Accuracy in order fulfillment is an enormously crucial ingredient in the success of any business endeavor. Well beyond the flow of your website, the conversion power of your sales team, or the reach of your marketing, if you break your promise to the consumer by shipping them the wrong product, you’ve lost their trust, and will likely expend a great deal of resources fixing the problem. Repeated mishandling of orders can have a disastrous impact on your reputation and bottom line.
The high stakes associated with order accuracy should be a major scalability concern for retailers that handle their own fulfillment and shipping. Packing and shipping every order yourself may make sense in the beginning, but as your volume grows, the result will most likely lead to exponentially increased stress on your in-house shipping systems, leading to big hits to your profit margins.
Let’s take a look at two key areas — stocking and picking — that have the biggest impact on your order accuracy, and how a professional 3PL like Westset Logistics uses their resources to handle the problem.
According to the 2013 survey by Supply Chain Quarterly, 76% of companies with accuracy issues cited stocking practices as a leading factor, and a study by Intelligrated.com shows that stocking activity is the root of nearly a quarter of all order fulfillment mistakes. Organizing the product efficiently and accurately in a warehouse is the first step towards ensuring the crew can reach the right product, every time. Furthermore, your stocking methods effect ease of inventory counts, and inefficient stocking can lead to inaccurate counts, and unplanned shortages of key products.
When renovating our warehouse last year, we implemented a new, narrower racking system. This new system triples the usable pallet space in the warehouse — effectively tripling the inventory potential of the facility — but is also designed to speed up loading and access. This makes it easy for warehouse operators to separate similar type items, and keep high-velocity items easily accessible.
Picking procedures can also present a key pitfall to order accuracy. Incorrect organization — especially when it comes to heavy or hard to reach items — creates vulnerabilities that can result in the wrong item being shipped to the customer. Furthermore, inefficient systems increase labor costs associated with item picking, and can cause warehouse operators to rush through orders and make mistakes. A 2012 case study by Logistics Planning showed that optimizing the picking protocol for a mid-sized retailer can improve order accuracy by 34%.
Westset places a high priority on accuracy in order picking, and has been implementing high-tech solutions to promote efficient use of human resources, by reducing picking time and providing accurate and fast inventory counts.
Ultimately, the efficacy of the stocking and picking procedures begins at receiving, and Westset tags each incoming product with a coded label, which is linked to its contents and logged into a database. Warehouse operators are equipped with handheld scanners similar to those used in retail stores. Scanning any item in the facility tells the operator the item’s contents, and logs it in a centralized database. This ensures accuracy in both order fulfillment and inventory management.
Meanwhile, dispatchers use tablet computers linked to a GPS based navigation system to speed up product location and direct operators in real time, minimizing time wasted traversing the huge facility. Finally, all inventory and transportation data is centralized in a cloud-based warehouse management system (WMS), painting an accurate picture of warehouse operations for supervisors, and providing real-time inventory data for clients. Using coded and scannable tags vastly reduces the influence of human error on product picking, and the GPS aided warehouse management system ensures efficiency in picking procedures.
At Westset’s warehouse, once a product arrives and is logged into our inventory system, its every move is designed to ensure accurate retrieval once an order is placed, helping you keep your promise to the customer, and protecting your brand’s reputation.