5 Do’s and Don’ts of Cloud Order Fulfillment, Warehousing, and Management
Everything is in the cloud these days, right? Well, order fulfillment can be too! It allows both the fulfillment company and the client to keep track of each and every package that has to be sent.
You know the nitty-gritty of different warehouse and fulfillment practices, so we wanted to take a step deeper and think about some of the problems that cloud brings or the multi-step solutions that people don’t complete.
Here are five areas you might want to give a little extra attention to make the most of your cloud tools.
1. Sharing Your Data
Do: Work on integrating your systems and order data.
Don’t: Forget to integrate across channels as well as software.
One of the biggest benefits of adopting cloud order management and fulfillment practices is that orders from all your channels can be gathered together. This allows your warehouse to be flexible and use wave or zone picking to optimize orders. It can also help you figure out how to better lay out your workflows and product locations.
However, you should take this a step further and open the data up to analysis from other programs and your customers/partners. You can use the cloud to help everyone understand packages, order times, fulfillment rates, and much more. The fulfillment company may even help brands find new opportunities for product kits and groups based on what’s reordered the most or what changes from season to season.
2. Putting New Practices into Place
Do: Train your team during implementation and afterward to encourage the adoption of new activities.
Don’t: Train once and forget, without checking up on your team.
The strength of cloud platforms, and really any new system, depends solely on people actually using it. We recommend you build out a complete change management team and protocol so that you’re establishing best practices to use systems today and down the road.
If your teams aren’t trained on how to perform new actions with your cloud systems — or you haven’t given them enough buy-in to feel like the change will help — then they are likely to slip back into old habits as soon as you stop watching over them.
Whenever this happens, it signals a big concern. Solve it by discussing what’s wrong, why a process isn’t being used, and how you can work together to make usable for your warehouse teams.
3. Solving Problems
Do: Establish a review process that includes all stakeholders.
Don’t: Decided just to let IT handle it.
Cloud order fulfillment and overall warehouse management can lead to issues, just like any software. A substantial change in the management of these issues becomes the trouble ticket that someone who sees an issue fills out and sends out into the ether. If you’re considering that path, it’s time to hit pause.
These order systems are easy to look for fixes to a button or data integration that’s broken, but errors often have cascading impacts on your processes.
Bring in your warehouse workers or leaders to discuss how the errors are impacting operations. Have IT discuss what can fix it or address the problem before you hit this error. And, have leadership come into the conversation regularly so you can get buy-in to spend on updates or custom development to both solve problems and find new efficiency improvements.
4. Protecting Your Operations
Do: Mix your data between the cloud and systems you can touch with your hands.
Don’t: Offload all your mission-critical data to the cloud.
Cloud warehouse tools will make your day better in almost every way, especially when it comes to inventory counts and accuracy. Your team will enjoy the ability to just do audits instead of entire counts to make sure you’re safe and sound with goods.
But, when the Internet connection goes down, how does your system react?
In some cases, we see operations that can’t make updates to their inventory and other counts as they go when this happens. They must record orders and inventory use separately and then manually enter that information when the connection comes back.
In other situations, you might have a system that tries to keep things updated, but it relies on a data warehouse in the cloud. So, when the connection is made again, the system sees a discrepancy between what the local software says you have and what the cloud database says, and then automatically sides with the database stored in the cloud.
Avoid this through rigorous testing and implementation best practices, and a local database that you can give precedence. You need access to your information, including local backups, just in case the connection is severed. It’ll also make it easier for your team to run analytics and look for patterns while minimizing potential accidental loss of data.
5. Understanding Your ROI
Do: Give your tool credit for the improvements it creates, including peace of mind and stress reductions.
Don’t: Get hung up solely on monetary gains.
At the end of each month or quarter, you’ll be asked how the cloud order fulfillment tools are working for your team. It typically is easy for you or warehouse leaders to look at costs per order before and after implementation, and many brands will stop there.
However, there are a variety of other metrics to review. Some of the more common KPIs include:
- Increase in on-time deliveries
- Increases in order accuracy rates
- Reduction in packaging material use
- Reduction in pick times
- Reduction in the amount staff walks or moves per order
- Reductions in returns
There are even a few items that feel a little more hidden. Ask you warehouse teams if they’re enjoying their work more, if picking orders have become less stressful, or if they are other reasons they are better able to do their jobs.
You just might be surprised by what you find.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.