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How to boost productivity in your incoming goods processes

Even highly automated retail supply chains encounter speedbumps. James Clark outlines some of the ways we’ve streamlined the supply, receipt and warehousing of incoming goods to achieve process transparency, productivity and compliance gains for our customers.

Last month I visited one of our largest customers in Sydney and was delighted to hear their inwards goods team say that they actually look forward to receiving Sutton Tools deliveries! This made me think about just what differences we’ve developed over many years to smooth the supply chain process for everyone we deal with.


We’ve put a lot of effort into making the receipt of Sutton tools products a highly transparent process for our customers – from independent family-owned hardware stores to national chains.

We’ve made sure our documentation and delivery advice is comprehensive and easy to understand. We receive orders in lots of different ways: EDI, email, phone and fax. Wherever possible, we not only include our customers’ Purchase Order numbers – we also addend their own ‘alias’ numbers: their own SKU or product codes. This makes it clear to them exactly what we’ve delivered– in their own ‘language’ – making it easier for them to get our products to the right place on their warehouse or retail shelves.

We can also customise the paperwork we include with deliveries to our customers’ specific requirements. For example, some companies want to receive their delivery documentation together with their invoice. Others prefer pricing information to be kept out of their warehouse and receive their invoices by post or email to their Accounts Receivable team, or via their EDI system.

Another example of process transparency is that our products always arrive in a Sutton Tools-branded box. Plain delivery cartons are common in our industry, because many suppliers of high-value products believe identifying their shipments can potentially lead to theft. However, we believe that branding our cartons makes it much simpler for our customers to identify the products they’ve ordered from us.

Faster, easier incoming processes

The process from receiving goods at your loading bay, to warehousing them then putting them into stock or onto your production line can be long and complex – which means it involves a lot of overheads in staff time.

One way we make it easier (and your people more productive) is by banding similar products together – so they’re quicker to check and receive into your warehouse. An example I heard from the inward goods team on my Sydney visit was that many of their suppliers just throw loose different-sized or types of products into a single box. On receipt, the team has to sort them out into separate piles, count each pile then verify them against the delivery documentation. Instead, we band our products into bands or clumps, with each different SKU labelled so they are easily identified and quickly checked off.

Another thing we do – which sounds like a no-brainer– is attach product codes to the relevant products which exactly match the delivery paperwork. Seems pretty logical to us, but it’s apparently a common issue in the case of many other suppliers!


Compliance has become an increasingly important factor in the supply chain in recent years. Whether it’s financial compliance to meet the needs of your shareholders, supporting the requirements of your own customers’ compliance regimes, or meeting taxation and other regulatory authorities.

To help, we can work with your company to develop Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) labelling, which enables you to visualise the compilation of your orders electronically. Once we’ve packed an order in our warehouse, we can affix an SSCC label or send through the details electronically providing you with an ASN (Advanced Shipment Notice). This allows you to track your order and update your system with pending delivery information

As our customers move towards automating their receiving processes, SSCC and ASN adds a further level of sophistication. SSCC and ASN labelling is especially useful when you have lots of incoming goods, because it enables you to easily identify each order.

Another way we help you comply is that our over 17,000 SKUs each have their own individual barcode, compliant with AS/NZ GS1 – the controlling standard. These are reflected on our own product packaging – so you can be sure that when you scan one of our products there won’t be an error. Further, some of our customers require GS1-complaint reports – and we are able to supply these as needed.

In future blogs, I’ll talk about the range of help and advice available from our customer service team and our own warehousing systems and processes – including what we’ve learnt over the past 101 years.

Please contact us if you’d like to know how we can help streamline your own receipt of goods processes.