The world is full, these days, of eCommerce entrepreneurs hoping their products gain traction and explode in the market. When you reach the happy place where your order volumes are regularly increasing, you may also find yourself in the not-so-happy place where you’re struggling to keep up with timely order fulfillment. At that point, you may look to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to take that weight off your shoulders. But just what happens after your customer hits the “Buy Now” button? To ease your mind, here’s a quick primer on the processes of pick and pack fulfillment and shipping.
Between Order Placement and Shipment
When you partner with a 3PL for pick and pack services, your 3PL handles everything from the moment the order is placed to when the package is given to the carrier (e.g., UPS, USPS, FedEx, etc.) for shipment.
Order information is fed to your logistics partner’s warehouse management system (WMS). This commonly occurs via an integration between your eCommerce platform (e.g., Amazon, Shopify, Magento, Big Commerce) and your 3PL. This WMS is a software application that handles all operations of the fulfillment warehouse, including inventory management. After the order is received, it’s time for picking and packing and shipping.
The Pick. Once an order is received by the WMS, the system directs warehouse associates to then “pick” the ordered items from inventory. The WMS is programmed to assign the most efficient picking pattern to associates in order to reduce walking distance and overlap, and therefore to minimize labor costs. 3PLs understand that your goal is to minimize “cost per order” for fulfillment activities. The picked items for each order are scanned (which updates inventory in the WMS) and set aside for packaging.
The Pack. After being picked, each order’s items are compiled and placed – along with dunnage and any other extra materials (e.g., promotional materials) – into the appropriate box or bag. The printed shipping label is then affixed. Quality Assurance measures take place at this stage to ensure what was ordered is what was picked. Checks include order accuracy, packaging appropriateness, and labeling accuracy. Once QA is complete, the finished packages are staged for carrier pickup.
The Ship. You might have your own agreements with parcel shipping partners, or you may rely on your 3PL to manage parcel shipping on your behalf. If your volumes are modest, there could be a significant cost benefit to shipping under your 3PLs negotiated agreements with carriers. The 3PL will negotiate rates based on its aggregate volume across many different clients. You may be able to piggyback on these rates to reduce your parcel costs, which will be the largest portion, by far, of your total fulfillment costs.
3PL Pick and Pack Fulfillment
While these are the primary functions of pick and pack fulfillment, just about every aspect of the process is customizable. Your products and your needs – in terms of inventory, eCommerce platform, reporting, promotions, and visibility – can dictate exactly how your fulfillment operation is set up. And, many 3PLs offer additional value-added services such as kitting, packaging, and rework.
Kanban Fulfillment and the Importance of Flexibility
If you’ve controlled every aspect of your operation until now, it may seem difficult to relinquish that control and trust someone else to handle everything correctly. At Kanban, we understand this and are happy to customize our process to delivery exactly what you need.
In addition to powerhouse 3PL capabilities, we pride ourselves on being flexible – and that includes the volumes we work with. We work with smaller eCommerce companies who have a handful of orders a day, as well as customers who routinely have over 1,000 orders a day. One Kanban customer is regularly featured on TV and experiences a huge volume spike when this happens. With proper planning, such spikes can be handled routinely.
We’re also flexible in terms of our WMS. We prefer to use our own WMS when we can, but we’ll also install your system at our warehouses when that makes the most sense.
Helping eCommerce Companies Scale
Most eCommerce entrepreneurs want to focus on growing the business, without getting caught up in the details of getting orders out the door. For these people, the right 3PL can be a great ally in the growth journey. 3PLs have the know-how and infrastructure to scale up as the business grows, so that costs parallel the revenue stream.
To learn how Kanban can take your fulfillment operation to the next level, contact us today.