As with shopping for most business services, the stakes for selecting an outsourced fulfillment services vendor are extremely high. The selected fulfillment company will store all of your product, pick and pack shipments to customers, and generally serve as the entire back end of your company. This is an enormous responsibility, not to mention that if things end up going wrong, changing providers is beyond difficult. So choosing the best fulfillment Center for your specific needs that will perform high quality work is critical to not only the success of your business but also the minimization of any potential disasters or headaches with logistics.
What To Look For in a Fulfillment Center?
This is a critical phase in selecting a fulfillment center provider, but knowing what you are looking for can be difficult. This blog will outline some of the things you need to know and see when you are touring a distribution center to finalize selecting a new 3PL partner.
Clean and Organized Warehouse
For the most part a 3PL should look clean and organized especially if you are not an auditor or someone who tours a lot of Distribution Centers. With that said there are few things you should look for that can help uncover a seemingly organized warehouse to show a very unorganized warehouse.
You want to make sure there are clearly marked off walking paths and areas for pallets/product. This is a good check to see if the fulfillment center is LEAN. Any unmarked or unlabeled pallets or locations be sure to ask the person giving the tour what location that is. If they don’t know or it is not clearly marked it probably means the product is not in a correct location and could lead to inventory issues.
Even though warehousing and shipping seems like a relatively simple operation, there are so many factors that make it quite complex for many businesses. For example, companies with unique requirements, kitting projects, and a high number of SKUs are just a few of the examples that can make this seemingly easy function difficult.
It should be of no surprise that many of the companies out there have trouble when it comes to routinely and accurately shipping products for customers. So, take a critical look at anyone that you consider, because you don’t want to be caught behind the eight ball with shipping errors.
Finding the right culture fit is extremely important. Working with a fulfillment company that has the same values, drive and passion that you have for your business can be extremely beneficial in the success of the partnership. Make sure to meet everyone that you would be dealing with on a day to day basis. Get introduced to everyone that you can to get an idea of their personality and how it would match with your team.
When walking the warehouse floor talk with the employees. Engage them to get a sense of how happy they are to work for the company. Ask questions about what they are doing. These are the people that actually do the work rather than the sales guy behind a desk. It is important to know they are important to the success of your operation.
Location of the Facility
Location is a critical factor when making a selection for fulfillment center provider. It’s usually a function of where your product is manufactured or procured and where your customers are located. Many companies unknowingly believe that it has to be located close to them – which may be helpful if you are more “hands on” and would prefer to keep tabs on your partner while building a closer relationship. But keeping an open mind will open up avenues that could lead to increased performance, lower costs, and less headaches.
Insurance/Free Trade Zone
Especially if your commodities are expensive, you’ll want to make sure that the fulfillment company has adequate insurance to cover the contents of its customers. In order to protect yourself, you can ask to be added as an additional insured under their policy. Furthermore, some companies prefer to bring their product in from overseas into a free trade zone facility. Only a select number of companies have this status, so it’s something you’ll have to dig into in order to find out the specifics.
Types of Commodities Stored and Shipped and Specialization
Many fulfillment houses specialize in processing orders for certain commodity types. Because they’re specialized, they can, in theory, produce better results for their clients. For example, companies that specialize in apparel warehousing may have unique equipment to be able to store and ship these unique products better than a general warehousing facility. Depending upon your product type, look into the types of commodities that each prospective vendor targets and factor this into your overall decision.
Shipping Services Offered?
For some companies, it’s important to secure the best freight rates possible in order to pass on the lowest shipping totals to customers. And for companies that ship LTL (less than truckload) and full truckload shipments, costs can be significant. So learning whether or not the company has it’s own fleet for shipping, has contracted rates for small package and LTL shipping, and what discounts will be available are crucial to making the best decision.
Volume of Orders and Storage
One of the things you will have to consider when you are choosing a fulfillment company is the size of your business and whether it truly makes sense for you to work with one of these companies, at least yet. Some of the fulfillment companies out there have volume restrictions in place. This essentially means that if you are not selling a lot of products, they might not want to work with you at all because they do not see it as financially viable for them.
However, there are also plenty of fulfillment companies out there who are more than willing to work with startup companies who are still growing.
Flexibility and Additional Services
You should also think about the types of services you might need. Is everything you do rather straightforward and simple, or do you often need to have kits or bundles put together? What about your company and your products might make it more difficult for the average fulfillment company to handle? Understand what additional services you might need and how flexible you need the fulfillment company to be. This will help to ensure you are working with the right company that “gets you” from the start.
Christopher Morgan Fulfillment Center Services
Christopher Morgan Fulfillment has access to more than 600,000 square feet of professionally managed, secure, dry storage space, warehousing & distribution in Milwaukee and in all regions of the United States.
Our facilities are located in:
- New Berlin, Wisconsin
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Los Angeles, California
- East Brunswick, New Jersey
- Direct Response
- E-commerce Fulfilment
- Catalog/Print Advertising
- Customer Contact Center
- Big Box Retail Distribution
- Home Shopping
- Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
- Experts at Retail Compliance
- Partner Testimonials
BUSINESS TO BUSINESS
- Warehousing & Distribution
- Lot Control
- Kitting/Light Assembly
- Inspection Services
- Repackaging & Rework Services
VALUE ADDED SERVICES
- Business Intelligence/Analytics
- Customer Call Center
- Web Development
- Returns Processing