How Does Order Fulfillment Work? – Insights for IT Professionals

How Does Order Fulfillment Work?

Since the inception of e-commerce, retailers have sought the most efficient ways to transport goods from the market to the customer. Order fulfillment centers have sprung up all over the world in an effort to facilitate this goal. There are several components to a successful order fulfillment process. Here is a brief overview of some of the many moving parts in the order fulfillment system.

Partnership Connections

Retailers and other sellers must ensure that they have an accurate and reliable supply chain to meet consumer demands. In addition, every seller needs a dependable fulfillment and distribution plan. The partnership agreement between the seller and the fulfillment center is crucial to a seamless ordering process for customers. Business owners must set a clear up front contractor with each vendor, including the fulfillment centers, before establishing a sales platform. Being able to actually deliver for and delight customers is the crux of any business opportunity. Order fulfillment centers, in turn, should be transparent about what they are able to realistically provide for their customers. This includes honoring expected turnaround times and cost estimates.


Transportation logistics is perhaps the most vital consideration of the product fulfillment company. This area is both time specific and subject to unforeseen delays. Most order fulfillment centers partner with a variety of freight carriers and offer expedited shipping options for their customers and end users. Despite having plans in place, air freight could be unexpectedly grounded due to weight limitations or security concerns. Likewise, ground transportation may experience delays due to traffic conditions, distribution backlogs, and even human error. Considering the many potential challenges, order fulfillment centers must plan carefully to avoid transportation delays.

Inventory Control

Managing inventory in a warehouse setting takes special skill and keen attention to detail. The order fulfillment process comes to a screeching halt when one or more products are unavailable. In these cases, the fulfillment center must decide whether to continue processing the order without the missing items. The alternative, creating a separate fulfillment ticket for the back ordered item, may cause significant delays in the process. The time spent on recreating work tickets and contacting customers, significantly decreases productivity and makes the overall order fulfillment process inefficient.

Quality Assurance

Every product fulfillment professional knows that customer satisfaction drives their industry. Order fulfillment companies actually have two sets of customers to answer to – the seller who contracted with them and the end user. When customers have special requests, the order fulfillment center has to accommodate their needs. These specific requests may vary by customer, and may even change once an order has been placed. For example, many sellers request blind shipping or third party-branded shipments. They may not want the end-users to know that they used a fulfillment center to process orders. Other customers may wish to include certain paperwork with each order. This may include an invoice, detailed packing slip, or personal note for the customer.

Each of the above mentioned facets of order fulfillment represent key components to a successful business relationship. Partners must outline reasonable expectations at the beginning of each new order. Further, order fulfillment centers must maintain an open line of communication to ensure any potential delays or concerns are quickly resolved.

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