In the fast-paced world of e-commerce and third-party logistics, order fulfillment is a critical piece of the puzzle. Every business has its unique challenges and constraints, and often, the choice of fulfillment method can make a significant impact on overall efficiency. At Infoplus Commerce, we understand there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to order fulfillment.
Much like rate shopping orders for the fastest or cheapest parcel service, it’s imperative that shippers are also “shopping” for the best fulfillment methodology each time they process orders. When it comes to rate shopping parcel services, there are many predictable and unpredictable factors at play. Variables such as rates and times in transit (based on ship from/ship to), inclement weather interruptions, weight restrictions, regulated good requirements and much more. Without checking each and every order in real-time, operations run the risk of missing the most desirable service. The same is true for fulfillment processing. Shippers deal with factors like fluctuating order volumes, sku density (ie how “alike” are these orders?), inventory availability, physical warehouse and space limitations, equipment constraints, staffing issues and so on.
Asking any human to compile all that data and make effective decisions is a tall ask. Luckily, for Infoplus users, there is a solution. Enter Infoplus Insights. Insights is not your typical analytics tool—it’s a game-changer for fulfillment operators. By harnessing the power of user-defined SLA (service level agreement) information and leveraging cutting-edge machine learning algorithms, it goes beyond historical data analysis. The tool actively mines order data to identify trends and patterns that provides real-time visibility to what orders need to be focused on and offers instant “insight” to the most effective method(s) of processing them, given the operations current state of affairs.
Whether your organization subscribes to the Insights module or not, it’s still imperative that warehouse and operations managers start thinking in the mindset of “Is this the best way of doing things at this current time?”.
All too often do we encounter operations with significant room for improvement. We find inefficiencies often persist because those involved may not be fully aware of better practices or opportunities for enhancement. In some cases, a ‘too busy to get better’ mindset prevails, with teams engrossed in daily tasks and firefighting. Other times, it’s simply the reluctance to embrace change and learn new approaches. Whatever the reason may be, we’ve seen it all and we’re here to offer some assistance. Here is an itemized list to help get the thought process rolling:
- Prioritize Client SLAs & Consider Carrier Pickup Times:
- Start by categorizing orders based on client Service Level Agreements (SLAs) if you have them. Identify which clients have higher priority or contractual agreements that need to be met, make sure those orders are easily identifiable. Ensure that you’re always meeting or exceeding these SLAs.
- Learn how Infoplus Insights fills this need.
- Batch Orders Strategically:
- Group orders that have similar delivery locations and line items whenever possible. This reduces travel time, footsteps and overall touches within the warehouse.
- Consider the order size and weight. Group smaller, lighter orders together to maximize space and handling efficiency.
- Take into account any special handling requirements or constraints, such as temperature-sensitive items, hazardous materials, or fragile goods.
- Optimize Order Sequencing:
- Arrange orders within each batch to minimize backtracking and reduce travel time. Use warehouse management system (WMS) tools to help with this.
- Keep an eye on inventory availability. Avoid creating waves that deplete essential stock items, potentially causing stockouts for other orders.
- Real-Time Adjustments & Inventory Replenishments:
- Continuously monitor order volumes, changes in client priorities, and inventory levels. Be prepared to reconfigure wave planning on the fly.
- Use data analytics and historical order data to forecast demand and proactively adjust your wave planning strategy.
- Maintain open communication channels with clients and internal teams. Let clients know about any changes to their expected delivery times due to real-time adjustments.
- Collaborate with inventory management and order fulfillment teams to ensure everyone is aligned with the wave planning strategy.
- Regular Review and Improvement:
- Periodically review the effectiveness of your wave planning process. Analyze metrics such as order processing times, accuracy, and client satisfaction.
- Look for opportunities to streamline processes and reduce costs while maintaining service quality.
- Flexibility and Adaptability:
- Recognize that unexpected events, such as rush orders or equipment breakdowns, may require immediate adjustments to wave planning. Be flexible and adaptable in your approach.
- Training and Technology:
- Ensure that your team is well-trained in the use of the warehouse management system and any other tools or software used for wave planning.
- Stay up-to-date with advances in technology, as new software and automation solutions can significantly enhance the efficiency of wave planning.
To help the thought process, we would recommend that you start reviewing the following:
- automation and batching
*pick scan scheme
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