Blue Apron New Subscription Process Analysis

Blue Apron is an amazing food delivery service, but the subscription process of new customers revealed a delay for delivery dates on their initial package.

Objective

Identify causes for lead time in Blue Apron’s subscription of new customers.

Delivery Day Selection Page

Questions I wanted to answer

  1. What is the earliest date that a Blue Apron shipment can be delivered?
  2. What are the causes of this lead time for new subscription customers to receive their first shipment?

Tasks

The steps I needed to complete this analysis were the following:

  1. Identify earliest possible delivery dates for new customers by testing the day a new subscription is placed.
  2. Identify flow of information from when a new subscription is placed to the day a delivery arrives at the customer’s address.
  3. Research each process found from step two.
  4. Identify potential causes of lead time within each process.

I realize that the information I need to complete the analysis for steps 2–4 is only available within the company, so I will proceed with information that I believe is relative to Blue Apron’s structure. This is all my opinion and completely hypothesized by me.

Analysis

Delivery Window of First Shipment

To discover the lead time for the first delivery to a new customer, I acted as a new subscriber once a day for a week. I was looking for any kind of change to the delivery date and only noticed it change once:

(Photo taken prior to February 6th)
(Photo taken Sunday, February 7th)

This leads me to believe that there is a minimum 7 day lead time for new subscribers to receive their first package. All other options had larger lead times, begging the question: Why does it take this much time to process a new subscription? A deeper look into the subscription process and how the information is handled is required.

Subscription Process and Flow of Information

(All information from here on out is hypothetical)

I wanted to document the subscription process to its most basic form to simplify the analysis. I narrowed the process down to the following:

Critical Path from New Subscription to Shipment Reception

Unfortunately, with no access to data I am unable to fully explore every avenue that directly affects the handling of a new subscription. However, I would like to focus on the relationship between the Customer Management System and Fulfillment Centers. I want to explore how each interacts regarding the information of a new subscription.

Customer Management System Analysis

To explore the handling of information, I broke down the customer management system to the following:

Customer Management System Process Flow Chart

I assumed there is a list of customers that every fulfillment center manages to know where to send their product to. This list becomes the focal point of analysis as it plays a major role in processing the information of a new subscriber. My immediate questions are:

  1. How often is this list updated? Can it be updated in real time?
  2. Is this list managed at each fulfillment center or at headquarters?

The handling of information is crucial to Blue Apron’s efforts in having accurate data at all times. Having inaccurate data can lead to shipments not being sent to new customers, which would damage the company’s reputation.

Recommendation: One ideal situation would have this list updated in real time with a system that updates the list at both the headquarters and fulfillment center levels simultaneously. Having active and responsive databases allows for quicker turnaround and accurate information throughout the company.

Fulfillment Center Analysis

To explore the operations at the fulfillment centers, I’ve broken down their processes to the following:

Fulfillment Center Process Flow Chart

I understand that a fulfillment center will have many more processes involved than this, but for this exercise I’ve simplified it to the most basic form shown here. The unavoidable causes of lead time would be:

  1. The time it takes for ordered ingredients to arrive at the fulfillment center.
  2. The time it takes to process those ingredients into the product Blue Apron sends to its customers.
  3. The time it takes to deliver each product.

The questions that come to mind are:

  1. How much of the minimum 7 day lead time do these processes occupy?
  2. Which of the three processes take up the most time?
  3. Are there opportunities for improvement within each process?

Of the three processes, the time for ordered ingredients to arrive at a fulfillment center would have the biggest impact on lead time. Raw materials have their own processing and deliver times as well. However, the processing of raw materials into Blue Apron’s product would have more opportunities for improvement.

Recommendation: Ideal situation would be to improve the time for ordered ingredients to arrive at a fulfillment center, due to it taking up the most time. This could be improved by sourcing materials closer to the fulfillment center or using faster logistics options.

Conclusion

It was discovered that the subscription process has a minimum 7 day lead time. Regarding this lead time, ensuring that customer information is actively updated will allow for accurate information at all times. Improving the time for raw materials to arrive at fulfillment centers by sourcing closer ingredients will also reduce the lead time.

Blue Apron is a wonderful company that provides a product that I thoroughly enjoy. I love the company, and I love process improvement. I wanted to see if I could provide some awareness to a problem that may have been overlooked.* Though I analyzed hypothetical processes, I thought the recommendations would best serve Blue Apron’s operational decisions.

*I’m not affiliated with Blue Apron in any way.