We can always use improvement - right? In this article we look at how you can improve your order management software and processes. There are really 3 processes: taking orders, managing orders and processing orders, but the software that manages this whole workflow is usually referred to as order management software.
You’ve done the hard work to incentivize your salespersons and to market your products on eCommerce platforms – and it’s working. Orders are coming in.
Your sales process is delivering orders either through your salespersons or directly through your eCommerce system. Managing these orders as they come in then processing them quickly and correctly while keeping the customer fully updated should be one of your business’ primary goals.
If you can achieve this, by implementing strong order management software your fulfillment costs will go down and your customer satisfaction will go up. Who can argue with that?
To achieve a robust, efficient order management process there are a number of important tools your order management software should give you to improve your order workflow processes.
Your customer should be able to place orders through your salespersons or directly through an online self-service portal or through multiple linked eCommerce platforms.
A quick easy order entry process using optimize order management software will result in more orders and repeat customers.
Managing Your Orders
What is Order Management? Wikipedia defines order management software as a system used for order entry and processing. Simply put though, once orders come in, order management software records these orders, then keeps track of them through the fulfillment process through delivery of the ordered items to customers.
Your order management software should organize orders by stage so you can quickly see where they stand, and customers should get automatically updated at specific points in the process.
Order processing refers to the steps through which orders are moved sequentially through all the order stages. Wikipedia, defines order processing as the workflow associated with picking, packing and delivery of the ordered items. You need this flow to be simple and robust and automated through your software.
Your order management and processing software must be able to process orders from one order management stage to another either individually or together with other orders as a batch. Fulfillment processes of picking, packing and shipping are often managed as batch processes.
Steps to Improving Order Entry
To improve your order entry, you need to make it easy for orders to be placed on your system.
1. Allow Orders from Multiple Channels
Allow for the ability to take orders in multiple ways. Let your salespersons take orders as they have always done, but also allow your existing customers to place orders themselves through a self-service portal and attract new customers by creating online stores on one or more eCommerce platforms.
2. Simplify Pricing for Salespersons
Automate pricing with advertised or special pricing, contracts, matrix pricing, quantity breaks, and more, to minimize errors. Make sure your order management software provides rules for minimum margins so salespersons know exactly how much they can discount.
3. Multiple Warehouses and Multiple UOMs
Allow salespersons to select from multiple warehouses to fulfill the order and default the customer’s regular shipping method. Automatically flag for salespersons which items are in stock and which need to be backordered. Prompt for alternates and upsell accessories.
Sell in multiple units of measure to make it easier for customers to get exactly what they want.
4. Payment Options
Allow for orders to be placed on account for your established B2B customers or paid for immediately if placed through eCommerce. Allow for payment through checks or ACH or wire transfers.
Steps to Improving Order Management
To improve your order management, you need to ensure that orders move automatically from stage to stage through the order management cycle. Your order management software should make this as efficient as possible. Improving and automating all or any of the following order management steps will improve your overall process.
1. Order Placed
Orders can be placed by customers through your salespersons, or by customers directly using your self-service online portal or by customers directly on multiple eCommerce platforms.
Make sure your order management software automatically records these different types of orders and keeps track of them. Accolent ERP offers all of these options and orders automatically show up on your List Orders screen identified as to how they came in.
2. Order Released to Fulfillment
When an order is completed, it can be moved to fulfillment. Your order management software should automatically flag all orders moved to shipping as Ready to Pick. Orders should be able to be picked individually or in batches using a master or consolidated pick ticket – this can cut down significantly on multiple passes through the warehouse and save time.
3. Order Being Picked
Your order management software should allow orders batched for picking to be assigned to a picker and a route through the warehouse specified for picking the batch. The inventory at each location should be immediately updated as an item is picked to ensure that the picker following will get directed to the right location to pick the quantity of an item that is needed.
4. Order Picked
Once an order is picked your order management software should allow it to be packed in multiple boxes with packing slips created automatically for each box. The order should be able to be assigned to a shipping carrier and freight rates and tracking numbers obtained and shipping labels printed.
5. Order Packed
When packed your order management software should allow orders to be shipped either by releasing orders to a shipping carrier or when the distributor’s trucks are dispatched by delivery route. Orders are then en route to customers.
6. Order Shipped
When an order is marked as shipped and released from the warehouse, your order management software should mark the order as ready to be invoiced to the customer.
7. Order Invoiced
Once shipped, invoicing the customer is the completion of the revenue recognition process for GAAP purposes. The Invoice should be able to be either put on the customers account or the payment that was taken for an order placed in eCommerce, is applied.
Steps to Improving Order Processing
There are several steps you can take to improve your order processing. You don’t need to become a fulfillment expert overnight, but you can implement some of the following steps incrementally to continually improve your fulfillment process and improve business returns.
1. Implement Warehouse Locations and Batch Processes
It is easy to see why it is inefficient for a picker to traverse the whole warehouse to fill one order than retrace his steps for the next order.
Start by setting up your warehouse locations properly to maximize efficiency. Set up packaged and bulk locations for products and track inventory by locations to move products from bulk locations to easily accessible picking locations.
Then consider batching orders that can be efficiently picked together and assign the whole batch to a picker.
Your software should allow you to assign a particular route through the warehouse to a specific batch.
2. Implement a Wireless WMS System
A wireless WMS system can guide a picker through a warehouse following an assigned route or by location sequence.
Also, allowing pickers to pick multiple orders by scanning products cuts down on mistakes, and updates the inventory at each location in real time.
Packing an order that comprises multiple items and requires several boxes, is much easier to track if each item can be scanned and automatically linked to an order and a box.
Similarly, when shipping orders that contain multiple boxes scanning a box is much easier and cuts down on errors.
3. Automate Customer Updates
Your order management software should be able to automatically update an eCommerce site when you have a tracking number issued for a box and when the order is shipped.
Accolent ERP connects via API to multiple established eCommerce platforms to automatically update orders.
4. Consider Whether Linkage to a 3PL Makes Sense
For most distributors, the costs of order fulfillment are the largest controllable costs on a per item basis. Fulfillment costs are highly dependent on automated efficient processes and most of all on scale. Larger operations get access to efficiencies of scale that are not available to smaller businesses.
If your business scale warrants it, it may make sense to consider out-sourcing your whole fulfillment process to a 3PL rather than owning and managing your own warehouse. Fulfillment by Amazon and other third-party logistics providers are worth considering.
You need to ensure that your order management software allows you to out-source your fulfillment operations if this makes economic sense for you. Also depending on the geographic footprint of your sales, you may be able to cut down on shipping costs and delivery times by keeping your inventory closer to customers.
Accolent ERP is fully Cloud-based and runs end-to-end in AWS making linking to any 3PL a straightforward exercise.
Accolent ERP is a state-of-the-art Cloud-based ERP and order management software system that simplifies Order Entry, automates Order Management and Order Processing. Accolent ERP allows for complex products with multiple units of measure, multiple locations, tracks inventory by location and provides comprehensive Inventory Management. Accolent ERP supports orders taken by salespersons, entered by customers on a self-service online portal and on multiple linked eCommerce platforms. Contact us to learn more about Accolent ERP.