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What to Look For in an Order Fulfillment Company?
There’s a wealth of articles on the internet about “how to choose the best fulfillment company” and the top tips to keep in mind when selecting a vendor. However, many of these articles are written by fulfillment companies themselves – which diminishes the overall credibility of the article. Furthermore, most of the articles are very broad and don’t address some of the real specifics needed to make the best decision for your outsourced fulfillment needs. So be particularly careful when reviewing information on fulfillment vendor selection, and keep the following tips in mind so that you don’t gloss over critical decision factors and make the wrong choice in a fulfillment vendor.
Evaluate the Value of the Relationship
People comprise the core of any partnership. Therefore, it’s extremely wise to critically analyze the employees at any potential fulfillment company you’re considering. And it’s important to delve deeper than whoever will be your direct contact. If possible, meet the management team, customer service team, and warehouse staff. Pay close attention to the overall atmosphere and ambiance of the company. This will help you understand their business style, tone, and overall core values. In addition, keep in mind the kind of interactions that you have with their sales team. Oftentimes you’ll be able to get a glimpse into how responsive the company is on the whole by considering the speed of response of the sales staff. On the other hand, if the sales team is slow to respond, you might be left waiting for answers when you come on board as a client.
Consider the Company’s Processes and Procedures
One of the critical success factors of warehousing companies is the ability to create standardized processes and procedures for each action that takes place in the warehouse. By performing each function the same way each time, efficiencies are achieved and errors are minimized. If a fulfillment company doesn’t have standardized processes and procedures, it could be a very large red flag. Ask each prospective fulfillment company for a copy of their standardized procedures so that you can review the steps that they take to ensure quality. And just as important as standards is a process over evaluating the standards. High performing warehousing firms regularly measure performance of their warehouse staff. Check in and see if the warehouse vendor will provide you with their performance metrics and how they’ve performed over the last year. This information will give you a detailed perspective of their success in terms of pick and shipping orders efficiently and effectively.
Make Sure they’re More Than Just Talk in Terms of Technology
Even the best of us make mistakes. After all, we’re only human. That’s why leveraging technology to eliminate the chance of human error is extremely important in the warehouse. If getting orders to your customers on time and without errors is important to you, then you will want to make sure the company you choose is on a solid technology foundation. Picking and shipping errors can be reduced significantly by using bar code and other warehouse software. And equally important is the integration technology and reporting mechanisms. Can they integrate easily with your shopping cart? Do they have detailed and customized reports for you to use? Is all of this available on a real-time basis? Many companies will tell you that they use the “best” technology. But be sure to test their system and substantiate their claims. By looking at the systems in detail, you’ll be able to see if they provide the information you need for your business. And pay close attention to their technology staff. A great fulfillment company will likely employ a dedicated team of technology professionals to maintain their systems. If they don’t the right people in place to manage and grow their capabilities, then you may not get what you need to be successful.
Let’s face it – choosing a fulfillment company is a complicated and difficult task. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you look into all of the details for each potential partner. And while this may take additional time, it will more than make up for the time that you will waste if you choose the wrong vendor. By making sure that you pay close attention people, processes, and technology, you’ll best position yourself for a successful partnership.
Guest Post by Will Schneider, President of insightMedia, Inc. a company that helps businesses find pick and pack and fulfillment companies.