Micro-fulfillment. It’s one of the latest buzzwords in the fulfillment and supply chain industry, and it’s typically touted as a must-have for competitive warehousing processes. If your company wants to provide better service levels on same-day or next-day delivery, micro-fulfillment can be a great solution — but only if you have proper processes in place.
Kevin Lawton is the founder of The New Warehouse, a website that offers insights and ideas from the distribution, transportation and logistics industry. And because he’s worked hands-on in the distribution and logistics industry since 2012, he’s seen many fulfillment strategies come and go. Here are the top three things you should consider when deciding if micro-fulfillment is right for your business or product:
1. Does my customer need improved delivery service levels in order to stay loyal to my brand?
While getting same- or next-day shipping on orders is nice, it’s important to listen to your customers and decide if they really want to get a product faster. Focusing on areas of proven need is a great place to start. For instance, it may be that micro-fulfillment makes sense in only certain regions where you have a higher density of demand, or for certain customer segments.
Another factor to consider is that most consumers will prefer an accurate delivery time over a quick delivery.
And for situations where a consumer doesn’t have a traditional porch or secure place to leave a package, it’s critical that they know when their package will be delivered so they can be home to receive it.
When studying consumer delivery preferences, Lawton says to watch for customer drop-off at critical junctures involving shipping — for example, a customer filling an online cart and then abandoning it at the stage of choosing shipping. That’s a pretty good sign that they’re not seeing the delivery options that they want. And, of course, it’s important to stay on top of what competitors are doing at these shipping junctures.
2. Will increased service levels be a competitive advantage for my product or business?
While a particular product may not immediately stand out as being something that people need within 24 hours, getting it to the customer quickly may help you stand out against competitors, or give you a better chance of converting one-off consumers to loyal users. This is especially true if you have new products that are struggling to get shelf space or gain traction. “Imagine you see a beverage that is new to the market on social media, but you can only order it online, and it takes a week to get to you,” says Lawton. “There’s more of a likelihood that you’ll order it to get delivered in 24 hours so you can try it. Seven days later, you’re on to something else and the mood has changed.”
There’s always a balancing act between making products available quickly and storing inventory in a smaller micro-fulfillment center. Still, Lawton advocates for prioritizing availability, a former luxury that has become a competitive advantage. “How many times have you had to get something quickly, and your first reaction is to try a store, but they don’t have it, so you pull out your phone and order it on Amazon and it comes tomorrow?” he asks.
3. Is your supply chain sophisticated enough to handle micro-fulfillment?
Depending upon the size of your MFC, there may not be much extra space to store excess inventory. This may present challenges, because staying in stock is key. It’s useless to offer your customers increased service levels if you don’t have anything left to send. While you can leverage third-party logistics partners to help keep your inventory levels just right, that doesn’t absolve your business of the responsibility to supply those fulfillment partners with your product so that they can deliver.
With that said, Lawton says there’s no need to get stalled by second-guessing whether your company is sophisticated enough to adopt MFCs. “You don’t know until you try. If you’re overly cautious about new things and about investing in what could be the future of your organization, you’re going to hold yourself back,” he says. “There are programs out there that allow you to test this type of service, and if it’s not successful, you can pull back.”
And because inventory can be used for more than one speed of delivery; it’s always possible to utilize multiple types of fulfillment. Lawton says your MFC approach could utilize a mix of regional hubs, MFCs, brick-and-mortar stores, and more. “You need to think about pushing inventory to wherever it needs to go,” says Lawton. “This is a flexibility that every company should go after.”
Brother Mobile Solutions’ Labeling Helps Speed Fulfillment and Makes Tracking Easy
Your company has likely experienced the pressure that comes with getting inventory out the door faster, tracking it better, and minimizing your costs to stay competitive. And in the fast-paced micro-fulfillment environment, labeling technology that supports the whole process — from warehouse through distribution centers to back-of-store retail environments — is critical.
Brother Mobile Solutions provides mobile, desktop and industrial label and document printing technology for a wide range of warehouse and logistics applications. With ideal options for MFCs like compact footprints for tight workspaces, simple-to-use interfaces for easy workforce training, and highly durable hardware to withstand harsh environments, the right Brother printer can help your supply chain experience new efficiencies. And we prioritize providing reliable, rugged solutions and at-your-side support that works seamlessly with your workflow and systems.
Eliminating the need for your workers to take the time to walk to central workstations is easy with a mobile warehouse printer. Brother RuggedJet mobile printers are ideal for on-the-go shipping or barcode labels, rack or pallet labels, and more. These one- to four-inch rugged, compact printers can even be mounted on forklifts!
When it comes to high-volume printing of clear, scannable barcodes at high resolution, the desktop Brother Titan Industrial Printer series is ready to work. Perfect for shipping labels, order pick labels and more, this series is compact enough to be cart-mounted for further flexibility.
For more information, visit https://brothermobilesolutions.com/
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