Whether you’re switching providers or outsourcing for the first time, moving inventory and fulfillment operations can be a big deal. It’s intimidating and takes diligence, but if done well and with the right partner, it can be the beginning of great opportunities and growth. Don’t start your new adventure on the wrong foot.
5 tips for a successful transition:
- Take control. Assign a “Transition Project Manager.”
Your new fulfillment partner should have an onboarding specialist assigned to your account. (If they don’t, you might want to check if the ink has dried on the contract…this could be a deal breaker.) You’ll need someone with a “take charge” attitude, but it’s 100% a team effort. Make sure you or someone on your team is just as committed to managing the transition process and treating it as a high priority project. Your new partner should provide guidance, but there are many aspects that will require your involvement and attention to details.
This is a component of tip #1, but it’s important enough to give it its own bullet. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that (A) others already know what’s going on or (B) they don’t need to know what’s going on. Your open communications and timely responses will be key to making the transition a success. And, never be afraid to ask questions.
- Define a timeline and STICK TO IT.
A good provider should have timelines and checklists for onboarding a new customer. They will work with you to determine a manageable “go live” date and then work backward to fill in all the steps and tasks that need to take place. Expect the transition to take 4 to 6 weeks if you’re dealing with a large number of SKUs. Every step of the process is important and taking shortcuts to speed it up will only cost you in the long run.
- Keep it cordial. Your inbound shipments depend on it.
Whatever may have happened to prompt you to move your fulfillment, do your best to put it behind you. It’s never a good idea to burn bridges, and you’ll need your current provider’s cooperation to ensure the inbound receipt into the new facility doesn’t end up costing you money. This is an area where you or your “Transition Project Manager” will really need to bird dog the process. You’ll be the middle man making sure both parties understand expectations and timing for shipping out of the old facility and into the new.
- Test, test and test again.
Mistakes can happen, but with enough testing and documentation, your new fulfillment partner can greatly minimize the chances of running into road blocks. Be sure to ask how orders will be tested and what safety nets are in place for those first few weeks after orders start flowing. Don’t assume the “go live” date is where project management ends. This is where things get real, so don’t bow out too early.
Good luck and best wishes for growth as you up your fulfillment game!