How to Stop Putting Out Fires in Your Fulfillment Services

Published : December 16, 2015

Fulfillment Center Manager

There was a time when being accused of "being transparent" was a cause for concern, not business pride, and reactive supply chain moves often sufficed when there were pockets of lead time throughout the whole order process—lag between order placement and acknowledgement and pauses between picking and shipping. Now, however, orders are placed and sourced at lightning speed, and your supply chain strategy has had to adjust accordingly.  If you're still operating as if these lead time pockets are plentiful, it's time to get up to speed, literally, by rethinking the way you respond to concerns in the fulfillment process. 

Build Teammates, Not Minions

Every team needs a leader, but that doesn't mean you’re balancing the success or failure of your entire fulfillment center on one person. Incorporate a healthy handful of individuals whom you can trust to research, plan and act accordingly to make decisions in your absence. These men and women do not need to be de facto managers, but they should be competent enough at improvisation to avert disaster if a problem crops up while you're sick or on vacation. Help support these team members by creating decision flowcharts as a group, ensuring that they feel confident in who they contact and what they request from your supply chain in a time of need.

Secrets Help No One

There's a good reason why transparency is still such a prominent buzz word as we move into 2016 and beyond—it has the power to virtually eliminate hiding places for errors. When you commit your supply chain and fulfillment processes to stakeholder transparency, you're not only fostering trust, you're exposing potential issues to a wealth of critical—and perhaps even more well-informed—eyes. There are enormous benefits to be had from early detection in sourcing problems, and stakeholder examination, in particular, can be a critical method for finding issues in supply chain strategy. 

Learn from Your Mistakes

If a faucet leaks, do you repair the faucet or invest in a series of ever-larger buckets to catch the water? You fix it, of course, because to persist with buckets would be an exercise in futility. When you encounter a problem in your supply chain, resist the urge to give into the quick fix. Take a good, long look at the cause of the issue and then take the time to permanently solve the problem. It will seldom be convenient, will often be expensive and will almost always require more work than a stop-gap measure, but ultimately you'll spend less in resources than you would on temporary fixes.  

Consider this: When a customer shipment goes missing, giving that customer a coupon for their next order won't locate the package. It comes across as tone deaf and probably won't make them feel any better. If a patch fix isn't good enough for your customers, why should it be good enough for your company? 

Embrace Tech

Data is more precious than gold, but like gold, it must be carefully extracted from the less valuable material around it and bundled to provide the best value. Don't be afraid to have conversations with knowledgeable software and ERP representatives about what their systems can do for your warehouse. Part of being proactive means understanding what your current data is telling you and using it to forecast potential future outcomes for your fulfillment processes. Employing disruptive technology, such as data modeling, is an excellent method for taking fulfillment planning from reactive to proactive

If you're stuck in a reactive mindset, your supply chain strategy might not be as useful as you hope it is. Just like driving, your eyes need to be on the road ahead, and glued to your dashboard, if you're going to guide your company to success. The smart precautions you take now can make all the difference in a crunch, so don't neglect enduring warehouse prosperity in favor of temporary convenience in your planning.

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Topics: Supply Chain Logistics

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