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Give Your Start-Up Business the Best Chance to Succeed by Outsourcing Warehousing, Fulfillment and Shipping

Start up fulfillment Do You Recognize Them?

Our world is full of a bustling, hard-working community of entrepreneurs who are starting up small businesses with big dreams.

Often, they are working full-time jobs and launching their businesses on the side.  Almost invariably, they plan to shift the balance over time until they can quit their day jobs and operate their own businesses exclusively.  Most have no clear plan for achieving that goal.

  • Some are creating bath soaps in their kitchens, wrapping them by hand, storing them in their closets and mailing them one by one as online orders come in through their websites to their laptops.
  • Some are having trendy apparel created in the Caribbean, storing items on hangers in their garages, and shipping them out as orders are received; they are literally finding the blue shirt, the pink skirt, and the hibiscus scarf, wrapping them up together, printing the packing slip, and mailing the package.
  • Still others are hand-tooling belts and buckles, designing and creating jewelry, writing and self-publishing books, formulating new fragrances, and creating hundreds of other products for offer in the Internet marketplace.

The product vision is limited only by imagination.  The business model, on the other hand, may be limited by square footage, personal time and energy, and logistical realities.  And this is where so many start-ups hit a wall.

Scaling the Wall

So, what to do when you hit the wall?  When your garage is full, your closets overflowing. When your fingers are numb, your body and brain begging for sleep. When you feel like Lois Lane alone out there in Startupville. Or like Pi in the middle of the Pacific.

In true entrepreneurial spirit, you won’t let it stop you—not a chance. But if you look closely at the wall, you’ll see a message written upon it.  “Get professional help!”

This doesn’t mean you’ve lost your mind (despite feeling, sometimes, as if you have). It’s simply time to engage a professional warehousing and fulfillment service provider, now, before you lose control of the really important aspects of your start-up business. Outsourcing at this point in your growth arc will enable you to scale fluidly, and substantially, without losing focus on managing and building a successful business.

Take Your Business Pulse

There are some questions you should ask yourself, at this stage, which may help bring clarity to your situation and confirm your next steps. We suggest jotting down your answers to have the entire picture in front of you.

  • How many products (or SKUs) do you offer?
  • Where are you storing them?
  • Is air-conditioning required? Refrigeration?  Humidity control?
  • How many orders are you filling each month?
  • How many items are in each order?
  • Do you fill orders on demand each day, or on a weekly schedule?
  • Which carriers do you use to mail or ship? Do you have a preference, and why?
  • Do you mail/ship in envelopes, small boxes, or large cartons?
  • Where are you storing them? (And your packaging tape, and mailing labels?)
  • Do you use special protective cushioning, paper straw, or other special fillers?
  • Where do you store those?
  • How many invoices do you print each month?
  • How many packing slips? Mailing labels?  Return labels?
  • How many returns do you process per month?
  • Which product/item is your best seller? Your worst?
  • When is your next new product due to launch?
  • Are all items accounted for in an inventory control system?
  • Have you established reorder points?

Answering these questions about your current business operation will help you determine whether it’s time to take your start-up to the next level, enabling you to boost sales and spur your next growth phase.

The Best Solution for You

Depending on your geographic location and the cost of rent and labor in the area, you may want to consider renting a small storage bay and hiring packing labor on a contract basis. One or two days a week, or every Saturday, for example, might be a productive co-working schedule for you.  With this approach, you’ll still be doing a lot of the fulfillment work yourself, in addition to managing hired help, but in some situations it may be a logical next step.

Another approach is to find a professional fulfillment center to handle the entire process for you. An expert, established warehousing, kitting and fulfillment provider will also be able to create and manage paperwork, shipping, receiving, tracking, automated inventory control, and reporting functions on your behalf.  A large center will employ teams of people skilled in those various functions and will have plenty of warehouse space, racks and pallets. They will have the necessary staff to cover breaks, absences and vacations. They’ll have negotiated aggressive shipping and freight rates due to collective volumes, and will have their own licensed fleet for local service.  They’ll be able to accept pallet- and truck-size deliveries, unload and process them efficiently.  And they’ll be bonded or insured against damage, theft and natural disasters.

In short, a professional warehousing and fulfillment service provider will handle all the fun stuff that you don’t want to deal with (and, as a busy start-up, shouldn’t have to).

Supporting Your eCommerce Site

Most start-ups sell online—many exclusively online—and therefore use eCommerce software applications to enhance their websites with product specifications and images, shopping carts, secure purchasing options and similar functionality.

An advanced warehousing and fulfillment center will add significant value to your fulfillment services by integrating with online eCommerce platforms, such as Shopify, WooCommerce, Brightpearl, eBay and Amazon, for example.

Here’s a brief description of how that integration can work, using a fulfillment ordering platform, which we’ll call Conduit, as an example on the vendor side. The vendor’s proprietary application programming interface (API) browses your eCommerce website regularly throughout the day. Orders received since the last visit are sent to the fulfillment company and fulfillment staff are alerted. The orders are filled, with all the actions and paperwork that entails, and all systems are updated accordingly. Inventory counts are updated in virtually real time, product is shipped, and the fulfillment crew trades high fives for being so efficient.

The warehouse management system communicates the status of those orders to your eCommerce application. And the process begins again. As shipments are tracked, that data is captured in the warehouse management system. Returns are also easily processed.  Essentially, all fulfillment activities are recorded in the fulfillment center’s system, enabling it to generate a variety of preset reports at selected intervals. Many of these can be customized to meet your unique needs.

Of course, orders can still be communicated by email scan or fax, but using automated tools adds measurable speed, efficiency and productivity.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Asking the right questions, of yourself and any potential fulfillment service provider, helps you to clarify your current needs and better understand the options available to you. This clarity will translate to a greater return on your fulfillment investment and a higher probability that your start-up will become the business of your dreams—prosperous, profitable and successful.

This article was written by Gail Blount at JKG Fulfillment. In addition to custom product packaging and fine commercial printing, JKG Group performs warehousing and fulfillment services for enterprises and entrepreneurs. Experience has taught us the important value of these services to start-up businesses as they outgrow their home offices and storage closets.

Your Fulfillment Operation Can Improve Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction in FulfillmentThe e-commerce marketplace is crowded with competition and building long term relationships with satisfied customers is a key strategy to maintain a successful business. Fulfillment operations hold a prominent place in this chain of satisfaction. As a third party logistics provider, you can help your clients improve their performance, which will improve both the client relationship with the customer and your relationship with the client.

To ensure you provide your clients with the tools for success, check your services for these seven pillars.

1. Accuracy

Make sure your fulfillment service is accurate. Audit the process at least once per quarter and identify areas for improvement. Implement improvements on a continual basis.

Customers who receive incorrect or delayed orders are more likely to leave feedback, and it’s not going to be positive. By raising the bar on accuracy, the fulfillment partner actively maintains customer satisfaction for the client.

To make sure improvements are successful, involve all fulfillment staff in the process. Sprocket Express includes the warehouse employees in broad meetings and allows everyone a voice. When staff are involved, their level of accountability increases and everyone feels part of the solution.

2. Speed

Arrange same day shipping whenever possible. Some fulfillment centers will even go the extra mile to process last-minute orders for clients, typically for a small handling charge or manual processing fee. When a VIP customer orders after the cutoff time and expects 5-star service, the client wants to accommodate and please the customer. This is a key factor for many businesses when choosing a 3PL.

A good 3PL actively maintains relationships with all shipping carriers and negotiates for better rates annually. They pass the volume discounts on to clients, improving the bottom line.

3. Presentation

First impressions are important, so the packaging must be neat, new and clean. Labels need to be professional, relatively straight. Talk to clients about customized packing tape or labels for a more cohesive brand image.

Inside the box, all items should be securely packed with clean filler. Customers who receive damaged or dirty merchandise are left with a bad impression of the company. As the last pair of hands to touch the customer’s items, the fulfillment provider has the responsibility to handle every order with care.

4. Transparency

Maintain transparency throughout the order and fulfillment processes. Provide clients with real-time tracking information and inventory results. Customers should also receive prompt shipping notifications and tracking details. When everyone has access to the information, there are no secrets or surprises. This one of the ways that blockchain may enhance supply chain management in the future.

Fulfillment pricing can be confusing to some clients. Client representatives should be available to discuss billing clearly and provide backup such as inventory cycle counts or guidance for the software system.

5. Flexibility

The more flexible you are in the fulfillment process, the more likely a client will feel like you are a partner, rather than just a vendor in the chain. If possible, assign customer representatives to each client so there is a personal connection between the fulfillment house and the business. Representatives should be empowered to handle special requests and rush orders.

6. Humanity

Automation has an important place in the supply chain, there’s no doubt. But it has its place. When confirming orders and shipments, automated responses are appropriate. However, clients may have special needs or requests; they may need to call for changes. 3PLs that offer only automated service cannot properly serve these needs. Clients appreciate the option to speak with a human at their fulfillment warehouse to resolve issues and make changes.

7. Initiative

Clients don’t always know how you can help them, so they might not ask. A good fulfillment center anticipates needs by helping manage supply chain inefficiencies such as overstocked inventory. Make sure your clients know what you offer for added value services like kitting and subscription services.

When a client sees that their 3PL is acting as a partner by making valuable suggestions and taking responsibility, the relationship is stronger and both businesses are poised for greater success.

Conclusion

Fulfillment centers that take an active role in the chain of satisfaction offer better service and maintain happier clients. By following these principles, you solidify confidence among your clients, who will be more likely to recommend your service. Plus, you will help improve customer satisfaction, which keeps everyone growing. Here’s to mutual success!

Article written by Dan Cence, Sprocket Express Fulfillment

The Cost of “Free Shipping” for Retailers

Free ShippingFree shipping: it’s an expected offering for many of today’s customers, who are unwilling to feel as though they’re paying more for an item than they would pay in stores. There’s just one problem: shipping isn’t really free, and it is retailers who are forced to contend with those prices. What’s the real cost of free shipping to retailers? What kind of impact does it have on the bottom line–and is it really worth it to offer it?

Fees are Going Up

The fees associated with shipping have always been a problem–and that problem isn’t going to go away any time soon. General Rate Increases (GRI) usually take place on a yearly basis for shipping companies, and there’s no sign in the foreseeable future that this will stop. For small businesses and other retailers who end up bearing the price of those increases, shipping increases can create significant hardship for the business.

Once Offered, Always Offered

When you offer a service for your customers, they’re going to be either frustrated or absolutely furious when that offer goes away–which means it’s important to consider future needs before opting to offer free shipping for your orders. “Customers who would be willing to make a purchase in spite of a shipping charge might quickly become frustrated when their free shipping goes away, leaving them scurrying to another retailer who will meet their demands,” according to Alex Canet at ShippingTree.

The Benefits of “Free” Shipping

While free shipping may come with some financial downsides, it also offers several key advantages. Before opting out, make sure you consider whether or not these advantages would be beneficial for your business.

  • Free shipping helps interested customers in your business. In fact, it’s been reported in some surveys that as many as 93% of respondents said that free shipping was one of the most important attributes an online business can offer when they’re deciding where to purchase an item and can encourage them to buy more.
  • Free shipping encourages impulse purchases. Instead of waiting around until they have enough to reach a reasonable threshold, customers will go ahead and pick up that item they’ve been eyeing.
  • Offering free shipping over a certain amount can encourage customers to spend more in an effort to meet that amount.
  • Customers are willing to spend a little more on your products when you offer free shipping. A slightly higher price is, in their minds, offset by that free shipping offer.

Making the Most of Free Shipping

If you’re offering free shipping to your customers, make sure that it’s benefiting your business! By following these strategies, you can make free shipping offers benefit your business.

Check your shipping cost threshold. Make sure that you aren’t shipping out items that are more expensive to ship than they actually cost. If necessary, set a spending limit for free shipping–especially if you’re a small business for whom shipping costs add up fast. It’s important, however, to make sure that limit isn’t high enough to turn potential customers away!

Examine your packaging. Make sure your shipping team is knowledgeable about how to package items in the least expensive way possible, which may mean using more standard carton supplies, generic and lower cost options without branding, or opting for padded envelopes where possible.

Work with carriers. If you use the same carrier on a regular basis, you may be able to negotiate savings on some shipping tiers–especially the ones you use the most frequently. By examining your shipping profile and characteristics, you can target the most frequently utilized size and weight packages and potential leverage that into further discounts. For example, if you have lower cost ground shipments that have the same general sizes such as beauty, make-up, and supplements, you can negotiate specific rates with carriers geared towards these shipments.

Everything You Need to Know About CGMP Warehousing

CGMP Warehousing If you sell food, supplements, cosmetics, drugs or medical products, CGMP standards and regulations are very important to understand and implement. Especially if you use outsourced providers in the storage and distribution of your products, ensuring CGMP standards across your supply chain is critical. But what is CGMP? Does an outsourced warehouse need to meet CGMP standards? How does a logistics company qualify for CGMP? And if you’re using an outsourced warehousing and fulfillment company, how can you tell if they are properly certified for CGMP? Below, we explore all of these questions so you can make sure you choose a properly certified CGMP warehousing solution for your business.

What is CGMP?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand just what CGMP is exactly. CGMP stands for Current Good Manufacturing Practice. In the US, CGMP is overseen by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and is a set of regulations enforced to ensure that producers of drugs, medical products, food, some supplements products and cosmetics are properly designing, monitoring and controlling processes and facilities throughout the production and distribution in order to deliver products safely to consumers. The regulations include manufacturing, facilities, processing, packaging and holding products. Furthermore, the regulations are ‘minimum’ standards that the FDA believes US companies should meet.

Some companies call these regulations simply GMP, which means Good Manufacturing Practice. However, the “C” in the CGMP means that the processes and procedures are “current”, using up-to-date technologies and systems. Because technologies change over the years, CGMP standards take into account these changes and require companies to use sufficient technologies and systems to prevent contamination and errors.

The FDA in the US, and other regulatory agencies in other countries, are authorized to conduct unscheduled or scheduled inspections in order to check on a company’s processes and procedures. Furthermore, there are organizations that specialize in certifying companies in CGMP.

Not all products within the above listed segments are governed by CGMP standards. If you don’t know whether or not your specific products fit under these regulations, contact the FDA or view their online resources in order to check for sure.

Does an Outsourced Warehouse Need to Meet CGMP Standards?

Because CGMP regulations include the “holding” of products, outsourced warehousing companies that store and ship drugs, medical products, food, some supplements and cosmetics should comply with CGMP standards. If you are using or intend to use a third-party warehouse for these relevant products, CGMP standards must be met (unless it is a supplement or cosmetic product that is exempt).

With regard to warehouse standards, CGMP touches on all areas of warehousing: overall warehouse design, construction, fire safety, pest control, FIFO (First In, First Out) of products, batch control capabilities (for example, if a ‘batch’ ever needs to be recalled), training of the warehouse team, self-inspections, safety procedures in the warehouse (including fire prevention and extinguishers, sprinklers, first aid, etc.), stock counts, shrinkage of product, and even truck/forklift quality etc. Outsourced warehouses even have to consider areas outside of the warehouse, such as roads of entry/exit, the physical building (including the roof), garbage handling, and weather event procedures.

With such a wide reach within the warehousing industry, CGMP requires a good amount of planning. As such, any outsourced warehouse that is subject to CGMP should have a formal and documented set of procedures to comply with all regulations.

How Does a Logistics Company Qualify for CGMP?

Any warehousing provider can qualify for GMP certified status by simply documenting all processes and procedures governed by the regulations, implementing these standards, monitoring these standards on an ongoing basis, and subjecting themselves to and passing all scheduled or unscheduled site inspections by licensed authorities.

Some outsourced warehouses choose to be more proactive and pay a properly licensed organization to perform site visits and “certify” their facility. Whether an inspection is done by a governmental or paid for entity, the warehouse will receive a certification if passing scores are received. This serves as “proof” that the company is a licensed CGMP warehouse. In terms of properly vetting any potential outsourced warehouse, you can check with them and obtain any certifications that they received and review their internal formal documents related to their processes and procedures. As an example, WrightFulfillment is licensed by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as a fulfillment warehouse for vitamins and dietary supplements.

The stakes are high for many food, drug, medical, supplements and cosmetics products, so paying close attention to the certifications and capabilities of outsourced warehouse and supply chain providers is extremely important. Digging a little deeper in the due diligence process will ensure that you choose a company that is properly certified and capable of handling your products during all aspects of storage and distribution.

Customs Brokerage and Freight Forwarding – How A Fulfillment Center Can Help

Customs Brokerage and Freight ForwardingIf you are engaged in e-commerce, it is likely that you are eager to find ways to cut down on costs as well as the amount of time you have to dedicate to issues like packing and shipping. In fact, an enormous number of e-commerce businesses prefer to “outsource” this step, and it is often done through a “fulfillment center”. Yet, you still have to get your products to the fulfillment center, and the process of shipping products from the manufacturer to the fulfillment house is far more complicated when your products are made overseas. That is often where Freight Forwarding enters the equation.

Freight Forwarding Defined

Often, e-commerce involves sales of materials imported from abroad. Acquiring merchandise at deep discounts usually means looking overseas for much less expensive suppliers, but then it means handling the whole import process, and this requires developing a few unique business relationships.

First, you may have to work closely with a customs broker or brokerage who is an “agent of the importer”. Customs brokers are frequently the importer’s only point of contact with the U.S. Customs Service and advises on the technical requirements of importing, preparing and filing entry documents, obtaining the necessary bonds, depositing U.S. import duties, securing release of the goods and arranging delivery to the importer’s premises or warehouse.

Freight forwarders focus on coordinating shipping and customs clearance services from the overseas manufacturer to the local warehouse. Typically, they don’t do the actual shipping but instead have relationships with any number of carriers. Freight forwarders usually leverage their pre-existing relationships with shipping carriers, such as air freight, rail freight ocean freight and truck freight, so that they can deliver the best pricing for their clients.

Furthermore, freight forwarding companies typically don’t offer storage and shipping services once the product arrives locally, although there are a few that do. For those companies looking to bring product from overseas and who utilize an outsourced fulfillment service, it’s important to choose the best option for managing these related but specialized services. Clearly, fulfillment services are far different than Freight Forwarding services, but you may wonder if fulfillment companies offer freight forwarding. There is no single answer. Should your company utilize separate companies for each step? Are there companies that perform both services underneath one roof? If you utilize one company, what things should you look for in making the best decision? Below, we’ll explore the answers to these questions so that you can make the best decision for importing and distributing your products.

What Happens if You Choose a Fulfillment Company That Doesn’t Offer Freight Forwarding?

Some fulfillment companies do not offer freight forwarding services because (as you can see) it can be complicated and even labor intensive. In that case, you would need to hire a separate freight forwarding service. That is not, necessarily a bad thing. On the upside, you get to enjoy the benefits of the expertise of both firms, and as one focuses on brining product in from overseas, and the other on storing and shipping upon arrival, it can mean substantial savings. On the downside, it means two relationships to manage and high prices if you are not a bulk importer.

In this case, you can choose the best freight forwarding company based upon research and/or recommendations from others. While you won’t necessarily receive bulk discounts unless you have a large volume of import shipments, you can choose the company that you’re most comfortable with and you can certainly use the bidding process to leverage a better overall rate. If you don’t have any referral sources, you can either research companies individually or through the use of an online quoting service. Nonetheless, be sure to pay attention to these points:

  • Make sure you’re comparing “apples to apples” on your quotes, especially with regard to origin and destination terms of the agreement. Some companies will offer port to door (meaning that it doesn’t include freight from the factory to port of origin), some companies will offer door to door (from factory to warehouse), etc. Make sure you include all costs on each proposal to make the best decision.
  • Make sure each quote includes ALL fees. Similar to door to door versus other methods of quoting, freight forwarding companies may not include all fees on their proposal. Some important fees to look out for are customs fees, demurrage fees, insurance fees, courier and documentation fees, overweight container fees, and many others. Especially if this is your first international shipment, take your time to ask questions of any fees that you don’t understand so that you don’t get surprises when your final bill is received.
  • Make sure you check into the track record of the freight forwarder. To the extent possible, be sure to check into the financial and professional background of any potential international shipper. Have others been happy with the service? Your product is far too important to use an unreliable company just because they quoted the best rate.

Some Fulfillment Companies Have Freight Forwarding Referrals

Of course, some fulfillment houses, such as Fulfyld, create partnerships with a freight forwarding firm that they recommend if you are importing or exporting as part of your e-commerce work for managing import transportation. Again, there are pros and cons to consider. The upside is that you have a more streamlined approach, and if you encounter problems, you can contact the fulfillment center as well as the freight forwarder. Both have reputations at stake. Of course, you may not get the best pricing because one might earn a referral bonus or commission off the other. You also need to double check references. Though you might like the fulfillment center, it does not mean their preferred freight forwarder is all you need or the best fit. Again, you also have two separate relationships, but there is a connectedness that is of benefit to you.

Is an All-In-One Solution the Best for Your Company?

Lastly, there are some fulfillment centers that actually have “divisions” operating as freight forwarding firms. This means a single relationship with a range of departments or experts that offer the individualized services. The downside to such opportunities is that they are usually much larger companies if they can afford to have a completely separate freight forwarding and international shipping division. This means, of course, that they may only focus on larger volume accounts with larger companies. While this isn’t always the case, it may present challenges for smaller shippers and e-commerce companies.

So, a fulfillment center can help with customs brokering and freight forwarding, but it pays to find out what the overall pros and cons are of the different approaches. Before you make a decision on your import solution, consider the various relationships that are involved. Take the time to find your freight forwarding, customs brokering and fulfillment center providers to be clear about all of the costs, logistics and demands involved in your ecommerce enterprise.

How Do E-Commerce Companies Pull Off Free Shipping Perks?

How e-commerce companies offer free shippingI’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of offering free shipping in e-commerce. Perhaps you’ve even seen some of the latest stats, where it’s being reported that upwards of 74% of online shoppers drop out of their cart due to high or unexpected shipping charges. It certainly makes sense that people don’t want to pay a lot for shipping, and especially due to the presence of companies like Amazon that offer all sorts of shipping perks, free shipping has become more the norm than the exception. But have you ever taken a moment to think about how companies are able to offer free shipping to online shoppers without dipping too far into profits? We’ve done some research and below are some of the findings.

Your Shipping Rates Play a Big Role

Most business-to-consumer shipping is done via small parcel shipping, though larger products may use other methods such as less-than-truckload (LTL). We’ll focus on small parcel shipping in this article but the same general rules apply for larger freight. If you’re an existing company with regular order volume, you no doubt have your own rates that you’ve negotiated with the carriers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx. The shipping companies provide you volume discounted rates based upon how many orders you ship and other volume characteristics, such as percentage of residential shipments, average dimensions and weight, among others.

In order to provide any free shipping offers to your customers, the first step is to make sure that the rates you obtain from the carriers are as good as possible. If you haven’t had a discussion with your freight carrier of choice, be sure to reach out to them periodically (at least yearly but more frequently if you have events that may help justify a rate decrease) – and don’t be afraid to shop with another carrier that you aren’t using. Shopping your freight rates with multiple carriers increases the competition and can result in better pricing.

Assuming you do have the best rates possible based upon your own volume characteristics, there is still one other option to improve upon your shipping rates – using a fulfillment service. Fulfillment companies store and ship orders on behalf of companies. You may have heard of them before or perhaps you use one now. If you don’t use one now, using one may offer significant savings in freight costs. Like your e-commerce company, they also obtain freight rates from the various shipping carriers, and because they ship products for multiple companies, their rates may be significantly better than yours. By using a fulfillment service, you can “piggy back” off of their rates. This will help ensure you have the lowest rates possible so that you can employ some of the free shipping strategies. According to Joseph Palisano at Lincoln Warehousing, “we work with multiple carriers to ensure our customers get the best rates and services for their e-commerce fulfillment shipping needs.” If you are using a fulfillment service, be sure that you check with them every so often as well to make sure that you’re taking advantage of their best rates.

Identify Ways to Improve Other Warehousing and Shipping Costs

Improving shipping costs isn’t the only way to create additional margin to justify free shipping. Be sure to take a look at some of the other warehousing and shipping related costs of your business to see if there’s any wiggle room for improvement. For example, some of the major shipping carriers have “free box” programs. This is a way to decrease some of the packaging costs of your business. While you may not get some of the benefit of custom packaging, it allows you to cut down on part of your shipping expenses. Another alternative is to utilize recycled boxes or re-use boxes from returns. Every dollar counts when trying to help compete with other free shipping programs of competitors.

Sometimes, it makes sense to change some of your procedures to reduce fulfillment and shipping costs. For example, minimizing some returns can help lower overall costs. In this case, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and do a thorough analysis, but taking a creative look at your processes and procedures may open the door for other cost saving methods.

Finally, there may also be other shipping services that you can use to lower costs. For example, FedEX has its smart post option where their drivers deliver to a certain stage and then “inject” the package into USPS systems. Because of this, they’re able to offer the service at a slightly lower cost. These types of programs are worth looking into to make sure you’re as competitive as possible.

What is Your Competition Doing?

Before we provide a listing of some of the free shipping options at your disposal, it’s worth mentioning that you should always take a look at the free shipping competitive landscape in your niche before jumping in with both feet. Pay close attention to what others are doing. Are they offering free shipping? What types of free shipping offers do they employ on their site? By doing your own research, you can see how to best position yourself versus your competitors.

What Free Shipping Options Should You Use

Especially if you need to be conservative with your free shipping offers, it pays to know what available options are out there so that you can choose the most effective strategy. In rare cases, companies offer free shipping across the board – this is usually a very calculated decision and certainly isn’t for everyone. Also, some companies have the luxury of having a very high priced product, so they can lose some money on shipping due to their high margins to begin with. If you don’t have as much margin to pay with, here are some ideas to use:

  • Set a minimum order amount. You’ll have to determine the best minimum level, but this at least forces the consumer to spend over a threshold.
  • Offer free shipping for select items – e.g. only higher priced items. This helps you maintain control to offer free shipping on your highest margin items.
  • Offer a promotion for a certain period of time. This will allow you to minimize the free shipping losses to a certain period of time.
  • Only offer economy shipping, such as USPS ground. When you do offer free shipping, there’s nothing wrong with ensuring that it goes the cheapest method.
  • Use member and loyalty programs. Take a page out of Amazon’s book and require membership.
  • Put shipping costs into the product price. This is a bit riskier and will be dictated by your competitors’ prices.
  • Use selective free shipping options, such as “only if they abandon their cart” or in exchange for placing a review on social media.

Free shipping is by no means an easy thing to figure out. You’ll want to spend a good amount of time coming up with the best strategy. By taking a look at your costs, areas for cost improvements, investigating what your competitors are doing, and choosing between the free shipping options, you’ll put your company in the best position for success.

How to Deliver Amazon-like Customer Service

Amazon Fulfillment Customer ServiceEven if you haven’t read about Jeff Bezos and his stunning commitment to customers at Amazon, chances are you have been one of his satisfied customers. It’s not difficult to imagine that the person at the top at Amazon has figured out a formula for success that pushes the limits of what most companies are comfortable doing. Over the past few decades, he has transformed what used to be known as just an online bookstore into today’s most highly respected online retailer.

Simply being focused on customer needs sounds like something most business owners are already doing, but Jeff Bezos takes it to another level – pure obsession. His dedication to giving customers what they truly want drives almost every decision he makes for the company, and the long-term benefits for Amazon are undeniable.

That doesn’t mean it’s been a straight line to the top. Amazon has made its fair share of mistakes and experienced failure at times. But Bezos and his team use data from those experiences to expose potential improvements and pair them with what they know about their customers to propel the company forward.

The following concepts are at the heart of Bezos’ passionate quest to stay on the cutting edge of customer-centered service.

Respect and understand today’s customer.

People today want instant gratification, and Amazon is always striving to provide it. Customers expect a painless shopping experience, order information at their fingertips, and an effective way to get help or complain when there’s a problem.  They also have the power to blast the details of a negative experience to the entire digital world – instantly – if they feel that their concerns aren’t being acknowledged or acted upon.

But Amazon doesn’t operate the way that it does just to avoid negative reviews – Jeff Bezos is positively compelled to discover and act upon the needs of his customers, simply because he wants to do what is best for them. The customer is always #1 in his mind. He is famous for bringing an empty chair to meetings to remind employees that the most important person in the room is the one who isn’t sitting there – the customer.

Amazon’s approach to development is to fully understand the customer first, and then create products and services that satisfy their desires. Perhaps even more important are the things that customers can’t stand – having to wait longer than expected, problems with orders, or items being unavailable. Amazon tracks and studies these customer metrics carefully, which informs their decisions about adjustments to make to their services.

Creative personalization is one of the most obvious characteristics of Amazon.com that sets them apart from most. Their sophisticated algorithms and website features make the customer feel like they are both understood and in control. Being provided with links to very relevant products reinforces the sense that Amazon “knows” them, and the extensive forums, online reviews, and online chat features provide customers with all the information they need at their fingertips. Amazon is constantly expanding their services and the accessibility of their store across devices, making them truly available 24/7.

Take data-driven risks and innovate for the long term.

Bezos has always maintained that the Internet is uncharted territory that is full of surprises. To mitigate this unstable environment, Amazon relies heavily on customer metrics to inform their development decisions. They constantly track performance against measurable goals, gathering and comparing customer reactions to gain critical insight about their needs and preferences.

Jeff Bezos has, at times, appeared to make questionable choices for the company, but he says that he can take risks that people outside of Amazon might not understand at first, because he is confident that his data speaks the truth about what his customers want. Amazon routinely tests customer reactions and makes changes based on their real feedback.

Short-term company profits have never been his main concern. Instead, Bezos focuses instead on what he thinks will truly make his customers’ lives easier, and expects that long-term success will be a welcome byproduct of this approach.

Wage war on waste to cut costs.

In 2009, Bezos announced to his shareholders that he was taking it upon himself to effectively eradicate unnecessary expenses, which would ultimately translate into savings for his customers (and therefore even more customer satisfaction).

He was absolutely driven to cut costs and optimize processes in any way imaginable, much to the dismay of managers and developers who might have expected more than a would-be wooden door as an office desk. Amazon’s company-wide effort to minimize overhead and operating costs even led them to invest in technologies that automated internal warehouse operations, which decreased stocking times and streamlined their deliveries even more.

Be quick to apologize, and really mean it.

Amazon’s goal is to make people’s lives easier, period. But in the instances when that doesn’t happen, bad reviews travel fast.

When it comes to admitting mistakes, Amazon excels. Customer complaints and inquiries are immediately addressed, and returns are quick and painless. Amazon will send out a replacement for a lost item without even questioning whether the customer is at fault.

To ensure that his teams not only listen to customer feedback but also actually understand their concerns, Bezos requires that his management team complete yearly training onsite at Amazon’s call centers. This, he believes, fosters a culture of humility and empathy for their customers, which is at the core of his vision and mission for the company.

What does this mean for the Warehousing and Fulfillment Industry?

Of course, there are a few main takeaways that can be applied to the warehousing and fulfillment industry to help provide customer service like Amazon. Some companies, like Elevate Fulfillment, an e-commerce order fulfillment shipping company, are using Amazon as the barometer for customer service success. As Brad Hone from Elevate Fulfillment puts it, “the fulfillment industry is notorious for being behind the times when it comes to innovation and emphasis on continuous improvement in the customer success experience. Those companies that push the envelope and strive to offer the highest level of service will truly separate themselves from the pack.” In order to perform like Amazon, it’s important to make sure that your company is asking the right questions:

  • Are the needs of the customer at the forefront of your decision-making processes and at the core of your vision? The only way to succeed at offering Amazon-like customer experiences is to start from the top down.
  • Is the commitment to the customer present in every department and at every level? Every department and every employee has a set of customers that should be driving service enhancements and improvements.
  • Are you fostering and mining the wealth of data that you collect as a business in order to improve the customer experience? As a company, it’s important to collect relevant information and routinely analyze the data to find areas for improvement.
  • How hard is it for a customer when a mistake is made? What do you do when there is a mis-shipment or inventory is lost? The extent to which you leave a good taste in the mouth of a customer when something goes wrong will contribute mightily to either the success or failure of your organization.

Medical & Health Care Product Regulations & Warehouse Requirements

Medical and Healthcare Warehousing Many medical and health care products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other agencies. Both business owners and warehouse companies need to understand how to handle, store, pack, ship, and track medical and health care products using procedures that comply with government standards.

How do you determine whether or not these regulations apply to you? Below are some common examples to guide you through this complex topic.

Non-regulated products

Cosmetics, vitamins and supplements, other beauty/health-related products may benefit from special handling, but they may not require that a warehouse to maintain the same certifications that are needed for drugs and sterile medical supplies. Specific items like nail polish, perfumes, and skin cleansers or moisturizers are subject to FDA regulations, as are some additives for color that are sometimes ingredients in makeup. Because of these detailed distinctions, it’s best to check the FDA directly about their current requirements for health care goods like cosmetics and beauty products. 

FDA-regulated products

Institutions such as health care organizations, pharmaceutical companies, scientific groups, and research facilities are likely regulated by the FDA, because they produce and sell items that can are obviously categorized as drugs, medical/surgical devices, or diagnostic tools. Some of these products need to be kept at a specific temperature, labeled discreetly for security reasons, or kept perfectly sterile (free from bacteria). Others need to be carefully tracked throughout the fulfillment process.

Medical devices

The FDA defines a medical device as any item that is designed and intended for human use in the diagnosis or treatment of a disease, or an apparatus that can modify the anatomy or a physiological process.  The range of products that fit these criteria is quite large; a medical device can be anything from an adhesive bandage to a neuromuscular implant.

Medical devices are grouped into one of three distinct classes, depending on the level of regulation needed to mitigate potential risks[i]:

  • Class I medical devices are subject to the fewest controls, because they don’t pose a great threat to others if mishandled. The FDA’s “general controls” on these devices include provisions relating to misbranding, device registration, and good manufacturing processes. Examples of Class I medical devices include tongue depressors, sunglasses, gloves, or an IV stand.
  • Class II devices must meet the requirements of Class I regulations (“general controls”) plus comply with “special controls” such as labeling standards, tracking requirements, design guidelines, mandatory performance standards, and post-market monitoring rules. Items such as surgical masks, powered wheelchairs, or syringes fall into this category.
  • Class III items are extremely specialized and present a high risk of illness/injury, therefore their controls are the most stringent. These are life-sustaining products like implants (heart valves, pacemakers, etc.) that require scientific review and approval in addition to the requirements for Classes I and II.

Although the FDA doesn’t require or recognize the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), almost all manufacturers of medical devices want their critical vendors to be ISO 13485 certified showing they have significant control and risk mitigation processes in place that document and show evidence of consistency in every key function they perform including detailed tracking of lot and serial number.  “This certification level gives stand-out credibility to warehousing companies seeking customers in the rapidly growing medical device industry in both forward and reverse logistics” says Steve Storr, President of Mendtronix Inc., a combination logistical and technical specialty company servicing medical device and other vertical markets.

  • ISO 9001[ii] is a quality management system that helps certified businesses ensure that their customers consistently receive high quality products and services.
  • ISO 13485[iii] sets forth quality controls and regulations specific to medical devices and their associated services. These standards apply to every aspect of the life cycle of a product and to any organization involved in the development, distribution, or implementation of that medical device.

Pharmaceutical products

As you might expect, there are several governing entities for the pharmaceutical industry. The main goal of these agencies is to ensure the overall safety of consumers, but their efforts also reduce of fraud and drug abuse, enhance health care provider operations, and aim to improve the quality of health care overall. The processes that manufacturers must develop and implement to comply with these regulatory groups are frequently complex and detailed.

  • Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) is the main regulatory standard for ensuring the quality of human pharmaceuticals as enforced by the FDA. The CGMPs provide systems for manufacturers to use to ensure that their products are as safe and pure as possible, and that their operations are fully equipped to maintain a high level of quality control. These standards apply mainly to the drug companies, but the storage, handling, and shipment of their products may fall under these regulations.[iv]
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is a government agency that combats the smuggling and use of illegal drugs in the United States. It would be the responsibility of the fulfillment company to ensure the highest level of security for drugs they handle for their pharmaceutical companies, and to comply in all other ways with the regulations put forth by the DEA.
  • The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) provides a system of tracking certain drugs through the supply chain to help the FDA ensure that consumers are not exposed to harmful products. As it relates to distributors: “The DSCSA requires wholesale distributors and third-party logistics providers to report licensure and other information annually to FDA. Additionally, to further enhance the security of the drug supply chain, manufacturers, repackagers, wholesale distributors, and dispensers are required to notify FDA and other trading partners within 24 hours after determining a product is illegitimate. See frequently asked questions for more information about filling out Form FDA 3911 for a drug notification.”[v]

Other potential regulations

This list is not exhaustive; there might be other requirements that apply to warehousing operations depending on the products they are handling. For instance, international shipments might be governed by the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)[vi] if the business owner has elected to participate in this voluntary partnership. This agreement between the government and the company adds a level of security certification to the business activities of this company and assists with border control processes by streamlining inspections.

General warehouse preparedness

Obviously, with so many details and laws to keep track of, you must be extremely careful when choosing a fulfillment partner for your medical/healthcare products.  A select few companies, such as Mendtronix, provide specialized services in the health and medical industries. While the regulations described above will dictate specific requirements for warehousing companies as needed, the basic characteristics of a fulfillment company that can handle all kinds of medical and health care products are as follows:

  • At a minimum, a warehouse that plans to handle medical or health care products should be clean and well-maintained overall.
  • The facility should have robust security systems in place; certain drugs and controlled substances are highly sought after and need to be protected from theft.
  • Fulfillment centers must be climate-controlled and have appropriate redundancy/backup power supply in the event of power loss. An increase in temperature can permanently damage fragile and perishable health care items and even jeopardize heat-sensitive medical devices.
  • Most pharmaceuticals and some types of equipment and require special attention to inventory called expiration date tracking. A warehousing company should be familiar with three common methods of this tracking:
    • FIFO – “first in, first out” means that goods are sold in the order they were received at the warehouse
    • LIFO – “last in, first out” means that the items that were most recently added to the inventory are the next in line to go out
    • FEFO – “first expired, first out” means that products that will be expiring first are prioritized for sale
  • A fulfillment center that is ready to process medical products and health care items should also have the capability to provide customized and specific packaging solutions, such as:
    • Inconspicuous labeling for certain drugs or devices, to prevent theft
    • Cold packs or insulation for highly temperature-sensitive products
    • Special handling to ensure the integrity of sterile items

The FDA provides helpful guides to help you categorize products on their web site.

[i] FDA Classification Overview (PDF) https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DevelopmentApprovalProcess/SmallBusinessAssistance/UCM466473.pdf

[ii] ISO 9001:2015 https://www.iso.org/iso-9001-quality-management.html

[iii] ISO 13485 https://www.iso.org/standard/59752.html

[iv] Facts About the Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMPs) https://www.fda.gov/drugs/developmentapprovalprocess/manufacturing/ucm169105.htm

[v] Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA)

https://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/DrugIntegrityandSupplyChainSecurity/DrugSupplyChainSecurityAct/default.htm

[vi] C-TPAT: Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/ports-entry/cargo-security/ctpat

Startup and Small Business Fulfillment Services Companies

Fulfillment for start upsFor an increasing number of small business and startup owners, the challenge with running a profitable company is not necessarily branding or drumming up interest in products. Instead, it’s getting the products to the customers who purchase them.

This is part and parcel of the global economy fostered by the rise of the Internet, and is one reason that Amazon Prime (powered by FBA) has become such a juggernaut. However, it’s often a difficult tightrope to walk, particularly if you choose to go the in-house fulfillment route. Many companies choose to perform in-house fulfillment operations, only later deciding to outsource due to a number of complications that can arise.

Why Use Small Business Fulfillment Services?

Why would a small but growing company opt out of DIY fulfillment? Really, it takes just a bit of experience to see why. Sure, it might seem cheaper at the outset, but once you dig into the situation, you realize that it’s incredibly costly in terms of time and effort, even if the owner is doing the work without being paid. Eventually, these companies will grow to the point that they have to pay an employee to do nothing but shipping. That money might be better spent with a fulfillment company. However, it may not be that simple.

Many Fulfillment Companies Shy Away from Startups

Although working with a fulfillment company might be the best way to spend your money while ensuring better customer satisfaction, time savings, and other benefits, you may learn—to your chagrin—that it’s not as simple as choosing a partner and inking a deal. In fact, most fulfillment companies find it challenging working with startups. One of our partner firms, Sweetwater Logistics, who works largely with start-up and growing companies, says that they find that in most cases, the new business has failed within just two years. The challenge becomes filling the pipeline – perpetually finding new businesses to work with because many of them won’t be in existence within a few years.

Additionally, quite a few fulfillment companies will not work with startup businesses or have very serious reservations about such a partnership. These reservations generally focus on the fact that startups usually take up the most time of all potential clients. This applies to the amount of time needed to get the company set up because of their lack of track record and limited information, as well as the amount of time needed to answer questions and hold hands during the setup process.

Further complicating the situation is the fact that most startups don’t have much in the way of funding, because they have few or even no orders at the moment. This means that the fulfillment center isn’t going to make much (or any) profit on the account. Fulfillment is a high-volume, low-profit business, and fulfillment companies need to make smart decisions when it comes to the clients they take on to ensure that they 1) have a product that is in demand current, 2) have the finances to be a valuable partner, and 3) can sell in the volume needed to help the fulfillment company maintain profitability.

Startup Fulfillment Services Companies: There’s Still Hope

With all of that being said, working with a fulfilment center is still an excellent option for startups and smaller businesses. It gives you the ability to outsource all of your fulfillment needs to a company with the expertise, experience, and knowhow necessary to ensure timely delivery, accurate inventory counts, and more.

By working with a fulfillment company, you’re able to reduce the burden on your own company. It allows you to focus on what you do best—growing your business. That’s a win-win for both your firm and the fulfillment company. Plus, there are specific companies out there that focus on serving the needs of startups and that can offer more competitive prices and better suited services.

How Do You Find the Right Fulfillment Company?

Finding the right company starts with having as much information as possible. Remember that the fulfillment company will be screening you just as rigorously as you are screening them. You want to find a fit that works for both partners. The fulfillment company needs a partner that’s financially stable, has products that are in-demand, and will be around for longer than a couple of years. You need a partner that offers flexible solutions tailored to the sometimes-chaotic needs of small businesses and startups, and that is able to offer better pricing than what a general fulfillment company might be able to provide.

When you start discussing partnerships with potential companies, you’ll need to make sure that you can provide them with the things they’ll need to see. These include the fact that you are a business entity with a company name, office phone, business email address, and at least a basic website to your credit (this is especially true if you’re an ecommerce company). They will also want an idea of the volume you’ll be sending in terms of product/inventory, as well as when it will arrive.

Finally, you need to be clear about any requirements your products might have, including temperature control, fragility/specialty packaging, and more. If possible, share your formal business plan with the company you’re partnering with, as this can prove that you’ve not only done your research, but you are also committed to long-term success.

In regards to the fulfillment company, you should look for a single-location provider in most instances, as multi-location providers are usually more expensive. You should also look for firms that say they’re “startup friendly” and have low or no minimum requirements. Of course, you’ll want to see competitive pricing and flexibility in terms of how unique you can make fulfillment using your own logo, packaging, and the like. It might also be beneficial to partner with a firm that provides you with a dedicated service representative to answer your questions, as well as a company founded with an entrepreneurial spirit that can help with building your own business.

Ultimately, working with a fulfillment company is not only possible, but it’s an excellent idea for small business and startup owners looking for better efficiency, time savings, and the benefits that come from partnering with an expert capable of handling all of their fulfillment needs.

Choosing a Fulfillment Company When You Have High SKU Counts

High SKU CountsIf you’ve interacted with a fulfillment company for price quotes in the past, you might have experienced some of the key things that they look for when signing up new business – order volume metrics, certain types of products, etc. But one other little known characteristic that fulfillment companies look at in order to determine if they’ll be able to help is your overall SKU count. Many fulfillment companies prefer low SKU counts and high volumes since it’s easy to process and the volumes create profit. But what about companies that have large SKU counts and not necessarily high volume of orders? Are their fulfillment companies out there that can help? In this article, we’ll discuss high SKU count customers, what to look for in a fulfillment company and tips for selecting the best firm.

What is a SKU?

For those of you that don’t know exactly what a SKU is, we thought it would help to start out with a simple explanation. By definition, a SKU (or a stock keeping unit), is a product identification that allows the product to be tracked uniquely in inventory. Usually, companies provide a unique SKU number for each product in inventory. As an example, a company that produces t-shirts might have a SKU of “Fantastic Men’s Shirt-M-BL” for its men’s, medium, black ‘fantastic” t-shirt. They would simply update the code for different sizes and gender varieties. By tracking each unique SKU separately, the company can ensure adequate controls over inventory tracking and order fulfillment processes, thereby minimizing errors.

Why Do Fulfillment Centers Sometimes Focus on Small SKU Customers?

In some cases, fulfillment centers focus on trying to obtain new customers that don’t have large SKU counts in their inventory. There are a couple of reasons they prefer smaller SKU count clients. First, it takes less time to set up a new customer in their warehouse when the new client only has a few SKUs – from adding the items to inventory in their warehouse management software program to setting up spaces in their racking systems. Second, the fewer the SKUs, the lower the chance of ‘mis-picking’ orders. If there are a large number of SKUs, especially when the SKUs are similar in size and appearance, there is a much greater opportunity to pull an item incorrectly when picking an order. As an example, our Fantastic Men’s Medium Black t-shirt can easily be mistaken for a Fantastic Men’s Large Black t-shirt. Third, it takes a lot less time to receive product when it hits the dock and is comprised of only a few SKUs. Fourth, it takes a lot more space in the warehouse to organize all of the products if there are a great number of SKUs. Most fulfillment centers operate in a way that segregates “bulk” storage from “pick” space. The “pick” space is organized in such a way to easily pick and package orders, oftentimes organized using bins or shelving. The more SKUs, the more “pick” area needed.

What is Considered High SKU Count and What are Some Examples?

Fulfillment companies that shy away from high SKU count customers generally start getting a little more uncomfortable once the SKU count approaches 50-100 SKUs or more. Of course, there are many companies that have hundreds, thousands, and even more SKUs in inventory. It’s quite common to see high SKU counts. In fact, any product business could potentially have quite a large SKU count in inventory, depending upon how many products they’ve decided to sell. Some examples include apparel businesses, some vitamin and supplements companies, certain food products merchants, automotive business, many consumer products companies, pet and toy products producers – it could literally be any type of business!

Are There Companies that Work with High SKU Count Customers?

Thankfully, there are a lot of fulfillment companies that can help if you have a lot of SKUs. Some companies are able to help both small and large SKU clients, whereas some fulfillment centers have focused almost exclusively on higher SKU count and more complicated customers – almost making this a core capability and specialization of their business. For example, All Fulfillment Direct saw a need in the industry to help companies that don’t adhere to the “norms”. They’ve carved out a niche in helping companies with large SKU counts, not necessarily high order volume (though they can certainly help with this as well), complex moving parts, custom kitting and assembly services, and other ancillary services that many fulfillment providers fail to offer. By performing in-depth research, you can find companies that specialize in the type of fulfillment you need for your specific project.

What Makes a Fulfillment Company Good at This Type of Scenario?

There are a number of factors that ensure a fulfillment center operates at a high level with very complex accounts. First, they tend to be better communicators. They require a lot more info from the client in most cases, so they’ve learned to master the art of communication. Second, they almost certainly have to employ some sort of technology in order to manage such a large and complex set of products. At the very least, you will typically see bar coding used in all cases, though there may be even more technology systems to help with storing, picking, and shipping items. Third, the best companies have usually been doing it for quite some time so they are extremely experienced at operating with these types of accounts. Fourth, they’ve mastered the art of properly locating product in bins and shelving systems within their warehouse so that they can quick search for product, pull orders, and cycle or full inventory count products. Fifth, fulfillment companies that specialize in this area usually have a very diverse layout structure to their warehouse and don’t necessarily conform to a very rigid pallet system. This gives them the flexibility to bin located large and small items alike. Sixth, these providers take plenty of time to onboard new clients, knowing that getting all information up front will ensure success – and it takes a great deal of time to set up an account properly. Seventh, they will usually implement some sort of numerical bin ordering system and they will use bar code scanning to pick rather than relying upon visual picking. Finally, they usually spend a great deal of time receiving product and have strict controls over the receiving process.

Tips for Selecting the Best Fulfillment Company When You Have a High SKU Count

If you find yourself in the market for a fulfillment company that can help you with your high SKU business, then there are a couple of things that you should do in your search:

  • Ask the provider how long they’ve been doing high SKU count fulfillment. This will give you an idea of their experience level.
  • Ask for references of high SKU count customers. There’s no better way of finding out how well they perform than to ask their current clients.
  • Tour their warehouse to see the bin systems and bar code picking in action. Also, pay close attention to process, procedures and any technology they use to eliminate errors.
  • Be wary of choosing the lowest cost solution. Remember, it takes a lot of time to do fulfillment right when there are more SKUs – from receiving to onboarding to fulfillment and picking, so it costs more to operate at a high level. Choosing the lowest cost provider could put you in jeopardy of errors.