It’s Saturday morning and you’re at home having coffee, all while placing another order from Amazon. By now, the practice of purchasing every day needs and wants from Amazon is common for millions of people daily. We all enjoy the convenience – a few clicks, and everything you need will arrive at your house in a few days.
Most people never stop to think about what goes into making this ordering process so simple. However, the current COVID-19 pandemic shows that there are several steps in the order fulfillment process that can stop you from receiving your items.
Let’s set aside the current “tough to get” products that are in short supply right now and use an example of something simple you may order, such as a video game for your kids. Yes, you could go to Best Buy and purchase it there, but you already have a busy day planned so why go to that trouble when UPS could just deliver it to your house in two days?
We’re going to assume that Sony has shipped these video games to Amazon on time, and focus on what happens after that. There are five basic warehouse processes involved, and a problem with any one of them could leave you with children complaining that their video game didn’t arrive when they wanted it.
Here are the steps your items go through before landing in your mailbox or on your front porch:
First Step: Receiving
When the items are shipped to a warehouse, they must be accurately received into Amazon’s system so that Amazon knows they are there.
Second Step: Storing
The item is put away by a warehouse employee that is tasked with placing it in the correct location. If the item is not placed in the correct location, it could lead to longer shipping times.
Third Step: Picking
Once the warehouse has received your order, they move on to picking the items you have ordered. This step of the process has become highly automated for many companies, reducing the likelihood of errors. Unfortunately, errors can still be made.
Fourth Step: Packing
All of your items must go into boxes for shipping, and ideally, in as few boxes as possible to reduce freight costs. However, if there are multiple boxes shipping to you, the warehouse must ensure all of the boxes are correctly labeled to go to your address.
Fifth Step: Shipping
This is the step that involves you hoping a delivery system, such as USPS, UPS or FedEx, brings you a box that hasn’t been damaged and arrives on time. A break in any of the steps above can cause for delay, even while in the shipping phase.
Amazon has a fine-tuned order fulfillment process, simply because that’s their business. For many manufacturers though, something like COVID-19 can create a major disruption to the daily warehouse activities. Their warehouses are not areas of business most manufacturers consider themselves to be specialists in, and there’s most likely no plan in place when an event, such as a pandemic, takes place.
Pierce Distribution has always been managing the parts operations of manufacturers, those who understand that utilizing an outside company may make more sense than trying to handle it themselves. Fortunately for us, an event like COVID-19 usually gives a portion of the manufacturers even more cause to look into this option.
Right now, we’re all in the same boat – waiting to see how soon this situation improves. COVID-19 has affected all of us, both at work and at home. And the toughest part is the unknown of when things will finally get back to normal. Until it does, do the best you can – work with the resources available to you, make good use of your time at work, and plan for how your business will operate “post COVID-19”.