How to build an order fulfillment workflow plan

11 December, 2017

Order fulfilment workflow shows how incoming orders from customers are processed, organised and shipped out. It can take many forms but the purpose is to establish a clear and accurate process by which the business responds to the purchase promise made when the customer places an order.

Having an order fulfilment workflow plan in place allows a business to ensure reliable service as each order receives the same step-by-step treatment. It can also save time for those in the business and avoid the delays and inaccuracies that can create problems with customers. So, how do you build one?

An order fulfillment workflow plan can take any form

There is no set template for an order fulfilment workflow plan. You may use a spreadsheet or you may choose graphs or lists. A numbered list is by far the simplest way to start building an order fulfilment workflow plan for the first time. However, our recommendation is to put each process on a post-it note so you can rearrange them on a board, wall or table. You can easily get other people involved this way in a workshop environment.

Building the basic structure

Although every business is different, if you’re building an order fulfilment workflow plan from the ground up then you can normally start with the same basic structure:

1. Receiving orders – how are orders received? For example, via shopping cart integration, a manual order entry or a CSV file.

2. Processing orders – this part of the order fulfilment workflow plan will cover the way that your business handles the order once it has been received. For example, orders might be printed at a specific time and then passed to a specific team. This is a good place in the workflow to note how you might deal with anomalies, for example orders that have special instructions for delivery or packing.

3. Pick and pack – this stage in the process documents how you manage the picking and packing internally. It should include any packing policies in place – for example, training staff to use the smallest possible bags or boxes that will carry the order safely. Quality control standards that are applied to every order also belong here, along with any address verification and labeling systems.

4. Shipping – how does the package get under way? For example, the process of booking and handing over the order to a mail or courier partner and determining which service to use based on weight and dimensions if this isn't predetermined at checkout by the customer.

5. Post-shipping – how does the order appear on your software systems once shipped and what information is sent to the customer? How is existing inventory synched up with sent shipments? And what about returns handling?

The simple process of building an order fulfilment workflow plan provides a clear and reliable set of steps for every order to follow. No matter what size your business it’s an essential overview to have in place.

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