If you were asked about the many jobs that moms do, a few answers would probably spring to mind. Bedtime routines, packing lunches, school pickup, maybe working to support a growing family on top of a long list of other duties. But if there’s a baby at home, one task that’s guaranteed to be a near constant is changing diapers.
That’s not to say that this is all that goes into being a mom (which would be up there with suggesting that a vacuum cleaner makes a good Valentine’s Day gift). But at WSI, the logistics of essential products, like diapers, is what we think about. And we’re talking truckloads of them. We think about storing them, moving them efficiently, and getting them to you because no one wants to deal with running out of that particular product.
Not only that, but diapers are tied to economic empowerment. A 2017 study commissioned by the Diaper Bank of Connecticut found that, for low-income families, personal income rose $11 for every dollar of diaper aid received. As explained in the study, having an adequate supply of diapers means fewer medical emergencies and missed days of work or school. How cool is that? Statistics like those are the reason for our excitement about diaper logistics.
Diapers are a necessity for baby, which means that they’re non-negotiable for mom. So at a time of year when everyone is taking a moment to appreciate their mother (you’ve already done that, right?), we thought we’d explain a little more of what goes into diaper logistics.
DIAPER HISTORY & MANUFACTURING
Before diapers became the product you see today, all babies wore pieces of cloth fastened with safety pins. The first disposable diaper wasn’t invented until 1946 by a woman named Marion Donovan (by repurposing a plastic shower curtain, no less). Once disposables hit the market, they were expensive. So much so that they were considered a luxury item instead of a daily necessity.
But the demand was there, and over time, the technology improved, making disposable diapers more accessible. Today’s diapers are made of a topsheet, backsheet, super-absorbent core, tabs, and a waistband. They’ve also become a household staple (a household with an infant or a toddler, that is). In 2020, the diaper industry in the United States was worth $12.9 billion.
It’s a lot of product to manage. When someone thinks of diaper logistics, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a warehouse or a truck full of Huggies. And yes, there’s plenty of that, but a lot has to happen leading up to that point. WSI plays a role in nearly the entire process.
Turns out, diapers aren’t delivered by stork to the grocery store. Each part of a diaper is produced individually. Then all those cores and backsheets are transported from supplier to manufacturer, where they become a recognizable product. From the assembly line, diapers make their way to a distribution center before heading out to a retailer. There’s a storage or shipment need at nearly every turn.
Which is why we’re here. Not only can WSI store the finished product and coordinate shipments, but we handle materials before most people can even tell what they are. If you ever want to see what a gigantic wall of hygiene product parts looks like, look no further than one of our warehouses.
CHALLENGES & INNOVATION
The process doesn’t come without its share of challenges. Temperature and humidity control are both important, as well as taking precautions to prevent diapers from getting crushed. But one of the biggest comes from the sheer size of the product.
‘Diapers are a difficult product to store because they take up so much space, compared to the weight that they are.’ Professor Dale Rogers at Arizona State University’s Carey School of Business says, ‘You need high velocity moving through a storage center.’
At least, that’s the process for most retailers. But in 2021, diapers aren’t only getting shipped to stores.
‘Subscription boxes have been around since 2011, but more recently, this service has blown up,’ says Chris George, co-founder and chairman of the Subscription Trade Association. ‘Since 2019 or 2020, it’s only increased.’
As George explains, there are different types of subscription models. And the category that diapers fall into is growing like wildfire.
‘There’s two types of subscriptions. You have a replenishment model for items that need to be restocked regularly and a ‘discover and delight’ model. Replenishment items are growing in popularity. Instead of having to worry about going to the store to get them, they are delivered to your front door.’
This is appealing to lots of consumers, but especially busy, frazzled parents.
‘In the case with diapers, these are things that people are using regularly. They’ve got a new child and they need diapers, and they are just going to go through them. Instead of having to worry about going to the store when you run out, they are delivered monthly,’ George states.
The math changes when handling e-commerce fulfillment services. Instead of moving large quantities of an item to one location, shippers are tasked with moving smaller packages to many different areas. A big challenge comes from managing and offsetting higher shipment costs, especially for a product like diapers.
‘The costs are higher, and diapers are bulky, so you’re shipping a smaller quantity through a courier service. It’s a much higher cost for the shippers than bringing a truckload of Huggies or Pampers to a grocery store warehouse,’ Professor Rogers explains.
The good news is that a reliable logistics provider can help offset some of these costs in a few ways. It can consolidate freight and reduce the points of contact that a shipper would otherwise have to deal with. For example, a third party logistics company might combine freight from multiple shippers or insert packages into the Post Office system close to the recipient’s address. In any case, having one operating procedure for all types of freight allows a logistics provider to transport goods efficiently.
Translation: Third party logistics companies can help shippers outsource the fulfillment process, saving time and money. And we happen to know a good one.