From Our House to Yours – Fulfilment & Dispatch in eCommerce
Friday October 2, 2015 | By Dan Hawkins
If you’re in the ecommerce business, your focus is on sales growth, profitability and building your bank of satisfied and repeat customers. Say you've ordered in various products and they’re in your warehouse, or maybe you have your drop-ship partner on standby. An order comes in for one or more items. Your job now is to get the order from your house, to your customer’s house, as efficiently as possible.
Pick, pack and dispatch is the name of the game. How can your staff pick the orders as quickly as possible, with zero error? How can your staff pack the orders as economically as possible, using the optimal container size, the right label and documentation, and put the packages in the right place for dispatch? How can your courier get the item to your customer intact and close the loop on the process?
On the picking side, if you’re using a drop-shipper, then you’ve no picking to do. You have to get your purchase order to your partner, and you still need to get the information that your customer’s order has been processed, packed, is out for delivery, and has been delivered. If you’re doing the shipping yourself, then you need to find the balance for the right number of pick runs you do during the day, depending on the day of the week and the season. You also need to have a picking process that works for you.,
On the packing side, your packer needs to print off the shipping list, possibly by courier, and assemble the order. The optimal size box for the dimensions of the items needs to be selected, the items need to be packed, padding needs to be inserted along with the invoice and delivery docket, before the box is sealed securely. Then the package needs to find its way to the correct courier sack in the dispatch area. Your relationships might be with the couriers directly, or they might be with a courier aggregator like Metapack, in which case the dispatch process will be different.
Finally, the dispatch process begins. Staff print off the manifest for the courier. The packages are scanned before going into the courier van and back to the courier’s warehouse, where they’re possibly scanned again depending on your couriers’ own processes, so that you and your customers can check on package progress. Then they’re out for delivery in another courier van, to be hand delivered and signed for on a hand-held device which in turn automatically updates the various systems. If you sell internationally, you have more links in the chain; airports, airlines, customs, duty, international shipping infrastructure and providers, all impacting your seller metrics.
You also need to make sure that your sales order processing systems are doing their job properly. If you’re selling across multiple marketplaces, you can’t afford to lose track of who’s paid for which items to be delivered where. This means being able to match orders to payments quickly, which could involve going into more than one system, including your own order taking systems and systems of the payment processing providers that you’re using.
The benefit of using an automating system like Volo's is that you can set up rules-based workflow to improve your processes. There’s a dedicated picking screen and a flexible workflow model which can support any of your picking methods, be they order-by-order or a central order pool. The more efficiently you can plan the movement around your warehouse to fulfil the various orders, the faster your pickers can do their job and the fewer picking errors you get as a consequence.
When it comes to labeling, consistency helps you improve speed and eradicate errors. Make sure your product codes and information are the same on the product box for warehousing, the same on the warehouse shelves for picking, the same on your shipping list for packing, the same on your manifest for dispatch, and the same on your invoice and delivery documentation.
Once the items have been correctly picked, the last thing you want is for the right items not to find their way into the container for the customer. As with picking, the better you can organise your packing area, the faster you can pack the orders ready for dispatch with, the smaller amount of errors will be made. Volo’s multi channel system has packing screens to allow your fulfilment staff to get the order assembly right every time, in good time. Introducing a courier or aggregator into the mix introduces a third party into the equation and increases the chance of someone dropping the ball. We advise you to integrate as much of your couriers’ processes and data feeds as you can into your own system, since the greater the integration, the better the efficiency all round.
The benefits of an integrated system are not confined to the courier and dispatch area. On the sales order processing side, your processes are better and your staff are happier if they can do everything they need to do in one system. At Volo, our approach is to help bring together all your order information into a single, coherent view. Taking this approach means that matching sales orders with payments and accounting systems then gets much more straightforward.
When you use a multi channel ecommerce software like Volo's you have the full ‘Fulfilment by Amazon’ (or FBA, the seller side of Amazon Prime) functionality integrated into your operations. FBA gives you additional options around sales growth and profitability, as well as fulfilment, since being able to offer Amazon Prime is a major influencer on the Amazon Buy Box. With full FBA integration in the Volo platform, you have complete control over the consignments of your products that you send to the various Amazon fulfilment centres.
Find out more on the Volo FBA Connect release here.
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