Wednesday, 1 May 2013

08:22 – Barbara took her dad to the doctor yesterday morning for a follow-up appointment. We didn’t get any phone calls overnight, so apparently Dutch settled in successfully for his first night at home. Barbara is leaving work early this afternoon to take her mother to a doctor’s appointment. Her mom has yet another appointment tomorrow, but Frances is taking her to that one.

We’re now up to about five dozen assorted biology and chemistry kits in finished-goods inventory. I’m building a batch of forensic kits today, using the finished subassemblies we have in stock. Next on the schedule is a batch of 30 life science kits, followed by 60 more biology kits and 60 more chemistry kits. After that, it’ll be lather, rinse, repeat for the rest of this year. May is historically a pretty slow month, about like April. But things start to pick up in June, before the crazy time starts in July and August. June should be about three times the May’s volume, and July and August each three or four times June’s volume. So, for the next six months or so, my life will be spent making up chemicals, filling bottles, issuing purchase orders, building subassemblies and kits, and processing orders and shipping kits. Not that I mind. I like to stay busy, and I like making stuff.

14:28 – I just called Katie Dugan, my vendor rep at American Educational Products, to check price and availability on some items for a purchase order I’m putting together. Every January, AMEP offers four coupons for things like free shipping on any order over $750, a 10% discount on any order over $300, and so on. So, intending to use one of the free shipping coupons, I gave Katie the item numbers and quantities to verify: 30 dozen each 10 mL graduated cylinders and 100 mL graduated cylinders, 30 dozen 250 mL glass beakers, and so on.

I’d also intended to order some chemicals from Katie, mostly the same ones I’d ordered from her late last year. Stuff like 2.5 liters of 30% ammonia, several 500 mL bottles each of n-butanol and glacial acetic acid, and so on. AMEP doesn’t actually carry chemicals, but their sister company, eNasco, does. And the last time I ordered chemicals from Katie, they were actually shipped from eNasco. The problem is, eNasco is retail-oriented, and they apparently have no one on staff who has any clue about hazardous shipping regulations. So for my prior order, eNasco had essentially shipped everything as hazardous, with each bottle as a separate shipment. That means they had to pay a separate hazardous shipping fee for each bottle. What they should have done was combine all of the bottles in one box. If they’d done that, they’d have had to pay only one hazardous shipping surcharge instead of a dozen or more. Needless to say, eNasco billed AMEP for the shipping charges, which probably totaled several hundred dollars rather than the $27 it should have cost them. I apologized to Katie and told her that I’d never have ordered from them if I’d realized how much “free” shipping was going to end up costing them. And I suggested that eNasco really, really needs someone on staff who understands at least the basics of hazardous shipping regulations. That’s non-trivial. In fact, it’s almost a full-time job. Different requirements apply to different chemicals. For example, for shipping under the Limited Quantity Exemption (which is completely different from the Small Quantity Exemption, which in turn is completely different from the ORM-D exemption, which is being eliminated anyway), you may be able to put 5 liters of one chemical in a single package, but only 500 mL of a different chemical. There are also restrictions on which combinations of chemicals are allowed to share a box. As Katie said, they learned an expensive lesson.