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Setting up a lean fulfilment operation

When you set up an e-tail business, making sure your back of house operation is a smooth, well-oiled machine may not seem like the most obvious priority.

However, ironing out the wrinkles here can improve customer experience, boost repeat ordering and ultimately up your profit margins. The big boys have been quick to realise this and we’ve advised many traditional retailers on how to hone their e-tail back of house operations to help them realise these benefits, so what lessons can smaller etailers learn?

  1. Speed is king – consumers have high expectations when it comes to order fulfilment. Put simply, the quicker your turnaround and slicker your operation the more you will impress your customers. In this environment time is, quite literally money. 
  2. What have you got to lose? – The answer is a lot. Back of house environments tend to be busy, dusty and generally unsuited to delicate garments, particularly light summer collections. Marked or torn garments cannot be sold and this is profit straight down the drain. If these garments are accidently sent to customers, they can result in reputational harm. To protect garments many brands including Oasis, Warehouse, and Harvey Nichols invest in funnel-necked garment covers, which completely encase a garment while also controlling levels of static. 
  3. It’s all in the detail - Achieving a set-up which promotes speed means every stage of the process needs to be carefully considered. A good starting point is talking to manufactures about how garments arrive; if they are properly protected at this stage it can prevent issues further down the line. Similarly ensuring pickers have the right tools for the job can pay dividends – packing benches should be thoughtfully arranged so all your packaging items can be easily reached to make packing fast and easy.  Similarly, postal packaging should be easy to handle, well-fitting and up to the rigours placed upon it. This is an area we’ve advised many big brands on. 
  4. And what about the rubbish? Ensuring waste is disposed of efficiently is all part of running a slick back office. Brands like Harrods use colour coded waste sacks for different in-house processes and distinguish between different types recycling and landfill. Clear sacks can also reduce pilfer.

David Brimelow is Managing Director of packaging manufacturer Duo UK, www.duo-uk.co.uk

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