From a customer’s perspective, the order fulfillment process is probably the last thing to think about. All they wish to know is that their order is arriving on time (preferably early) at the right spot in spick and span condition.
However, businesses know that this process is anything but simple. Right from the initial checkout to the time the customer approves of the order, it’s a long struggle to coordinate with multiple people. Research conducted by Georgia Tech found that order-picking activities account for nearly 63% of warehouse operating costs.
That means if a business improves its order fulfillment process, it will naturally improve its bottom line and customer satisfaction. Do you also want to tap into this business key to success? This guide will discuss effective ways in which you can improve your business’ order fulfillment process.
What Does a Solid Order Fulfillment Process Look Like?
Before you can improve your order fulfillment process, you must identify areas that need work. Here’s what a solid order fulfillment process looks like:
- In the first step, the customer places an order. Immediately after, they are notified of successful order placement, along with the tentative delivery date and time.
- In the second step, your warehouse must receive all the order details. The inventory should have the resources needed to pack and ship the order smoothly.
- In this step, the package must be sent to a trusted and cost-effective dispatch center for shipping.
- The customer receives the “order has been shipped” message. They must also receive regular updates as their package moves through different supply touchpoints.
- In the final step, the package must arrive at the customer’s doorstep by the delivery date. The package must be received in good condition, along with the accurate invoice.
Such orders are often known as “fill rates.” It refers to orders successfully delivered on time using immediate inventory.
While the successful order fulfillment process sounds logical, straightforward, and simple in theory, it is often complicated in practice. Not every order a customer places will fulfill all the above-mentioned steps within the right time.
However, there are certain ways in which you can minimize the risks involved.
1. Proper Inventory Management
The best place to start improvising on your business’ order fulfillment is the very beginning – the inventory. Before receiving an order, you must be prepared with better order management of the stock. Stay up-to-date with demand forecasting.
Anticipating peaks and lows will enable you to deal with seasonal fluctuations. That is only possible when you have a clear picture of the available products. Otherwise, you’ll accept orders with no inventory, thus inviting supply chain blockages.
2. Embracing Automation
Businesses accustomed to the traditional ways find it daunting to hand over the reins into the hands of technology. But the benefits are plenty. After all, automation in the order fulfillment process is less about letting robots run the show.
Rather, you can relay all monotonous, repetitive manual tasks that are prone to human errors. For instance – as you receive an order, an automated system can tell you which packaging option will be the best.
3. Reducing Picking-and-Packing Time
Picking up and packing orders is the least lucrative, yet sometimes, the most time-consuming process. The more time you spend in picking and packing, the higher the costs you’ll incur.
Automation should help reduce the picking and packing time to a great extent. Other than that, you can organize your warehouse for effective dispatch. For example – Group items that are frequently bought, sort the fastest-selling products together, etc.
4. Considering End-to-End Transparency
Unless the entire order fulfillment process is visible to you, there can be no progress. Here’s where order management software comes in handy. It will help you discover areas that need improvement.
For instance, you might find out that most errors are made in the picking and packing stage. It could also be possible that a particular vendor always defaults on supplying stocks. Only when you get to the root of the issue can you apply the right corrective measure.
So, maintain 100% transparency from start to finish.
5. Remembering Reverse Logistics
The challenging aspect of running a business is making room for the unexpected. Even if your orders have safely made it to your customers, that’s not the end of it. It is possible that a customer wants to return or exchange an item.
You need to accommodate reverse logistics in the order fulfillment process. The aim is to have the returned items back in the inventory as soon as possible, carry out proper quality control, and dispatch the right item at the earliest. In the case of a refund, you need to initiate it quickly.
If the above-mentioned tips also sound overwhelming, it is best to partner with a third-party logistics service. With end-to-end 3PL fulfillment, you can forget about the hassles of shipping and focus solely on core business operations.
According to Red Stag Fulfillment, the services usually involve warehousing, easy picking and packing, and even returns processing. 3Pl fulfillment providers often pick and pack the orders on the same day so that customers can at least have their “your order has been shipped” message. This assures of a fast, safe, and accurate delivery.
Order fulfillment is a major piece of your business puzzle. If you don’t get that right, it’s very difficult to maintain customer satisfaction. After all, we live in an era where a customer is willing to abandon their cart or brand altogether in case of long delivery times.
This demand has made the shipping process itself a major product. Companies that neglect this aspect will soon find out that they’re fighting a losing battle. The only way that leads to business success is to achieve it one order at a time.
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