Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Leveraging Technology for Your Order Fulfillment Operation

Technology is the cornerstone of a well-running order fulfillment operation, whether it’s helping to manage orders, control inventory and warehouse operations, manage freight, or support real-time reporting requirements. It’s through technology that guess-work is eliminated from the order fulfillment pick and pack process, human error is reduced, and products and content go to market faster and at lower cost.

When it comes to fulfillment-related technology and systems, there are no absolute solutions. One size does not fit all or even most companies. Moreover, implementing a technology infrastructure to support your fulfillment operations is not only about hardware and software systems. Savvy companies and marketers use technology as an enabler to gain process efficiencies, access mission-critical information, and run their businesses better.

Here’s a quick litmus test. Take a quick look at your existing order fulfillment services operations: is the technology you rely on flexible, giving you room to grow and adapt to change? Does it support the flow of information seamlessly through the entire order fulfillment process - from order entry through to shipment? Can you access data and generate reports in real time to support critical decision-making? Are you making technology investments in the processes that need them most? Whether you are utilizing the expertise of a third party fulfillment provider or managing your logistics and operations internally, all of these are important considerations whether you are a startup order fulfillment operation or large multi-location operation.

As you assess your technology strategy to support new business initiatives or enhance your existing infrastructure, here are some insights that will put you on the right path:

Start With Strong People

The foundation of a strong fulfillment infrastructure is having expert, knowledgeable information technology (IT) professionals supporting your program - either in-house or through your outsourced fulfillment partner. IT professionals who understand technology and are experienced in the business side of fulfillment can provide your company with important, big-picture expertise. Additionally, in the outsourcing model, if your fulfillment provider does not offer value-added technology related services as a core competency (i.e., e-commerce site development) they should have partnerships in place to provide the support you need in a seamless manner.

Ensure Flexibility on the Front End

A flexible fulfillment technology infrastructure starts on the front end with the intake of order data. Your fulfillment partner should have the capability in their order management system to accept orders from various ordering mechanisms: e-commerce, call center, electronic data interchange, file transfer protocol (flat file, text file, XML, etc), and others. Order management systems built on flexible technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) can be easily adapted to support your changing requirements.

Keep Data Flowing Through the System

Customer order information should move seamlessly from the front end to the warehouse/inventory management platform and ultimately through to final shipping. By automating the flow of information through the fulfillment environment, technology can facilitate faster, high quality order processing and shipment. Moreover, your fulfillment provider should offer you the ability to view critical customer order data at all points in the process. Real time data access will help you make more informed decisions related to production requirements, inventory levels, and customer buying patterns, while providing visibility into areas where costs could be reduced.

Use Technology to Improve Process Control and Fulfillment Accuracy

In the picking and packing of orders, technology can be an important enabler to further speed up the order fulfillment process and maximize quality. Technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) and bar coding can facilitate “system directed picking” helping the fulfillment provider’s employees to pick and pack high volume, complex orders where there is little margin for error.

Invest in the Processes that Need it Most

Simply put, some fulfillment processes don’t require technologies like RFID or bar coding to get the job done. The critical determining factors are speed and quality. For example, some fulfillment programs, like literature distribution, are less technology-dependent. Here, a manually driven pick and pack process can still meet time to market goals.

Lower Costs in Transportation Management

In the transportation management area, technology can be a further enabler to reduce the costs of your fulfillment program. Leveraging rate shopping programs, your order fulfillment pick and pack partner can work to compare carriers and select the most effective options for each shipment. This can help reduce overall freights costs while continuing to ensure prompt customer delivery.

Maintaining Your Lifeline to the Customer

Since information is the lifeblood of your decision making process, you need data on all facets of your fulfillment program. including inventory, orders and more and you need it in a real time manner. Leveraging technology, your partner should offer you the capability to extract data from the fulfillment infrastructure and generate real time reports in the format you require. Access should be easy and at your convenience online 24 hours a day giving you an instant, on-demand snapshot of your critical business activity.

Ken Kowal is Director of Sales and Marketing for Landis Logistics, which specializes in ecommerce order fulfillment for startup and online retailers.

Order Fulfillment Services Outsourcing: Why it’s Right for Your Business

Justifying the outsourcing decision: 10 reasons to take to your management team

1. Access Best-in-Class Capabilities
Third party order fulfillment service companies provide you access to expertise that is typically not readily available internally.
2. Enhance Core Business Focus
Outsourcing Pick and Pack lets you spend more time marketing and growing your business and enhancing your products and services. Supply chain operations are taken off your plate and put in the hands of a proven expert.
3. Achieve Operational Excellence
Your fulfillment partner will seamlessly add operational expertise to your organization, enhancing your overall efficiency.
4. Enhance Customer Satisfaction
Fulfillment is a critical connection to the marketplace and your customers. A smooth running supply chain will improve your reputation for quality and reliability, while building long term customer loyalty.
5. Preserve Capital
Why invest in warehouse space, technology, and additional operations staff if you don’t have to. Outsourcing lets you redirect your capital to growing your business.
6. Reduce Operating Costs
Outsourcing helps lower or eliminate costs that would be necessary to manage an internal fulfillment program: staff, training, facilities, freight, and on-going administration. Further, fulfillment outsourcers have the resources and relationships to achieve critical economies in areas such as freight consolidation and pass on the savings to their customers.
7. Speed Time to Market
Outsourcers are equipped to get your products into the hands of your customer quicker and cheaper. This is particularly for those order fulfillment companies who are strategically located near the highly populated Eastern United States.
8. Leverage Technology
Leading fulfillment companies understand the critical role of technology in the order fulfillment process and have invested in systems and infrastructure to support their service delivery. Through outsourcing, your business gains access to the benefits of this technology without having to make the investment yourself.
9. Support Multiple Channels
Many ecommerce order fulfillment providers have diverse services to support product distribution across multiple channels’ B2B, B2C, Direct-to-Store shipments, and more.
10. Adapt to Change
Similarly, as market forces and buyer behavior drives changes in your product lines and service offerings, your outsourcer is well positioned to grow right with you, leveraging its investment in people, facilities, and technology.

Kenneth Kowal is Director of New Business Development at Landis Logistics and can be found talking about ecommerce order fulfillment for startups on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Selling online and thinking of outsourcing your shipping and order fulfillment?

If you have an online store and are finding it tough to keep up with packing and shipping your customer orders, it may be time to think about working with a 3rd party order fulfillment center. But like all the other difficult business decisions a growing company has to make, it is important to understand all the costs associated with outsourcing your shipping operation to an outside company. The following is a breakdown of the general areas of cost a typical business will face when bringing on an order fulfillment service resource. Each company's needs and situation are different, but understanding these costs is vital to making the best business decision possible to position your company for maximum future growth.

Storage Costs: Fulfillment centers will charge storage or "rent" for the space a retailer’s products take up in the warehouse. This is generally done on a per square foot basis or by the pallet.

Inventory Inspection and Receipt: Since most online retailers are having their suppliers ship the products directly to an order fulfillment warehouse, the online retailer is not able to inspect the shipments to make sure the products are the correct quantity and in good condition. A fulfillment center becomes that extra check to make sure the supplier is sending the right products and will report any discrepancies to the client.

Order Charges: Packing orders is the main part of the whole order fulfillment service, although not necessarily the largest cost. These are the labor costs for preparing and boxing up orders. The rates are generally based on a flat per order fee, plus a cost for each additional item included in the order. The more orders a retailer ships with a fulfillment company the lower the per order cost will be for the most part. The order cost is intended to cover the systems and time to receive the order, prep the pick ticket and other paperwork, as well as the time to physically build the carton, locate and pick the items on the order.

Material Costs: Simply stated, material costs include the cost of cartons and packing materials. Most fulfillment centers are buying boxes in bulk so this is one area a 3rd party fulfillment center can help reduce costs.

Shipping Costs: These costs will make up the majority of the expense of getting products to customers. Here's a link to reference useful information on calculating costs for shipping small packages. Many fulfillment operations will allow their customers to ship on their account numbers with FedEx and UPS, thus providing better shipping rates than most customers could negotiate on their own.

Returns: As some products are inevitably returned from a retailer’s customers, the fulfillment center can help inspect items and report to the retailer details on the returns.

Initial Move: There is often an initial inventory move of products from the online retailer to the fulfillment warehouse. This means there are potential costs for the shipping and receipt of the products as they are brought into the fulfillment center.

System Integration: The process for integrating an online retailer’s ecommerce shopping cart software may require some customized programming expense. How orders get communicated to the fulfillment warehouse can happen in a variety of ways (EDI, API, Email, or even fax).

Some fulfillment centers will offer bundled pricing that includes a certain amount of storage space and a certain number of orders shipped in a period of time. Or, the fulfillment charges may be calculated as a percentage of sales. There is nothing wrong with either method of pricing, just be certain the rates accurately reflect your true activity levels.


Kenneth Kowal  ecommerce order fulfillment.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ecommerce Order Fulfillment Services for Startups and Online Retailers

Whether you are a startup looking to launch a new website, or a small online retailer just starting to grow, ShipStarter has the expertise to drive results with the most cost-effective product fulfillment services. We understand the unique challenges you face to ensure products get to your end-customer on time and at the lowest cost, and we work to deliver fast, accurate and money-saving services through strategic logistics solutions.

We have complete turnkey capabilities for an array of startup and small online retailer’s order fulfillment needs, including:

• Straightforward Shopping Cart Integration
Ecommerce Order Fulfillment Service for Startups Packaging and Shipping
• Small Parcel Shipping Expertise and Volume Discounts
• Direct-to-Consumer and Business-to-Business Order Fulfillment Services
• Expertise in a Range of Consumer Products including; Nurtriceuticals, Cosmeceuticals, and Food Fulfillment
• Logistics for New Product Line Introductions: from supplier to final delivery

When you partner with ShipStarter, you gain a team dedicated to helping you drive growth for your ecommerce startup or online retailing endeavors, providing full logistics solutions that positively impact your bottom line.

Order Fulfillment Service in the New York and New Jersey Area

Are you looking for warehousing and fulfillment services in the New York or New Jersey area? Make sure you evaluate Landis Logistics as a cost effective partner. Located only 2 hours drive from New York City in eastern PA, Landis provides order fulfillment service to many NY and NJ based retail and manufacturing businesses. Many of whom find the lower storage and labor costs can reduce their warehousing and fulfillment cost by 30% to 50% or more. Whether you are an online retailing looking to outsource product fulfillment, a startup looking to launch a new website, or large manufacturer needing outside warehousing, Landis has the expertise to drive results with the most cost-effective product fulfillment solutions. We understand the unique challenges you face to ensure products get to your end-customer on time and at the lowest cost, and we work to deliver fast, accurate and money-saving services through strategic logistics solutions.

We have complete turnkey capabilities for an array of retailer and manufacturer’s order fulfillment needs, including:

• Location in eastern Pennsylvania (Reading), about an hour NW of Philadelphia

• Lower Storage and Labor Costs Compared to the NY Metro Area

• Lower Overall Shipping Costs Across the US

• Client list which include several Fortune 100 companies, as well as smaller sized ecommerce online retailers and startups

Ecommerce Order Fulfillment Best Practices for Packaging and Shipping

• FDA Approved – Warehousing and Food Fulfillment Operation

• Small Parcel Shipping Expertise and Volume Discounts

• Next Day Guaranteed Ground Delivery to New York City Metro Area With FedEx

Direct-to-Consumer and Business-to-Business Order Fulfillment

• Logistics for New Product Line Introductions: from supplier to final delivery

When you partner with Landis, you gain a team dedicated to helping you drive growth for your ecommerce startup or online retailing endeavors, providing full logistics solutions that positively impact your bottom line.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

6 Sites to Bookmark: Shipping Information for Online Retailers

Here are links for comparing rates from the 3 main options for shipping small packages:



US Postal Service:

Carton and Packing Material Costs:
A quick and easy method for getting costs for a variety of packing materials: If you plan to buy in bulk (>100 units) it may be worth talking to a local supplier for better rates.

Shipping something larger than 100 or so lbs.? Check out to get a shipping rate and to help with the shipping paperwork.