What Is Order Fulfillment?
The short definition of fulfillment is the process of preparing and delivering a customer’s order. But what actually goes into the process is much more detailed and involves a lot of people and technology. For this reason, a lot of companies use professional fulfillment services to handle this aspect of their business. Because they are specialists, fulfillment companies, also known as a 3PL (third-party logistics) company, can do the job efficiently and effectively at a lower cost.
Here’s how an eCommerce order fulfillment company should work, using ours as an example.
1. Shopping cart integration
First, we must integrate their virtual shopping cart with our inventory management system. We can do this with any shopping cart that the company is already using. Once this process is completed, we can start working on the client’s orders with no delays.
2. Inventory delivery
A client’s inventory is delivered to our warehouse. This might come directly from the client or from the distributor. We accept the shipment, count the items, note the date and time the shipment arrived, and assign a place for the inventory in our warehouse. Our warehouse is temperature-controlled which means it is the perfect environment for most products.
3. Cataloging inventory
All of this information is entered into our digital inventory management system. Our client receives an email with an incoming receipt notice that tells them when the shipment arrived and what it contained.
4. Labeling and organizing inventory
Our computer system prints out placards that detail the shipment. Placards are placed on the inventory containers, facing out, so that when orders come in, warehouse workers can easily find items stored in our warehouse.
5. Processing orders
Our fulfillment system is integrated with the client’s virtual shopping cart. When we get the orders from a client, the ordered item is picked, packaged, processed and shipped. We can ship with any major carrier such as USPS or FedEx. There is no batch shipping. In some instances, things like price lists, brochures or product information can be printed on-demand as needed daily and fulfilled. This requires no storage or pre-printing for additional savings. Everything happens in real-time. The client can log on to our system through a portal to check on their inventory, orders and shipments at their convenience.
The inventory management system can be programmed to send all sorts of inventory reports to clients. Is their inventory running low? There is an automated notice for that. Do they need to know how many of a particular product was shipped last month? There’s a report for that. The system can produce 150 different reports in addition to customized reports that we can design for client’s specific needs.
7. Cycle counting inventory
We routinely count our clients’ inventory. Each day, our warehouse crew is assigned sections of the warehouse, where they count materials by hand. Their counts are compared to the inventory numbers in our computer system. If there is a discrepancy, we find out why the numbers are not the same and we correct the problem.
With so many moving parts, you can see how having a team of experts fulfilling your orders would be beneficial for a growing business. If a business is still small, it might have no issues doing its own fulfillment. However, as the volume being sold increases, this task could become too costly and too challenging. Now that you have a better understanding of the order fulfillment process, you can more easily make that decision for your business.
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