Another hectic holiday season is behind us and we can now start tackling the resolutions we made on New Year’s Eve. Many of us have made the predictable resolutions: to lose weight, get in shape, save more, etc. These are certainly worthy personal goals (that we’ll hopefully stick with). But they’re not likely to impact your fulfillment business.
This year, try setting new “fulfillment tech resolutions.” In other words, set goals for improving your fulfillment operation by better leveraging technology. Fulfillment companies rely on various technologies, such as order management systems, warehouse management systems, and shipping systems. Each play a critical role in the success of the business. The beginning of the year is a great time to take a fresh look at your technology. Take some time to explore what (if any) changes could be made to improve your fulfillment operation.
Here are a few ideas:
Evaluate Fulfillment Workflow
Are you consistently hitting your targets for order accuracy and order turnaround? If not, it’s time to review your fulfillment processes.
A credible fulfillment software system allows you to set up a variety of order processing workflows. This is critical, as each client has unique needs. Your fulfillment processes should be tailored to meet those needs while maintaining the efficiency needed for your business to be profitable.
Another staple of the fulfillment business is that clients’ needs change often. It is important to periodically review the processes in place for each client, and confirm whether they are still appropriate.
- You may have clients for whom you employ a discrete order picking process that made sense when the client’s order volumes were low. Have their volumes have increased significantly since on-boarding?Should you consider a batch picking process?
- Have you considered implementing “forward picking” or “quick pick” for fast-moving SKUs in order to minimize picker travel time?
- Is it time to consider using wireless devices to improve accuracy and efficiency in warehouse processes, such as receiving and picking?
- Could implementing a barcode-based packing process improve your pack out accuracy?
Regularly revisiting your processes and the technology that supports them will help you to maximize operational efficiency and reach target objectives for accuracy and order turn around.
Tidy-up your fulfillment system
Fulfillment is a data intensive business. Over time, your OMS and WMS can accumulate large quantities of data. Maintaining excessive amounts of data consumes server resources and may negatively impact your system’s performance.
It’s important that you understand what purging options exist. Most software platforms allow you to purge data. Some even allow you to create a schedule for purging data automatically.
Of course, how long you need to retain data depends on the nature of the data and the clients that you serve. If you have not recently reviewed your data retention policies, now is a great time to do so!
Get Current / Stay Current
Software vendors continually improve their products based on input from their customers and their strategic vision for the product. Some software vendors do this by periodically (i.e. infrequently) releasing new versions of the software that contain all the new features that have been added since the last big release. Other vendors, especially of cloud-based systems, may use an “evergreen” approach to software updates, distributing new features much more frequently.
Do you know if you are running the current version of your fulfillment software? If not, make plans to get current.
Are you aware of the major enhancements that your software vendor released over the past year? If not, you are probably missing out on features that could benefit your business as well as your clients’ businesses.
Find out if your software vendors can point you to a list of their recently added features. Make sure to review the new stuff often. If your vendor is adding new features, you may be able to leverage these features to win new business or better serve your existing clients. Your vendor has added these new features for a reason; likely because other fulfillment companies have requested them. In some cases, failing to adopt a new feature could put you at a competitive disadvantage.
With technology, it is sometimes easy to “set it and forget it.” Taking this approach with the technology you use to run your business is definitely not a best practice. Technology evolves, and you need to be aware of the ongoing evolution.
January is a perfect time to revisit your tech, confirm that it’s still properly aligned to the needs of your fulfillment business and ensure that 2019 really is a happy new year!
Brian Parrillo is Vice President of Sales at VeraCore.
He has over 19 years of experience in the fulfillment industry and has helped hundreds of 3PLs reduce operating costs, improve customer experience, and optimize their overall business processes.