Generally speaking, order fulfillment refers to the process and steps involved in receiving, processing, and delivering product orders to customers. It is a form of logistics that takes place across every business, with some being more complicated than others. A waiter taking your order, the chef cooking the food, and another waiter delivering it is an example of a simple form of order fulfillment.
For most companies, especially e-commerce ones, order fulfillment is a more involved process. In these instances, fulfillment logistics involve tracking and relaying information and goods over large distances. This creates some additional elements that exist beneath the surface of the common definition. However, the high-level order of operations remains the same.
When dealing in e-commerce, there are three primary means that orders are received: a shopping cart on the web site, an order from an inventory management system, and a manual entry. The exact use of each of the three tends to vary. Inventory management systems can be set up to place automatic orders for customers who are on some form of subscription, for instance, while online shopping carts are commonly used for online stores. Manual entry is best for special orders or business-to-business entries.
Depending on your type of business, processing can have a few extra steps. For businesses based on custom order fulfillment, where the product isn’t (or can’t) be made until an order is placed, there would be additional design and production steps at this time. For most e-commerce companies, however, it is a matter of processing the order. The product is already on-hand either at the store, office, or warehouse and simply needs to be prepared according to the customer’s wishes; this can mean bundling it with other items, pairing it with promotional materials, or simply packing it up in a sealed box.
This is the most direct part of the overall logistics process, but also one of the most important. Getting the product to the customer can involve travel by land, sea, or air; distribution centers; third-party shipping; or many other possible fulfillment options, depending on resources, preferences, and location. The end result is that your product should reach the customer quickly but cost-effectively and in the best possible condition. Any steps that occur after this point, such as processing customer feedback, are done at your own discretion.
The best way to perform these three steps is to use a unified system to manage and monitor your order fulfillment in real-time. The same system that receives orders can be used to update inventory, track shipments, and spot and correct problems in the supply chain before they cause too much trouble.
APS Fulfillment, Inc. is dedicated to this concept of order fulfillment. Our unified warehouse and shipping software, combined with a team of trained, experienced workers, has been able to provide optimized order fulfillment to locations all around the world and for businesses both large and small. Look to our web site for more tips on how to identify the best e-commerce, inventory management, and shipping fulfillment strategies.