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Whether you send products to retail outlets, deal in B2B, or sell directly to consumers, managing orders is one of the most important things a warehouse can do.

By preventing errors in orders and getting products to your customers on time, you can maintain a good standing with your clients and prevent inventory issues down the road. There’s several steps along the path that need to be well-maintained to make sure every order is handled correctly, but proper order fulfillment is a major part of it.

After taking the time to optimize the way your warehouse handles and fulfills orders, you can help better prepare your warehouse for whatever other inventory or order challenges it may face and streamline operations throughout the entire facility. Read on for a few tips on order fulfillment optimization:


Create a chain of command

One of the biggest roadblocks you can encounter when trying to fulfill orders in a timely fashion is confusion along the path. Workers not sure who to report to, people being unclear as to their responsibilities in fulfilling orders—it can all start to slow the process down after too long. Define and document a chain of command for all orders that come in, and consider every step of the process: Who reorders out-of-stock items? Who prevents orders for out-of-stock items from being placed? What needs to be done if an item can’t be located? Verify each of these steps and make sure your staff is aware of each part of the process to help prevent confusion and help orders get fulfilled as quickly as possible.


Set a goal for handling orders

A lot of warehouse managers think that order processing and fulfillment is a one-size-fits-all proposition, but this is often not the case in order fulfillment. Take some time to define a goal and set a tone for how your orders will be handled—are you looking for the lowest shipping cost? The fastest handling time? Will you approach each order individually to make sure the customer’s unique needs are met correctly? Determine what you want to achieve with your orders first, and the method with which you handle them will fall quickly into place.


Take time to perfect inventory location

Of course, all the order fulfillment documentation in the world won’t help much if you can’t find the items you’re trying to sell in the first place. Make sure to optimize your warehouse shelving and wire shelving to keep items organized and easy to locate—this will go a long way towards reducing handling time and making sure orders get out in a timely fashion.


Set different processes for different shipping times

More and more these days, customers are willing to pay extra for faster shipping methods simply as a matter of convenience. A great way to streamline order handling is to make sure different steps are taken to fulfill orders set at different priorities: have different staff and different methods to process overnight or 2-day orders as opposed to cheaper, lengthier shipping methods, and train your workers on when each one is appropriate to use.


Create an order routing plan and stick to it

Finally, the last step along the path before it gets to your customers is the way the order is routed, and how long it takes to get there. If you work out of different facilities, or offer a variety of shipping methods (pick up at store, for example), you need to work with your fulfillment providers and transport companies to figure out an ideal route for your items to take before they arrive to cut down on transport time, handling time, and extraneous ‘touches’ along the way.

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