What Do Fulfillment Centers Do?

In the world of eCommerce, it is impractical for each brand to have one centralized warehouse. Instead, online retailers partner with a fulfillment center or a 3PL service with a network of fulfillment centers all over the country. These centers are responsible for storing products, processing orders, and making sure shipments reach satisfied customers. Retailers handle the website, marketplace, marketing, and selling - and the fulfillment center takes it from there.

But exactly what does a fulfillment center do? We're glad to answer this question by illustrating the steps a fulfillment center takes for each client and customer order.

Store Your Products

At it's core, a fulfillment center is a quick-cycle warehouse. Rather than deep storage, each fulfillment center calculates how much of each client's products they will need to fulfill orders for the next month - or several months - depending on their operation strategy. Each fulfillment center contains the products of dozens to hundreds of individual retailer clients who sell their products online.

A network of fulfillment centers allows customer orders to be fulfilled from the center closest to their location, so retailers often send fractions of their inventory to centers across the country to achieve shorter delivery times.

Receive and Process Orders

When a retail brand receives a product order, that order is passed along to the fulfillment center through a shared software system. The fulfillment center then processes the order, ensuring that fulfillment is translated into a set of tasks to be completed by the fulfillment center staff.

Pick and Pack Orders

Once the order is processed, someone is dispatched to "pick and pack" the order. Pick and pack is the logistics term for putting together a ready-to-delivery package by assembling items off the warehouse shelves.

Picking

Someone fleet of foot who has the shelves memorized will select each item in a customer's order and bring them to a central location. Virtual facility mapping and barcode scanning are used in high-tech fulfillment centers to help staff ensure they pick exactly the right products.

Packing

From there, packing protocols are used to determine how orders are boxed. Teams try combine as many items as possible into a single box while also adhering to safety requirements such as padding and sealing to prevent products from being damaged in shipping. Particularly large, heavy, or fragile items are often packed alone while small and durable items are easier to bundle in one-box orders.

Label and Route Packages

After each order is picked and packed, the box is sealed and a label is printed. The label has been automatically generated by the logistics software, indicating which route the package should take to most efficiently reach the customer. This may involve a carrier journey to a closer distribution center or it might be routed directly to the last-mile fleet. From here, the package reaches a satisfied customer.

Note:

3PL services often include distribution centers, and distribution centers may have their own last-mile delivery fleets for each facility. However, carriers, distribution centers, and last-mile delivery can also be three separate businesses working in partnership.

Receive and Manage Returns

In addition to handling new orders, fulfillment centers often handle product returns, as well. If a customer makes a return, the fulfillment center takes responsibility for inspecting the returned product before a refund or replacement is granted and they decide whether the returned item is fit to restock. Unopened boxes and undamaged items are frequently restocked to minimize losses for both the center and their retailer clients.

Comprehensive Logistics Fulfillment Services

Modern eCommerce brands and online retailers rely on logistics partners for order fulfillment. With ShipNetwork, you gain access to a comprehensive 3PL service including a widespread network of local fulfillment centers. Contact us today to consult on your brand's logistics needs.

In the world of eCommerce, it is impractical for each brand to have one centralized warehouse. Instead, online retailers partner with a fulfillment center or a 3PL service with a network of fulfillment centers all over the country. These centers are responsible for storing products, processing orders, and making sure shipments reach satisfied customers. Retailers handle the website, marketplace, marketing, and selling - and the fulfillment center takes it from there.

But exactly what does a fulfillment center do? We're glad to answer this question by illustrating the steps a fulfillment center takes for each client and customer order.

Store Your Products

At it's core, a fulfillment center is a quick-cycle warehouse. Rather than deep storage, each fulfillment center calculates how much of each client's products they will need to fulfill orders for the next month - or several months - depending on their operation strategy. Each fulfillment center contains the products of dozens to hundreds of individual retailer clients who sell their products online.

A network of fulfillment centers allows customer orders to be fulfilled from the center closest to their location, so retailers often send fractions of their inventory to centers across the country to achieve shorter delivery times.

Receive and Process Orders

When a retail brand receives a product order, that order is passed along to the fulfillment center through a shared software system. The fulfillment center then processes the order, ensuring that fulfillment is translated into a set of tasks to be completed by the fulfillment center staff.

Pick and Pack Orders

Once the order is processed, someone is dispatched to "pick and pack" the order. Pick and pack is the logistics term for putting together a ready-to-delivery package by assembling items off the warehouse shelves.

Picking

Someone fleet of foot who has the shelves memorized will select each item in a customer's order and bring them to a central location. Virtual facility mapping and barcode scanning are used in high-tech fulfillment centers to help staff ensure they pick exactly the right products.

Packing

From there, packing protocols are used to determine how orders are boxed. Teams try combine as many items as possible into a single box while also adhering to safety requirements such as padding and sealing to prevent products from being damaged in shipping. Particularly large, heavy, or fragile items are often packed alone while small and durable items are easier to bundle in one-box orders.

Label and Route Packages

After each order is picked and packed, the box is sealed and a label is printed. The label has been automatically generated by the logistics software, indicating which route the package should take to most efficiently reach the customer. This may involve a carrier journey to a closer distribution center or it might be routed directly to the last-mile fleet. From here, the package reaches a satisfied customer.

Note:

3PL services often include distribution centers, and distribution centers may have their own last-mile delivery fleets for each facility. However, carriers, distribution centers, and last-mile delivery can also be three separate businesses working in partnership.

Receive and Manage Returns

In addition to handling new orders, fulfillment centers often handle product returns, as well. If a customer makes a return, the fulfillment center takes responsibility for inspecting the returned product before a refund or replacement is granted and they decide whether the returned item is fit to restock. Unopened boxes and undamaged items are frequently restocked to minimize losses for both the center and their retailer clients.

Comprehensive Logistics Fulfillment Services

Modern eCommerce brands and online retailers rely on logistics partners for order fulfillment. With ShipNetwork, you gain access to a comprehensive 3PL service including a widespread network of local fulfillment centers. Contact us today to consult on your brand's logistics needs.

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