What to do if your eCommerce business has reached a point where shipping customer orders is becoming difficult?
Ecommerce businesses can fail because they are incapable of shipping their orders in time. Customer satisfaction will be greatly affected as a result of this.
What are the main signs of chaotic order preparation in Magento ?
- You do not know which the customer orders can be shipped: Which orders can be prepared? Which orders are in backorder status? Which orders are awaiting valid payment status?
- You have a mass picking issue: the preparation of each order has to proceed individually either because you do not know how to organize picking for several orders (mass picking) at the same time or because it generates too many issues, such as order packing confusion. The picker route cannot be easily optimized.
- Errors appear when re-typing or copy/pasting customer addresses for delivery in a third party shipping software. Leading to difficulties and issues when following up the shipments.
- The customer cannot check Order progress steps on your website from the customer account pages.
- You have difficulty attributing order preparation to different pickers in the warehouse.
What you need to achieve first – Set up an Order preparation bench
We recommend basic set up and organization of your workspace, Rather than automated, expensive logistics machines. If you don’t sell standard sized products or if your volumes are not huge yet then you could also consider an optimized order preparation bench for each picker.
Hardware configuration :
- 1 WorkStation
- 1 Barcode Reader (Optimizes picking + confusion free)
- 1 Printer for delivery note
- 1 printer for shipping label
Visibility and anticipation of the order preparation process is a key factor to success. This process needs to be handled by a good Warehouse Management Software.
WMS software gives you a clear view of all the customer orders in your system. This helps you to sort them according to their status.
How to organize daily order Management?
First, orders have to be allocated in 3 groups:
- Blocked orders: Orders which are blocked for technical reasons – Unpaid / Fraud / customer request…
- Out of stock Orders – Orders which cannot be shipped at that moment in time (either totally or partially)
- Ready to be prepare order – Order which should be instantly shipped
4 Attention Points to focus on:
- Estimating daily Charge and Workflow per picker
- Customer Service Features – (ie: the capacity to force order preparation for incomplete orders (partial shipment)
- Preparing for backorders and resupplying
- Avoiding fraudulent orders or payment pending orders
Step by Step
In order management the objective is to increase dispatch speed, capacity and accuracy
1 – Pick and Pack
Picking is the process in which the operator (picker) collects from the warehouse the products that have been ordered and that have to be shipped instantly.
This step is important as it can be quite a lengthy process. The picker has to move through the warehouse and many errors can occur during this phase. This can result in time wasting if the picking has to be redone or if customers complain because they have received the wrong order.
If picking is organized using barcodes the probability of errors being made will decrease dramatically and a lot of time will be saved when manipulating goods.
Wave picking versus single order picking
Wave picking: from a batch of orders, a global pick list summarizes every product to be picked for the orders to be dispatched. This approach is very efficient when orders contain the same products.
Single picking : the picker processes an order from A to Z : picking / packing and shipping : this approach makes sense for large orders but means the picking process is less efficient.
Bin Locations & picking path: to optimize the path whilst picking, it is good practice to mark every location in the warehouse. A standard coding format for bin location is row / shelf / level: for instance, A12D means row A, shelf 12 and level D. Depending on your warehouse configuration, you may adopt a different code. When you use bin location in the warehouse, the pick list is sorted by location.
During the packing stage, a final check for the products to put in the parcel according to the current order must be processed: this can be done using a barcode scanner to verify the products. Once all the products have been verified, the documents are then printed (invoice, packing slip) and the box can be closed.
Note : as standard, the packing slip only is included in the parcel (which should match to the products in the box), the invoice document is sent by email.
The packing step can also be used to obtain the final box weight before the shipping label is printed. Most of WMS systems are able to calculate the final box weight automatically (calculating the sum of the products’ weights plus a ratio for the packaging).
Note : The packing step can be made optional when you adopt the single picking method.
With the exception of local deliveries made using their own delivery service, sellers have to delegate deliveries to shipping companies.
Every shipping company requires a shipping label to process the parcel: this shipping label usually contains the customer address as well as additional information such as the expeditor, the parcel weight, the selected shipping service (economy, standard, express, overseas…) and the tracking number.
Thus, you need to transfer the order information to software that is able to print the shipping label and return the tracking number, to be stored in the order for further customer notifications.
Depending on the shipping carrier and your ecommerce platform, two approaches exist to print the shipping label :
- An integrated extension that is able to communicate via API to the carrier website and generate shipping labels (like the UPS extension for Magento, from boostmyshop)
- Using CSV or XML export to a desktop software : UPS WorldShip, fedex Manager …
Both solutions can be automated so shipping labels can be printed automatically once the packing is finished
4- Tracking imports and Customer notifications
- Once the shipping label is printed, the tracking number must be imported into the order to notify the customer :
- Sending the tracking number in the shipping confirmation email is very good practice as it allows the customer to track the delivery on the internet; most shipping companies provide such a service.