TECHNOLOGY: Fulfillment company uses technology to your advantage

GRAWN – From mattresses to cookbooks to toothbrushes, eFulfillment Service Inc. in Grawn keeps products moving. The new company offers fulfillment services; but what does such a company actually do?

“Most companies want to concentrate on sales, but they spend their time worrying about warehouses and inventory,” Amy Caughell, eFulfillment president, said. “We take that load for you. We take orders, pack orders and keep inventory for you.”

In addition, eFulfillment offers assembly services, order payment processing, including credit card payments, as well as commercial storage.

The process works in three steps: To start, companies ship their inventory to eFulfillment’s facility. Products, packaging, displays, literature and kits can already be found in their 30,000 square-foot warehouse. Returns and restocking are also processed.

Secondly, clients send new orders daily to eFulfillment via a simple data transfer protocol and secure Web server. eFulfillment processes any needed e-payments and then picks-packs-ships orders to customers. Data management and stock controls are also part of the service.

Finally, eFulfillment uploads the resulting transactions daily, including tracing information and costs, to their secure Web site. Each client can then view his or her individual customer service support center at any time from any location. Paper copies of all shipping and receiving documents are sent to support the client’s billing and collection process. Clients remain 100 percent in control of their cash and customer relations.

Caughell noted that there are two common reasons that businesses turn to fulfillment services: “One is so they can concentrate on sales. Two is that the business facility can’t handle their current growth. Instead of building a larger facility and hiring and training employees, they can farm out the work.”

The biggest difference between eFulfillment and other fulfillment services is the Web component.

“We haven’t seen other fulfillment services using the Web for customer service,” noted Caughell. “But by using the Web, our customers can check their inventories and orders at any time.”

Complete information about every shipment is listed on their Web site, efulfillmentservice.com, including ship date, tracking number and shipping cost. From there, companies can import the entire file to their own spreadsheet for in-depth analysis. The Web site offers a sample data feedback system for users to try.

Despite the name, eFulfillment isn’t just about the Web. It’s simply an additional tool offered to their clients. For the eFulfillment staff, the Web means being able to provide instant information; and trouble-shooting.

“Because we are not able to see most of our clients, we use digital pictures,” Caughell noted. “If there is damage to a shipment, we take a picture, post it to the Web site and file a claim the same day. You can’t argue with pictures.” In the future, they plan to implement a live on line operator to field questions and calls via the Web.

Another advantage to using a fulfillment service is the lower shipping rates netted with bulk quantities. “We can wager much larger shipping discounts,” Caughell said.

The basic storage fee is based on $15 per month per pallet, which yields $12 per square foot of warehouse space on average. Typical assembly projects are billed at $25 per man-hour. Order processing averages $1.60 per order plus 25 cents per unit. The credit card processing fee averages 7 percent of billing. Overall, the typical gross profit after variable expense averages 50 to 80 percent, depending on the specifics of various projects.

eFulfillment’s staff now consists of nine, though they plan to expand to facilities in other areas of the United States to offer lower shipping rates and quicker service.

Caughell’s husband, T.J., is vice president of eFulfillment and Carl Ross is operations manager. They’re planning to remodel both the interior and exterior of the building in the coming year.

eFulfillment is operating in the former location of Access Publisher Network, which is reorganizing under Chapter 11. John Lindberg, chairman of eFulfillment, owns the building and was vice president of Access. BN

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