How seamless supply chain communication and custom logic enabled an online retailer to flourish
Honest Brew is a UK-based online craft beer supplier, that stocks over 300 craft beers and delivers thousands of personalised packs of beer to their loyal beer-loving fan base every month.
The team at Crossfire have worked with Honest Brew for many years, and we like to think that we’ve played a small but important part of their success by optimising their supply chain communication so they can focus on growing a great business. Here’s how we supported Honest Brew through three major phases of their exponential growth:
Back in 2012, HonestBrew was a start-up online business that had engaged a 3PL warehouse to carry out the fulfilment of their craft beer orders. Back then, the process was highly manual for the team; online orders were re-keyed by HonestBrew and sent to their 3PL warehouse via email. As a secondary step, HonestBrew would track the stock levels of their various beers by manually reconciling their orders every week.
As HonestBrew’s business grew and customer demand increased, they knew their manual processes were unsustainable and the team were keen to start automating their processes. As co-founder Andrew tells it, “When we were shipping small amounts of product it was easy just running off spreadsheets. However, when we began fulfilling large amounts of orders, we weren't able to scale this up. That’s when we engaged Crossfire to help.”
Crossfire integrated HonestBrew’s inventory management system, TradeGecko, with their 3PL warehouse’s system. This automation meant online orders were sent directly to their 3PL warehouse allowing them to pick, pack and ship orders without intervention or delay.
This integration also meant that HonestBrew had full visibility of their current stock levels for all product lines, and could, therefore, manage their stock more effectively.
With Crossfire’s integration, HonestBrew’s user experience also improved, as their customers now receive an auto-generated alert advising them that their order has been despatched. In summary, Crossfire’s integration meant the HonestBrew team were no longer emailing orders to their warehouse, manually tracking their stock levels via spreadsheets, missing orders due to unforeseen out-of-stock issues or responding to shipping date queries from customers. With these automated processes in place, the internal resources of the team were freed up so they could focus on their primary objective, which was to get great beer to their customers.
Consumer demand for HonestBrew’s online service increased and their customers’ buying behaviour also evolved. Customers were keen to try new craft beers and responded well to HonestBrew’s recommendations and marketing. HonestBrew continually expanded their range, created promotions to reward loyalty, and developed clever ‘up-sell’ campaigns which encouraged their customers to order more frequently and to increase the size of their orders.
Honest Brew started to market mixed packs of six and 12 beers and their now-legendary packs such as their Christmas Packs, Best of British, and their Fathers Day Packs were born.
With the regular introduction of new seasonal bundled packs and other marketing promotions, the picking instructions for the warehouse became increasingly complex. Development of their EDI automation was needed to keep pace with these new demands. They turned to Crossfire to make this happen.
In 2017 Crossfire created a new product type in TradeGecko, to reflect these newly-created bundled packs and to associate each bundled pack with a subset of individual products. When a bundled pack was ordered Crossfire would deconstruct the order, and send picking instructions for each individual product to the 3PL warehouse. Automated workflows were also created to instruct the 3PL warehouse to pick the correct promotional packaging (typically, a branded inner box) and combine the individual items into that box. In doing so, the warehouse would build each promotional pack from its individual parts.
This EDI enhancement was built in such a way that HonestBrew was able to manage their own promotional product packs and could add, modify and delete as many bundled promotional packs as they wish. Crossfire associates the sub-products automatically without any additional intervention from Crossfire or any other suppliers.
HonestBrew now has unlimited scope to meet the demands of their subscribers and create more iconic packs, knowing their back-end ordering and fulfilment processes were robust enough to handle even the most complex bundled packs. In other words, Crossfire made sure their supply chain communication wasn’t holding HonestBrew back from remaining innovative.
Phase 3: Gaining efficiency in outer packaging and fulfilment
By 2018, HonestBrew was a highly successful online business, with multi-million dollar annual turnover. They turned their attention towards increasing their efficiency and profitability of their business. In reviewing their costs, they found that the cost of outer packaging and shipping had increased disproportionately to the value of the orders received. The numerous combinations of beers and packs ordered meant the 3PL packers were making ‘best guess’ but flawed choices as to how to best package orders for shipping, based on the wide range of outer packaging available to them at the warehouse.
The warehouse would also regularly run out of selected outer packaging types, particularly when certain promotions were running, as there was no association made between the promotional packs ordered by customers and the outer packaging required to ship them. The impact of this was that packers would revert to the ‘next best option’, which was to use more or larger outer packaging.
This behaviour resulted in both inflated outer packaging costs and shipping costs. Crossfire worked with HonestBrew to develop the solution.
Crossfire and HonestBrew worked together to create an automated process to minimise HonestBrew’s outer packaging and shipping costs.
Crossfire calculated the weights and quantity of each product and associated packaging type (both the inner promotional packaging and outer shipping packaging) and then developed an algorithm which calculated the optimal packaging for every scenario. Crossfire then auto-assigned the correct inner and outer packaging to every online order. Crossfire also integrated various outer packaging types into TradeGecko so the stock levels of all their outer packaging types could be managed.
Today, the warehouse packers no longer decide what outer packaging to use for HonestBrew’s orders. Instead, the Crossfire EDI system does the hard work and picks the optimal packaging for shipping every time. The result for HonestBrew has been proven cost savings from an overall reduction in outer packaging and shipping costs.
“Crossfire's integration with our warehouse has been great and they ensure that everything is running smoothly,'' says Andrew.
At Crossfire, we transform supply chain communication for a range of customers. For HonestBrew, we’ve supported their ambitious growth objectives by responding to their needs and providing seamless, automated EDI solutions through every phase of their journey. We look forward to seeing where they go next and making sure they have the integrated communication required to get them there.