Everything from order volume metrics, to types of products, and more are considered by fulfillment companies when they bring in new clients. However, a little-known consideration comes from a client’s overall SKU count. Many fulfillment companies prefer clients with low SKU counts and high volumes since they are easy to process, and the high volume generates greater profits. But if you’re a client with high SKU counts and not necessarily a high volume of orders there are fulfillment companies that can help.
Why do some fulfillment centers focus on small SKU customers?
There are a few reasons that fulfillment centers sometimes focus on clients that don’t have large SKU counts in their inventory.
- Smaller SKU counts mean shorter set-up time. From adding the inventory items into the Warehouse Management System (WMS) to setting up space in the picking area the greater the SKU counts the more time it takes to onboard a new client.
- The fewer the SKUs the less chance of picking error. When fulfilling customer orders if there are large number of SKUs, especially when they are similar in size and appearance, there is a greater risk of pulling an item incorrectly.
- Receiving products. When items come into the warehouse it takes a lot less time to process at the dock if there are fewer SKU numbers to account for.
- Warehouse organization. Having more SKU numbers takes up more space in the warehouse and since most warehouses are setup to separate bulk storage from picking space more SKUs means needing a larger pick space.
Thankfully there are many fulfillment providers that work with companies that have small and large SKU counts and even some who focus solely on clients with higher SKU counts and complicated fulfillment processes. Complex moving parts, custom kitting and assembly services, and other ancillary services are available from many specialized fulfillment providers. Doing some in-depth research can help find companies that specialize in the type of fulfillment you’ll need.
What makes a fulfillment company good at handling complex accounts?
There are a number of factors that should be considered when looking at a fulfillment provider and if they will be able to handle your specific needs.
- With complex accounts there is a lot more information that is needed from the client, so the fulfillment company needs to be very good at communication.
- Some sort of technology is absolutely necessary to handle a large and complex set of products. At a minimum you should see a WMS, RF, bar coding, and the correct handling equipment, and they may utilize more technology systems to help with slotting, picking, and shipping. In this day and age of ever increasing technology, it will be necessary to interview and understand who can help you stay technologically relevant.
- The best companies have honed their processes over time, so they should be very experienced at accommodating complex accounts.
- Inventory Management. Being able to properly locate product in bins and shelving systems within the warehouse is key to getting your customers the products they have ordered. Your fulfillment provider should be able to quickly find products, pull orders, and cycle inventory counts as needed.
- Warehouse layout. Fulfillment providers that specialize in this area typically have a diverse layout to their warehouse. They should have the flexibility to bin locate large and small items with ease.
- Onboarding process. Fulfillment providers should understand that with complex accounts the onboarding process will take time. They should understand that getting all of the information up front will help to ensure both speed and success.
- Picking process. With complex orders utilizing visual picking can quickly lead to mis-picks and incorrect or delayed orders. Your fulfillment provider should have implemented a numbered bin ordering system in tandem with bar coding or other technology to ensure minimal errors in the picking process.
- Receiving process. Experienced providers understand the importance of the receiving process. This is where the process begins, so it is very key to get it accurate and get it right. High accuracy along with weights and dims are required for future success. They typically spend a great deal of time receiving product and implement strict controls.
When looking to choose a fulfillment partner be sure to take all of these factors into consideration. It takes a lot of time to do fulfillment right when there are more SKUs – from receiving to on-boarding to picking and fulfillment, so make sure to choose a partner that can meet all of your needs.