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When a fulfillment center is performing at peak efficiency then all elements along the pick and pack chain are working together as one cohesive unit. It all comes down to a question of keeping the moving parts flowing.
The first part of that chain is maintaining the flow of the inventory stock from the contract company to the fulfillment warehouse. In order for this aspect of fulfillment to be functioning there needs to be a comprehensive exchange of information between the workers handling the pick and pack with the managers maintaining inventory restocking.
In an up to date facility this is accomplished by a integrated accounting software program that calculates the amount of stock base on data sent from mobile scanners. Adjustments of inventory levels will be made accordingly as that information is disseminated and sent to the appropriate managers.
The next part of the fulfillment flow is when the products are packed with the correct address labels. Depending on the items included in a specific shipment, the packing will vary. There should be a clear and concise method of making shipping adjustments for these various package sizes. You don’t ever want to find warehouse employees standing around scratching their head as they look for a “bigger box.” Those packing materials should be as accessible as the products were. Additionally, the products themselves need to be protected during transit with the right amount of packing materials.
It then falls to the transportation department to handle the next flow in the fulfillment line. This doesn’t mean shipping out one box at a time but fully loading up trucks to send packages through the appropriate channels whether that will be with the United States Postal Service or a private delivery services like UPS or FEDEX. That covers the general aspects of the sending portion of fulfillment but what about “receiving?”
Every package that is sent out from a fulfillment center has the opportunity of being sent right back. There could be many reasons for this: an incorrect address, wrong items packaged or damaged in transit. However, the primary reason quite often is simple customer dissatisfaction; they just changed their mind and don’t want what they ordered. Handling returns opens up a different stream in the fulfillment process. The returned items need to be insured of their quality in order for them to be restocked. If the package was opened or used this can impact on its resale value. The customer would be expecting credit or a replacement item. Both of those situations carry a different level of policy responsibility.
The last thing a company wants to pay for is a return. That is why it is essentially for a fulfillment center to have as many quality control safeguards in place to compensate for a potential error on their part. A fulfillment center has no control over the whims of a customer but that can certainly control their pick and pack procedures to insure delivery of the product on time and in tact.