Finding the right "fit" for all the moving parts in fulfillment is essential to make sure things are always running optimally and no resources are wasted or misallocated. While there are several fulfillment mistakes businesses tend to make, these are four key areas businesses can address to feel confident that their productivity levels are not adversely affected:
Mistake #1 - Lack of Fit - Selecting the Wrong Warehouse/Location
The first step in setting yourself up for success inside the warehouse is to make sure your warehouse and its location is the right one for the services you provide.
To make sure your setup is ideal, keep in mind:
This is important for those third-party logistics (3PL) warehouses and shippers that want to maximize the cost and efficiency of their shipping programs. While it may be exciting to have a warehouse in Los Angeles, unless you're doing a lot of shipping to the West Coast or providing port-related services, it probably isn't the best location for you.
Conversely, it may be super cheap to get a massive warehouse in Kansas, but if your operation requires a lot of personnel, hiring can prove to be tougher than in major metropolitan areas. Warehouse operators need to balance the type of operation and the location of the warehouse, so explore which options are ideal to maximize productivity.
Type of Warehouse
Just as there are many options for warehouse locations, so too are there for the types of warehouses. While a cross-docking facility can get by with 50 doors along a 15 ft. wide dock, that obviously wouldn't work for an ecommerce fulfillment center. Choosing the kind of facility that fits your customers' needs is crucial to ensuring productivity inside the warehouse.
For advice on choosing a warehouse, see Warehouse Rent Explained: Costs, Calculations, and Alternatives
Mistake #2 - Lack of Processes - Not Having a Process(es) in Place
It’s quite common for warehouses to implement general processes without taking the time to look at whether those processes benefit the business. Given the complexities that a warehouse faces in its day-to-day, it’s unwise to just default to a process simply because it's the way things have always been done.
To look at your processes with a fresh mindset:
Make Sure All New Customers and Employees Understand the Functions Pertinent to Them
The best time to do this is right when the employees and/or customers are onboarded. To make sure they understand their specific functions, it's a good idea to break it down for each group.
Warehouse employees should be informed of receiving practices, putaway practices, inventory practices, outbound practices, and reconciliation practices. For customers, make sure they understand receiving and shipping SLAs, returns management processes, order and receiving change SLAs/timeframes, and support response SLAs.
Avoid Superfluous Processes
Instituting the proper process(es) confirms that there are no unforeseen or ancillary practices taking place inside of the warehouse, which allows for better shift planning and more clarity in planning resourcing, as well as accurate data collection for productivity.
Mistake #3 - Lack of Oversight - Not Ensuring the Process(es) Are Followed
Finding the perfect process is only part of the equation—it must also be followed. When neglected, or followed by some and not others, operations can break down, which can lead to:
Crossover in Operations
At the very least, a lackadaisical commitment to standards wastes time—at worst, this inefficiency can lead to costly mistakes such as double shipments, incorrect shipments, or even accidents within the warehouse.
Lack of Oversight
All the processes in the world are useless without proper oversight. If some parties use a specific process and others don't, the entire operation can become unstable. A good manager can help maintain uniform adoption of and adherence to the established workflow.
Mistake #4 - Disconnect Between Customers and the Warehouses That Serve Them - Improper Customer Vetting
We get it—it's so tempting to usher in new business as frequently as possible but throwing open the barn doors and letting anyone in doesn't automatically lead to success. To make sure it's a good fit for both your 3PL warehouse and your customers:
Vet Your Customers
Proper customer vetting ensures you and the customer are on the same page, specifically that you provide the services that match the products they sell. For example, it's probably not a good idea to bring on a customer who sells ATVs if your loading dock is tiny and regularly overwhelmed. You also want to make sure that your costs are affordable for potential clients.
Don't Try to Do It All
Running a warehouse is challenging; don't make it harder by trying to do too much or making promises you can't keep. Identify what you do best and stick to it—for the sake of your customers, your staff, and your bottom line.
Warehouses have little wiggle room these days—any inefficiencies, no matter how small, can affect your output in a big way. Be cautious and deliberate when making decisions so no productivity is wasted by common (and avoidable) fulfillment mistakes.
Download our whitepaper, Fulfillment Automation Guide: How to Keep Pace with the Speed of Ecommerce and Customer Expectations, to see how automation can help brands with their fulfillment strategies.