Order fulfilment takes in all steps from receiving an order to the order arriving at the customer’s specified address. When you’re trying to improve your POP (Perfect Order Percentage), after you’ve gone through our basic recommendations, it’s worth breaking down your order fulfilment process into each step. Be as thorough and precise as possible.

A fully manual order fulfilment process is slower and more error prone

Your step list might look like this:

Steps in the Order Fulfilment Process

  1. An order is received on one sales channel (Amazon, eBay, telephone, your eCommerce site, etc).
  2. Payment for the order is processed.
  3. The customer is notified their order is confirmed.
  4. The order is entered into your back office records.
  5. If it’s not your fulfilment team doing this, the order is then sent to your fulfilment team.
  6. The components of the order are picked from the warehouse.
  7. Shipping is booked for the order.
  8. Your back office records are updated with the shipping details and tracking number.
  9. Stock levels are updated.
  10. If picking the order takes stock below a certain level, a notification is made that re-stocking is needed.
  11. Shipping labels are printed. If there is a paper invoice, it is also printed at this point.
  12. One of your team packs the order.
  13. The order is passed on to a courier.
  14. The customer receives a shipping notification, with tracking information.
  15. The customer receives their order.
  16. (optional) If there is an issue with the order, the customer complains.
  17. (optional) If the customer complains, your team offer a solution.
  18. (optional) After the customer agrees, your team follow a returns process with steps of its own.
  19. (optional) If a replacement order was requested, steps 6-15 are repeated.
  20. (optional) You contact the customer to request a review.

Once you have this list, talk to your fulfilment team. Your goal is to find out where they think the biggest issues are. They’re doing this every day; some of them will have opinions, and opinions worth listening to, too.

Which steps have the most mistakes? Which steps take longer than they should?

And here are two crucial ones:

Do any steps get routinely skipped in practice?

Have you missed any steps they’ve had to add in?

Both of those can be true at once. If your team are presented with a procedure that doesn’t work, they will find workarounds. That might mean more steps, and it might mean skipping steps. They might skip steps because:

  • There’s no time.
  • They don’t believe that step to be important or effective. (Are they right?)
  • In practice, the step as written isn’t possible.
  • They believe they’ve found a better way to do that and something else. (Are they right?)

Step by Step Order Fulfilment Improvements

Now you have a full list and you have feedback on pressure points, issues with official procedure, and hopefully some suggestions for how to improve things.

Go through that list point by point. We want to speed up order processing. We also want to reduce poor fulfilment. (Sadly, it’s impossible to eliminate poor fulfilment. But we can try.)

Mark the steps that take the longest, and mark the steps where most mistakes happen. These are the steps where a single improvement can have the biggest effect.

Order Fulfilment Automation

You might have noticed that the step-by-step guide didn’t reference a CRM.

Obviously, we assume that even the smallest eCommerce business these days keeps their records electronically. The smallest businesses often use an Excel spreadsheet, and as they grow, they might add an accounts package. (It’s not uncommon for smaller customers looking to add an order management system to first approach Cloud Commerce Pro because we integrate directly with their existing accounts software.)

Other software systems tend to be added when the company realises it needs them. This is a problem in disguise; companies often only realise they need software after not having it has caused a problem.

On your list, how many steps are dealt with automatically? And how many steps can be?

To get you started, we reviewed our own list. The following steps can be dealt with automatically within Cloud Commerce Pro:

2 – 5 (details in order management processes, payment gateway integration, and CRM), 7 & 8 (shipping automation and courier integration), 9 & 10 (stock control systems), 11 (more from our shipping automation), and 14 & 20 (Message Centre automatic messages).

Automating these processes speeds those steps up so much that they’re effectively instantaneous. (There may be a slight delay waiting for payment to confirm or for shipping to be booked.)

It also removes the chance of human error on these steps. Immediately, Cloud Commerce Pro cuts out errors on ten out of fifteen non-optional order fulfilment steps, and takes care of them instantly.

Step 1 requires no work from your side, so it can’t be improved. The same is true for steps 13 to 15.

That leaves our hypothetical company only needing to improve 6 and 12 – picking and packing your order.

These involve moving items and wrapping them, so automating them would need heavy investment in robotics. In many more complex cases, the fine control needed for this would be extremely expensive – and for all but very simple systems, it’s currently not available.

We looked at future trends in warehouse picker automation earlier in the year. AI has the potential to make automated pickers more effective. But packing orders, if you stock items in multiple shapes, sizes, and textures, is even further away than automated picking.

Of course, that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Packing orders is one of the few parts of the order fulfilment process that's more expensive to automate than to handle manually - so far.

While we can’t automate picking and packing, we can help streamline them. Using barcoding and scanning technology, you can reduce the need for paper lists. With our advanced Android barcode app, the scanner’s own screen carries the pick list for you. Detailed warehouse mapping allows the system to devise a quicker, more efficient picking order based on route pathing.

Our Express Pack Station is designed to accelerate the packing process, while also reducing errors.

Simply mark off items as you prepare to pack them, collect a freshly printed packing label, seal the package, apply the label and set it for collection.

Improved Order Management

Automating processes works best when you take the bigger picture into account. You could buy different systems to cover different aspects of the process, but making sure they play well together can be a nightmare.

That’s why Cloud Commerce Pro uses managed set-up. Different sales channels use different formats for data. The same system has to be able to recognise all of them. At the other end, your shipping information has to go to couriers in a format they understand.

Because Cloud Commerce Pro is an end-to-end service, we can ensure there are no conflicts during your order fulfilment processes. Because we manage your set-up, we can ensure your data is clean and ready to be used.

An order management system takes work to get up and running. We do that work for you as standard. When your system goes live, you know it’s genuinely ready for use.