Unpacking Order Fulfillment Technology – Part Two
From Order to Fulfillment
Fulfillment means matching the request of a customer with the reality of a complex warehouse environment. Order fulfillment technology is what makes that process instant and efficient.
Once we have a live order, we need to fulfill it, which is mostly the job of our WMS (warehouse management software, in conjunction with our warehouse associates on the floor. We use the DCCS by Foxfire WMS Software.) This is software that tracks the bar codes on all products and collateral items in Capacity’s warehouse.
When we receive goods from our clients’ manufacturers, we place a license plate number (LPN) on each case or pallet containing one unique product (a SKU, or stock keeping unit). This then follows that product throughout its life in the warehouse. It is scanned by handheld radio frequency ‘guns’ or PDAs when the product is moved into reserve locations, picked, or handled in any way. It’s the only way we stay sane and provide cutting-edge service, working with millions of different items for over a hundred different clients in multiple warehouses on both coasts.
Finding the Right Order Fulfillment Technology
The tech we employ allows us to offer extremely high inventory accuracy, with 99% to 99.9% or even better levels of accuracy, depending on the product type. Steven Hawking may be worried about machine intelligence leaving us in the dust, but in supply chain that ship has sailed.
Going the Final Mile
After the items are picked and packed via the WMS, there is the last mile – you need to get it into the shipping part of the supply chain to get it over the goal line.
We print a barcode label that goes on each picked and packed order, and it can be scanned to produce a shipping label. Recently we’ve integrated with, in order to allow for one less step in our process. Instead of an order proceeding from picking to packing to QC (quality check) to shipping, we now print a shipping label at the QC station, improving speed and accuracy.
This is a deeply interesting topic and one at the forefront of innovation in our industry. Companies like Amazon are using innovative technology like recently-acquired Kiva to improve productivity, albeit with a hefty price tag. Other companies, such as those in the auto industry, have increasingly relied on robotics that allow them to churn out a car in less than a shift, from start to finish.
Shipping consumer products will always mean dealing with downward pressure, that of the value of the commodity being handled on the amount you can invest in that kind of hardware. Even so, it is very easy to justify the return on investment (ROI) of the types of software I outline above if your business has the right level of order volume.
Contact us if you’d like to talk more about how order fulfillment technology can work for your business.