Retailers looking to impress with their prompt service will often use an offer of next day or even same day delivery to improve the customer experience. After all, how long does it take to pick an order, pack it, and put it out for postage?
If you’re shipping a few dozen items per day from your garage, the question is somewhat rhetorical. In a high volume environment in a large warehouse, routinely providing that level of service is an altogether different challenge.
Fulfilling orders in this way can be expensive in terms of manpower. It may also interfere with the processing of regular orders by creating congestion in the warehouse. Failure to actually deliver on your promise to customers will be costly and attract negative ratings, financial and reputational damage.
Providing a high speed dispatch and delivery service
With the right systems in place, however, offering priority delivery options is certainly possible. It may also make a lot of commercial sense.
Providing super fast despatch and delivery may help clinch some customer orders, and in general will help bring customers back to your store. You can of course charge a premium for a faster service, potentially making these orders more profitable than when standard despatch and delivery is used.
How to optimise order processing speed
So what tools will your operation need to help you provide faster despatch?
- A mechanism to prioritise orders. You will need a mechanism to prioritise orders. This way the highest profile orders will gravitate towards the top of the various queues; whether it’s deciding which orders stock is assigned to, or which orders are picked next. You may want to pick priority orders individually or simply ensure that priority orders are pushed to the front of the queue in your picking processes.
- Dashboards and reports that provide clear visibility. You will need dashboards and reports that show the status of the high priority orders. Early and highly visible alerts when orders are in danger of missing their cut-off are important.
- Reliable courier arrangements. Most importantly, you'll need reliable courier arrangements in place. Plus an effective way of selecting the right carrier services for shipments. The last thing you want is for your efforts to be undone after your order leaves the warehouse. If your customers are paying a premium for delivery they may expect to be able to specify a delivery time slot or redirect their shipment to another address after you’re despatched it. Make sure you have a mechanism to capture the courier tracking reference associated with each delivery and email it to the recipient when you despatch the order, your customer can then rearrange their delivery without you having to be involved.
- Maintain the right balance between standard and priority orders. It shouldn’t be necessary to prioritise next-day orders to such an extent that your standard orders are delayed significantly. It can be useful to have a point beyond which standard orders that are taking too long to process start getting prioritised in the same way as priority orders, even if they’re still despatched with your standard courier services.
- Expedite mode. As a last resort, you may benefit from an ‘expedited mode’ of order processing. This can allow you to manually override certain system functions to get priority orders out faster. For example, you could arrange for certain products to be picked from locations that are not the products’ normal picking locations. This kind of functionality, available in OrderFlow for example, would only be used very sparingly. This is because routinely bypassing normal system processes could create a significant drag on overall operation efficiency.
- A flexible warehouse management system (WMS). The other key requirement is flexibility. There are huge economies of scale to be had through warehouse process optimisation. You should always be looking to use these where they do not conflict with your service delivery commitments. Flexible systems and approaches are needed so that you can easily and quickly switch back and forth between processes optimised respectively for speed and efficiency.
Order fulfilment optimisation
Our team’s extensive warehouse industry knowledge and experience means Realtime Despatch is well placed to help e-commerce retailers and 3PLs improve order fulfilment speed.
The company’s flexible WMS provides powerful warehouse management and order-processing functionality that allows you to optimise your warehouse and despatch operations, and can be configured to match the unique needs of your business.