One could argue the definition of fulfillment, and nearly always be correct in the assessment. The very designs of catalog, pharmaceutical or video fulfillment houses would present grave differences, for obvious reasons.
A catalog distributor will have low ceilings, moving product through the building laterally rather than stacking multiple skid heights like you might see in a video fulfillment house. And, of course, the pharmaceutical company will have its drugs in a secure, lock-down area with intensified security and inventory management.
Regardless of building features or products fulfilled, I guarantee you in all fulfillment industries two things remain at the forefront: turnaround and quality of goods, which means customer satisfaction.
What affects each of these areas? “Fulfillment logistics,” such as: inspection of goods received, the degree to which pre-assembly and post-assembly makes economic sense, the kinds of shippers that might be used, the best ways to minimize damage in transit, tracking issues, storage considerations, what is to happen when a product is received by the consumer, inventory and returns management, and reporting.
Customer demand to minimize turnaround time is prevalent in all fulfillment industries. And, they are conditioned to expect it by savvy fulfillment companies that realize the need for economies of service such as launching their own customer service centers for on-site order capture.
In addition, there is a need to design and host their customer’s Web site for online order capture. Even processing of funds has evolved to instant, real-time credit card authorizations and electronic check processing, including deductions from a customer’s savings account. All in the name of “fulfillment at the speed of light!”
If you’re not shipping today the product you’re receiving today, you’re not up to speed. Anything else is antiquated and certainly not cost-efficient. An impulse buyer better get his product “this week,” or he may make non-productive calls to the toll-free numbers, even canceling because the impulse has passed and reality set in.
Now that the package has left the fulfillment facility, how did it ride? Is the product damaged? The shippers may need to be tested for endurance. Was the product protected during shipment? Corrugation costs have not significantly increased since the early 1990s. Perhaps once project specifics are known, it may make sense to increase the corrugation-test or even graduate to double wall instead of single. If several components make up a product, the order in which they are packed by fulfillment determines how they will be unpacked by the consumer — and that may be important to getting the consumer off to the right start.
Lastly, there is customer satisfaction. If turnaround was timely, and the product was picked-and-packed properly, you have the byproduct of good fulfillment, which is a satisfied customer! Now, do something … evaluate your fulfillment needs and expectations and get your product to a full-service fulfillment house where turnaround time and quality of goods is in the constant eyesight of fulfillment.