June 28, 2018
Posted by Mimi Wang

Don't Be Afraid to Automate Order Fulfillment

Let’s face it - automating order fulfillment sounds really intimidating. How could you automate a process that has so many moving parts? Where would you even start?  

In this post, we’ll show you that not only is it possible, but there is nothing scary about it. We’ll even make the case that it might be scarier not to automate your system.  

To Automate is to Simplify

First, let’s start by clarifying: when we talk about automating order fulfillment, what we're really talking about is eliminating manual steps from your fulfillment process. The manual steps you take to get orders shipped on time are fertile ground for inefficiencies, errors and runaway costs. 

Don't be Resistant to Change

We find that the main reason people are so resistant to the idea of automating order fulfillment is that they are used to their current system, with all of its inefficiencies, and have accepted it as the status quo.

This is understandable. Chances are, your system was set up when the company was started and nothing has changed since then.  

Most eCommerce businesses concentrate so much on areas like marketing and product in their early days that fulfillment and shipping end up being an afterthought. This results in fulfillment systems that were not optimized in the first place and have not evolved as the business continues to grow.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

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With the right system in place, automation is possible and doing so will eliminate many of the time-consuming manual steps in your order fulfillment process. For example, automation can:     

  • Eliminate manual data entry into carrier systems
  • Eliminate manual Bill-of-Lading creation
  • Automatically connect to printers, scales, dimensioners and other hardware
  • Automatically select the right carrier, service and warehouse for order fulfillment on an order-by-order basis
  • Input data that previously had to be looked up manually, such as customer account numbers or 3rd party billing rules
  • Account for business-specific rules, such as using only a specific carrier for a given zip code or next day service

We broke down order fulfillment into 10 essential steps in our What is Order Fulfillment post. Just look at these steps as areas where you can be saving money.

Automation is the key to these savings. If automating order fulfillment sounds scary, it’s probably because the thought of taking on all of these steps is overwhelming. That’s where a Transportation Management System (TMS) comes into play.

TMS - A Comprehensive Solution

A TMS can tackle all 10 steps and take the pain out of automating. In addition to selecting the best carrier and shipping method for an order, a good TMS will also be able to generate a list of the items and their respective locations in a warehouse and determine the best packing materials based on the items’ weight and volume.   

The best TMS platforms will come with a team of experts that will roll up their sleeves and work with you to optimize your order fulfillment process and check in with you regularly after the platform has been implemented.

With all of this in mind, there really isn’t anything scary about automating your order fulfillment system. It’s actually far scarier to do nothing and carry on with the outdated system you’ve been using.

Ready to get started? Set up a time to discuss how you can automate your shipping operation with the ShipHawk team today!                        

       

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