Jul 30, 2015

If you had to simplify eCommerce logistics down to one thing, it would be order fulfillment. That is the end goal: to take an item from the point of sale and deliver it to the customer. It’s your basic “get something from point A to point B” scenario.

A lot can happen between points A and B. Many obstacles can (and will) arise that require nimble responsiveness to the unexpected. With that in mind, you could say the true purpose of logistics is to perform order fulfillment as accurately and efficiently as possible.

The goal is perfection, and perfect order fulfillment occurs when deliveries are made on time, accurately and without product damage resulting in a freight claim.

Though you might not hit perfection, it’s certainly not a bad goal to aim for. So, how can you improve the accuracy, speed, and overall efficiency of your order fulfillment? Allow us to share a few tips.

Start with identifying the challenges
If your system isn’t perfect (and it’s not), then that means there are problems, even if they’re small. The first step is to identify the problems in your order fulfillment chain. Here at King Solutions we often assist clients with this process by hosting kaizen events that include value stream mapping. Mapping each detailed step of a process on the board can lead to excellent brain storming sessions for eliminating existing bottlenecks. Though you may think the challenges you experience are unique to your business, or at least to your industry, the truth is that many of the issues are the same issues experienced by many companies.

Common problems often involve complexity in order management systems, miscommunication, over-promising delivery deadlines, omni-channel retail distribution and adjusting to rising costs and expenses.

Or it could be a number of other issues.

Whatever is slowing you down, identify it and apply small changes that can eventually lead to big gains.

Don’t try to build from scratch
Are you an established business that’s been around for a while? Do you have systems in place that once worked perfectly fine? Start there and build.

When you’re looking to optimize your process, it can be tempting to throw everything out and start from the beginning. But doing so takes a lot of time, and it can be very confusing for everyone. Imagine if you completely changed your order fulfillment system. Suddenly, everyone on your staff would be at the level a new employee is at. That’s simply something most businesses can’t swing.

Instead, building upon your current foundation might be a better way to go.

Can it be automated?
Technology is a wonderful thing that does countless functions we probably take for granted. From communication to route guiding to math equations, you’re probably leveraging technology a lot. But the question is, is there any place you could implement it a little more?

Automation has become a big deal in warehousing and logistics, and it’s only going to grow. While we still need people to drive the trucks and inspect the shipments, time spent on reports, forecasts, and basic communications (such as email alerts) can easily be freed up through a little software assistance.

Delivering above your promises
No one likes being given false expectations. When you give someone a delivery date and then you fail to make that time frame, it can wreak serious havoc on your order fulfillment.

Instead, set better, more accurate deadlines. Leverage real-time data and logistics forecasts to be prepared for what’s ahead. Use today’s modern communication tools to stay in the loop of where things are at from demand to manufacturing and beyond.

Based off that, provide a slightly cautious delivery timeline. Then, do everything you can to beat that expectation. Under promise, over deliver has become a bit of a cliché. But that’s because it works.

And being ahead of expectations will do wonders for your order fulfillment efficiency.

Stay in the loop and make decisions quickly
Leveraging this data will not only give you more accurate estimates, but will simply help keep your process on track as a whole, avoiding problems that lie down the road.

Nevertheless, problems will still arise. Prepare all you want, something unexpected will happen. It’ll be up to you to make a fast decision. Conflicts in logistics do not wait for you to solve them. They simply happen, and you must react or suffer their consequences.

Commit to continuous improvement
You’ll never achieve order fulfillment perfection. Part of that reason is because the market is always changing. Technology is always changing. And people’s expectations and behaviors can be unpredictable too.

The best thing you can do is continue to pursue ways to make your order fulfillment process better. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Ready to talk fulfillment solutions? So are we. Contact us today.

Related articles:

How to create a fulfillment strategy that keeps your customers in mind

How-to improve efficiency and productivity with order fulfillment

How King fulfilled 200 back-ordered shipments in just eight days