Learning how to Streamline Order Fulfillment will make your business run more efficently
Photo by CC user Tecnowey on Wikimedia Commons

To an outsider, order fulfillment will appear to be a simple matter of packing and shipping a product. Modern commerce, however, is much more complicated. A company’s order management software needs to:

  • create a new data record for each order;

  • give personnel at all levels of the company an opportunity to search for, view, and edit existing orders as customers call in for information about those orders;

  • provide a clear picture of all inventory available to fill an order;

  • generate data that alerts production managers about low or out-of-stock inventory levels, and that allows them to forecast inventory levels and to maintain those levels in their leanest feasible state;

  • confirm receipt and restocking of returns;

  • integrate all ordering and distribution channels, and eliminate pricing and other conflicts in those channels;

  • create and view invoices, and provide real-time fulfillment data to accounting and financial personnel; and

  • track orders from warehouses to end users.

A company can streamline its order fulfillment with an order management software system that can accomplish all of these tasks and more. The cosmetics company, Avon, discovered that selecting and implementing the right system is the challenge.

Avon launched a new order management system in Canada in 2013 that combined multiple applications. From the outset, the system was plagued by problems. The company’s representatives were unable to log into the system. When they did gain access, that system failed to accept or save orders or to reserve inventory against orders that had been saved. The system’s failure caused the company to lose more than 16,000 of its independent sales agents in Canada, who became too flustered by the new system to stay with the company as agents. Avon was ultimately forced to write off more than $125 million in costs associated with its attempt to implement the new order management software.

Analysts who have studied the Avon situation have gleaned a number of takeaways on avoiding these types of problems when a company is seeking to streamline its order fulfillment.

First, confirm that the solution fits the company’s business model. Avon relies extensively on its field agents who form an independent sales force army, but its new system was probably more specific to an internal sales force. A company needs to understand all of its points of sale and to design and adopt an order management software system that meshes with its sales methodology. The software should be easy to use by all personnel who are at the far end of the order cycle and who are generating the raw data that feeds into the order management software.