If you’re a growing ecommerce business, you’re likely familiar with fulfillment – all the steps from receiving your inventory to storing it before purchase to picking, kitting, packing and shipping product once a customer buys it. Fulfillment can be a real challenge for scaling businesses who want to deliver an excellent customer experience, but can’t or don’t want to do it alone.
We know all about this challenge at Saltbox, and we’re working to meet it head on. Last year, we launched a network of fulfillment centers, or micro-fulfillment centers, in all of our Saltbox locations across the country. These “MFCs” are focused exclusively on fulfillment, with dedicated operations experts who get to know every member’s use case and specific branding needs.
Traditional fulfillment has often been a less-than-transparent operation. Well, we want to share what goes on behind the warehouse walls. Our teammate, Madison Houser, recently visited our Dallas MFC and spoke to Fulfillment Operations Manager, Daniel Murphy, about the fulfillment process, customer experience and some frequently asked questions.
Read the recap below or watch the full tour and Q&A on YouTube.
This interview has been edited for brevity.
Madison H: Tell us a little bit about what you’re doing here today, Daniel.
Daniel M: We’re in Farmers Branch, Texas. This is our very first micro-fulfillment center, and this was our pilot for what became our national micro-fulfillment center network.
MH: Nice! Do you want to give me a walk-through of your operations?
DM: Orders come in on our two packing stations and we collect them onto carts. So, Fulfillment Associates use the scanner, pick orders across aisles, scan the order location, and put it in its individual tote until they fill up the cart full of product and make their way back around to the packing station.
MH: What happens then?
DM: Once the cart arrives at the pack station, we'll scan each individual tote, pull up the order, put it all together according to customer specifications, seal it up, put a shipping label on and get it out the door.
MH: Awesome. How big is the MFC?
DM: Each of our MFCs averages around 2,000 square feet. The idea is to deploy inventory as close to densely populated centers as possible. So one of our members might have inventory in all five of our MFCs. That’s so advantageous because the delivery window to customers is so short and the cost of postage decreases the closer you are to the customer.
MH: Is it easy for companies to integrate into our system?
DM: Yeah, 100%! We find that the majority of companies use Shopify, and our warehouse management system natively integrates with Shopify, but we also have native integrations with Amazon, Etsy, eBay, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, and Google Store. And even if you don't use one of those providers, we have services that provide EDI connection or other middleware that will make sure your online store orders flow through to our warehouse management system.
MH: What are some things that make Saltbox Fulfillment unique?
DM: What I really like about what we do is that because of our size, we're extremely accessible and responsive.
One of the things I hear from our members most frequently is they're shocked at how quickly we're able to pick, pack and fill their orders. That’s all part of our design and size. This is not hundreds of thousands of square feet like a traditional third-party logistics provider. Instead, it’s thousands of square feet chopped up into many micro fulfillment centers, so each team is very heavily focused on what they're doing.
Our location manager and team are all available and accessible onsite to our members. If members have a concern or a question or are developing a new product or service, they can reach out directly to the people who are fulfilling their orders. That’s not something you'll find anywhere else in the industry. We just had a new member drop off their inventory for the first time last night and have a consultation with their Fulfillment Manager. You’ll always be able to be here with your inventory to check things out and talk to the team doing your fulfillment.
MH: Wow! Thanks for showing me around, Daniel, I had a great time.
DM: No problem, take care!
Let us know what questions you have about fulfillment at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us here. If you want to learn more about fulfillment and how to choose a partner that’s right for you, join our FREE webinar on Frictionless Fulfillment on April 13, 2022 at 3pm ET/12pm PT.
Saltbox is on a mission to enable the modern economy with human-centric logistics that solve the hardest parts of running an ecommerce business. Our purpose-built network of flexible warehouses, fulfillment centers, on-demand labor and other services are powering the ecommerce economy and the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch, grow and scale.