As the eCommerce market continues to thrive during this global pandemic, supply chains are forced to address how they are keeping up with the growing demands. 3PLs are working overtime to meet the expectations of consumers and mitigating the pressures felt by warehouses, suppliers, and fulfillment centers.
What is order fulfillment?
Order fulfillment is the process of receiving goods, then processing and delivering orders to customers. The process starts with a customer placing an order and ends once they receive it. However, if the buyer wants to return a product, order fulfillment manages the return transaction as well.
The order fulfillment process can be broken down into five parts: receive, pick, store, pack, and ship. Let me explain. Once an order is placed, a 3PL will coordinate the inventory arriving at a fulfillment center. The picking team will be responsible for receiving the inventory once it arrives at the center, where it will be organized, shelved, and indexed while it awaits shipment. Finally, a 3PL will be responsible for securely packing the items and coordinating with external shipping companies to make sure everything arrives at the consumer on time.
Challenges for successful order fulfillment
The description above makes order fulfillment seem relatively easy, but in full transparency, there are many challenges a 3PL faces from order to delivery. The most common challenges are often linked to inventory management and the precision of a business’s processes. From stockouts and improper packing to shipment delays and communication gaps, fulfillment centers are working around the clock to make sure that these challenges don’t impact customer satisfaction.
So what are the keys to order fulfillment success?
5 secrets to order fulfillment success
1. Aligned fulfillment process
Utilizing a 3PL can save companies time and money, but only when the order fulfillment process is fine-tuned. Processes need to be standardized, consistent, and transparent to ensure an understanding of how orders are being fulfilled and delivered. Standardizing fulfillment workflows prevent mistakes (like lost orders or misplaced warehouse inventory) from occurring. This efficiency helps reduce fulfillment time and money spent on getting orders delivered.
2. Warehouse organization
It may seem obvious to some, but an organized warehouse is key to order fulfillment. “Since 3PLs are adamant on consistently enhancing and improving their warehouse operations for optimum efficiency, [eCommerce] can then focus their resources on building their brand and business. “
Quality 3PLs are adamant about enhancing and improving their warehouse operations for optimum efficiency. This allows online retailers the ability to focus their resources on building their brand and business. Without clear processes and organized shelves, inventory management is compromised.
Anita Roddick once said, “Communication is the key for any global business.” You may want to read that quote one more time to feel the impact of its words. A direct line of communication with fulfillment centers is key to tracking operations. Clear communication and process transparency between sellers and 3PLs are essential especially since online store owners are the ones fielding customer requests and updates.
4. Reliable customer service
Globally, 60% of consumers said they stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer experience. Online sellers have to be able to track every step of purchase to ensure the highest level of customer service. 3PLs are responsible for providing retailers with real-time updates so buyers aren’t left in the dark.
Reliable customer service also means being proactive. Delays in deliveries, inventory storage, and lost or damaged goods are all challenges that 3PLs face. To create the best customer service experience, 3PLs need to communicate these obstacles as soon as possible and come up with solutions to enhance brand loyalty and repeat purchases.
5. Data-driven decisions
Your company likely already collects data from different sources that can be used to make more efficient decisions about inventory management and order fulfillment. The question is what is your company doing with this data? Simply collecting points of data is useless unless you’re using the results to grow and change. Implementing strategic analysis and application of data can propel your company to success.
A successful 3PL does more than just fill orders. As industry experts, they are identifying areas of opportunity and solutions for your biggest challenges through data analytics. These insights will help improve logistics processes, fulfillment timelines, and warehouse operations.