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Fulfillment and Distribution: Is All-In-One All Good?

Fulfillment and Distribution: Clarity About Needs

The first priority of any business decision-maker, when hiring any third party fulfillment center, has to be the needs of the business. These needs can vary hugely, and so can the prices and service needed in order to fulfill them. Company X ships millions of toys from China to the Port of Los Angeles, and from there the goods are trucked out to cities across America. Company Y, meanwhile, sells toys over the Internet, and mainly within one geographical area and in fairly small amounts.

The needs of these two companies, when it comes to hiring a fulfillment and distribution partner, are obviously vastly different.

Before even speaking with a fulfillment center representative, its vital to identify company needs as far as volume of shipments, distance of transport, and size of the product(s) involved. Without that information, fulfillment centers can make all the all-in-one promises they want without having to meet real world needs. And in the real world, that doesnt work.

Whats the "All" in All-In-One, Anyhow?

The sales rep making the all-in-one pitch may like saying that phrase so much that its never even discussed what the all is. Therefore, as usual, its the duty of the business decision-maker to ferret out whats really being offered here. Common promised all-in-one fulfillment functions include:

  • Packaging
  • Literature Inserts
  • Shrink Wrapping
  • Warehousing
  • Inspection
  • Transportation
  • Assembly

In other words, the all-in-one offer, theoretically, takes the product from the client and then does the rest, until the product arrives to the customer.

That, at least, is the idea here.

Past Fulfillment Customers Feeling Fulfilled?

Always a good practice, asking for several referrals from past clients rises to the level of a must when considering an all-in-one fulfillment and distribution contract. Not only should several past clients be contacted and interviewed, but it should also be an issue the similarity of the past clients products to the current potential clients products. One fulfillment center may be excellent working with a certain type of partner--say, an Internet company that sells a standardized size product within the domestic United States. But this same fulfillment center may not be up to the job if products come in different shapes or sizes, or must be shipped overseas.

Everything should be put in writing--especially when everything is what the fulfillment center is being asked to do.


Erasmus Research Institute of Management

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