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January 15, 2021

5 Order Fulfillment Best Practices

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The road from shopping cart to customer delivery is complex. And order fulfillment is a critical step in that journey. Fulfillment drives success for retailers, suppliers, logistics partners, and more, so it's important to stay ahead of the curve with the processes and tools you rely on to get the job done.

As you consider how you'll maintain quality, accuracy, and efficiency at every stage of order fulfillment, you may ask yourself questions like:

  • How do I ensure orders are always delivered on time?
  • What's the best way to make my warehouse operate more efficiently?
  • Are there gaps in my current process?

Successful order fulfillment helps you save money, work efficiently, and guarantee satisfied customers who receive the right thing in the right packaging at the right time.

To improve specific parts of your business, like revenue, speed, and order accuracy, start by taking a closer look at the driving forces behind each success metric, then working proactively to optimize them at a high level.

Monitoring overarching processes, strategies, and tools helps you identify gaps and mitigate risks before they become setbacks. No matter where you stand today, there's likely room for improvement. We've put together our top five order fulfillment best practices to help you every step of the way.

#1: Increase Data Visibility

Before you can start improving, you need a clear understanding of your team's current performance. Real-time updates and visibility into operational efficiency, timelines, and supply levels mean accurate shipping times, consistent packaging quality, and clear expectations across the board.

Furthermore, good internal visibility helps you identify critical process gaps that could negatively affect your business down the line. Data insights help you find patterns and anticipate problems, so you can mitigate challenges before they occur and provide better estimates of delivery times and quality.

Ensure your Warehouse Management System (WMS) records and raises visibility into critical data related to various aspects of your order fulfillment process. The ideal tool will allow you to create custom monitoring dashboards, tracks patterns in system data, and share actionable reports with the relevant teams, both internally, like with your warehouse manager, and externally with vendors or retailers.

#2: Automate Key Processes

Manual operations may be the most feasible and cost-effective option for small businesses, but they can quickly become a risk as you grow. You'll likely run into human error and still rely on manual processes that prohibit the same level of performance.

Replace manual tools like spreadsheets or pencil-and-paper lists with innovative automation tools. Automated WMS tools help streamline decision making for all inbound, warehouse, and shipping processes. Your WMS supports your end-to-end fulfillment operations, increases metrics like MRR, and ensures a rapid yet sustainable growth.

#3: Organize Warehouse Operations

To ship and deliver orders with maximum efficiency, you need more than a quick turnaround time or a centrally-located fulfillment center. End-to-end warehouse organization supports how well you store, pick, pack, and ship orders out to customers. A great way to step up your shipping game is with order consolidation. Order consolidation can help you meet demands and optimize order fulfillment.

Streamline warehouse operations and consolidate orders with intuitive management tools. For truly intelligent consolidation, you need a warehouse management system (WMS). A WMS streamlines orders by defining specific delivery methods for every product, no matter its final destination or end customer. A robust WMS optimizes order picking from the first touch, allocates orders based on receipt dates or expiration, and combines orders with the same destination.

#4: Unify Data Systems

The accuracy of your product data directly relates to the accuracy of each order you fulfill. Robust, real-time data helps ensure you store, pack, and ship products correctly and keeps vendors accountable for supplying you with the correct number of each unit, tracked by accurate unit and serial numbers.

Choose a WMS that can collect and store comprehensive data related to product size, unit information, storage requirements, packaging guidelines, etc. Then use the insights to shape your order fulfillment processes.

A WMS tracks and filters order data to create groups of related products and subsequently build an efficient workflow for storage, processing, and delivery. The system also captures important information, such as unit measure, packaging details, storage requirements, and more, to ensure proper handling at every step and prevent roadblocks when it's time to send them out for delivery.

#5: Keep Returns in Mind

Order returns are an inevitable aspect of online sales. And the way you manage the returns process affects your revenue, warehouse workflows, and customer satisfaction.

Rather than addressing each return on a tedious, case-by-case basis, create a cost-effective, hassle-free returns process that will benefit you and your end-buyers alike.

Define a convenient, user-friendly return policy and support it with a reliable WMS. The right WMS can manage the entire returns process, including sending a return label with the package, tracking return status for client communication, and streamlining the inventory management process in your warehouse. That makes the barriers and costs of returns as low as possible for customers and keeps you firmly in control.

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There's a common thread here: a warehouse management system can leverage real-time, inbound data to power your fulfillment operations. With the right technology and expertise by your side, you can consistently deliver optimal business results while ensuring your customers' brand experience is never sacrificed.

Are you ready to dive into an actionable solution for your order fulfillment process? Materialogic is an adaptable fulfillment partner that makes your complex process simple. As your business grows, we are constantly evaluating your fulfillment operations to identify opportunities to drive cost efficiencies and proactively provide alternative pricing options so that you can focus on your top-line growth.

Put our expertise to work for you by speaking to one of our experts here!

 

Fulfillment Operations

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