It takes a lot of trust to let an outside company manage and perform
some of your most vital business functions. Fulfilment is one of the
most vital points in your logistics chain. Getting it right can make
things very easy for you, but choosing the wrong partner could put the
nails in your coffin.
When choosing a fulfilment company, or deciding whether to stay with your current arrangements, consider how the competition stacks up for the following services.
Many older concerns put orders into their system in batches before
sending them for packing. This used to be the industry standard, but it
causes unnecessary delays and adds processing time before the order even
goes out for picking. Better to use one that sends orders for picking
automatically as soon as they arrive.
Ideally, you want live reporting. You need your orders despatched
promptly, and you should have the ability to check up on this at any
time over the web. Look for a provider that gives you a detailed snap
shot of the fulfilment status of all of your orders on demand.
Ask how they handle data exchange, and how they plan to integrate
with your systems. Ideally you want a combination of an open API and
simple, fault-free integration. And my daughter wants a unicorn. Still,
look at what they offer, and decide whether it will actually work well
with your systems before you make a choice.
Management of stock or inventory
This varies between non-existent and stellar. Depending on the goods
you work with, you may need best-before-date management and batch
control capability. You should be able to tie important markers into
alerts as well.
Customer service quality
This is one you can test yourself. Find out who they work for
already, and order something small and cheap. Ring in and test out their
actual on the ground customer service people. See how well they
actually do. You might have to do this a few times to get a feel for the
place. Also look for whether they use a ticket system for problems. It
is generally better if they do.
Make sure they handle returns as well. Being forced to use a second
3PL (4PL?) for your
returns can be a nightmare. Again, order and return a
product to see if they do returns well.