eCommerce Order Fulfillment and Supply Chain Strategy

The eCommerce supply chain is a special instance of the supply chain. The eCommerce order fulfillment instance has several unique characteristics that must be accommodated during the supply chain planning and implementation process to be maximally effective (see also Supply Chain Planning and Implementation).

A characteristic which distinguishes the eCommerce operation from more traditional channels is derived from the immediacy of the electronic connections. When an eCommerce consumer purchases an item, the details of this transaction can be made visible to every link in the eCommerce supply chain. A classic storefront may take a day or more to aggregate sales information from point-of-sale (POS) devices. The process of aggregation necessarily loses some information. Often this data is "massaged" by various organizations before being translated into demand signals which are then relayed to the supply chain - again with the loss of more information.

A solid eCommerce supply chain strategy can help avoid these delays and losses. However, without proper planning the vital control and security of information can be put at risk. With proper planning, speed and transparency are not mutually exclusive to control and security.

Setting the level of transparency for information flow is a critical task in the establishment of a maximally effective eCommerce supply chain. Determining the potential use and the manner of supply for each data element is a necessary task. The need to protect personal and proprietary information is paramount. The resolution of these issues determines the boundaries for extending the eCommerce supply chain planning and implementation tasks in the eCommerce channel.

There are myriad paths companies follow in the development of the eCommerce order fulfillment channel. There are some notable companies that were "born on the web", but there are many more companies that have expanded their existing channels to include eCommerce. The optimum configurations of systems, sourcing agreements, logistics networks, fulfillment centers and fulfillment processes are moving targets. These optimums, at any point in time, are largely determined by their starting point and the level of maturity in the eCommerce order fulfillment channel. Operating at optimum levels is dependent upon:

  1. Identifying the configurations/capabilities applicable at various points along the "maturation path."
  2. Developing trigger points on this path which provide the needed lead time to implement these configurations/capabilities before they are indispensable.
  3. Continuously developing, validating and implementing them as they are required.

Consultleague has had the opportunity to work with companies to expand existing channels to market (retail, wholesale and both) to include eCommerce. Our work has included the definition, design, managing the development and implementation of the systems infrastructure to deliver leadership content management and eCommerce solutions. We have extended these efforts to maximize the potential of the eCommerce supply chain in support of these channel expansions.

We have also supported clients in the development of leadership eCommerce order fulfillment capabilities.