By John Foley on April 17th, 2013
Thanks to my VP of Sales, Karen DeWolfe, for helping on this one!
Fulfillment is a process. Not one specific task. It involves everything from warehousing materials, to filling an order, to packaging and shipping it in a timely manner. The materials may go directly to the end user, or it may go to the business in larger quantities so it may be sent out to the end users, taken to conferences and trade shows or used in other ways by the marketing and sales departments. From the initial placement of the order, to the final shipping of the order, fulfillment requires the actions of employees across various departments.
It’s understandable that many businesses outsource fulfillment because it takes up valuable time and resources. As their business grows, the needs for materials grow. Let’s face it, while every business has to work on various tasks to get them to the point of profitable marketing and sales, if they spend too much time dealing with fulfillment, they might be diverting too many resources from their end goals.
They should be concentrating on what they do best. Outsourcing fulfillment also means that a business doesn’t have to deal with the possible highs and lows with the demands that go hand in hand with the need for electronic and physical literature. A good fulfillment center has the employees and the resources to deal with a sudden onslaught of orders.
Competition in the fast-paced business world has pushed fulfillment centers to a level of automation and precision that can (and should) work like clockwork. The right software can mean 24/7 access and real-time reporting. Inventory levels can be easily tracked and needs forecast. Metrics are in place to determine what is working and what’s not.
A couple of crucial aspects to fulfillment are accuracy and timeliness. It makes sense. Order fulfillment is important, but can you imagine filling an order without regard to getting the items correct? The end user should be getting items A and B, but somehow items C and D get picked instead. Or what if the shipping information is wrong? So the correct items get picked, but they get packaged up and sent out to Jill Schmill in Idaho rather than your intended recipient, Joe Schmoe in Maryland.
Inaccurate orders can be a nightmare. And even an accurate order can go wrong if too much time lapses from order placement to order shipment. We live and work in a world where people want what they want – and they want it as soon as possible.
Order fulfillment – on-time and accurate order fulfillment – is crucial for today’s business. Both electronic and physical literature fulfillment is vital for e-commerce. The idea for the average business is that by using a fulfillment center, that business can reduce costs associated with fulfillment (ranging from employees to warehouse space) and spend their financial and time resources instead for the business’ core competency…meaning, doing what that business excels at doing.