If you’re considering outsourcing your fulfillment operations, one of the things likely crossing your mind now is how to determine which fulfillment companies will be able to handle your specific products. If you sell overly unique products, you're going to need some specialized fulfillment services that some fulfillment providers won’t be able to handle. Even for some of the more mainstream product types, you might assume that all third party fulfillment services are capable of handling any product – but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
At FulfillmentCompanies.net, we’ve been screening companies since 2005 – so we know which product types each fulfillment company is able to handle – and who has the most experience dealing with similar products, for those of your looking for the best fulfillment companies. Below are some of the most common types of products that we’re run into over the years.
Exercise and Sports Equipment
Those of you selling exercise equipment are already familiar with having to manage shipping heavy items to your customers. A fulfillment center accommodates this for you with proper shipping containers. Since a lot of exercise gear and sports equipment has delicate or uniquely-shaped parts, you'll need to make sure your company follows proper shipping procedures and packaging to avoid damage.
Outdoor and Recreational Equipment
Some outdoor gear can become quite bulky to ship, especially if it relates to specialized camping tools like tents, cooking utensils, or rugged types of clothing. These may require different shipping materials or specialized boxes. Fulfillment centers properly pack these items to ensure that products arrive safely and without problems.
Mattresses and Other Oversized Products
As one of the bulkiest household items out there, you're going to need a fulfillment center that knows how to properly ship a mattress. They'll know how to properly package it and ship it so it doesn't become overwhelming to the customer upon delivery.
Associations and Nonprofit Products
If you run a nonprofit, you may have to ship items to donors in a hurry, especially if you’re sending products to those who donated the most in a year. However, sending out direct mail pieces to persuade donors is also a huge task. Certain fulfillment centers specialize in these types of mailings.
Faith-Based Organizations Products
Many faith-based organizations have similar same shipping and mailing needs as nonprofit associations. Quality fulfillment centers can accommodate these groups’ needs seamlessly and in a timely manner.
Publishers, Books and Literature Products
Those of you in the publishing world likely have to ship books from one place to another. These require special packing procedures and considerations due to bulk shipping situations. Large shipments of books can become heavy, so it’s important to work with an experienced fulfillment team.
Sales, Marketing, and Trade Show Items
All of these fit in the same category and often involve shipping heavy items to stores or trade shows. Frequently, trade shows require shipments of giant pop-up displays or tables. Marketing items might include very large posters for one of your stores. These sales and marketing materials need expert packaging and shipping, even for short transport distances.
Telecom Fulfillment Products
Telecommunications companies likely have to ship out items such as phones, internet connectivity devices, and other digital phone equipment. Electronics and digital devices typically require very specific packaging to ensure the quality and performance, so you will definitely want to find a fulfillment partner that has a great reputation for handling these items.
Automotive and Aerospace Equipment
It’s obvious how challenging it must be to ship items in the automotive and aerospace industries. You'll need the most experienced and reputable fulfillment facilities to manage these materials and products. Some of these items are going to require complex packaging and transport methods to move them safely and efficiently from one place to the other.
Some pet toys need special packing to avoid damage, and it may include storing some items in a warehouse to maintain inventory. This may apply particularly to pet food you need to keep stocked, which will also require temperature control and expiration date monitoring. There are fulfillment and warehousing companies who are equipped to handle pet food and pet toys.
Whether it's shipping blank paper for use in other businesses (B2B), or sending important documents between government agencies, fulfillment centers get the job done. It might sound simple to ship a paper product, but it needs as much care in shipping as anything else to avoid being mangled while en route. Some paper products require clamp trucks and other material handling equipment to move the product due to the size of the product.
As an e-commerce business, you'll want to make sure these items get properly shipped since damage could result in injury. Something like a baby carriage or a high chair needs proper packaging and shipping processes. Baby food and baby care items may also need prolonged warehouse storage, environmental controls, and more.
Since many products like medical devices, some cosmetics, supplements, and other self care items need special considerations to ship plus adherence to regulations, an experienced fulfillment center is a must. Never attempt to send items like scientific samples or FDA-regulated items in the mail without understanding compliance issues. A quality fulfillment center that has this knowledge will take special care to appropriately package any items that are subject to FDA regulations.
You may have to ship out parts and other accessories for products you sell. In some cases, this might mean auto-shipping many parts on a recurring basis to customers. Fulfillment centers can easily handle this, especially if you use subscription boxes for sending parts.
Some of these items (like car parts) are going to require special shipping and handling methods.
Fulfilling orders of apparel products can be very challenging. First off, some apparel requires hangars and other equipment to handle. Second, due to color and size variations, picking products and avoiding mis-picks can be challenging. Third, being able to handle returns, which could require accessing the clothing for damage and even ironing the piece before resale, is important to many sellers of apparel. Now you can see why you need a specialized apparel fulfillment center with experience in apparel!
Your business may require your employees to wear uniforms, and maybe you need to update these every few months. Timely shipping of these to your other stores is essential, which is something a fulfillment center can provide. Choosing the right location of your logistics center can help speed up deliveries of uniforms and related gear.
Shipping overseas is going to mean shipping in containers to get items there safely. All quality fulfillment centers provide overseas shipping like this while handling the complexities of overseas shipping fees.
Size and shape of furniture is going to vary by item. You need good fulfillment services to ship them in the right way. In many cases, items will weigh several hundred pounds. Only experienced fulfillment handlers can handle these items so that they're properly stored and shipped.
Games and Toys
Gifts such as toys and games might not need complicated packaging to be effectively delivered, but using a good fulfillment center means fast shipping to stay ahead of competitors, including corporate stores.
Company Web Stores
Providing a company store for your employees is perhaps on your agenda, and making it accessible online is important. However, employees may need items as soon as possible in order to succeed at their jobs. Fulfillment centers take care of this role, including international shipping if you have stores overseas.
Those of you selling jewelry online know how delicate these items are. Fulfillment centers can handle jewelry shipping as well as manage any returns. You’ll want a good return policy that doesn't create confusion or extra costs for you or the customer.
Food and Beverages
With online grocery shopping becoming more prevalent, you'll need dependable fulfillment to send perishable and dry items. Timely delivery is also a must if you want to compete against the bigger names doing same-day grocery deliveries.
The same goes with alcohol and wine, including maintaining proper shipping regulations.
Vitamins, Supplements and Nutraceuticals
At first glance, storing and shipping small, lightweight vitamins and supplements seems easy. However, some require climate controls and FDA, organic or other certifications. Making sure that you choose a specialized vitamin, supplements and nutraceuticals fulfillment services company will ensure your product is properly handled.
Alcohol, Wine, Beer and Spirits Products
Due to age restrictions and legal requirements, any warehouse that stores and ships alcohol, wine, or beer must meet certain requirements and obtain proper licensing. Furthermore, when shipping products to customers, special knowledge and skills are needed to make sure that your business is in compliance with all local and national laws.
Cigarettes, E-Cigarettes, Vape, and CBD/Hemp Products
Despite their health warnings, cigarette and vapor products remain popular. Furthermore, recent legislation changes in many states have increased the need for CBD and Hemp products. Some fulfillment warehouses are specializing in the storage of shipping of these products - so it's easier to find fulfillment services for CBD, CBD oil, and hemp products.
Fragrances and Oil Products
Fragrances and oil products oftentimes and packaged in fragile packaging such as glass. This requires special handling and carton packing in order to minimize and potential for damage. Also, sometimes fragrances and oils leave off distinct smells which pose challenges for warehousing the products in areas with other products.
When shipping out electronics, the way you pack each item is critical to prevent damages. Only the very best fulfillment centers understand how to properly pack things like DVD players, TVs, laptops, or gaming systems. Internal packaging and proper package sealing are as important as the box shape.
Just look at FedEx's rules to see how much is involved in proper packaging when shipping hazardous materials. It's very complicated, which makes partnering with an experienced fulfillment center mandatory. Never attempt to ship these on your own; you could face fines for being in violation of hazmat shipping regulations.
Tires and Other Rubber Products
Tires and rubber products in general pose some interesting challenges for warehouse operators - oftentimes they leave distinct smells in the warehouse. Other products within the warehouse have the potential to be impacted by the smell, so many of the fulfillment warehouses out there choose not to work with tires and rubber products. In addition, tires, due to their size, pose some handling challenges, making it more difficult to find providers that specialize in this niche.
Pharma and Medical Supplies
Pharmaceutical products and medical supplies will need careful packaging to prevent damage and maintain compliance with FDA regulations. Make sure that the pharmaceutical 3PL fulfillment center you choose can handle shipping medical items and drugs, particularly if you're using auto-shipping procedures.
It's still easy for something simple like CDs or DVDs to get broken if not properly packaged during shipments. If you sell these regularly to customers, you'll want proper fulfillment to keep up with the heavy demand for media. Attempting it yourself can simply overwhelm you and lead to shipping mistakes, so finding the right CD and DVD fulfillment company is very important.
Some of you operating small-scale farms may want to ship out high-value products to consumers. With organic foods becoming all the more popular, shipping out a high-value crop requires fast fulfillment services.
Being a smaller farm, you probably can't handle the demand on your own. It's time to consider a fulfillment center close to your location to accommodate proper shipping and handling of your organic food products.
Building Materials or Industrial Materials
The B2B industry needs experienced fulfillment partners as much as those in B2C. Sending building or industrial materials requires perhaps even more expertise than consumer products. Since construction companies depend on timely deliveries without damages, you will need to be matched with a fulfillment center that has proven it can effectively handle these items.
Sending out chemicals demands the utmost care and focus on compliance. Since the fulfillment centers with experience with handling and delivering chemicals also provide storage, you'll want to make sure the facilities have proper equipment to keep your chemicals safe.
Should You Choose a Specialized Provider?
In a world where most fulfillment firm claim that they can help you with all of your fulfillment needs, it’s sometimes difficult to decipher through the claims and actually determine which provider is best suited for your product. In reality, there are two main types of fulfillment firms out there when it comes to commodity type. First, there are those that don’t really have a specific focus in terms of product types. They focus on helping store and fulfill orders for a wide variety of products. Second, there are fulfillment firms that focus on a specific product niche or a small handful of commodity types. So how do you determine which one is best for you? Take a look at some of our suggestions below that will help you make the best decision.
No Specialization is a Good Option for Some
When your product doesn’t have any special requirements in terms of storage, packaging and shipping, a general fulfillment firm without any particular product specialization may be a good option for you. Generally speaking, fulfillment providers that don’t have any specialization offer highly competitive rates since they cater to the needs of many different types of companies. But the one thing that you want to be sure of when using a fulfillment firm without any specialization is that they produce great results for their clients. In some cases, general fulfillment companies don’t perform as high a quality service as others with greater specialization because there aren’t as many standards to adhere to with regard to commodity type. These providers can be a good option if you don’t have any specific requirements, but make sure that you’re not compromising quality for cost.
When Specialization is Mandatory
There are certain instances when a specialized fulfillment firm is mandatory. Certain commodity types require certifications that most companies don’t have on hand. For example, commodity types such as hazardous materials, food grade products, organic products, alcoholic beverages, high tech and medical devices, temperature controlled products, and pharmaceutical products have stringent criteria and certifications that must be achieved in order to be in compliance with greater regulations with the respective industries. When searching for a fulfillment firm with that can handle these types of products, make sure that they have the applicable certifications and capabilities by requesting copies and make sure that you gauge the quality of their work with other customers.
There is Some Gray Area with Product Specialization
While it’s particularly clear for certain product types that a specialized provider is a requirement, there are other instances when the line isn’t as clear. For example, some product types don’t require any special certifications but tend to be problematic for many fulfillment companies to store and ship consistently without error. One great example of this comes in the form of apparel. While it would seem that storing and shipping apparel should be as straightforward as other commodity types, there are factors that make this especially challenging. For instance, apparel oftentimes requires picking products that are very similar in look but slightly different in terms of type or size. Errors are common in this environment without a certain level of expertise and experience. And there are other commodities that fall within this same spectrum. In particular, companies with quite a few items and with items that have very similar product lines or size variation should be particularly careful when selecting a fulfillment firm. While most fulfillment companies will tell you they can do everything, a healthy dose of specialization can increase performance and decrease your costs over the long haul.
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