Does Your Operation Need to Ship Orders 6 Days a Week?
If you work in order fulfillment, then you probably pay attention when FedEx makes big company announcements.
In September, they made a big one by announcing that the company would be expanding its US operations for their FedEx Ground service to deliver six days a week (Monday through Saturday) as opposed to their current five-days-a-week (Tuesday through Saturday) offering.
Though the company has in the past offered extended shipping during peak periods—such as around the holidays—this move marks a substantial change in their permanent operations. According to the company, the change was made necessary due to increased consumer demand, which has been driven largely by an ever-increasing number of ecommerce orders.
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Ultimately FedEx’s decision to offer expanded shipping services impacts more than FedEx. Many businesses—from small businesses to large operations—now have the option to ship one additional day each week.
But the question becomes: Should you?
Below, we discuss some of the reasons that it might make sense for an operation to ship orders six days a week.
1. Ecommerce accounts for more and more of your business.
It’s no secret that more and more shopping is being done online, whether on a computer or through a smartphone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the second quarter of 2018 ecommerce accounted for 9.6% of all retail sales in the United States—making for another record-breaking year. Compared to the same quarter 2017, that is a 15.2% increase.
But while this shift has allowed consumers many more options when it comes to shopping, it has also brought with it difficult changes to retailers and fulfillment operations. Increasingly, consumers are placing smaller orders more frequently, often putting excess strain on retailers’ ability to process orders efficiently and profitably—especially when they are constrained to fulfilling those orders five days a week.
For some operations facing this crunch, shifting to shipping orders six days a week may be one way to combat this increased strain on existing systems and technologies.
2. You have found it difficult to meet demand.
For most order fulfillment operations, an increase in customer demand is likely to sound like a dream come true. After all, more demand means more orders, which means more revenue and, ultimately, more profit.
But increased demand is only a positive for your business if you have a firm understanding of your existing capacity. Without such an understanding, it will be difficult to put in place a plan that will allow you to grow sustainably while still hitting the KPIs that are essential to keeping your customers happy—things like order accuracy, order cycle time, and on-time delivery. And if you are unable to keep your customers happy, they will eventually find one of your competitors who can.
If your operation has found it difficult to meet increased demand while operating on a 5-day ship cycle, then it may make sense to expand into a 6-day cycle. Depending on how you choose to implement such a plan, it is possible to add anywhere between one and three additional shifts to your weekly flow, allowing your existing technology and workforce to process more orders.
3. Your customers want or expect more shipping options.
As mentioned above, ecommerce has dramatically changed the retail landscape over the past few decades. In addition to changing the average order profile that is handled by order fulfillment operations on a daily basis, the shift to online shopping and a digital economy has also changed customer expectations when it comes to delivery.
Ecommerce makes the process of shopping nearly instant. When a customer needs or wants something, they can simply log on and make a purchase right then and there, without even needing to drive to a store. The only part of the process that isn’t instantaneous is the delivery process; the tradeoff that comes with being able to shop anywhere is the fact that you must wait for your purchase to be delivered.
But consumers are impatient. They want what they want, when they want it, and if you are unable to meet what they see as an acceptable delivery timeframe, they will look elsewhere to find someone who can. Increasingly, these demands include same- or next-day shipping, weekend delivery, and Monday-morning priority mail (especially for B2B purchases)—all of which expanding to a 6-day shipping operation will help you meet.
Alternatives to Six-Day Shipping
If your customers want or expect you to fulfill orders six days a week, then you’ll likely need to offer it and expand your operation accordingly. The alternative to this would be for you to fail to meet your customers’ expectations, which could ultimately lead you to risk losing customers to competing operations that do meet their expectations.
But if one of the other scenarios above is driving you to consider improving your operation (beyond customer demand for more shipping options), then there are other options that you can consider that don’t involve adding Saturday shifts.
Implementing smarter workflows and more efficient picking and packing strategies and incorporating automation into your operation are some such alternatives. A trusted systems integrator can help you to understand your options to better determine whether or not it makes sense for your operation to ship six days a week, or if your current service level is adequate when partnered with the right strategies and tech.
- Romaine has spent over 30 years involved with organizations looking to optimize their distribution, manufacturing, and warehousing operations. Focusing on the customer’s processes, automation and business model, Romaine has helped dozens of organizations improve profitability by reducing labor, floor space, errors and inventory while improving accuracy, inventory turns and cut-off times.
Within the industry trade association, MHI, Romaine has taken numerous leadership positions including: Chairman of the Automated Storage & Retrieval (AS/RS) Group, Chairman of the Order Fulfillment Council of America, Chairman of the Warehouse Execution Systems Group and was one of the originators of the Carousel and VLM Product Section Group. He has also spearheaded the efforts to create the first ANSI industry safety standards for horizontal carousels.
Romaine is a frequent editorial and information contributor to hundreds of publications, blogs and online publications and has been a speaker at dozens of Supply Chain, Logistics, Lean and Facility organizations and functions. Just a few include the Parcel Forum, Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), Promat, North American Material Handling, Modex, National Mfg Week, Southern California Plant Operations, NJ Material Handling Assoc., Applied Ergonomics, Warehousing Education & Research Council (WERC), Lean Manufacturing Conference, Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), NeoCon, Health Information Distribution Association (HIDA), National Catalog & Operations (NCOF), CSCMP and more.
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