Order Fulfillment Process: Definition and 7 Key Steps

Customers expect that their orders will arrive in a timely manner and in a high-quality state. Implementing an efficient order fulfillment process is the best way to ensure that customers receive their orders with minimal issues. It involves a seven-step procedure to ensure that you complete a customer order correctly. This article covers what order fulfilment services is, how it works, and the best practices for implementing one.

What is order fulfilment?

Order fulfillment is a method that companies use to receive orders, process them and deliver the goods in a timely fashion. Impressive order fulfilment involves processing the sales order to ensure the product is distributed meets the specifications of the customer. This process usually begins when a client places an order, and ends after you deliver the order to them successfully and they are satisfied.

Order fulfillment: 7 steps

To ensure that your customers receive the right, high-quality items of inventory on time, there are several phases to follow. The order fulfillment process includes:

1. Receiving Inventory

When a customer buys a product, the company will immediately purchase the inventory to prepare it for shipping. Your company may get its inventory from many different sources, such as a third party vendor or your own warehouse. You’re responsible for inspecting and counting all items once you receive this inventory to make sure you have the right amount and it meets your customers’ standards or specifications. Consider placing a barcode on any new items that you intend to store and use later. This will make it easier for you to retrieve them for future orders.

2. Storing inventory

After you have sorted, labelled and organized your items, they can be moved to short-term or long-term storage. The majority of companies who move inventory to short-term warehouses are usually holding it temporarily for current orders. These items may be subjected to a second inspection before shipping. The items that are moved to long-term storage will usually remain there for some time in case the company receives unexpected bulk orders. This is to make sure they always have these products on hand to avoid delays in shipments.

3. Order Processing

You can start preparing products for delivery as soon as customers place an order by contacting the vendor, or by visiting the warehouse to select the items purchased. You can automate the process by using an order management system. This tool, which works with your shopping cart on the website, creates a packing list that automatically details the product selected by the customer.

4. Picking teams

After the order has been processed, you can choose the items that the customer purchased. Some large organizations use robots in the warehouse to automatically select the items based on the information listed on the packing list. Some companies use picking teams who review packing slips to select the right items, and specify the specifications like quantity, size and color. These are gathered by the automated system or picking teams to be packed.

5. Packing Materials

After sorting and gathering all items, you can either use a packing team to pack the items or add automated robots that will do it for you based on the weight and fragility. Make sure that each item is given the appropriate packaging, containers, or safety elements like bubble wrap. This will ensure that all items reach the destination without damage. To ensure that the delivery trucks are able to handle the order, instruct the packing team members to weigh each item.

6. Orders are shipped within a few days

You can choose to have a third-party create your order and then ship it to you or from their location. You can deliver your products to a specific transportation channel in order to send them to the customer by way of a freight line, airline or postal carrier. You should double-check the weights of your orders to make sure you have recorded the right amount. Check the shipping rules to ensure the carrier will accept the order.

7. Returns Processing

You can begin processing a return if a customer decides they want to send back the product. You should include a return label with each order that you send. This will allow the customer to place the label on the package and send the product back without any problems or payment. Check that the item is still functional when you receive it. Then, process the refund and record the item. If you can, you can clean, sort and restock this item to be used for future orders.

Order fulfillment processes have many benefits.

The following are some of the benefits that order fulfillment brings to customers:

  • Assures on-time shipping: A smooth order fulfillment allows you to plan for all shipments, and to ensure that you have the correct inventory ready to ship at the right time. This will make the company appear more reliable and encourage customers to continue buying from them.
  • Deliveries that meet customer needs: Customers may have specific requirements when ordering, such as budgets, time constraints or product customizations. A well-designed order fulfillment system will ensure that you are able to meet their needs.
  • You can gain a competitive edge for your business: Many brands offer similar products, so it is important that your buying experience stands out. Customers will prefer your brand if they have a positive experience when shopping and purchasing.

Order fulfillment best practices

Use these best practices for a successful order fulfilment process.

  • Choose the process that is best for your company: Evaluate your current goals and capabilities in purchasing, sales, and manufacturing, including the volume of orders you receive, the channels from which you sell, and where most of your clients are located. This will help you choose the order fulfillment method that is best for your business.
  • Adopt new technology systems:  Examine your budget and determine how to implement new technology into your order fulfilment processes. You can automate the ordering, shipping and labeling process. It can be used to improve efficiency by making data-driven decisions.
  • Communication that is clear: Transparency is key. Work with your team or third-party manufacturers to stay transparent about deliveries, orders and stock levels. Transparency with your team helps to keep everyone informed and involved at all times, thereby enhancing productivity and avoiding shipping delays.

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