If you are, like me, manically enthused by operational optimization and supply management (AKA "saving paper"): LOOK OUT! OH BOY, this article's for you! If you aren't massively enthused about cost reduction and processes, you might be looking for a buzzwordier piece.
This isn't always glamorous, but it'll make your bottom line a little better.
As of early 2017, Ships-A-Lot was on track to produce enough paper order receipts in 2017 to cover roughly 5 NFL Football fields with paper (or about 3.85 FIFA Football fields). That is a large quantity of paper.
We were running off 1 sheet of A4 paper for each customer order. We wanted to know if we could reduce that footprint. By reducing the amount of paper, we were hoping this would also reduce costs.
THE PHYSICAL RECEIPT: WHY EVEN HAVE ONE?
I've waffled on this issue internally. It certainly makes life and labor easier for a fulfillment center when a client is happy to abstain from all paper receipts. However, a physical receipt does present a couple of values you do not get from emailed receipts. Namely:
- Additional brand contact with the customer: a receipt that is on-message for your brand does bring repetition and therefore adds brand value.
- Verification of package contents: it's a fast way for the consumer to visually confirm their order contains the things it's supposed to.
- Gift notes: These are typically written or printed on order receipts for lack of other media.
With these values in mind, I set out to find a smaller size of paper that would confer all of these benefits to our clients but at a lower price.
This is my story.
THE GREAT JOURNEY TO SOURCE SMALLER AND CHEAPER PAPER
We found some unexpected roadblocks. Namely, smaller papers (A6, for example) were vastly more expensive than A4. This is the ugly side of economies of scale, I suppose. We also had a very difficult time even finding a reliable producer of A6 paper. Here's a size comparison of the two:
So you have some figures, we were paying about 0.8 pennies for a sheet of A4 and we were given prices of 22 pennies per sheet of A6. That's right, 73 times the cost for 76% less paper! Economics is funny!
We next looked at thermal receipt paper, the type you'd receive from a brick-and-mortar purchase. We actually trialed a bunch of paper providers and eventually found a good provider here. This brought our paper cost down by about 0.07 pennies per sheet, reduces our paper footprint by 76%, and completely eliminates all of the time our packers spent folding A4 paper to make it fit into boxes or mailers. The printer we're using even has a 70% speedup over our A4 printer. So, these benefits definitely add up.
The end result is all of the information and benefits of an A4 order receipt, but at an A6 size and an A4 price!
The printers we're using for these receipts can be viewed here. This thermal printer has a superior networked spool time and print speed to any ink or laserjet we've worked with.