Tales of Fulfillment: Sharon’s Story

single source fulfillmentManaging the production and distribution of educational content is a challenging task. Handling decisions about print runs, online content, and mobile versions, as well as managing content revisions, involves a dizzying amount of data and time. A single-vendor approach can save money, streamline processes, and free up staff time for more meaningful work.

Sharon is the director of continuing education for a small national association. Self-study CE materials are provided to members as printed manuals. Her current process for handling order fulfillment is a clunky one—she uses a single print vendor for production, but houses inventory at her office and uses internal staff (usually Sharon herself) to pack and ship orders.

A whiteboard on her office wall lists dozens of ideas for new educational opportunities and class offerings, but she never has time to work on them. “Other duties as assigned” tasks require her to spend time getting the certification manuals packed and shipped.

Developing a new branding strategy for the board will have to wait until tomorrow, as will figuring out how many binders to order for an upcoming seminar, which reminds her: she should count inventory. She senses it’s getting low.

A colleague, one of the lobbyists, told Sharon her office looks like a warehouse. It’s true, but Sharon saves money by managing inventory and shipping herself. “Not everyone has a budget like yours,” she said to her friend.

Besides, being truly “hands-on” means she controls how member expectations are met. Maybe next week,Sharon will have time to map out the new classes. Still, she has to wonder: Is there a better way?

Sharon is back to doing her real job.

The association decided to switch to one vendor for production, inventory, and fulfillment needs. Sharon was overjoyed, and she wasn’t the only one to feel the impact of their new solution.

  • Timely production and content. Because continuing education materials are now printed on-demand, members have the most up-to-date content in hand.Sharon doesn’t have to worry about running short or having leftover inventory.
  • Offsite inventory. A new print-on-demand model and some micro-inventory of popular titles are all handled and stored at her new vendor, leaving Sharon’s office looking more like, well, an office. Besides being more aesthetically pleasing, this change makes it easier to focus. Fulfillment tasks are no longer literally staring her in the face.
  • Time Management –Sharon’s day is busy enough without having to spend time and energy on fulfillment issues. Her new vendor works with these issues every day and knows how to solve any problems she’d have along the way.
  • Market relevance. The most recent member survey revealed a preference for blended learning programs. Their new vendor showed them how other associations do it, and now they’re developing a pilot program.
  • Business intelligence. Sharon has the data and reports she needs to project revenue and expenses. She feels confident about production, pricing, and budgeting decisions because her vendor partner helps her understand the technology, processes, and costs.

Developing and implementing her ideas for additional classes, enhanced educational opportunities, and a new webinar series are all in the works. As it turns out, she didn’t even need a large budget to get started—she just needed the right partner.

Epilogue: A Single-Vendor Solution Can Work for You

Sharon has exchanged the stress and hassle of managing inventory and fulfillment on her own for a single-vendor solution. Now she can easily monitor production, ordering, and shipping, and have access to data and reports through one portal.

Best of all, Sharon can focus on the work that moves their associations forward. She meets with her new vendor partner on a regular basis to discuss steps she can take to meet her strategic objectives and make her processes more cost-effective and user-friendly. With guidance from a partner who understands association programs and processes, Sharon is making better decisions and providing her members a better learning experience.

Tips for Optimizing Your Inventory Items

By Will Schneider

Battery UniverseOver the last couple of years, Steve Berry, President of Battery Universe found some interesting ways of growing his business in these difficult economic times. In addition to upgrading his website, adding a retail outlet, and franchising his business, he found that adding new items in previously unoccupied niches helped fuel growth. Over time, these new products became a significant percentage of his overall business. The only catch – it added to his company’s workload from an inventory management perspective. So he had to get creative about how to manage the growth of SKUs (in his case over 1 million unique items) so that it didn’t overwhelm the business. “At first it was pure excitement, seeing sales grow at a great clip,” said Mr.Berry, “but then we realized that we had to come up with some strategies to minimize workload in our every growing inventory SKUs.”

And Battery Universe isn’t the only company that is faced with such a challenge. Many businesses are faced with similar challenges. “It’s not uncommon for some of our clients to have SKU counts in the thousands and beyond,” noted Mark Chandley of Adeptiv Solutions, an order fulfillment company that ships products for online retailers. So where can companies turn when they SKU counts seem to be busting through the roof? Here’s a few tips to streamline the processes and remove some of the clutter.

  • It all starts with a solid inventory management system that speaks intelligently with your online shopping cart, if applicable. Inventory management systems have a multitude of functions that automate mundane processes.
  • Utilize the reporting features of your inventory system to view up to date information on which SKUs are high active and which items seem to be stuck on the shelf. Getting rid of some of the dead weight will help reduce some of the workload and clear some of the inventory you’re carrying in the warehouse.
  • Run a profitability analysis on your items. Growing your number of items can definitely have a positive effect on growth of sales, but it doesn’t necessarily equate to increased profits. Make sure that you’re carry products that are profitable and removing items that don’t pull their weight.
  • Use the data from your inventory turn to place high moving products close to your picking and staging area, thus limiting the time to pick.
  • Oftentimes, there are programmatic ways that you can make bulk website updates (description details, etc.). Check with your technology team or consultant for ways to tap into this time saver, but make sure not to duplicate content on your site, which can jeopardize your keyword rankings in the search engines.

Managing a large volume of SKUs can be an extremely difficult task. But with a little bit of creativity, and a whole lot of technology, management can become, well, manageable.

Case Study – Small Business Looking for Fulfillment

by Will Schneider

Sure, large firms can find a fulfillment company that will meet their every need! But what about a small business that only ships a small amount of orders per month? Where should these companies turn in order to find a fulfillment company that will give them the same level of quality and provide high caliber customer service?

The Problem

This is the same question that Chris S. asked himself when looking for a small business fulfillment company. Chris owns a small business that sells cells phone accessories. His business is based in southern California and needed to find a fulfillment company close by so that he could drop in and check on his product from time to time.

“I started looking in the Yellow Pages online and searching for warehousing and fulfillment companies on the search engines. There are so many out there, and I’ve heard of a lot of horror stories. Then I stumbled on WarehousingAndFulfillment.com,” said Chris.

The Solution

Chris turned to WarehousingAndFulfillment.com. He filled out a quote request form in only a couple of minutes, and within an hour he was contacted by fulfillment companies that specialize in small business fulfillment in the area he requested. “It was good to know that the companies were pre-screened,” said Chris. “I spoke with one of the employees from WarehousingAndFulfillment.com and he knew what he was talking about. That made me feel comfortable about the companies they put me into contact with.”

“They did a really good job of connecting me with companies that specialize in small business fulfillment. I chose one of the fulfillment companies and am very pleased with the service I receive. I don’t feel like I’m lost in a 1 million square foot warehouse. I actually get attention!”

Find a small business fulfillment company today that can meet your needs. Fill out a quote request now!