ExecutiveChronicles | A Guide To The Order Fulfillment Process | Merchants rely upon fulfillment companies to distribute and store their stock. Every stage of the fulfillment process is essential to the success of online retailers and large-scale stores. Here is a very brief guide to the stages that make up the fulfillment process. Fulfillment is increasingly automated but still relies largely upon a human workforce.
Goods enter into a fulfillment company’s inventory from retailers and manufacturers. When they enter into an inventory, they must be correctly counted and inspected before being included in a database. Failure to correctly account for inbound inventory can lead to some big logistical problems further down the road.
Large scale fulfillment companies such as Red Stag (https://redstagfulfillment.com/order-fulfillment/) operate huge, strategically placed storage and distribution centers. Vast storage centers with multiple retail clients pose huge logistical problems. Sound inventory management is the name of the game.
When an order is sent to a retailer by a consumer, that order is then automatically sent on to the fulfillment company or department. An automated order processing program generates a printable packing sheet.
This packing sheet is then used to locate and ‘pick’ the item that needs to be shipped. In recent years, picking has become highly automated. In some cases, robotic pickers use information from the order processing software employed by the fulfillment company to locate and pick objects.
The order packing stage is extremely important. A poorly packaged object can cause damage during distribution and lead to an increased number of returns and refunds being processed. Careful inventory management of packaging materials needs to be practiced and closely follow data-driven assessments of possible demand.
Initial shipping to regional post offices or private distribution companies is carried out on a large scale by rail, heavy goods vehicles, or sea. It is important that materials are packaged in such a way that they incur the smallest possible charge from initial carriers – which usually charge by weight or dimension.
After being sent to regional distribution centers, packages are taken to individual homes and businesses by van. These vans can be operated by large distribution companies like UPS, the postal service, or third-party couriers. All deliveries must be tracked and accounted for in order to prevent package theft and loss. Package theft has recently become a big problem, and fulfillment companies are at the forefront of countering this threat to the delivery process. Issues like FedEx lost packages are a common phenomenon now.
It is down to the order fulfillment company or company section to deal with returns. Consumers regularly return items that are damaged, incorrect, duplicates, or unsatisfactory. Most order shipping companies have automatic returns and refunds systems that allow retailers to send over information from consumers for automatic processing. Large order fulfillment companies need to have dedicated returns departments to deal with high workloads. In theory, the better the inventory management, picking, packing, and shipping elements of a fulfillment process are, the fewer returns there are.