How Fast Can You Change from One Fulfillment Center to Another?
The best schedule is to have your fulfillment partner stocked, tested and ready to ship, long before Halloween, the unofficial start to holiday shopping. The optimal process methodically marches through several months of easy preparation. And the timing largely depends on the location of your manufacturing, where your current inventory is located, getting through customs, and how many SKUs you’re moving. Of course there are dozens of reasons why one might not have that kind of time.
When you don’t have the recommended time, what’s the “go or no-go” point? How fast can a company change fulfillment centers, in time for the holidays?
While not recommended, some companies have made changes in as few as several weeks, with inventory arriving as late as mid-November. If everything goes as planned, that might be the best answer for an efficient and economical holiday season.
The schedule below presumes that your inventory can arrive at the new location in 10 business days, and marches toward holiday readiness in 7 short weeks:
- Week 1, request quotes
- Week 2, evaluate quotes and ask questions
- Week 3, virtual tours, review sign up documents, finalize pricing & agreements
- Week 4, send inventory, on boarding, begin uploading your SKUs into their system
- Week 5, test reporting
- Week 6, inventory arrives
- Week 7, first orders process, invoice for receiving & storage, identify any system adjustments
- Week 8, ready for holidays
Tips for Changing to a New Fulfillment Center in Time for the Holidays
Here are critical questions to ask your team before you push the limits on making a change to a new fulfillment center in time for the holidays:
How much of your process relies on those outside your company and the fulfillment center?
The more hands that touch your project, the more opportunities for delay. Moving inventory through customs, for example, is outside both companies’ purview. At eFulfillment Service, we’ve seen customs delays add a week or two for things as simple as sunglasses.
Can your team devote the time and manpower to uploading all your products into a new system?
Nothing is more aggravating than having done everything correctly, only to have your inventory gathering dust on the loading dock because your new fulfillment partner doesn’t have any SKUs in its system and can’t receive your inventory. And the staffer responsible for that is on vacation. Make sure you have the data reviewed and ready to be loaded.
Will the people packing your inventory use best practices?
How much control will you have over how your inventory is packed? Will cartons have more than one SKU? And if so, will those be separated logically? Will the packer include a packing slip? Will your product packaging get damaged in shipment and need to be replaced? When you’re trying to move inventory from dock to stock on a deadline, sloppy packing is your worst enemy.
Are you using a shopping cart that integrates easily with your new fulfillment center’s system?
Make sure that your new fulfillment partner has experience working with your shopping cart. If you’re using their API, have your development team review the documentation before you agree to make the change. Make sure you test with a few orders and include your accounting team in the review of the reporting.
Do you have a clear understanding of your new fulfillment center’s charges?
We’ve gotten calls from panicked ecommerce sellers, who’ve made the decision to change, but didn’t realize that their fulfillment partner had a $2,000 minimum per month. Or they didn’t realize that they would have to pay for all the boxes they use, or that storage was based on a full pallet, when they only store one carton. Now they are scrambling to find a partner that won’t hide fees in a complicated contract.
Speed Up the Review Process for Signing a New Fulfillment Center
How to get a good quote from a fulfillment company?
To speed the review process, share the following information with your prospective fulfillment providers, openly and plainly . If it’s not going to be a good fit, it’s better to know early and move on to another company that may be able to help. You don’t want to waste time with someone that can’t do business with you.
When sharing info, don’t exaggerate and don’t base your figures on future activity. A good fulfillment partner will grow with you and be able to apply volume discounts when you achieve them. And if there’s something you don’t know, it’s okay to say so.
How many orders per month?
- Some companies need high order volume. Others, like eFulfillment Service will work with start-ups or small and medium-sized companies. If you’re using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), share how many orders you’re sending to Amazon each month, if you hope to use FBA Prep services.
How many SKUs?
- Some companies aren’t equipped to handle large numbers of SKUs.
How many pallets are you currently storing?
What kind of products do you sell?
- This is especially important if your product has batteries, hazardous ingredients, sharp edges, or would be considered adult-only. If your product is expensive, wholesaling for more than $250, that’s good info too.
Which shopping carts & platforms are you using?
- … Shopify, eBay, Walmart, Amazon, FBA, etc. List all that you are currently using and if you plan to add any on, include those.
How much does your heaviest item weigh?
How big is the biggest item?
Do your products have an expiration date?
Do you need refrigeration?
- State the temperature range that you’re looking for. Refrigeration is a select service and many warehouses don’t have refrigeration.
How will you handle returns?
- Do you want your fulfillment partner to inspect and restock returns? How many returns per month are average?
What do you promise your customers?
- Same day shipping, two-day delivery, customized products?
Will you be shipping internationally?
- Some products cross borders easily. Others, like nail polish, can be trickier.
Describe your packaging needs …
- Are you able to ship in poly bags? Are standard boxes okay? Are you including marketing materials in your boxes?
Take a few moments now to review last year’s holiday season. If you’d like to have a new fulfillment partner on board by this year’s holiday season, there’s plenty of time to make that change, smoothly and efficiently, using these tips. Happy Holidays!