B2B order fulfilment encompasses the process of businesses shipping to other businesses. Characteristics of B2B in this area consist of generally bulk supply orders and pricey transactions compared to B2C counterparts.
It is quite typical to supply manufacturing inventory in B2B order fulfilment. Manufacturing inventory is reliant on timelines and deadlines. This means that order fulfilment must focus on speed and efficiency to get the products delivered on time. If there are bottlenecks with the manufacturing inventory, it could drastically delay assembly line production. In the B2B world, speed takes priority compared to customer service. It is a much different relationship than with B2C where you are in contact with individual customers and individual products on a daily basis.
B2B order fulfilment is also subject to a lot of regulations. With the increase of globalisation, wholesale products are coming from across country boarders worldwide. Orders are being sent by many transportation modes for sea, plane and roads. Trade barriers, such as tariffs and shipping levies, taxes, and different government regulations can slow down shipments. In some countries, corrupt governments and language barriers provide further challenges when it comes to exporting and importing wholesale products.
B2B must adhere to the Electronic Data Interchange. In addition, they need all of their labels, barcodes and invoices to suit regulations as well. It is a complicated process, and any problems with these shipping details can hold up large B2B sales.
In light of all this complexity, a recent whitepaper by IBM describes the following 10 major challenges in B2B order fulfilment:
- Workforce productivity/labour management
- Ability to process more orders, faster
- Managing order fulfilment costs
- Implementing and better utilising technology related to distribution and fulfilment
- Inventory visibility across all locations (including in-transit inventory)
- Managing production, distribution and fulfilment for multiple products/brands
- Complex order configuration and/or pricing and quoting
- Coordinating activities across various divisions/disparate facilities/Handling the complexities of order management processes
- Inventory allocation across supply chain partners
- Single view of all orders from all sources (online, EDI, fax etc.)
A common theme when it comes to tackling these challenges starts with greater inventory management. Having full visibility to inventory stock is an essential starting point for businesses who are struggling to handle their B2B order fulfilment. Technology such as integrated cloud solutions and automation, increases efficiency and accuracy, and allows businesses to have full visibility over their inventory stock.
This cohesive system helps these businesses face B2B order fulfilment adversaries. With greater control of order fulfilment processes, whether it be from managing inventory, information sharing, or reviewing processes, helps mitigate risk in the B2B order fulfilment process. When implemented appropriately, this synergy of solutions can also help a business stay agile and scalable for continued growth.
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.