Best Practices in Fulfillment and Distribution
As for accuracy, all pick and pack orders contain a bar code, which contains the contents of each order. As the shipment is packed, the barcodes on the product shipment are read, and our systems verifies that the order is complete and accurate. This has virtually eliminated all picking and packing errors.
In order to keep pace with postal regulations and carrier options, we have several members of our staff who work closely with the local Post Office and representatives from the large mail carriers. This knowledge often allows us to offer cost-savings ideas to our customers.
What are your biggest challenges dealing with returns?
Long: Clearly, the biggest challenge … is that they are received in erratic form with no real pattern or predictability. It is our job to translate this chaos back to order.
At each of our distribution centers, we operate returns areas where returns are processed, and books and other products are neatly returned to inventory or identified as ‘hurt’ items. We keep returns staged by the day they are received, and we operate on a FIFO [first in, first out] basis. Our goal is to process returns in no more than two to three days.
… We have the ability to perform some minor repairs to books based on our knowledge of book manufacturing. In one of our distribution centers, we have a separate area to handle high-volume negative-option book club returns. Here we handle primarily the returns of books, DVDs and videos, and provide our customers with information on the returns we process so they can more effectively market their product.
Can you offer publishers advice to improve their relationship with their distributors, or better manage their warehousing, fulfillment and distribution?
Long: Our distribution business has been built with publishers who recognize that they are better served by using a professional distributor rather than operating their own warehouses. If a publisher has less than 15 million books or book-related products in their warehouse, there are likely to be cost savings available at a professional distributor who has greater economies of scale and is less susceptible to seasonality swings experienced by individual publishers.