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Fulfillment: A New Service Frontier

(September 2007) posted on Mon Sep 24, 2007

These days, remaining competitive in the graphics market takes more than being fast and cheap. Fulfillment offers a new way to not only stay ahead, but also to stand out among the crowd.


By Ben P. Rosenfield

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E-mail and spreadsheets help keep Pro-Screen’s communications moving and information cataloged. Employees update spreadsheets when an item is taken from inventory, and the inventory sheets are sent to key customers each month so they can remain informed about what Pro-Screen has inventoried for them. Leary explains that reorder functions are in place to notify customers when inventory drops below a certain point. An order will then be placed should the customer plan to continue using the graphic in question. “That’s standard practice,” he says. “It’s something we weren’t set up to do, but when you have that kind of inventory, you have to have things in place to make sure the customer knows. When they go to do an inventory for their company, everything needs to be aligned.”

Outsourcing
Outsourcing can be an effective way to manage the occasional request for fulfillment services. Farming out fulfillment also can allow you to determine whether it’s the type of service you’d like to offer—and do so without taking the risk of spreading your resources too thin.

Some shops develop long-term partnerships with companies that specialize in fulfillment services. Houston, TX-based FulFill Plus is one such company, and P-O-P fulfillment is one of its specialties. Among the services it offers to that market segment are order-receipt and collateral distribution, kitting and assembly, shipping and freight, reporting, real-time inventory updates, warehousing, climate-controlled storage, and order taking.

Joe Isaac, president of FulFill Plus, explains that the company also can set up a technology infrastructure for printer customers so they can oversee parts of the fulfillment process themselves. “We offer them online capabilities. We try to make it a self-service application,” he says. “Even though we have a full staff of customer-service representatives, the customer can manage a lot without having to call. Each customer has a unique login, and depending on their requirements, they see more or less of the capabilities.”

Some of Isaac’s customers in other markets have even asked FulFill Plus to do the printing for them. The company responded by creating a production department that can handle screen printing, sublimation printing, rotary screen printing, pad printing, and more—essentially making product decoration a fulfillment service. Isaac says the current job-run record in the print shop is 50,000 units.


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