If you sell products, order fulfillment is one of the most important functions that your company performs. Done correctly, it can lead to repeat business because your customers know that they can rely on you. The more efficient your company becomes at order fulfillment, the more orders you can handle. Below are the components of a successful order fulfillment department:
1. Well-Trained Staff – Train your employees properly on equipment and systems to handle the inflow of orders. Make sure your manager is an experienced communicator who can direct and delegate. Attention to detail is a must at this level.
2. Sufficient Product Supply – Maintain an adequate supply of inventory that is organized, available, and ready-to-ship. Group like items together, clearly labeled with item numbers. Analyze customers’ buying trends to ensure stock on the most popular items.
3. High Quality Shipping Supplies- Equip your warehouse with high quality, compatible supplies such as boxes, packing material, tape and labels. Make sure your boxes are “crush resistant” so that they will survive in transit. Use a laser printer for printing of shipping labels, as inkjet can cause problems with your carrier’s scanning equipment.
4. Flexible Carrier Pickup – Choose a carrier that will work with your operating hours. Arranging an automated pickup can be convenient and cost-effective. Arrange with carrier to have driver pick-up occur at same time each day. Obviously, the later in the day, the more orders you can get out the door.
5. Systematic Procedures - Define policies and procedures. Systematize and streamline. Consider such activities as batch picking, where the same item is picked in large quantities for use in multiple orders. An excellent method of streamlining your shipping process is to have the shipping label and packing list on the same page. This cuts down on errors and saves time.
6. Smart Technology – Utilize whatever technology is available to you, including electronic packing lists, automated label/packing list printing and automated order entry. Combining your ecommerce web site and your accounting systems with your order fulfillment streamlines your use of manpower.
Once all of these elements are in place, challenges such as matching packing slip with actual item to be shipped and the shipping label, as well as picking the correct items becomes routine. Efficient order fulfillment systems enable your shipping department to fill orders faster with less error. This will result in lower costs and improved customer service which, in turn, will allow your company to increase sales and improve your bottom line.