If your warehouse experiences a high rate of customer returns or complaints, canceled orders, or back-ordered items, your operation is likely suffering from inventory fulfillment issues. Failing to meet customer expectations through poor order fulfillment could spur the customer to deal with a competitor in the future.
Warehouse managers must pay attention to any indicators of fulfillment problems and correct them as quickly as possible. Below are some common causes of inventory fulfillment issues.
Many fulfillment issues concern a picker choosing the wrong item or packing an item that is damaged. Another frequent fulfillment error is shipping before an order is complete.
Better training could prevent some of these issues. Human pickers must learn to double-check to ensure that the item they retrieved is the item the order calls for.
In some warehouses, the picker prepares the order for shipping, and in others, shipping clerks handle that task. Whatever the process, the warehouse should establish procedures for accountability for picking mistakes and shipping incorrect or incomplete orders.
Receiving damaged goods causes customer disappointment and inconvenience. It can also be expensive if the seller pays shipping on returns. Minimizing damage in transit is key to successful fulfillment.
Investing time and attention to training shipping personnel in proper packing for transit will save money and improve customer satisfaction. Ensure packing materials are suited to the purpose and employees know how to use the materials to protect items from being damaged once shipped.
Sometimes backorders occur due to supply shortages or manufacturing problems at the source. Warehouses without transportation management systems that communicate across the supply chain may not be able to avoid occasional backorders due to external conditions.
However, many backorders are preventable if the warehouse has effective inventory management systems in place. An optimized inventory management system could identify popular items or items that sell well at certain times of the year so that the purchasing department could ensure an adequate stock. An effective system also should flag low-inventory items so that they can be replenished promptly.
Nearly all warehouses are automated to some degree, and all warehouse management systems (WMS) allow the operator to collect performance data. Although there is variability in the quantity of data the various systems collect, even a rudimentary WMS could provide information helpful in solving fulfillment issues.
Warehouse managers or designated staff must routinely collect WMS data, evaluate what it says about warehouse operations, then use that data to implement improvements. Establishing a data-driven process for decision-making could lead to significant improvements in fulfillment operations.
A modern WMS offers seamless solutions to most fulfillment issues. Integrated systems offer inventory management that could include automatic ordering of low-volume items and the ability to predict high demand based on past patterns.
A WMS also facilitates efficient and accurate picking, leading to fewer incorrect or incomplete orders. The learning curve for a picker or shipper to operate these systems is relatively flat, and training is often accomplished in a day or less.
The software can be customized to provide the data that is most important for a specific warehouse or operation. Most systems also provide the capability to drill down to a granular level to expose operational weakness.
Not every warehouse is positioned to purchase and implement a fully integrated WMS. Working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider could give you operation access to scalable technology that works in your unique warehouse environment.
A 3PL provider could assess your fulfillment issues and craft a solution that best meets your needs. If you experience persistent fulfillment problems, reaching out to a 3PL provider might be the answer.