Fulfilling orders and getting products out the door continues to be one of the biggest challenges for retailers and warehouse personnel. Slow or delayed order fulfillment can tarnish a company’s reputation and send consumers in the opposite direction as they look for faster alternatives. Ninety-six percent of consumers say a positive delivery experience would encourage them to shop with a retailer again.
Despite the need to get products out the door as fast as possible, order fulfillment continues to be one of the most expensive aspects of the retail business. In fact, the average cost to fulfill an order is 70 percent of the average order value. To reduce these costs and improve the order fulfillment process, many retailers and warehouses are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT). These smart devices can speed up the order fulfillment process, increase transparency and reduce expenses. Learn how to leverage the IoT in the order fulfillment process so you can win over more customers and increase your bottom line.
1.Real-Time Order Tracking
Knowing where your products are located within the order fulfillment process can help you improve your operations and get products out the door faster. With real-time remote sensors, you can track your shipping containers and products as they move through the supply chain. If your products or shipments are delayed for any reason, you can update your customers and overcome these challenges in real-time. The more you know about the order fulfillment process and how your products move through the supply chain, the more you can refine the process and prevent these kinds of issues from happening in the future.
Your inventory levels are always changing. But instead of having your employees manually keep track of how many products are on the shelf, use remote sensors and inventory tracking software to receive automatic inventory updates. If you sell out of a particular product faster than expected, you will see these trends coming from a mile away so you can keep your customers informed and order more products as quickly as possible. This helps you avoid having to put up the dreaded “Out of Stock” label on your website and you can then better meet the needs of your customers.
3.Reducing Order Fulfillment Times
When one of your customers orders a product, the first step is retrieving it from the shelf and bringing it over to the loading dock to get it ready for shipment. Keeping your warehouse organized with industrial storage bins and stack racks can decrease order fulfillment times. To further speed up this process, consider investing in automatic pickers and stockers. These smart devices can retrieve certain items–including those in hard-to-reach places–in a matter of seconds, helping you speed up the order fulfillment process. Program these machines based on the layout of your facility so they can retrieve items automatically as soon as you receive a new order.
You can also use automatic labelers, product packaging systems, product sorting systems and other IoT devices to speed up the order fulfillment process. These machines can complete routine processes in a matter of seconds and with greater accuracy, enabling you to get your shipping containers out the door sooner.
4.Tracking Recalled Products
Tracking products and shipments can also help you manage recalled products. If one of your suppliers uses faulty materials or a shipment is damaged in some way, you can quickly track these damaged goods and prevent them from reaching consumers. You can track the root source of the problem to see how many of your products have been contaminated or damaged, instead of throwing out large quantities of goods even if they are perfectly suitable for consumers. You can save money and better manage product recalls, helping you keep your customers safe from harm.
Many of the machines discussed in this article regulate their internal processes so you don’t have to worry about your entire facility grinding to a halt due to malfunctioning equipment. These devices monitor vital aspects of their operations and will alert you if they need assistance. While it’s always a good idea to set aside some time for maintenance and upgrades, these machines often take matters into their own hands by automatically requesting and updating their system. For example, an automatic labeler may automatically request more labels before it runs out instead of ceasing to perform this crucial task altogether. This reduces your labor expenses, machine downtime and other errors that can delay order fulfillment.
6. Data Analytics for Increasing Efficiency
With all these IoT devices, you can collect more data on the order fulfillment process. You can record every aspect of the supply chain and your warehouse operations, including how products make their way from the shelf to the loading dock to the truck and finally to the consumer. With this data on file, you can refine and improve the order fulfillment process at every turn. You can track certain trends, solve problems and increase efficiency across your warehouse or retail facility.
The IoT is changing the way warehouse and retail managers perform routine processes so they can decrease order fulfillment times and better serve their customers. If you choose not to invest in this technology, your competitors may beat you to the punch. Slow order fulfillment times or a lack of transparency can damage your company’s reputation in an increasingly competitive market. Stay ahead of the competition and use the IoT to make the order fulfillment process more efficient.