Fulfillment Logistics: Dissected
Fulfillment logistics is a deceptively short way of encompassing the entire range of considerations, operations, things, people, and places involved in a business getting its products to its customers. Excluding the sourcing and merchandising of these products, fulfillment logistics covers everything after the product has actually been purchased by a consumer. To that end, fulfillment logistics is an unsurprisingly enormous field.
In the interest of space, let’s break it down here into its major subcomponents, all the while remembering that the following are very much connected to one another, and a decision made in any subcomponent has implications and repercussions throughout the entire fulfillment logistics network.
Inventory: To begin, it’s largely impossible to buy or sell an unknown thing. Inventory maintenance is crucial for both fulfillment logistics, as well as the overall health of the business, as an accurate knowledge of one’s goods at any given time is necessary for all operations. Whether you’re a small company shipping only a handful of different items, or a massive supplier, some kind of inventory strategy is a must; software that supports SKU itemization can help streamline the inventory aspect of fulfillment.
Storage / Warehousing: Much like knowing one’s holdings, it’s equally basic to have somewhere to put said holdings. As a business expands, this issue of storage often becomes one of the biggest decisions it can make, and the huge growth in the 3PL (Third Party Logistics) field reflects this. If operating your own warehouse is neither feasible nor desirable, outsourcing a huge portion of your fulfillment logistics to a 3PL can be a straightforward solution. And as 3PLs often offer multiple warehouse locations from which to ship, all while handling seasonal shifts, inbound and outbound logistics, and so on, they can be key in helping businesses scale.
Packaging: As both businesses and consumers become ever more environmentally conscious, packaging has likewise become a huge aspect of fulfillment logistics. From custom packaging to packing material, all aspects of packaging are being increasingly scrutinized for waste and eco-friendliness.
Shipping: Of course, none of this would matter much without shipping. As is well known by any business of any size, shipping can be its own logistical nightmare, with considerations far exceeding an item’s weight and distance travelled. So while outsourcing shipping to a 3PL can often seem to be only positive, it’s important to closely understand a given 3PL’s shipping partner and policy, as it’s rare that the same exact shipping contract and carrier equally suits the needs of all businesses.
Returns / Customer Service, etc.: Finally, in the unfortunate circumstance of a customer returning an item a clear return policy and procedure is necessary for all businesses, as is putting time and money into customer service. Customer service is rapidly becoming an important aspect of fulfillment logistics, as businesses seek to differentiate themselves from their competitors in an ever more competitive landscape.
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