Spectra’s 10-Step Fulfillment Process
Are you new to the B2B eCommerce industry and exploring solutions to move your product as efficiently as possible?
There is a perfect solution to fulfillment, warehousing and distribution of the product. Fulfillment services handle all of these things under one roof! Spectra handles everything from receiving your inventory to distribution. As a B2B eCommerce business, having someone you can rely on to handle the complexities of warehousing and fulfillment is vital. By partnering with Spectra, you save a LOT of money and precious time.
Let’s unbox, unpack, and dig in to find out what a B2B eCommerce fulfillment service is and the details that go into such a service.
Table of Contents
- Fulfillment Service – Overview
- Customer Inventory Arrival
- Customer Inventory Inspection
- Warehouse Space
- Order Receipt
- Customer Notification
- Picking and Packing
- Inventory Reconciliation
- Delivery of Order
- Returns Management
- HIPAA Compliance
- How a Fulfillment Service Benefits Your Business
- One Solution
- Your Takeaway
Fulfillment services not only include a location for your inventory, but the personnel to manage and process orders that get sent out to businesses, which they, in turn, resell. This is what’s known as B2B (business to business.)
A fulfillment service is the background mechanics that handle all of the logistical complexities that can easily consume a business owner who needs to get their product managed and shipped.
Accepts Arrival of Your Product
- Inspects the entire inventory for damage and quantity count.
- Forwards a report to you of the inventory.
Warehouses Your Product
- Once the new inventory arrives, it will be placed in an area that has specific square footage designed for you.
- Your inventory remains in an environment that is protected and climate-controlled.
- Personnel are on duty to ensure safety, cleanliness, and other protocols are enforced.
- Upon receipt of orders (from you,) personnel will pick, pack, and ship the product to the business who ordered it.
- The business customer will receive a notification of order shipment.
- Personnel will handle any issues regarding returns on the order.
- Inventory technology delivers inventory data to you.
Step #1: Customer Inventory Arrival at the Warehouse
Upon receipt of your inventory at the warehouse, personnel implement the inventory process through the inventory management system.
- The inventory management system is hosted through SaaS Cloud software.
- This technology provides you with real-time data notifying you of inventory arrival. You can customize notifications of inventory status, which includes low-stock, zero availability, and storefront updates.
- The cost of this technology is scaled based on your needs and volume.
Once you have partnered with our fulfillment service, you will have your product forwarded directly to our warehouse, where it will be housed, processed, and shipped to your business customer. Upon arrival at the warehouse, your new inventory is inspected by our warehouse personnel. It will undergo inventory intake.
Step #2: Inventory Inspection
Your inventory undergoes a thorough inspection:
- Evidence of damage
- Comparison to manifesto
- Efficiency, speed, and accuracy are vital at this stage.
- The inventory is carefully handled.
- Inventory inspection is a required practice under our standard operating procedures.
- The inventory management system is initiated/updated.
The inventory is matched carefully to the manifesto and then inspected for any damage. Once inspection and inventory summary has been completed, your inventory will then be moved into a space within the warehouse. Personnel will select either bins or pallets for your inventory to optimize efficiency with quick access. That area becomes your product’s “base camp.”
Step #3: Warehouse Space
The amount of space your inventory requires is scaled based upon your needs.
- Costs of this space are not fixed but rather scaled.
- Personnel, fulfillment, and the technology to operate the warehouse is included regardless of seasonal demand.
- The warehouse provides 20,000 square feet of flexible space, with the standard space in use being 40,000 square feet.
- Storage space is either bins or pallets and is scaled based on demand data the inventory management system generates.
Having a fulfillment service that you can trust is important. You have a rather hefty investment that you must entrust them with when it comes to not only warehousing your product but protecting it through every step of the fulfillment process. Your business is dependent upon that service to get your product into the hands of the business customer in such a way that imparts a positive reflection on you.
A reputable fulfillment service will provide you with full transparency of not only their processes but also the location itself. Being able to see where your product is stored and managed provides you peace of mind. The last thing you want is to discover the service you procured to have your inventory housed in a building fails to safeguard your interests.
Things a Fulfillment Service Provides in Warehousing
- Protection for Products
- Effective Management
- Ample Space
- Safety Measures
Protection for Products
You are literally handing over thousands upon thousands of your business dollars to a fulfillment service. When it comes to storing and managing your product, there’s no such thing as “wiggle room” in protecting the contents of your inventory.
Spectra ensures that all bases are covered when it comes to safeguarding your inventory. We cover all of the below whereas, many warehouses do not.
- Climate controlled warehouses lose the ability to manage and monitor ambient temperatures. Products that are perishable or temperature-sensitive can suffer damage when temperatures are too hot or too cold.
- Security systems that aren’t backed up with an additional power source leave the warehouse vulnerable to burglary or breach of data.
- An outage can be costly for you and the fulfillment service when contingency plans are not in place.
We have no control over what Mother Nature dishes out. Catastrophic events (high winds, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.) can cause damage to the integrity of the warehouse and/or warehouse infrastructure. When this happens, a contingency plan should be in place to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible.
Faulty plumbing can cause significant damage to the interior of a warehouse. Preventative measures should be in place, such as automatic shut-off valves and a security system that alerts personnel to a problem.
Fire is a structure’s worst enemy, especially a full warehouse. Preventative measures must be in place and should never be absent or compromised.
- Automated fire sprinkler system
- Security system that alerts authorities as well as personnel
- Fire extinguishers strategically placed throughout the warehouse
Theft/Vandalism Prevention and Monitoring
A security system will help in monitoring the warehouse 24/7. Every warehouse should have one. In the event of a break-in, the security system should alert the local authorities. Theft from personnel is deterred with a security system as well.
Spectra provides you with all of the below for managing every detail that goes into warehouse operations. Some warehouses have significant deficits in warehouse management.
A warehouse cannot be successfully managed without necessary guidelines and standard operating procedures in place. For your product to be protected and to flawlessly flow through the fulfillment journey, robust management is the key to keeping things operating efficiently and safely.
Proactive management includes regular audits and inspections of security protocols. All incoming inventory should be thoroughly inspected, inventoried, and compared to each manifesto.
A fulfillment service relies on technology and automation for an overall efficient operation. This technology also provides a barrier of protection for your product by keeping real-time inventory. Inventory keeps your product from being mistakenly warehoused, sent to the wrong business, and any potential personnel theft.
The last thing you want to do is have your product warehoused in a structure that’s bursting at the seams because of overcrowded, unorganized inventory. Fulfillment service warehouses should offer you a minimum of 5,000 square feet for your inventory. That space should also be scalable in either bin or pallet storage.
Warehouse personnel should be stringently trained on safety guidelines that protect them, other personnel, and your product. Such things should include preventing accidents, monitoring for dangerous situations, fire drills, plans in the event of an emergency, COVID-19 protocols, etc.
Step #4: Order Receipt
Once we receive your order, the wheels start to turn in the processes of fulfillment.
- Your order initiates the inventory management system.
- We provide tailored solutions for every single order and don’t rely on a generic procedure. Because of this, labor/price is scalable based on your needs.
- Order archival is included to provide you, us, and your historical customer data that can be valuable in liable situations.
- Your marketing efforts benefit from the order archival with insight on reorder needs.
Spectra has a robust order management system (OMS) in place that tackles every link and movement in the fulfillment process. We heavily rely on a system to keep everything moving smoothly, efficiently, and accurately.
We employ state-of-the-art technology, which is the heartbeat of their business. Various components of the overall warehouse and fulfillment tasks are controlled by this technology. Tracking inventory and the location of product as it moves through the process provides vital data that is available at the fingertips of both Spectra and the business owner/client.
Once a business owner/client initiates an order, it alerts Spectra’s order management system delivering the scope of the order, sensitivity in shipping time, and other pertinent data that is needed to get a product from the warehouse into the hands of the business customer. During the order management process, real-time inventory data is relayed to the business owner/client at all stages; beginning, in process, shipping, and delivery. This data also provides analytical metrics that are beneficial for both sides to be able to measure success and areas that need improvement.
Business owners partnering with Spectra have peace of mind knowing that every order will be handled with the utmost care with attention to detail from start to finish. Orders vary, and because of their uniqueness, tailored solutions are a complimentary amenity in order management. Manpower and service expenses are scalable according to customer demand. Through the collaborative effort of Spectra’s team members, the process and flow of order management are seamless and smooth.
Having the convenience of an Amazon-like order fulfillment, enables us to handle orders of multiple products you have in inventory. This single-source supplier advantage keeps products moving and expeditiously shipped and delivered to the business customer.
Step #5: Customer Notification
Your customer is notified when their order is fulfilled and shipped.Tracking information is included with the notification.
We provide them with a one-source supplier for multiple product ordering. Having everything under one roof offers a more “Amazon-like” fulfillment experience.
Step #6: Pick and Packing
Your order is fulfilled through a “pick and pack” process.
- The inventory management system relays real-time data on inventory to avoid not having the product readily available for the picker to grab.
- Every order is picked and packed quickly with a 24-hour (or less) turnaround.
- Orders placed by 2:00 p.m. (EST) are shipped that same day.
- Quality control is employed at every step in picking and packing to ensure the right product is packed in the right box and shipped to the right destination.
- Kitting is customizable and something many of our clients take advantage of.
Quality control is a vital component in this phase of order management. Every detail from the selection of product, the quantity, and care given in packing are scrutinized by personnel. The small details are carefully given attention, as well. Simple things such as positioning of shipping labels all the way to packaging with aesthetics in mind is important.
Orders being fulfilled that are fragile require personnel to adequately place dunnage and protective cushioning to prevent damage during shipping. Onboarding of specialized handling during packing must be a priority.
Spectra uses the “piece” pick/pack method because our clients are smaller businesses with smaller orders.
- Simple and Straightforward
- Fastest Method
- Better Quality Control
- More Attention to Product Handling
- Less Physically Taxing on Warehouse Personnel
- Geared Towards Small Businesses
“Piece” picking and packing is a fairly simple process. Warehouses/fulfillment services that employ this method typically partners with smaller businesses with smaller inventory. Larger warehouses with bigger business partners and big-scale inventory refrain from using piece picking/packing because of the amount of foot traffic personnel would be required to undertake by handpicking products throughout the warehouse inventory. Warehouse personnel are given a fulfillment list which they use to gather product from floor inventory. Each order is given individual attention in picking and packing while ensuring quality control is maintained from start to finish.
Spectra doesn’t do “batch, zone, wave” picking and packing. However, larger businesses who deal with very large bulk orders do use these methods.
- More Complex
- Speed Begins to Slow Down
- Quality Control and Accuracy May Start to Waiver
- Human Error a Possibility
- Warehouse Personnel Have Increased Foot Traffic to Pick Product Inventory from Multiple Zones
The picking and packing method begins to grow more complex at this point by warehouse personnel juggling several order lists at one time. This method not only requires attention to detail but the ability of personnel to multi-task pulling product inventory in various zones for multiple business customers. Accuracy begins to waiver at this point because of human error.
- Complexity is less than “batch” yet more than “piece”
- Speed is Slower
- Requires More Warehouse Personnel Strategically Placed on Warehouse Floor
- Less Foot Traffic Per Personnel
- Order Lists Pass Through Several Hands
- Quality Control Becomes Vulnerable: Human Error and Accuracy May Waiver
Warehouse personnel are assigned specific zones on the warehouse floor in which they are responsible for pulling and packing product inventory in their zone. If an order requires product from multiple zones, warehouse personnel will forward the order/order list to the next zone team member to fulfill their zone’s order list. The “zone” method decreases the amount of foot traffic personnel must make.
- Very complex
- Similar to the “zone” method but on a bigger scale
- Speed is dependent upon efficiency of warehouse personnel picking
- Many moving components of this method
- Warehouse fulfillment center personnel are strategically placed on warehouse floor
- Multiple order handling per person/personnel
- Quality control can easily be compromised
As with the “zone” method, warehouse personnel are placed in larger zones, and instead of handling one order, they are responsible for multiple orders. Human error increases with potential mispacking. The last thing a fulfillment service wants is to have the wrong product being packed in the wrong box and shipped to the wrong person.
Amazon’s largest fulfillment center provides a glimpse into the massive complexities of large-scale picking and packing. The center’s located in Nevada, and it’s so large that both humans and artificial intelligence (robots) man the center. The center is as big as 15 football fields and 850,000 square feet. Over 1500 workers man zones where robots drive product bins to them for picking. Once a worker picks the product, they move it on to someone else who packs it. The packer is instructed by technology what size box to choose to pack the item(s) in. The box moves further down the line to shipping where automation directs it into chutes where a label is applied, and the box is sealed. It then travels through more chutes to the proper shipping bay, where it’s loaded into freight trucks.
Kitting Fulfillment Options
We offer “kitting” to provide you with an option to leverage product sales through current trends consumers are devouring. Product bundling provides a solution for consumers who are seeking convenience, variety, and value. A single product holds little attraction. However, when you bundle that product with other items, a consumer is more likely to purchase the bundle.
Step #7: Shipment
Once your order has been picked and packed, it goes on to shipment.
- The inventory management system is initiated and updated.
- Shipping is done as expeditiously as possible (distribution speed!)
- Spectra reaches 182 million in the U.S. with a 2-day ground service. 27 million in the U.S. is reachable in just one day! Our average delivery time in the U.S. is about 2.47 days. We are located halfway between New York City and Miami. This makes us a prime location for quick shipping.
Various methods of shipping are utilized. This enables us to ship your product in the most efficient, economical, and timely manner. Having the right technology in place enables us to quickly find the best shipment method.
Location of a fulfillment service plays a big role in how quickly your business customer receives their order. It isn’t logical or economical for you to have a fulfillment service on the west coast when the bulk of your customers are out towards the eastern region of the U.S.
Shipping Method Selection Considerations
Freight shipments are prepared for shipment by using pallets. However, not all orders are large-volume, which may not require a freight carrier. We have an arsenal of carriers at our fingertips to ship orders based on size, weight, delivery destination, and shipping speed.
Size and Weight
Some shipping carriers have limitations on the size and weight of shipments. Fulfillment services sending out high-volume, palletized orders typically use a freight carrier because the cost is much lower.
Small-scale fulfillment services that partner with small businesses (B2B) will generally use carriers such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL.
Shipments going outside the country must be handled by an international carrier. International shipping is more expensive in comparison to domestic shipments. Domestic carriers include USPS, UPS, and FedEx. For international needs, DHL is typically used.
Shipping orders that are fragile should be sent via a carrier that has reputable fragile handling. Fragile handling will slow down the shipping process, but it protects the product from damage. Shipments containing age-restricted contents (such as wine, tobacco, medication, etc.) require additional handling during shipment to ensure it is accepted/signed by an adult once it arrives at its destination. Fragile or perishable contents will require special handling to prevent damage.
Some business customers may need something shipped quicker than others. When this occurs, a carrier must be chosen that will get your product to its destination as quickly as possible. Many business customers are more than willing to pay the extra cost of fast shipping. Carriers used for speedy shipping include USPS and FedEx with overnight or express service.
Overview of Shipping Carriers
USPS (ideal for smaller shipments)
USPS has the best overall reputation in getting smaller shipments to their destinations in one piece on time.
- Priority: 1-3 days
- 70 lbs or less
- Priority Express: overnight – 2 days
- 70 lbs or less
- Ground: 2-8 days
- 70 lbs or less
FedEx (ideal for small, medium, and freight shipments)
FedEx handles shipments that are heavier than USPS. Freight options are available for LTL, as well as international shipping.(Under 150 lbs)
- Overnight: next business day by 9 am
- Priority Overnight: next business day by 10:30 am
- Standard Overnight: next business day by 3 pm
- 2-Day: 2 business days
- Express Saver: 3 business days
- Ground: 1-5 business days
- 1, 2, and 3-Day Express
- Express: 1-5 business days
When it comes to international shipping out of the contiguous 48 states here in the U.S., DHL provides numerous solutions that are needs-specific for various industries. Whether a fulfillment service is shipping to Canada or Europe, by parcel or freight, DHL has a solution.
Step: #8: Inventory Reconciliation
The inventory management system is continually updating inventory as things move through the fulfillment process. Inventory reconciliation is performed many times throughout a 24 hour period providing us a report of the current status of inventory levels. This report also provides valuable forecastable metrics.
Spectra safely stores and protects your product within a warehouse. We also provide real-time inventory management that safeguards your investment in product inventory. Reliable, current trending technology and automation are key tools to maintain and manage our warehouse inventory.
3PL fulfillment warehousing can prove challenging because of the amount of inventory in constant motion. There are several stages of inventory management. It’s critical that at every stage, an inventory management system provides a real-time update on a business client’s product inventory. Every item should be accounted for regardless of what stage it’s in.
- New incoming inventory (inspected and prepared to place in bins or pallets)
- Currently, in-stock inventory (located in bins or pallets)
- Inventory currently being fulfilled and processed for orders (being picked and packed)
- Inventory that has been shipped to the business customer (tracking information)
Just as in warehousing your product, inventory management is equally important. With the right inventory management strategies and tools, your inventory is protected and accounted for to avoid loss. Again, you must be able to place your complete trust in a fulfillment service to maintain control over every single item in your inventory.
Once we receive your order, our warehouse personnel will begin picking and packing your inventory to prepare it for shipment to your business customer. As inventory begins moving, it’s vital that every item is accounted for. This is accomplished with state-of-the-art technology. At any given time, you should be able to access real-time data of the current quantity of inventory, where inventory is in the process of preparation, and tracking info once it is shipped. The complex mechanics behind this phase of fulfillment must flow accurately and flawlessly.
Inventory Data is Crucial
With our technology on board, valuable data is produced that is vital for you and us.
- Ensuring you have inventory available at all times and never run out.
- Your inventory doesn’t sit and become outdated.
- Your warehouse storage space is always being optimized, so you don’t pay for more space than you should.
- You gain insight into trends in your product.
- Your marketing can be tailored by understanding those trends.
- Forecasting of your inventory provides you with information to help you leverage future sales.
Step #9: Delivery of Order
Confirmation of your order delivery is a necessity. Once the order is delivered, you will receive a notice. This notice initiates the inventory management system to update.
Regardless of what shipping carrier is selected, a positive delivery experience is something the business customer will be impressed with. 94% of customers who experience poor delivery blame it on the source that sent the order. We go the extra step to prevent displeasure in delivery.
Carrier Delivery Services
- Airport to Airport
- Airport to Door
- Door to Door
- Door to Airport
Spectra does everything within our power to avoid delivery distress. The customer should never experience their order being delivered at the wrong address, arriving damaged or the wrong product sent, or a delay.
The recipient on the delivery end of an order anticipates the seamless arrival of their order. Once the shipment is released into their hands, a delivery confirmation is automatically generated by the carrier’s technology, which then delivers real-time data to you and us that the order successfully arrived at its destination.
Step #10: Returns Management
Although Spectra very rarely has any returns, we are ready to mitigate any return issue. We have an impeccable near 100%-free return history!
Returns are something that we strive hard to prevent. However, when and if it should ever happen, we are poised to send out a new order as quickly as possible.
HIPAA Compliance Observance
Spectra is well versed and experienced with HIPAA standards. Although we are not directly involved with healthcare to which HIPAA is associated with, strict adherence must be maintained at all times when handling data that falls under Protected Health Information (PHI.)
Distributors: 84% Manufacturers: 79%
How a Fulfillment Service Benefits Your Business
Today’s eCommerce industry is hungry for solutions as demand grows at an increasing speed. The 2019 gross merchandise volume (globally) for B2B eCommerce skyrocketed! The figures are staggering, to say the least.
2019 – equivalent to $12.2 trillion USD
2013 – equivalent to $5.83 trillion USD
A 6-year increase equivalent to $6.43 trillion USD
Outsourcing order fulfillment has become something businesses are reaching for. Costs of partnering with a fulfillment service save you overhead costs trying to house, manage, and fulfill orders.
Spectra Saves You a Significant Amount of Money
Partnering with Spectra provides you with everything we have outlined and covered in this article. You get ONE SOLUTION that umbrellas MULTIPLE NEEDS!
You save time and money in warehousing. Searching for a location, visiting the site, and going through the paperwork to rent/buy the warehouse requires a colossal amount of time and money. Once you do procure a warehouse, you must ensure it, install necessary technology to facilitate security, management of inventory and orders, real-time data, shipping integration, and more. You will then need to invest in interviewing, hiring, and training the manpower it’ll take to run the day to day operations of fulfillment and oversight and maintenance of the warehouse, data, and technology.
Expenses incurred in acquiring your own warehouse
- Rental/purchase of a warehouse
- Maintaining a climate-control environment
- Insurance on warehouse and the contents
- Installation of technology (software, internet, hardware, etc.)
- Equipment to run a warehouse (forklift, conveyor belt, etc.)
- Purchase of Supplies
- Developing SOPs, KPIs, marketing plans, website, etc.
- Warehouse maintenance
- IT technician
- Personnel Training
Benefits of Partnering with a Fulfillment Service
- Provides you with warehouse space, labor, security, supplies, technology, and management.
- Gets your product delivered to the customer in a professional and timely manner.
- Enhances your overall business operation by giving you back the time you need to devote to other areas of your business. Takes a heavy burden off of you.
- Provides you with valuable metrics. Negotiates with shippers to get the most out of shipment at a reduced cost to you.
- Gives you peace of mind while providing you with superior service that exceeds your expectations.
- Provides you with competitive pricing to effectively manage every phase of fulfillment.
You Get Valuable Data Analytics
Order management doesn’t end after the delivery of a shipment. Fulfillment service and you have valuable insight into successes and shortcomings with KPIs that are in place. Essential metrics that a fulfillment service utilizes enable ways to gauge the management of a product all the way to customer satisfaction.
- New inventory
- Existing inventory
- Real-time inventory
- Picking and Packing
- Time it took to fulfill the order
- Customer Notification
- Carrier’s ability to deliver on time
- Carrier’s overall reputation
- Cost efficiency
- Rate of Returns
- Damaged shipment
- Insufficient packing
- Carrier handling
- Incorrect product
- Error in picking and/or packing
- Defective product
- Order Archival
- Provides valuable insight on trends
- Enables customer to reorder
One Easy Solution
Spectra proudly shines with a small-scale operation that boldly surpasses large-scale operations with an outstanding reputation! Our location provides reachability quickly across the U.S. We are located on the eastern half of the U.S. midway between New York and Miami.
We offer an ALL-IN-ONE solution for your fulfillment needs. We do it all under one roof with personnel we are proud to have as part of our team.
The Solution You Need!
- Flexible and scalable warehouse space that’s clean and climate-controlled.
- Technology that provides the innovation to be a top-performing service.
- Real-time inventory management begins the moment your product arrives. Every item is accounted for at any given time.
- The moment your product arrives, we carefully inspect it for damage, compare it to the manifesto and then forward a full report to you along with digital images. Most other fulfillment services don’t offer their clients this extra personal touch to give them peace of mind.
- Careful handling of your product.
- Shipping is selected through reputable carriers. Price is negotiated to ensure quality service at a reduced price.
27 million people in the U.S. can be reached in 1 day
182 million people in the U.S. can be reached in just 2 days!
Spectra’s Other Services
- Printing Services
- Small to large jobs
- Print distribution
- Color matching
- Variable data printing
- Security printing
- Specialized options; foil, raised ink, sleeking
- On-demand book printing
- HD quality
- Quality finishes
- Book fulfillment direct shipping
- Trade show materials
- Banners and Signage
- Branded promotional products (ink pens, bags, etc.)
- Mailing Programs
- Direct mail fulfillment services
- Custom Storefront for online order fulfillment
The background mechanics of a fulfillment service is without question to be appreciated and respected. The complex intricacies are something that many B2B eCommerce professionals choose to entrust with a third-party logistics provider such as Spectra.
The benefits of outsourcing and partnering with Spectra outweighs trying to assume such a consuming undertaking. You have so much to gain with Spectra’s expertise and so little to lose!
Contact us today, and we will be more than happy to provide you with a quote on getting you closer to optimizing your B2B eCommerce fulfillment needs!