6 common order fulfillment problems and how to solve them

May 31, 2022 by Amware Fulfillment

Your ability to deliver a great ecommerce customer experience depends on how well you navigate the array of order fulfillment problems that can happen between the order and the delivery. Contending with these problems can be maddening. Fortunately, most fulfillment problems have clear solutions. Let’s look at 6 common problems and how to address them.

1. Backorders

Challenge: Backorders have been a persistent, COVID-era challenge due to supply chain disruptions.

order-fulfillment-problemsSolution: Shippers can combat backorders by working with their fulfillment partner to more precisely forecast inventory needs well in advance, based on historical order patterns. A close study of SKU usage can ensure that you’re rotating through inventory stock appropriately, replenishing items that move versus items that tend to sit. In addition, you can work with your partner to establish strategically identified reorder levels within the warehouse management system (WMS) and automatically trigger a replenishment alert before a backorder situation arises, particularly for fast-moving SKUs.


2. Slow transit times

The challenge: Some of the biggest order fulfillment problems are not warehouse related. Many carriers have faced a capacity crunch in recent years. Although we’re past the thick of the COVID-related backup, those issues remain common and shippers can face slower-than-expected transit times.

Solution: Brands have little control over how well parcel carriers meet the delivery requirement for the service purchased – other than to switch carriers if performance degrades. You can, however, add fulfillment centers to your network to decrease transit time. Shorter distances will result in faster delivery and lower parcel costs. In these cases, it helps to work with a fulfillment partner that has a nationwide network of fulfillment warehouses.


3. Receiving delays

The challenge: Vendors don’t follow the receiving guidelines of the receiving warehouse (pallet dimensions and stacking limitations, label requirements, unit of measure accuracy, and mixed items standards). This causes delays as the provider’s receiving team is forced to repackage or relabel items. This order fulfillment problem is particularly frustrating because you know your inventory has been delivered and can’t understand why it’s not yet appearing in the system as ready-to-sell inventory.

Solution: If your products are sourced from suppliers who then ship to the fulfillment warehouse, make sure you provide these suppliers with your 3PL’s receiving guidelines. If they adhere to these guidelines, it will allow your goods to be received and available for sale as quickly as possible.


4. Poor management of variable order volumes

The challenge: Shippers encounter surges and slowdowns in product demand based on the season and what they are offering. If managed poorly, this can lead to delays for customers or unnecessary expenses.

The solution: To solve this order fulfillment problem, it’s crucial to work with a partner that has a flexible fulfillment solution. One that can scale up or down based on your business needs, adding more resources when demand explodes and winding down resources when demand slows. Partners who can adjust to changing order flows means sudden or seasonal changes in demand will not affect the customer experience. Also, it will result in fulfillment costs that parallel your revenue stream.


5. Inventory discrepancies

The challenge: When the inventory counts of the shipper and fulfillment provider don’t match, it can lead to unexpected backorders and other order fulfillment problems.

The solution: Set regular cycle counts, such as on a weekly or monthly basis, to ensure that your count matches the actual number sitting in a warehouse. Your fulfillment partner should have inventory management systems and teams to run cycle counts and closely manage inventory to ensure accuracy. In addition, the right partner can help solve this order fulfillment problem by giving you 24/7 access to a portal with live updates on your inventory. This helps with accurate planning and tracking real-time trends.


6. Labor shortages

The challenge: These days it’s more difficult to find and keep quality warehouse associates. Without the personnel to pick orders, shippers can experience high overtime costs, over-reliance on temporary agency staff, and an inability to get orders out the door on time.

The solution: If you outsource fulfillment, look for partners with a full-featured WMS system that can support the most appropriate picking methodology based on the order profile. It helps, too, if the partner can leverage automated picking methodologies, like voice picking and pick to light technologies, to reduce labor requirements. You’ll also want a fulfillment company with a good record of associate retention in the warehouse. Make this one of your qualifying questions. It takes months for a new associate to reach maximum productivity. If associates are constantly changing over, the higher percentage of newer associates will drag down overall productivity.

To discuss how your order fulfillment problems can be tackled, talk to an Amware fulfillment specialist.

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Filed Under: Fulfillment Operations, Fulfillment Outsourcing