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Fulfillment Strategy: Planes, Trains, or Automobiles?
Nobody likes to be told how to do their job. At the same time, most business relationships work best as a continual give and take.
When working with a third party fulfillment center, it can be wise to give and take from day one. Logistical arrangements, in particular, traditionally work best when both the fulfillment center and the fulfillment center client are in on the planning early and often.
Fulfillment: Are Planes Necessary, and if So, When?
Depending on the product being shipped and the distances involved, it may make a lot of sense to include air transport as a large part of an overall fulfillment logistics plan. Sometimes, the speed of an airplane is indispensable.
If customers purchase, for example, a herbal medicine off the Internet that they are hoping will immediately help them, it may be a great decision to get them that product as immediately as possible, even if the shipping and handling is a bit more expensive.
The customer is always right, after all.
On the other hand, the customer doesnt always need the product immediately. Or may not mind waiting if shipping and handling costs less. The rates for FedEx overnight and FedEx Ground are vastly different.
A competent fulfillment center should help a client understand what this dynamic looks like in terms of cost. But the fulfillment center client must know its own customer, and know what kind of experience that customer wants to have.
Some customers need stuff at warp speed, and some can wait a bit.
Trains: Fulfillments Secret Weapon
There exists, in some circles, a misperception that trains have gone the way of the dinosaur. Speak with any sharp fulfillment center manager, though, and its obvious that trains are always an option.
Take the example of heavy and bulky products, such as engines or other metal machinery. It would be prohibitively expensive to put such objects onto an airplane. Trucks, meanwhile, may not even be able to bear such weight.
Trains, strong and sturdy and interconnected, may provide a perfect choice for such a seemingly insurmountable fulfillment challenge. Especially when the heavy and bulky objects are being moved together from one place to another, trains are the way to go: relatively inexpensive and up to the job.
Huge farm-friendly companies like Caterpillar and Monsanto know the value of trains when it comes to fulfillment and distribution.
The Go-To-Guys of the Fulfillment Business: Truckers
It may not be fun to ride next to them on the freeway, but those huge trucks do a ton for the American (and the global) economy. When gas spikes up as it did during the summer of 2008, the trucking business takes a dive. Mere coincidence that the economy as a whole quickly follows suit?
Trucks and truckers habitually do the dirty work of actually fulfilling the mission of a fulfillment house: getting product to the customers door. Including trucks and truckers in fulfillment and logistics planning is a must.
In fact, managing trucks and truckers effectively is often the hallmark of an excellent fulfillment and distribution company.