Outsourcing Fulfillment

Many companies prefer to outsource part or all of the fulfillment function. The decision whether to handle the fulfillment process in-house or to outsource it out to a third party centers on many considerations. However, you will probably (and hopefully!) move thousands or millions of products. Therefore, it is fair to ask yourself the following: Do you have sufficient warehouse space and computer systems? Do you have proper and ample storage space and, if so, will it suffice as your business grows?

Look at such factors as management time, the need for new or improved computer systems, staff and possible upgrades for facilities and equipment. More often than not, you may have to seriously consider outsourcing. When you contract out for the entire fulfillment task, this begins with receiving orders by mail, Internet or telephone and continues through warehousing and shipping the product, including responding to customer complaints. Inventory is stored off-site, enabling the business owner to store a larger variety and quantity. The fulfillment center will receive and organize your inventory.

Fulfillment warehouses usually accept shipping requests via a web-based application, by emailing your invoices or an order spreadsheets e-mailed directly to the warehouse. When the shipping requests are received, the items are automatically packaged and shipped to the customer. Most fulfillment warehouses have a web-based application where you can login to view the status of an order. Some warehouses even notify your customers of their order tracking numbers.

Evaluating each fulfillment company carefully is paramount, therefore perform due diligence to determine if the firm is large enough and has the necessary experience to meet your needs and expectations.

Before outsourcing any type of fulfillment contractor, ask the following questions:

* How quickly can the contractor deliver merchandise, issue reports, and resolve complaints?
* How long has the firm been in business? Are the kinks in its tracking systems ironed out?
* Has it handled similar projects and products before?
* What is the contractor’s price structure?

Meet the entire team that will handle your account. Instead of checking with references provided, check with other companies that have worked with the firm on your own and ask the brand or marketing manager about their responsiveness, experience and capabilities.

Finally, pay a visit to your fulfillment house while a project is being handled and ensure that the inventory is secure and properly classified. Make sure that the materials are stored neatly and in one place and the instructions for handling are clear and being followed.