Selling products should not be the sole concern of a business, the way they fulfil those sales order should factor in too. This can make or break businesses as it’s entirely possible to turn customers away by slowly and incorrectly fulfiling orders no matter how revolutionary and desirable the product. Therefore, to guarantee growth and success, it is time to look at how to improve order fulfilment.
Integrate information for speed and accuracy
A big hurdle to optimal order fulfilment is the flow of information. Customer orders involve information about the order to be conveyed from the point of sales, be it a form or online shop. Accurate orders rely on the flow of information from the point of sale to the warehouse where it will be packed. This process needs to be accurate every step of the way if orders are to be fulfiled quickly and accurately. To improve this process, an honest audit is required at frequent intervals so that any obstacles in the process can be dealt with quickly.
The order fulfilment process can stand to be scrutinised for waste reduction initiatives. Physical packing materials could be swapped for eco-friendly alternatives, or reduced to cut costs and minimise the environmental impact. Aside from the obvious, time and labour can also represent significant areas in which to reduce waste. Specifically, the way in which products are picked in the warehouse could be a major cause of futile time spent on order fulfilment. Here are some tips to consider for improving the speed of order fulfilment and reducing time wastage:
Slotting optimisation refers to the location of items in the picking area of the warehouse so that frequently purchased items are placed together and close to the entry so that walking and transferring activities are minimised. However, it must be implemented carefully because you can create a new problem of congestion if all frequently purchased items are in too close a proximity to each other. Other factors to consider when using slotting is the weight and size of products and how they will be lifted and carried. Weight and size affect the order in which items should be packed and so placement in the picking area becomes very important.
Box selection optimisation
This refers to prediction or calculation of the weight and dimensions of items in an order so that the smallest box or set of boxes can be accurately picked to hold the order. This is essential to reduce packaging materials and shipping costs which are contingent on box weight and dimensions.
It is impossible to improve a process and find solutions to problems without sufficient information that there is indeed a problem, what the problem is, how it came about and what it affects. Identifying problems and categorising them involves reports from line staff and managers who have had to deal with issues or who have analysed processes in depth.
To identify these reporting gaps and correct them by capturing information that is lacking, it is important to be aware of the signs and clues to their existence. Statements such as ‘if only we had this…’ or such-and-such a process by the competitor looks ‘fantastic and like it would solve this…’ are important and should be given attention. Part of identifying reporting gaps might also be allowing your staff to dream and asking them to write down how things would work in the ideal world to make their job easier. You never know what ideas might come to the fore to improve order fulfilment and company operations.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.