The process of shipping and receiving items might seem simple, but it actually encompasses many intertwined and dependent logistical processes that can cause chaos if not handled correctly. The inbound and outbound logistics processes (aka shipping and receiving), touch every aspect of your business, including operations, finance, marketing, customer service, and IT. This makes it critical for business leaders to effectively manage every minute detail related to these functions.
If inventory is not accurately accounted for during the inbound/receiving process, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain an accurate system moving forward which affects all other aspects of logistics services and the supply chain. For instance, an incorrect appreciation of your inventory can lead to incomplete shipments, late arrivals, and more in the outbound/shipping process. These avoidable errors can cost a lot to the company, but a simple investment in automation and innovation can help lead the way to improve your business’ logistics management.
Here are 5 tips you can use to optimize your shipping and receiving processes and cut out unnecessary costs
When it comes to optimizing your shipping and receiving processes, there are multiple steps that businesses can take that lead to considerable improvements. Here are some “quick wins” that don’t require a massive investment, but can make a significant difference shortly after implementation.
#1 - Improve Your Inventory Handling Ability
Accurately managing inventory is one of the most critical aspects of the order fulfillment process. In order to ensure you’re able to properly track and maintain your inventory levels, there are a few subprocesses you need to optimize:
Demand Forecasting - Forecasting customer demand for each sales channel should be a central component of how you determine baseline inventory needs. Maintaining standard internal communication and demand tracking systems helps keep you informed of key indicators of your customer behavior and prepared for needs at any given time.
Manufacturing Capacity Tracking - As any Econ student can tell you, the flip side of demand is supply. By conducting accurate demand forecasting with manufacturing capacity, you can develop an expected timeline of how much inventory you’ll need to warehouse and ship over the coming weeks, months, and business quarters.
Stock Level Accuracy - It is important to keep checking and updating your stock levels. Apart from regular orders, scenarios like returns and damages also need to be considered and maintained. Having the capacity to handle unexpected surges in demand can go a long way to maintaining high customer satisfaction.
#2 - Maintain Inventory Visibility
Transparency of stock levels is essential when you’re selling across multiple channels and managing various locations. Inventory visibility keeps you updated on the happenings of all sales channels so that you can be proactive and replenish stocks to meet upcoming demands and continue uninterrupted services.
Utilizing a smart inventory management application can easily improve inventory visibility across locations and get real-time data on your inventory.
#3 - Invest in Warehouse Management
As your business grows, so does the demand, space needed, and requirement of better warehouse management. Multi-location inventory management can be a daunting task. If you manage and maintain multiple warehouses, you’ll need a system capable of delivering and analyzing warehouse-specific details. In addition, if warehouse management is not up to the mark, the order fulfillment process and your e-commerce will also face avoidable challenges.
#4 - Track Order Entry, Notification, and Status
When the inbound process is handled correctly, it allows for a more straightforward outbound process. Knowing and providing the status of orders in real-time will help your delivery network keep track of progress, identify bottlenecks, and improve customer experience.
Maintaining a keen eye on what’s happening with your orders is the first step toward perfecting your order processing system. Track and internally share the status of each order so that no delays exist in getting the products moved on to the next level. Entering orders is similar to the pre-receipt process in the inbound process. The first steps of an outbound system are to validate orders, check for any errors, and manage exceptions if any arise.
#5 - Automate Processes
In today’s computer-driven environment, optimization and automation often go hand in hand. Robotic process automation (RPA) is an excellent option for streamlining nearly any business function, including shipping and receiving. Despite the name, this is not to suggest that you employ physical robots in the handling of shipments. Instead, this versatile solution uses digital “bots” to handle any repetitive, rules-based tasks more quickly and accurately than their human counterparts. This can be a great way to speed up order and payment processing, determine least-cost routing, and even make inventory management more efficient.
Investing in automation can sound daunting, but it doesn't have to be a drastic step. It helps to take it piece by piece. For example, your business can start with document digitization tools that allow you to enter inventory into the system more efficiently or by investing in intelligent lockers that can make parcel receiving and shipping logistics more flexible and convenient.
Introducing automation strategically can take your logistics process to a whole new level. Exela’s shipping logistics services combine a team of shipping and receiving specialists with a convenient, web-based portal for flexible shipping solutions. We oversee all aspects of your shipping and receiving process using advanced technology that improves efficiency, transparency, and employee experience.
Get in touch with us to better understand how Exela’s Smart Solutions can improve your existing processes.