There’s a lot to know about fulfillment services before you contract with one, especially when it comes to inventory storage services.
Warehousing is never a simple matter of stuffing boxes in a building, but depending on what you’re selling, it can be truly detrimental if products aren’t carefully managed. Properly implemented systems and carefully trained employees matter to inventory storage services at a 3rd party logistics company (3PL).
Asking the Right Questions
Instead of being surprised when your inventory is ruined or your products run out too quickly, causing back orders, asking the right questions up front can ensure that you’ll know for certain that your 3PL is really putting effort into warehousing your products properly.
Before you sign up for inventory storage services with a fulfillment service provider, ask these three questions:
- Where will my products be stored? This question is important for any type of product, but it’s extra important if your merchandise is perishable. Unless you specify cool or even indoor storage with some 3PLs, you may find that your budget rate warehouse is cutting corners by using inexpensive storage solutions that leave your products exposed to the elements.
Uninsulated metal buildings or sheds may be fine for some products, but sensitive ones absolutely must be permanently stored in a properly climate-controlled area.
- How do you rotate inventory? Whether your products have an expiration date like cosmetics and vitamins or are simply seasonal in nature, it’s important that your 3PL has a handle on inventory rotation.
Not only should different products be assigned unique SKUs, products with expiration dates need to be monitored and rotated by expiration date so that the oldest items are sold first to reduce waste. Bar code scanners are useful tools to help keep inventory information up to date, provided your inventory storage service provider is tracking your products with enough fine detail.
- What kind of data is available on my warehousing? Just like there’s a lot to know about what happens on the pick, pack and ship floor, there’s more to warehousing than simply stacking boxes.
Merchandise is constantly moved into and out of inventory, creating data points that can and should be tracked. Instead of wondering if you’ll know before your inventory runs dry, having 24-hour access to data related to your warehouse will allow you to make informed decisions about when to reorder or what products to pull from your website.
Your inventory storage services can make a huge difference to your company’s bottom line. Don’t leave them to chance, ask lots of questions when you’re interviewing 3PL companies and make sure to tour their facilities before signing any contracts. A good warehouse service can be the best investment you’ve ever made.