Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part, the result of trying to do today’s job with yesterday’s tools and yesterday’s concepts.~ Marshall McLuhan, Canadian philosopher who predicted the World Wide Web almost 30 years before it was invented.
Marshall McLuhan knew what he was talking about, even if he didn’t have the order fulfillment process in mind when he said the quote above. Yesterday’s tools for retail operations involved laborious manual recordkeeping, calculations, filling out stacks of forms. Today’s fulfillment process requires tools that help you become more efficient and better serve your customer.
Here is a list of five tools that are essential to creating a more accurate, efficient fulfillment operation:
#Tool 1: Inventory Management Software
Many companies in the fulfillment industry are still using Excel to manage their inventory. This may be working well for you, but is time-consuming and prone to errors. This may mess up your inventory management goals and lead to delays, out-of-stocks, and ordering issues. Inventory management software will help you manage your inventory, and it will also help in estimating, projecting, and planning your inventory through times of high and low demand. Most software comes with an easy-to-use interface and can be linked through a network, making your inventory management across different warehouses more simple. Many of these software tools can be customized to suit the specific needs of your business.
#Tool 2: Warehouse Management Software
Warehouse management can be a major challenge for companies in the fulfillment industry, especially so for 3PL companies that handle multiple customers. Where stock inventory is an essential element of the fulfillment industry, warehousing is the heart of all the action. Tools that can help manage the essentials of warehousing like real-time data access, stock inventory, shipping status, and shipment tracking options are a definite must-have. With many web-based tools available on the market, companies can manage most of their essential warehousing information in real-time and make it available to customers whenever they want. These tools come with the options of billing, barcode scanning, automatic email alerts, and all the other awesomeness that fizzes the stress out of warehousing.
#Tool 3: Transportation Management Software
Freight management is another factor that can cause ecommerce retailers some nail-biting moments. A tool that can manage the whole logistics process for inbound freight is a definite boon – and it can even identify areas for cost savings, faster freight movement, and improved carrier efficiency. Establishing direct connections with your carriers and enabling you to network the whole channel efficiently and quickly will help you solve major logistic issues quickly. What should you look for? A good transportation management software that has an easy-to-use interface and comes loaded with features like RFQ development, direct carrier management, robust analytics, and more!
#Tool 4: Vendor Management Software
You definitely need software that can help create orders based on customer demand and easily manage and forecast inventory levels, fill rates, and inventory costs. Vendor management software bridges the gap between your vendor and your operations, helping to avoid out-of-stock or over-ordering situations. Basically, it works as a communication go-between to keep track of stock movement and alert you and the vendor when you need to replenish it.
#Tool 5: Labor Management Software
Labor management software allows you to track employee productivity and job performance against pre-determined standards: yours or industry, depending on what you want. This tool can help you anticipate staffing needs during peak and non-peak times to maximize fulfillment efficiency while saving as much money as possible on labor.
Even with all of these great tools, you’ll need the right personnel checking and counterchecking, aligning and re-allocating, and analyzing, reporting, and improving your operations. If not, you’ve just wasted a ton of time and money on software that is being underutilized. For many retailers, a better alternative can be to outsource the entire fulfillment process to a partner who will manage the entire process for you.