March 8, 2007, 12:00 AM

Fulfillment in e-retailing is off course, Aberdeen study says

One out of every 20 orders shipped by e-retailers is either late, incomplete or both, research and advisory firm Aberdeen Group says in a new study. It also notes that 20% of retailers surveyed experience picking errors in one out of every 10 orders.

One out of every 20 orders shipped by e-retailers is either late, incomplete or both, research and advisory firm Aberdeen Group says in a new study. It also notes that 20% of retailers surveyed experience picking errors in one out of every 10 orders.

Picking errors include not only grabbing the wrong item, but the wrong sized box to package the item, which can lead to higher packing costs through the use of additional packing materials or stoppages in the work flow as packers get the appropriate size box, experts say.

Retailers need more depth of functionality in their fulfillment applications, experts say.

“Bar coding and automated batch and zone picking processes are basic requirements for fulfillment,” says Ian Hobkirk, senior analyst, logistics for Aberdeen. “Retailers need fulfillment applications that go beyond core automation of the fulfillment process to improve productivity, fulfillment accuracy, and control operating costs.”

Adds Donald Cohen, managing partner for ToolKing LLC, a Lakewood CO.-based multi-channel tool retailer: “The more automation in the fulfillment process and the better its integration across the business, the more benefits it brings to the retailer and the customer.”

ToolKing, which operates its own warehouse in Colorado and uses UPS Supply Chain Solutions to provide warehousing and fulfillment for orders shipped to the eastern United States, has linked the two facilities to its order management and inventory systems using a fulfillment application from Great Plains Software Inc. This capability allows ToolKing to determine which warehouse will fulfill the order and track the fulfillment process simply by entering the invoice number of each order, Cohen says.

Larger items that weigh more and turn over their inventory quickly are typically warehoused and shipped by UPS Supply Chain Solutions, which warehouses, fulfills and restocks these types of items more efficiently than ToolKing can do itself, he adds.

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