How quickly and efficiently your business can fulfill customer orders directly affects your profitability. If your order fulfillment process is too slow, you’re “leaving money on the table,” so to speak.
You may also be adversely affecting future business. Customers who aren’t happy with your order processing and fulfillment may feel you don’t provide good customer service and decide to research other providers and take their business elsewhere.
Assessing and Enhancing Your Customer Order Fulfillment Process
The typical order fulfillment process takes place as follows:
- Orders are received. This may submitted through an ecommerce platform or through other electronic data interchange (EDI) methods..
- You process the order in your order fulfillment system.
- You notify the customer that their order has been received.
- Your team picks, packs and ships the order.
- You send an advanced shipping notification (ASN) to the customer.
- The customer receives their order.
This, of course, is the “perfect order.” There are a number of reasons the fulfillment process might involve additional twists and turns. And each of the steps listed above is just a summary of what happens at that stage. There’s much more that goes on behind the scenes. Consequently, there are many places where you can make order fulfillment improvements.
Tactics for Improving Order Fulfillment Management
Below are actions you can take to improve your fulfillment strategy.
- Integrate your fulfillment related systems. Most companies have multiple systems that play a role in order fulfillment. If yours does, you want to be sure that those systems are “talking” to one another and sharing data as appropriate. You may even want to have certain systems integrated with those of your suppliers. If there’s any manual aspect to the movement of data between systems (i.e., it has to be rekeyed by an employee, an employee has to initiate a process, etc.), this will slow delivery time and decrease customer satisfaction.
- Choose warehouse locations wisely. If you’re able to house inventory in different locations, obviously the closer a facility is to your customers, the better. If you will perform order fulfillment from only one facility, having it centrally located is ideal.
- Ensure stakeholders have full visibility into the fulfillment process. When a customer is eager to get their delivery, the last thing they want to hear when they call to inquire about it is, “I see you placed an order, but that’s all I can tell you.” Everyone from customer service to operations managers should be able to see at a glance where an order is in the product fulfillment process.
- Maintain an accurate inventory at all times. You can’t work on order fulfillment if you don’t have the goods you need to ship. You’ve got to have accurate, real-time figures on item availability both for order fulfillment and supply chain management.
- Perform slotting optimization regularly. Slotting is an inventory management practice that involves putting items where they need to be within a storage facility to increase the efficiency of pick, pack and shipping teams. As your business evolves, your slotting may have to be revised. For example, if you release a new Product B, and it is almost always purchased along with existing Product A, it makes sense to update your slotting so that those two products are in close proximity.
- Measure and review key metrics. It’s hard to make order fulfillment improvements if you don’t know where improvements are needed. Identify the key stats related to customer orders, track them over time, and review them frequently.
- Practice demand planning. Your customer order fulfillment process should be able to accommodate a surge in demand. Assessing past volumes and noting sharp increases (e.g., around seasons or holidays that affect your sales) can help you anticipate and prepare for future volume surges.
- Simplify order fulfillment management. The more decisions that must be made or actions that must be taken to get product out the door, the longer your order fulfillment process will be. Streamlining your fulfillment process by eliminating or combining steps can greatly increase efficiency and also help reduce fulfillment errors.
Leveraging the Capabilities of Order Fulfillment Experts
If you manage your own order fulfillment, the tactics above will help you improve that process. However, for many companies, a better approach is to leverage the services of a company like NewStream Enterprises, LLC. We’ve got fine-tuned order processing and fulfillment capabilities, a centralized warehouse location, and skilled teams that know how to pick, pack and ship product quickly and efficiently.
How can you benefit from our services like kitting and packaging, warehousing and distribution, assembly/sub-assembly and more? Contact us, and let’s talk about your needs and how we can help your business operate more effectively and profitably.