With the recent demand for on-demand shipping, it’s more important than ever for businesses to get their products to their customers not just on time, but at speeds that would have been considered “lightning fast” just a few years ago. It’s a reality that serves as a true double-edged sword for companies big and small; many consumers have grown accustomed to same-day or two-day shipping, and are ordering more goods online. But it also means that their expectations are very high when it comes to receiving your products. One of the best ways to gain the upper-hand in e-commerce is to set up an efficient order fulfillment process that’s custom-fit for the needs of your unique business.
By developing these strategies, you are guaranteed to see improvement in not only the speed in which your valued B2B or B2C customers get your goods in their hands but also a more focused, organized and energized environment in your warehouse. You don’t need to hire more workers or increase their hours to ship your products twice as fast. Follow these simple steps to achieve a more streamlined warehouse fulfillment process that will keep up with the demands of the market:
- Give customers the power to track their orders
- Make sure that your inventory manager is up for the task
- Provide your workers with achievable goals
- Consider your supply chain visibility
- Implement a smart warehouse system
1. Give customers the power to track their orders
Whether you work in B2B, B2C, or a combination of both, customers these days are more demanding than ever in regards to receiving orders quickly. Chances are, you’ve fielded an impatient customer or two who wouldn’t stop calling and emailing about their order. Answering these questions can turn into a real time-suck for both you and your employees, especially if a problem occurs once the product is already in shipment.
To remedy this, implement a system that allows your customers to track their orders in real-time. You can do this by simply equipping your receipt confirmation email with a tracking number and an estimated delivery date, or consider investing in a developer who can add this feature directly to your site. Either way, you’ll be spending less time fielding calls and more time getting orders processed.
2. Make sure that your inventory manager is up for the task
As we mentioned — and you already know — customer expectations are sky-high, especially if you offer on-demand shipping. This means that your business’ livelihood could be at risk if your inventory manager isn’t as sharp as a tack.
When hiring for this role, do your due diligence to guarantee that this person is: a) experienced in current e-commerce order fulfillment processes; b) has the wherewithal to hire and manage competent team members; and c) understands the concepts of streamlined warehouse practices, like slotting optimization, order fulfillment software and inventory accuracy.
3. Provide your workers with achievable goals
Working on the floor in order fulfillment roles is an incredibly tough, physically-demanding job. If you dig hard enough, you will see exposé after exposé on improper labor practices from some of the largest e-commerce companies in the world. Don’t become one of these companies.
Instead, focus on hiring line and floor workers who are reliable, understand what the work entails and have goals of moving up in your company. At the end of the day, these are the folks who see your product the last time before your customers receive it, which means their goals must be achievable, their salaries must be competitive and their work environment has to be fair for you to maintain the quality your customer expects.
4. Consider your supply chain visibility
Because demands in the e-commerce sector are ever-changing, it’s important that you increase your supply chain visibility at every corner. This means that you utilize tools to track production, orders and product shipments in order to get a better idea of what might be hurting — or helping — your unique processes.
Even if you feel that you’ve done your due diligence, chances are there is a kink somewhere in your order fulfillment process that can be easily fixed once identified. Set aside the time, funds and book your most thorough employees to do a review, then reap the rewards once you’ve made plans to remedy your trouble spots.
5. Implement a smart warehouse system
The fastest way to rev up your order fulfillment process is to invest in smart and robotic technologies for your business. Not only will these changes pick up the pace of your manufacturing process, but, in some cases, the investment will also eliminate the need for extra workers.
It’s a shift that previously required a lot of capital, but the new way of fulfillment powered by mobile collaborative robots makes automation available to businesses of all sizes. And at the end of the day, this investment could ensure that your company is able to survive the changing expectations of your customer base.