For companies just entering the e-commerce space, or those looking to expand their business’s footprint, fulfilling increasingly complex custom orders seems like a Herculean task. The Amazon/ Walmart model has only complicated the process. Customers are used to giant chain retailers and have come to expect immediate turnaround on their orders. In fact, delivery time is among the most critical components of customer satisfaction. A 2018 study showed that 53% of online shoppers factored delivery speed into their decision to ultimately complete their purchase.
Customers have come to expect speed and agility from the online fulfillment process. A trustworthy partner takes these statistics seriously, incorporating speed and customer satisfaction directly into their company’s logistical vision.
Today we’re going to look at ways to manage custom orders more efficiently through specific fulfillment and warehousing services designed to help your company find the best logistical practices for your supply chain management needs.
CUSTOM ORDER TECHNIQUES
Supply chain management is divided into four sections:
Warehousing and storage
Your company can take action during each step of the process to encourage a more efficient and streamlined fulfillment method. Supply chain management and logistics are a continuum, a process that flows downstream like a river. What affects one aspect has a ripple effect throughout the process. For our purposes here, we’re going to focus on the warehousing and order processing aspects of the continuum.
STREAMLINE YOUR PICK AND PACK PROCESS
Every good fulfillment method starts with a well-thought-out and efficient pick and pack process. “Pick and pack,” refers to the way that you locate an item in your warehouse and prepare it for shipping.
When the customer initially places their online order, it’s up to your warehouse to process the request as quickly as possible once the order is received. That means sending a live warehouse worker to locate and retrieve the item or employing some form of automated system that can pick the item for you. Both methods come with their own advantages and disadvantages, but no matter which method you choose, a well-organized warehouse is the cornerstone of your pick and pack procedure.
There are numerous picking methodologies that you can implement in your warehouse. They include:
Discrete order picking
The method you choose is highly dependent on the volume of your business, diversity of your inventory, and physical layout of your distribution center.
Another method to promote a sleek, well-oiled fulfillment process is order kitting. Kitting is the practice of taking items commonly ordered together and pre-assembling bundles prior to shipping. Let’s say you are an online electronics reseller. A specific laptop is one of your most popular items. To improve your fulfillment efficiency, you decide to pre-package it with the most popular case and wireless mouse.
Order kitting is valuable because it cuts through your pick and pack process, putting your most frequently-purchased products easily in reach of your warehouse management system.
FOSTER RELATIONSHIPS WITH LOCAL AND NATIONWIDE SHIPPING PARTNERS
Fulfillment efficiency comes from your internal warehouse structure and your picking and packing methods. These are factors under your direct control and thus easier to manage. Once you’ve assembled the customer’s onsite order and packaged it, direct control is out of your hands unless you own your own fleet of transportation vehicles.
But when your customers expect two-day shipping, or less, you have to ensure that your transport methods are up to par. In order to ensure the quick turnaround times that your customers have come to expect, you must foster good partnerships with the companies that transport your goods. The bigger the shipping company (think USPS or FedEx), the more difficult it is to create a personalized partnership built on trust. That’s why it makes sense to outsource shipping methods to a 3PL partner such as Symbia Logistics who can leverage their network of logistical expertise while acting as a personalized point of contact for you and your company.
There’s some overlap between warehousing services and fulfillment services. Kitting, picking, and packing are fulfillment procedures that also speak to your warehouse’s efficiency. Below are some accompanying warehousing techniques you can use to ensure a streamlined approach to filling custom orders.
Cross docking is a method used to minimalize the amount of product kept onsite, reducing your need for pick and pack logistics. In the simplified version, cross docking involves delivering products directly to the shipping area, whether they come from the manufacturing floor or a distributor. Items are purposefully compiled on pallets meant for the end user, and shipped once the order is completely assembled. Cross docking greatly reduces in-warehouse and order assembly logistics.
SHARED WAREHOUSE SPACE
Shared warehouse space, also known as a public warehouse, is a situation in which multiple companies rent storage space at a communal warehouse. This can be incredibly cost-saving for your company as you no longer have the building cost or maintenance and upkeep costs to deal with.
When done purposefully, and in conjunction with a trusted 3PL partner, shared warehouse space can be used to optimize your custom fulfillment procedures. You can make arrangements to commingle with similar suppliers in order to help work toward the mutual goal of getting your products into your customers’ hands at speed.
EMPLOY A DEDICATED WAREHOUSE SERVICE
If shared warehouse space raises more logistical questions than solutions for your company, you might want to consider using a dedicated warehouse space, complete with logistics management. Symbia Logistics can take on your warehouse and fulfillment process in its entirety, offloading logistical considerations so that you can focus on your products and your business’s core mission.
THE BENEFITS OF OUTSOURCING YOUR FULFILLMENT LOGISTICS
Supply chain management can be a tangled web. It forms its own ecosystem. Positive changes upstream flow downstream, increasing the efficiency and agility of your own fulfillment process. Disruptions upstream have a similar effect, leaving significant gaps in your process.
If you’re new to e-commerce, or expanding your business rapidly, we can help you bring your warehousing practices and fulfillment processes up to speed. Contact us for an expert evaluation.