Interior of Atlantic Cigar's brick-and-mortar lounge.
Atlantic Cigar Co. operates retail stores and cigar lounges, but saw a big jump in e-commerce sales last year. Automation helped handle the increased volume. — Atlantic Cigar Co.

Why it matters:

  • B2B and B2C businesses are turning to automated order management technology to handle the pandemic-fueled growth of e-commerce.
  • Tech platforms that route orders to warehouses automatically and update inventory levels in real time are also reducing the labor hours spent on manual processing.
  • Employee time once devoted to manual tasks is now freed up to spend on business functions such as sales, customer service and managing social media.

Automated order management is driving labor efficiencies for companies as their omnichannel and e-commerce volumes grow.

Tech platforms that route orders to warehouses automatically and update inventory levels in real time are reducing the labor hours spent on manual processing, helping prevent out-of-stock merchandise and freeing up workers to perform more high-value functions.

Snap Supply, for example, which sells appliance repair parts, was able to significantly reduce the time it had been spending on inputting orders manually. It had been using a paper-based system that generated multiple pieces of paper per order, and also relied on manual filing.

“Today, there are zero pieces of paper and there’s zero manual entering, so that cut 60 hours a week just in data entry,” said Nick Ernst, who cofounded the company with his brother, Shawn, in 2017.

Those labor hours are now being spent on more productive activities such as sales, customer service and managing social media, he said. Snap Supply’s customers include apartment building owners and managers, repair technicians and others who maintain home appliances.

[Read more here on simplifying inventory management.]

Today, there are zero pieces of paper and there’s zero manual entering, so that cut 60 hours a week just in data entry.

Nick Ernst, co-founder, Snap Supply

Reducing ‘overselling’

Snap Supply now uses an automated order management solution from Brightpearl that routes orders seamlessly to its shipping platform, ShipStation, and also generates invoices — another function that had previously been more labor-intensive.

In addition, the real-time inventory updates have solved another challenge that had previously plagued the company: overselling. Now, when an order comes in via Amazon, for example, the inventory level in the company’s warehouse is immediately updated across its other selling platforms, so customers who order online can see what’s in stock.

Ernst said he plans to continue to explore the opportunities for automation, including the use of mobile devices in the warehouse — a potential investment for next year.

“I think there's always room for automation,” he said. “We'd love to automate a little bit more to be able to maintain the number of employees that we have while increasing our volume.”

Automating order entry saves cable supplier 40 labor hours a month

Likewise, trueCABLE, a supplier of ethernet cables, connectors and other low-voltage cable supplies, reports similar benefits from leveraging automated order management to improve efficiency. The company had been using an enterprise system to help with its order management, but it required a lot of manual order entry and was not directly connected to the company’s online sales channels.

“It was limiting our growth,” said Jessica Floyd, vice president of marketing and business development, trueCABLE. “We wanted to build our own website and start selling on other sales channels like eBay, but we were limited by the fact that there was a lot of manual entry and time needed.”

The company started using Brightpearl’s automated order processing, which connects with the Shopify platform that trueCABLE uses for e-commerce, as well as with its shipping platform.

“It's really an end-to-end process from when the customer places the order on the website, all the way to the order being shipped out to the customer,” said Floyd. “It’s a better experience internally for our employees, but also for the customers.”

She estimated that the automated order entry and processing saves the company about 40 labor hours per month.

“I think these [technologies] have allowed our team to stay pretty lean,” she said. “It’s also good for employee retention, because nobody likes to do repetitive tasks all day, and it allows our team to focus on some of the higher-level things that require skill.”

[Read here on how to retain your best employees.]

TrueCABLE, a supplier of ethernet cables, connectors and other low-voltage cable supplies, has seen benefits from leveraging automated order management to improve efficiency.

Tech grants cigar brand real-time inventory visibility as sales surge 40% amid the pandemic

Paul Scipioni, president of Atlantic Cigar Co., which has a strong e-commerce business based out of its Pennsylvania warehouse as well as two other retail locations in New York and Connecticut, said managing the sharp increase in online orders during the past year amid a tight labor market has been made possible by automation. The company uses BigCommerce as its customer-facing e-commerce platform, among other tech-to-manage functions such as order management.

“With the pandemic hitting, we saw such a huge amount of growth — to the point where if we didn't have these platforms in place, it would've been chaos,” said Scipioni. Sales were up 40%-plus in the past year, he said, as aficionados around the world sought to buy their favorite cigars online.

Thanks to automated order management, the company was able to continue to focus on same-day shipping for orders received before 4 p.m., which Scipioni said is an important point of differentiation between Atlantic Cigar and its competitors.

Since it began selling cigars online in the late 1990s, Atlantic Cigar has migrated through several different e-commerce platforms, while also growing its retail operations and expanding the brand experience to include lounges where customers can enjoy the company’s products in comfort and style.

Not only has automated order management helped optimize its labor needs in a challenging labor market — it maintains a staff of about 20 In its warehouse — but it also helps with the visibility into inventory to ensure that products are in the right places at the right time. In the cigar industry, demand for specific products can ramp up and down quickly, and vary regionally, based on reviews and other factors.

Now Atlantic Cigar is in the process of expanding into a larger warehouse, where advanced technologies will continue to play a key role.

“Our plan for the rest of 2021 and into 2022 is to invest heavily in technology,” said Scipioni. “We want to automate even further, with regards to fine-tuning our [order] picking and packing, and trying to streamline every aspect of warehouse operations and warehouse management [to help] eliminate human error.”

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Published August 09, 2021