Moving your business from your garage to a professional fulfillment center can be confusing but it doesn’t need to be. Read below to find out exactly how to prep your inventory, schedule a pickup and transition your order fulfillment successfully.
When your ecommerce business takes off and it becomes difficult to manage the fulfillment of orders, it’s time to consider third-party logistics, also known as 3PL. This is where you use the resources of a professional warehouse or distribution center to handle the fulfilling of online orders for you. The first step is to select a fulfillment provider. Consider your options carefully in order to select a 3PL provider that will meet your customer service needs, business operations and plans for business growth. Take into account the distributor’s inventory & order accuracy rates, service level agreements and geographic location. Read How to Choose A Fulfillment Provider to learn more. The next step is to prep your inventory.
Prep Your Inventory
While this step can be a little time consuming, it’s critical to ensuring your products arrive at the distribution center safe & sound, and can be quickly put away in the warehouse.
All individual units should be wrapped or packaged in some kind of poly bag, retail box, or just a larger cardboard box. This will provide more protection for your items during transit, will keep them clean during the Receiving process, and will allow for the SKU label to be applied to an outer box (as opposed to directly on the item).
With apparel, using a poly bag will also ensure that any folding, steaming or pressing that you did beforehand will stay intact until the customer receives the order.
With fragile items, it may be a better idea to wrap them protectively and place them in a retail cardboard box. During packing, a shipping label can be applied directly to the outside of the box.
After packing your individual items, you should package them into larger outer cartons. Each outer carton will also require a label. Once you have prepped your entire inventory, you should review the distribution center’s requirements on incoming materials.
Meeting Distribution Center Requirements
Most distribution centers have stringent requirements for accepting a shipment. If you fail to meet these requirements, your delivery could be moved to a quarantine area (and thus not available to order for an extended period of time) or rejected outright. You will want to research the specific requirements for your distribution center of choice, but most have requirements similar to the following:
- ASN (Advanced Shipping Notification) – Must be received usually at least 48 hours or more before your shipment arrives.
- Case or Carton Labels – You will need to apply a label to every carton or case you are shipping with details concerning the contents. This could include the SKU, Barcode, Product Description and Quantity per case.
- Packing List – A packing list must accompany most inbound shipments to a warehouse. This should be a typed list that describes the entire shipment. It should include at a minimum your company information, SKUs and Quantities that are part of the shipment, as well as the vendor, number of total pallets and product descriptions.
- Pallet Requirements – All warehouses have pallet size restrictions. Pallets must be within specific height and width requirements, and should be packed properly. Read our blog post on How To Properly Pack a Pallet to learn more.
- Product Barcodes – Barcodes are usually required by fulfillment centers and must be on each individual product, as well as on the outer carton. If you do not currently have barcodes, read our blog post here on How to Quickly Create Barcodes for all of Your SKUs.
Every fulfillment provider will have specific requirements regarding each of these areas, and may have additional requirements not mentioned above. If you wish for your orders to go through without a hitch, you must meet these requirements exactly. If you ever have questions regarding the acceptance of shipments, always check with your fulfillment center – they usually have these standards posted online for easy access.
It may take 1-2 days to prepare your first shipment, but you will quickly get the hang of the process the more you do it. Learn more about moving your order fulfillment from your garage to a professional warehouse by visiting Fulfillify.com. The next step is scheduling a pickup.
Scheduling a Pickup
Most freight companies like FedEx and UPS allow businesses to schedule one-time or regular pickups. These businesses also often have customizable shipping options, so no matter the size of your business, you can find shipping solutions to suit your needs and budget. For example, if you know that your inventory is not enough to fill an entire 18-wheeler trailer, you may be able to get a reduced rate by sending your products LTL, also known as less than load. This means combining your shipment with other businesses; essentially, you share the truck space and are able to send your products at a reduced rate. There are also many local freight companies you can call if you prefer to work with a regional business.
Rates and options differ by company, so you will want to call around to get quotes. Once you know which company you want to use, you can usually schedule a pickup over the phone or online.
If you only have a few cartons (not pallets) you could drive your inventory to a warehouse yourself. In that case, you would need to call the Receiving Dock and schedule an appointment. You would still need to comply by the above guidelines, but you drop off the materials via car until you are delivering pallet loads.
Once you have prepped your inventory, checked off all incoming shipment requirements, and scheduled a pick up, you will be well on your way to delivering your first shipment to a professional warehouse.