How to Review Your Operations and Processes

Jan 07, 2012 1:18 AM  By

Many experts in the world of multichannel operations & fulfillment believe that reviewing your company’s operations and processes is the most important endeavor a merchant can pursue.

With that in mind, here are some things to remember when conducting this review.

Bill Kuipers, president of operations consultancy Spaide, Kuipers & Co., says the most important step is to understand what practices need to be improved.

Identify the opportunities before working on the solutions.

“The simple, short version is that everything should start with a periodic review of existing operations,” Kuipers says.

That review should include the following objectives: Identify existing constraints or pain points; Identify potential opportunities to improve service and/or operating efficiency; In addition to procedural review, it is critical to have basic performance metrics in place and benchmark them to your own expectations as well as comparable industry statistics.

From there, the approach should be to learn more about the specific causes and identify realistic actions that would improve performance, Kuipers says. Those action items might involve process, systems, layout, policies, training, or typically a combination of all of these.

Involve someone from your IT group to provide a practical and resourceful way to use the current system, or a design a simple enhancement. It is also a good practice to understand what other companies do in terms of processes, systems, policies, and training programs.

The most important factor is execution. “The best solution in the world doesn’t make a bit of difference if it never happens, or is poorly implemented,” Kuipers adds.

Jeff Moliterno, president of Terno & Associates, says a critical starting point is making sure the system you invest in can be customized and has a support team that can allow you to take advantage of quick changes to that system.

“This allows the flexibility to change business practices as needed to accommodate customer needs, and to offer features that competing companies cannot offer, making them stand out among their competition,” Moliterno says.

Some order management systems have evolved into an omni-channel system, Moliterno says, because it includes visibility across mail order, Internet, retail, wholesale, and handles order management, credit card processing, warehouse functions, forecasting, purchasing, receiving, customer mailing lists, accounting, and light manufacturing.

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.