An integrated distribution system can eliminate many of the hurdles companies face during the fulfillment process and improve customer satisfaction.
Not having streamlined order processes is a major obstacle to fulfillment and can affect many aspects of operations. An integrated distribution system brings together order and billing management capabilities with sales, finance and fulfillment.
If you have an integrated system, those areas are all working off of the same information, and there is a centralized place for management quotes and orders.
Leading companies also recognize the tremendous benefits of implementing automated order processing. According to an article on FoodProcessing.com, Cargill Inc. plans to invest in a new distribution system at its processing facility in Dodge City, Kan.
The plant provides beef products for domestic and international clients in the retail, foodservice and processed food sectors. The new system will replace one from the 1980s and increase capacity to 155,000 boxes of beef, up 130,000 boxes from the existing facility, the article explains.
“This new distribution system will benefit our customers by improving order accuracy and on-time delivery, in addition to providing better capability to handle the ever-increasing complexity of product offerings shipped to domestic and international markets,” Cargill Beef President John Keating says.
A post on the Business Computing World website highlights three signs that businesses may need process automation.
- Bottlenecking: Bottlenecks are a sure sign your operation can benefit from automated processes. Orders should be moving immediately from one step of the process to the next. Managers can find bottlenecks by physically walking an order through to see where it gets held up. Automation can help eliminate stagnation.
- Broken processes: Often in departments where things are running smoothly, employees eschew formal processes in favor of a more efficient method. If their method works and doesn’t skip anything important, you can formally adopt the new approach and potentially automate it.
- Decision-making: Making business decisions can be an arduous task. Automated processes create a central database where all the necessary information is available for review. It makes decision-making that much more simple.
Automating the shipping process with integration to UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service is another way to streamline the order process. You can electronically route orders to suppliers, which will reduce fulfillment errors and offer efficiencies.
You can improve cash flow if you have flexible billing management that adapts to billing needs and market demand. In other words, it’ll speed up the billing process and ensure greater accuracy.
You can also improve the return process with integration between order management and the return merchandise authorization (RMA) process. Connecting those will not only benefit the return process but also help identify quality issues before they become critical problems.
Streamlined order processes also lead to less paperwork and allow for increased transaction volume. It reduces the fulfillment time so customers get their products faster and it reduces costs, the savings from which can be either passed on to the customer or used to increase profitability. These streamlined processes will improve data accuracy and eliminate billing errors.
All of it ties in to improving customer service as you’re more accurate and processing orders quicker. There’s an improved return process or less returns. All of that points to higher customer satisfaction.
Integrated processes provide better internal access to all the order documents, making it easier to get that information to customers. You can provide better service if you’re able to access a customer’s order information in a timely manner. Customers these days expect to be able to receive that kind of information thanks to consumer sites like Amazon that provide real-time order data.
With customer portals, they can go online and see the status of their order, including when it was taken, what the confirmation number is and when it’s going to ship if it hasn’t already. UPS and FedEx have similar types of customer portals where you can see the status of your order or where your shipment is. These types of portals also help increase customer satisfaction.
The distribution industry is complicated and chaotic, so companies should do what they can to get out of their own way to meet customer needs. An integrated distribution system brings together various aspects of operations, allowing for more streamlined processes and ultimately greater customer satisfaction.