4 Common Pitfalls with Manual Fulfillment and How to Remedy Them

July 14, 2021

Fulfillment is a key component to any ecommerce business, and with ecommerce popularity booming during the pandemic, many entrepreneurs have had to learn it on the fly.

We talked to Daniel Murphy, a fulfillment specialist at Saltbox, to learn about some of the most common mistakes business owners make with manual fulfillment and how to fix them.


LACK OF STANDARDIZATION

Gone are the days of knocking around the home-office-turned-fulfillment-center, shipping your first few orders on a whim. Your customers expect a consistently good experience, and that means learning from your mistakes and delivering quality -- on time. 

If you haven’t already, start documenting your process, including what works and what doesn’t. Improvement begins with standardization and understanding how things are done. Regularly make time to question your process and look out for unnecessary effort.


PHYSICAL STRAIN

There’s a physical and emotional toll to running a business. From late nights answering customer emails to picking up early morning deliveries, entrepreneurs have plenty of demands on their bodies and minds. Be mindful of steps in your process that are driving strain or excess movement. 

Consider: Do you pick things up and put them down more than you need to? Are you walking back and forth too much or taking too many steps?

By setting up and regularly organizing your workstation in an intentional way, you can minimize movement and save some energy.  

The same can be said for inventory as well.  If you find yourself constantly unpacking and repacking items, leave them in their original box with clear and organized descriptions until they’re ready to go out.

And though it’s been said before, it can’t be said enough: lift with your legs, not your back. Keep the weight close to you, with your legs slightly apart and your core engaged. Otherwise, an appointment with the chiropractor might be in your future!

WASTE OF TIME AND MATERIALS

It takes time to make a business successful, but if moving inventory from one section to another, again and again, is taking up a lot of your time, it’s a good idea to rethink your storage strategy. Plan ahead for shipments by visualizing your workspace needs and identifying the most convenient spot for your goods before they arrive - so you can store them out of your way until you are ready for them. 

Put time drains aside for a second. What about supply drains? Have you ever found yourself accidentally wasting material by using too much paper, tape, or filler? Are your boxes shipping mostly air and packing peanuts? 

Think about what your customer is willing to pay for. Are there parts of your process that the customer doesn’t see any value in? That is likely a good place to start. If your customer wouldn’t want to pay for it, then you might consider eliminating that part of the process or minimizing it as much as possible. The best rule for saving time and materials during the fulfillment process is to use less.

TRYING TO DO IT ALL

We get it — your business is your baby, but you know the old adage: it takes a village to raise one. If fulfillment (or any other part of your business) is taking over your life and distracting you from completing your bigger goals, it may be time to ask for help.

Are there any opportunities for automation, outsourcing work or getting some extra hands, so that you can focus on building your business? You can lean on services like our Elastic Workforce (e-force), trained operations professionals who can help take over some or all of your operational steps.  

Saving time on fulfillment could enable you to focus on other aspects of scaling your business like product development, marketing or customer engagement. We recently launched our neighborhood third party logistics (3PL) service in our Dallas Farmers Brand location to help our community do just that. 


We would love to hear from you! Let us know what tips and tricks have served you well or if you’d like to brainstorm ways to improve your fulfillment process. You can always message us on Facebook, Instagram or at support@saltbox.com.


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