around my head. You know, I think, I know all the listeners will relate to, obviously, having that warehouse, So, you know, having that 1st warehouse buying maybe those first 2 bays off Ebay for their garage maybe or, you know, a couple of, There are different types of racking for their bedroom even, you know, and then and then they go for the bedroom to the to the to the garage, and they 3 or 4 bays, and then they move to their 1st 1,000 square feet maybe and get, you know, 5 or 10 bays depending on the size and the height and all that jazz. And then they progress. It's almost like a rite of passage of, running an eCommerce store, sort of rackings, especially when you're rackings. It's quite exciting. I I do remember. We had a quick chat before we Hit record, didn't we? And, I remember by Iraq him back in the day, and that's exactly what I did.

Richard Hill [00:05:01]:
You know that? The sort of bright orange base, you know, very strong, sturdy steel It's sort of one option. Obviously, now, you've as, you know, as I know a lot of clients, there's a whole range of options out there. The the industry's changed an awful lot. You know? What would you say about that sort of keeping up with trends in the industry? How have you managed to do that over the years?

Ciaran Duffy [00:05:20]:
Yeah. It well, you have to kinda you have to keep an eye out for what's coming on, and automation is obviously something that is that is becoming very big now. And when you go to any logistics show now, automation is becoming more and more part of the of the story. And it's no. Look. It's there is a an a a very big cost element to automation as well, but, with, labor She's out there as well. People are are moving towards it as well.

Richard Hill [00:05:44]:
Yeah. Yeah. I think, yeah, that use of that sort of robotics to be able to Obviously, pick and pack x amount of orders in. So, yeah, I remember going to a I won't say the name, but going to a warehouse of a very large company, very well known, computer component. I mean, that's probably about 8 years ago, and there wasn't that many people in the warehouse then. They'd ask going back, so, obviously, things have moved on massively. So So to to be able to automate, I guess, you need certain types of racking, do you? To be able or it helps if you've got certain sort of configurations.

Ciaran Duffy [00:06:13]:
Yeah. When it comes to automation, it's probably down to, the the SKU output that, company has as well. So there's different, you know, you can have mobile racking, complete automation, like, where it there's, it comes the product comes to the person from the warehouse as well, and that could be in pallets or in, in, small component form as well. So there is there is a a wide range out there at the eComOne, Automation is kind of it's coming in in all different, you probably see it as well then, with online as well. It's just coming in in so many different, areas. And I think look. It's it's it is a great team because it it does create better jobs that, in from my perspective anyway, because it it it does it it means that It just means, with that, you could be more efficient within your your own area as well. It can just it can create, a lot of, jobs where people are moving from from, picking and packing.

Ciaran Duffy [00:07:08]:
For instance, going out to actually Yeah. Managing those systems that do that.

Richard Hill [00:07:12]:
Yeah. I think that's the thing. Isn't it like we're talking about automation? It's a bit of that AI in in in marketing, automation in warehousing, you know, using the technology. We're really embracing it, and they're just merely in in theory and really in practice is sort of redeploying those skilled people into different areas, retraining, and in theory, Doing a better job. You know, not not always, but yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I think there's a few directions we could go on this episode.

Richard Hill [00:07:37]:
Obviously, growing growing from, You know, that would first contain to 80,000 square feet. You must have had quite a lot of, your milestones and maybe plateaus that you needed to get over. But I think we'll come back to that. I think we'll we'll talk more on, sort of, sort of logistics. Obviously, you and and that sort of warehousing, racking, side of things because I think from our listeners' point of view, obviously, you're dealing with a lot of you've you've gone through that journey yourself for your own warehouse, but more so you're supplying Probably half the listeners, on you know what? In theory, half the listeners, you know, especially in sort of the, I I wasn't gonna say UK, but obviously you'll ship into, I think 32 countries I've got on my notes.

Ciaran Duffy [00:08:19]:
No. 32 the the 32 county counties of Ireland. So that's the whole island of of Ireland. But we we we do we do ship we do export as well. It wouldn't be as a huge percentage of our turnover, Well, the UK would be, 1 country we which, shipped to Scandinavia. Anyone Yeah. That's where you can cater to them, It's very easy ship for Martins.

Richard Hill [00:08:42]:
So a lot of your I think the majority of your stuff is next day. You know, how do you sort of, manage that? How do you deliver on that?

Ciaran Duffy [00:08:50]:
Well, we, again, that's where the 80,000 square foot, warehouse comes into. It's full of stock. We have it for the customer, So it's all next day delivery. Now what we do is we, push towards technology. And so we have a an ERP system, which feeds into our warehouse management part of that is warehouse management system. We have same day dispatch, so anybody orders before 3 PM, We'll get their product the the following day. We will dispatch it on the same day. But that's all down to investing in in systems.

Ciaran Duffy [00:09:21]:
So we we always say to our clients, like, A warehouse management system is vital. Now they are a very expensive upfront, investment, But it will, pay out, over over the lifetime. Well, it'll payout within, I'd say, 2 to 3 years, really. Yeah. And Yeah. Also with a with a warehouse management system, scalability is key there too. It can soak up an awful amount of tasks that, you could then Used for, to create efficiencies within the warehouse.

Richard Hill [00:09:51]:
Yeah. So it's maybe that, I think you'd like as you as you alluded to, obviously, there's Potentially quite a large investment, but obviously pulled that over, you know, to that initial 2, 3 years. And I guess your sort of ERP potential supplier or the people you're looking Now they'll have, you know, those models to show you the investment return because that obviously, like anything, when you're invested in No. But that's Google Ads, Facebook Ads, New warehousing, new racket, new premises, new people. You know that it's not today, tomorrow probably where, you know, that short term, but it's really thinking about that That mid to long term strategy. So, obviously, trying to grow an agent grow a an eCom store from, you know, a 1000 square feet warehouse to a 100,000 square feet. I guess brings us to, you know, the those growth stages that you will have hit. You know, what at what point did you start investing, say, into an ERP? Or at what point did you move from, You know, certain, warehouse into the next warehouse.

Richard Hill [00:10:50]:
Did you sort of find you were hit you'd hit a plateau? Did he you know, our tech is broken. Our tech stack's Now working whether that's, you know, back office if you like ERP and, or was it because you could have moved in the warehouse? Said you were like, we've gotta we've gotta move or I I think as you hit these plateaus, don't you, like in any business, you're gonna go so far far with, management team in place maybe or you know, what what are some of those, lessons you've got there?

Ciaran Duffy [00:11:14]:
So, for us, you know, we would see it among our clients as well. We'd have someone, let's say, a client that come in buying 5 bays, And they're very tentative about buying Fifei, and they're looking at the shelved, and the next thing, you know, that you're going to them and they're a 1,000 square foots. Next, they have 10,000 square foots. And and and it it becomes as people go through their their their, their journey, the it it becomes a little bit more evidence. You get they get a little bit more, comfortable with with with with change and moving to the next thing. Now for us, we start off with, when we when we were in the 5,000 square foot warehouse, Or sorry, 2004 warehouse. We'd we'd we'd we'd like, we had to push on into the 12 a half 1000 square foot. And we knew then when we got to 12 a half 1000 square foot, Things just became tight, for what we're doing.

Ciaran Duffy [00:11:59]:
We had to we had to move on move on again. But when the ERP come in assistant eComOne in, If if for us, we were looking at initially, it was probably early on, versus what we were turned over in the company. Well, we just knew that an ERP system was kind of Something we we had to, invest in because it it was coming to a stage where, the efficiencies of an ERP system will kick in. Now very luckily, We had the ERP system, in place, in 2017. So 2018, we we had good growth. 2019, we had good growth. But then where where exceptional girl came in was was over the years of, COVID, ecommerce stores Yeah. Just just blossomed, during that time.

Ciaran Duffy [00:12:40]:
And that for us took on a a lot of hardship that that would have been caused if we didn't have it in place. So while it was something that was initially the re the return on investment of it was was slower, it was still there, but it was slower. But then when we when we hit when we hit that kind of, big increase, it it soaked up a lot a lot of what would be pressure otherwise, And, Forrest. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:13:06]:
I can only imagine when COVID hit. Obviously, majority of eCom stores had a massive uplift, but when you're When you're supplying, you know, predominantly eCom stores, she must have had a huge, some fun fun weeks, I would imagine, going from, you know, This this this yeah. Some crazy time.

Ciaran Duffy [00:13:23]:
It it it was it was actually very interesting what happened at that time because, a lot of people had to totally pivot on the way that they were, on the route to market, essentially. So you might well, like, we we we had retail, shops That closed down half their shop to turn it into a pick and pack area. And and from go from retail shop, That kind of shelving into Yeah. Proper pick and pack shelving are 2 different things.

Richard Hill [00:13:48]:

Ciaran Duffy [00:13:48]:
And then, they they have to change their mindset in what way they're doing things as well, because, just say for retail shop, for instance, if you have someone calling into you, it's a lot different than someone buying online, and then you're picking up acne. And How Yeah. At the warehouse. Dresser.

Richard Hill [00:14:04]:
Yeah. You're going from pallet rack into little smaller shelving sort of thing. Yeah. And all sorts of things in between. So, Obviously, you're supplying, you know, a lot of, different size eCom stores. But for those that are listening and are thinking of that using or do use They're third party logistic companies and the third party shipping and, you know, and have their stock, you know, somewhere else, you know, and they're using that facility. You know, what would you say to those guys? What are the pros of sort of using a third party logistics? But there's obviously gotta be some, downside as well. What would you say about that? I just wanted to introduce you very quickly to our sponsors, Pricing.

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Ciaran Duffy [00:15:31]:
I think I I think, Richard, first, like, when people move to a 3PL, it's probably down to, the logistics is probably something that they that they struggle with, And distribution we've had to had to struggle with. If if someone has a product, mainly what they're best at is doing sales and marketing of that product Because they know the customer, they probably love the product, and, you know, the the logistics and the distribution is it becomes a little bit is a little bit different to manage. Yeah. So when they're looking at that, they probably they probably think that 3PL is the is the wonder child to go to. That's that's where. But there again, as you're saying, there's there is pros and cons to it. Now with a a 3PL, generally, every movement that happens within a 3PL, If, you pay for it. So the Yeah.

Ciaran Duffy [00:16:14]:
Pallet arrives, you pay it first. You wanna break down that pallet to smaller stock, you pay for it. You wanna you want to, have a have a picture in a certain way, you pay for it. And if you wanna put into it, whatever, like a a shiny box or put an extra wrapping into it, Yeah. Pay for all that and distribution pays for all that. So all those costs come in come into play. But, of course, a a a good 3PL will outline all that, beforehand. Now what we would always say to to our customers as well is that if you're looking to do it go to a 3PL, You're better off picking and packing yourself first, so then you know what goes into picking and packing your product, or we like the or to be picked and packed, And then you can advise your 3PL, on that.

Ciaran Duffy [00:16:55]:
Now with a 3PL, a good 3PL will be a a great asset to your business. A bad TPL could cause severe brand damage. So Yeah. You have to be very, very careful on who you pick. And there's a lot of different TPLs out there. There's very large TPLs Yeah. To kind of mid sized ones to micro. And, usually, the micro, ones will be, would be a kind of a small operation, And you're probably you could be operating your your own, ecommerce store from your kitchen table there like yours.

Ciaran Duffy [00:17:24]:
Yeah. This that's all. But But the the the pros of of of Gold at 3PL is that they have the expertise in logistics and distribution and distribution. To have the, staff that are able to do it, all is too for scalability. If you wanna scale your business, a 3PL is great Because you don't need to invest in that extra warehouse space. You don't have to invest in in in trying to acquire the shelving or or what's best works Well, best works. You're probably you the probably biggest headache for you is purchasing the extra stock to get it into the 3 PM. Now the cons, of course, is that you probably are sacrificing margin.

Ciaran Duffy [00:18:00]:
More likely you are. Unless you're the logistics and distribution is is kind of badly run or just something that you can't get a hold of, More likely, sacrifice and margin on it. And again, you, the cons are that the 3 people aren't up to delivering what you want to deliver either as well. So you may have a very high standard for what you want done, and they just not may not be able to meet us. Yeah. Yeah. It's Quite

Richard Hill [00:18:24]:
a lot there. I think, I guess it there's a couple of things, isn't it? So it comes down to margin, particularly in the commercial side, but also it's like, do you wanna invest in If you've got to take on another 10,000 square foot or whatever that number is, you know, that's quite a big number maybe on the lease and the commercial side of that commitment, Bigger commitment over so many years, whereas you can test more so with, 3 p l, you know, certain product lines, certain growth stages to make sure you got it right. Whereas if there's a downturn in the market and you've got 20,000 square feet and a 5 year lease, you've got a problem.

Ciaran Duffy [00:19:00]:
Yeah. I I've actually I've heard of a story recently from a client as well, and they had a bad experience with, with a 3PL and that The the 3 Bell, first of all, couldn't deliver, for them, and so they're contacting customers on the back of it. It caused it caused severe brand damage for them. So it's just something that I have to be cognizant of before. But it but it like, a good 3PL then can be a very, very good strategic

Richard Hill [00:19:24]:
partner too. So So would you say there's a there's a there's a there's an angle to maybe test as well? So you rather than giving them all your start to start with your test. Obviously, you're doing your you're doing your due diligence like you should on something so critical. Yeah. But, you're not giving them right. We'll send everything to them. You may be going right. We'll we'll send x amount, 10% of lines or, you know, x amount, you know, and do do maybe a test.

Richard Hill [00:19:45]:
And then obviously in 3 months, that 3 p l are very likely to be, over delivering that, should we say, if, But if they know it's a test and they know that, you know, what's at stake is another 90% or whatever another 900%. Sorry. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, I mean, supply chain. I mean, I don't know.

Richard Hill [00:20:03]:
It's not too bad. I don't think now. I might be wrong in that, in that. But I know, obviously, there's a lot of challenges during COVID, you know, where it was quite difficult to get certain stock. You know, we had a certain client as soon as COVID hit. We I mean, we're going back. This is going back and almost, like, far too far, really. But, you know, where where, you know, stock comes in and it goes out in a day, and he's like, well, Just turn the ads off because I've got nothing to sell, you know, sort of thing.

Richard Hill [00:20:28]:
Yeah. And we we had that. He was selling barbecues, actually, and it was like Okay. Middle of March, COVID kicked in, 1st week of April. He's like, turn the ads off. I've sold out. So but, you know, global sort of supply chain, you know, how can companies improve Their performance by sort of, how can I put it, massaging that supply chain planning maybe?

Ciaran Duffy [00:20:53]:
Well, what happened, well, COVID is actually is is probably, what happened during COVID is probably very pertinent to what's going on at the moment. Because of the what's happening in the Red Sea at the moment, ships are being do have to go around, South Africa. So that has has created, shipping container, price increases. So a 40 foot, in November, 1st float container in November is roughly around $2,000, and now it's hitting about $6,500 to get shipped. So it is a huge increase. And Yeah. If it if it continues, it it could it it could lead into inflation. You know, there definitely will have to be price increases on the back of it as well because, Yeah.

Ciaran Duffy [00:21:35]:
No company can really, soak up that kind of cost. During during COVID, it probably went to, I think, about $15,000 into Yeah. I think you got all the dash. Yeah. You know? So well, hopefully, we won't hit back up to that, but but it it it it there is at the moment, there is, issues around around supply chain globally. And we're so interconnected globally as well, you know, that it's just so important, and one one thing can can certainly knock things out. What I would say to to to customers is that a lot of customers go from a a a just in time, position. And, with COVID, what happened was that, some peep people went to, just in case.

Ciaran Duffy [00:22:12]:
So they've they've added on extra extra stock just in case something may go wrong. And, you know, you're probably looking at at something like that again. The lead times, though, from, say, from the Far East have probably increased by about 2 to 3 weeks, And containers are saying containers are hard come come across again. So, look, it it's probably important on us all that, incumbent on us all that we, can try and increase stocks that we have in, you know, just test out, like, you know, price increases. Hopefully not hopefully, they won't soak through, but It's just something that has to be kept in mind.

Richard Hill [00:22:43]:
Mhmm. Mhmm. Yeah. It's, it's an interesting one, isn't it? Because obviously, an extra $4 on a container All going back, you know, back 3 years, an extra 3 without $10. It's just that's just an insane amount of money, isn't it? And then trying to put that back into product or back to get you know, turn that Products around and then sort of, trying to swallow or pass on, you know, that $4 or whatever it may be. It's a big chunk, isn't it, and planning for that? I don't know what your business is, but ultimately, wherever you wherever your science come from somewhere, hasn't it? If you're not there, I reckon somebody somebody else is passing it on to you, aren't they? So

Ciaran Duffy [00:23:17]:
Yeah. Yeah. Well, look, it it does like, they globally were so interlinked that if something says, made in UK, more likely a component part is is not. That's just the way it is. You know?

Richard Hill [00:23:28]:
I guess, I guess with that, I'd just see, like, new opportunity where, Now if you're a bit more, what's the word, maybe a bit ballsy with with your planning and a bit more aggressive and takes me back to, When I was, selling computers and, a lot of our stuff was driven by the dollar rate at the time, and that's this is going back, you know, way back where it was 22 to 1, if anybody can remember that that's listed, probably not. But 2 to 1, you know, the dollar was like this all the time, up and down, up and down, and You called you right, and then there'll be big increases. Whereas what we're saying here, you know, there's a there's an opportunity where it looks like, you know, prices are likely to go up in the short term on certain items and maybe a lot of items than already have. But, you know, in terms of planning that and the relationships you've got with your whether that's manufacturers or distributors or, you know, your different suppliers. If you can plan in and and give them more of a commitment. They'll hold the price potentially on the older stock. They'll be able to. Whereas what can happen, I think, is New stocks eComOne in.

Richard Hill [00:24:30]:
Now the average price is this. Bang. They probably added 1 or 2% on top as well maybe or so I think if you're a bit more, what's the word I'm looking for? Just a little bit more bullish on your purchasing and planning. You know, you can mop up an extra few percent, potentially. I know I know it really depends on what industry you're in.

Ciaran Duffy [00:24:47]:
Yeah. Of course. Yeah. That that can go that can go the wrong way too. But, yeah, you know, it's you you know? Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:24:52]:
Yeah. Yeah. I guess industry to industry, those percentage points will move quite a lot, you know, if the but, so going back to the warehousing. So I think, You know, the people that are listening, you know, they're gonna have that, you know, 1,000 square feet, 5,000 square feet, 10, 50, and so on. But in terms of, sort of configuring those warehouses, any sort of, top tips for configuring? I mean, you talk about that sort of, automation, and, obviously, different types of racking and then pick and pack and then speed in that way. Trying to get, obviously, the max maximize that square footage in terms of what you can get in there, but also the speed and the amount of orders you can turn out. You know, what advice would you give to our listeners?

Ciaran Duffy [00:25:38]:
No. Everybody's, business is different. Everybody's industry is different. But, I suppose for, a few tips as regards, organizing, your distribution, where and warehousing. For for instance, you, keeping kind of a correct amount of stock. Now this is if if if you if you can hit the golden ticket of having The exact amount of stock that you require and you can force forecast correctly, that's that's excellent. Also, within your warehouse, Having fast, a medium, and slow goods, another thing. You want to be in kind of an area where the the faster moving goods are up Near the doctor levelers are there Yeah.

Ciaran Duffy [00:26:19]:
Closer to the to the floor for for picking. Yours too, you want to maximize, all your space, and area. Oh, that's where your store solutions provider should come in, like Rexone. And essentially what to do is that if if you're buying shelving that the shelving suits your purpose. Now sometimes people buy Sheldon because it's cheaper, cheaper value, but they they the Sheldon that you are probably reckon that you buy Should, the value should be locked in it by just the efficiencies that it creates around your warehouse as well. Also too, as regards, like, The adjustability of your shelving, just in case that is Oh, yeah. You need to change about what you're doing, that you can adjust your shelving to different, say, different heights, get extra levels in, etcetera. Also efficient, picking routes.

Ciaran Duffy [00:27:06]:
So that would be, you might find from your your system that One particular product sells with another product, so you want to keep those kind of regularly enclosed vicinity. Yeah. And so that's that's it. And then the The tiered hand equipment is is very important too. So you wanna make sure that you have, like, correct pick and trolleys, electric hand trucks, etcetera, just are the right forklift. And I was too and is very important. And I would say it's a very, very good investment. It's a proper warehouse, management system.

Richard Hill [00:27:39]:
Yeah. Yeah. That's sort of the cracking cracking list, Kieran. I think, yes, like, tick, Take, take. Oh, actually. Yeah. Some of our fast moving lines are still 200 yards down the far end of the warehouse. Our tech stack is, you know, is Quite often, you know, it's probably something internal when when you're at that few 1,000 square feet and then you've Stitch something together, but it's that investment in a proper ERP and a proper warehousing system, I think, is a a huge thing.

Richard Hill [00:28:05]:
But I think I quite like the, You know, that sort of utilizing the height, which it sounds obvious, but my warehouses, I go in still, and it's like, you get a lot more in it. So I think

Ciaran Duffy [00:28:16]:
Yeah. It's it's all the it's it's as you said previously as well, Richard, it's all down to the initial investment as well. Some people are, you know, are afraid to make it, But, you know, they could they could regret it down future down the line as well, if they don't invest their own warehouse.

Richard Hill [00:28:32]:
Yeah. So I think if we, We talked about warehousing and racking and and the logistics a while. Let's talk about your ecommerce business, for for a little while, if that's okay. So, Obviously, you've got a very specific niche that you're targeting, which I think is, you know, brilliant. It's what we talk about a lot on different Different podcasts and and with different guests, you know, really, you know, gotten out and for, you know, the racking and the warehouse and the different shelving and workbench, Different salud. Obviously, there's all different things, but that very specific, very targeted. What would you say, has been some of the key successes in terms of the website? Is it some of the things that you're doing on the website. So in terms of maybe your tech stack that you're using, anything specific there that you're using that's been successful over the last few years, or anything sort of specific on the website that's going well for you at the moment?

Ciaran Duffy [00:29:24]:
For we we invest, heavily in technology, and as we said Previous. You know? So the the difference we have, we we're based on Magento, and Yeah. We we we plug in everything into that. So as regards, like, you know, we have the likes of, say, Klevo, Klaviyo, we have Lead Forensics. We have a lot of different things that, they're all they're all part of make up a building block of of a good website. We as I advised in as well for our, web chat as well. It's it's all it's all crucially important, a part of our overall website, and it's trying to get in the the, the the different, clients to us. At the moment, we find Klaviyo very good.

Ciaran Duffy [00:30:06]:
We were a mention, but it was just, hopefully, not knowing the mention was gonna give out to him, but we just found Klaviyo, better to use and,

Richard Hill [00:30:14]:
yeah, it's

Ciaran Duffy [00:30:14]:
just a very effective, email marketing system.

Richard Hill [00:30:17]:
Yeah. No. Here here, they're one of our, sort of probably top Five partners, actually, Klaviyo. Yeah. Fantastic company. Fantastic tech. So in terms of, so, obviously, you're on Magento. Have you been on Have you replatformed recently, or is is it quite a new site?

Ciaran Duffy [00:30:32]:
Or Yeah. We were initially on, the sorry. We're initially on, Magento 1, and then we went on To, Magenta 2. They're approximately I gotcha. Maybe 3 was it 3 years ago? It came out 2 years ago. I can't even remember that, but, it I think it was about 3 years ago. For Asia. Switched over.

Ciaran Duffy [00:30:47]:
Yeah. Yeah. So Yeah. We find it very, very good to use. Shopify seems to be very popular at the moment and, since we're taking on on it, but we still find Magento Works fair

Richard Hill [00:30:56]:
for us. No. That's good. That's good. We'd have too many people say that. Touch wood. So in terms of the marketing side then, so, with Klaviyo, obviously, doing really well. Where where's what other channels have been working well for you this last 12 months?

Ciaran Duffy [00:31:12]:
Well, we're we we invest heavily in, obviously, the platforms such as Meta, Facebook, Facebook and Instagram, Google Ads, and and SEO. We're pushing more into our Instagram channel as well. We deal a lot with Influencers now as well. We find influencers actually very good. The influencer side of things is actually very interesting because, for us, we we we might have an influencer that has, Say 10,000 followers, but they've got a very engaged following. And, they they they just drive traffic to the website. So it's just it's it's it's a it's a very interesting one. It's it's obviously probably still relatively, new type of marketing, But it's still it's a very it's a very interesting one, and it's one that's that's definitely growing.

Richard Hill [00:31:57]:
Well, that I I'm glad you said that because anybody's listening And thinking about working with influencers, you know, if you're selling what Kieran's selling, you might think, no disrespect, Kieran. Racking's not quite as sexy as a nice pair of shoes, is it? Or, you know, so if you could sell racking or warehouse solutions, you know, storage, via influencers and social. You could sell anything, can't you?

Ciaran Duffy [00:32:23]:
Yeah. Well, I I see, for us, I think everybody likes likes wants to have their life Organized. And I think when it when it comes up in front of people, they go, ah, that's that's what I want. You know? That's what that's that's what that suits me. You know? So, you know, people people, We'll we'll I think people will invest in in something when when they do see, how it works and, you know, that that kind of,

Richard Hill [00:32:45]:
Versus have you got certain software tools, or are you sort of just reaching out to certain demographics? How are you finding these people to work with?

Ciaran Duffy [00:32:52]:
It's it's very it's it's kind of, I'd love to say you have a have an exact formula for it. So but the one thing when you when you are working with influencers, you have to that they have to be professional. And I think that any influencer that well, every influencer I can say we've worked with I've been very professional because you do, you might have the case that you asked them to showcase, a a shelving unit or a pullout drawer or something like that. And you are hoping that they'll do a create a a a proper job doing it. And at first, like, I think I I we've never had a bad experience. No. The results of either of of influencers, you know, that might be that might win range, widely, like, you know, but, But but at the very end the very least, we always say, at least we have a video of it. Like, that's something we can show a customer just in case they're asking about a particular product.

Ciaran Duffy [00:33:42]:
But so so so many influencers, do have, that kind of niche market that where that they that their audience are engaged, And the audience have a a high level of trust, on what they're on what they're saying. Yeah. And then look. Look. You can have other influencers, and they could have 50, 60,000 followers. And the engagements, you know, of for our products just might not be there.

Richard Hill [00:34:05]:
Yeah. No. That's great. That's great. I think it's still very much untapped for a lot of ecom stores to working with influencers. And I think, you know, as a channel, you know, I think you hit the nail on the head, those, I guess, Slightly smaller influencers that are, you know, you're gonna get more of a personal service with potentially or a personal service with. You know, they've got a few 1000, 10,000 maybe followers. Yeah.

Richard Hill [00:34:27]:
But some of those can be also eCom huge influences and you're working with them, you know, as they're building their brands. You know, it's a great great sort of, marketplace there to to to tap into. So, A lot of ecommerce stores listening to us right now, I hope. Owners, marketeers, you know, what advice would you give to them right now about running a successful eCom store.

Ciaran Duffy [00:34:51]:
Well, I think running a successful ecom store as relation to their distribution, I would think that, you know, an ERP system or the very least, a warehouse management system is vital. And I would always, We would always encourage like, we do it ourselves. We'd always encourage people to push towards, technology in that that in that basis. There's a lot of software out there to to to help, as well. As regards running your own ecommerce store as well, you know, again, there's a lot of software package out there. AI is coming very big now as well, and there's a lot of AI out there that you just you just feel it's kind of bubbling under that it's just gonna explode into something that's gonna be that's gonna be very, very good. You know, there you we we have used AI ourselves on different things, and it it is very good probably at the moment. It's probably nearly as an emphasis where you might Yes.

Ciaran Duffy [00:35:41]:
You know, you you want to write something up, and they clean up the the wording on it or something like that. But you can just you can just see that it's it's about to it it you you just feel that it is going under that it's About to extorted something that's gone really, really good.

Richard Hill [00:35:53]:
Definitely. Definitely. Well, thank you for that, Kieran. Last couple of questions. So Can you share anything with our listeners that you guys are maybe working on over the next 12 months, whether that's obviously eCom store related or, You know, innovations in this sort of racking, packing, warehouse logistics market, that you could share with the listeners.

Ciaran Duffy [00:36:17]:
At the moment, we with our 80,000 square foot warehouse, what we've, or we're we're we're implementing now is, is lean warehousing. And I I don't know if you've heard of of Lean before or or that. So Lean is yeah. So Lean is It's very it's predominantly kind of, for manufacturing. Our our our initially started off by manufacturing with Toyota. So with lean warehousing, they The same principles apply. So it's essentially, you know, reducing transport, inventory management, motion, the likes of overproduction, over processing, just doing too much that the customer doesn't want to to buy, defects, which should be, you know, You're sending out the wrong parcel. You've got the you picked the wrong products.

Ciaran Duffy [00:37:00]:
The product is is damaged. Now that that can happen with between couriers as well. And then this is is skills is the other one, and that's where, you're use utilizing the skills of of the your team around you as well.

Richard Hill [00:37:12]:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. That's great. Well, thanks, Kieran. Thanks for calling on the show. I think, it was a nice hybrid episode there.

Richard Hill [00:37:20]:
Yeah. Very apt to our listeners. Thank you so much. Now I'd like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. Do you have a book to recommend to our listeners?

Ciaran Duffy [00:37:27]:
Yeah. The book the book, I recommend will be, Liz Wakeman and Yeah. Liz Wiseman and its multipliers, it's called. And it's essentially unlocking his, unlocking your your the team's, potential. And it's a very interesting book because, we all know about empowering the team, but also too sometimes it's about just getting out of their way as well, where you're and She has very interesting ideas around the fact that sometimes you might think you're helping your team, but actually you're you're you're not. You're you're You're in

Richard Hill [00:37:55]:
the way. You Yeah. You're in the way.

Ciaran Duffy [00:37:57]:
Yeah. Great.

Richard Hill [00:37:58]:
I've got that book, red cover, in about it. It's quite an old book, but now it's a few years old, isn't it? I've read that about 4 years, I think, and it was recommended to me. Fantastic book, for sort of scaling and getting out of bloody way. Yeah. Well, thanks, Kieran. For those who wanna find out more about, Rack Zone, more about yourself, what's the best, way to get in contact.

Ciaran Duffy [00:38:18]:
You can, rackzone.ai, and, of course, you can look us up on any of our socials at Rackzone

Richard Hill [00:38:24]:
Storage. Fantastic. Well, thanks for coming on the show. Thanks If you enjoyed this episode, hit the subscribe or follow button wherever you are listening to this podcast. You're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Have a fantastic day, and I'll see you on the next one.

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