If your ecommerce business is scaling at a rapid pace but you’re struggling to accurately fulfill hundreds of orders, it might be time to hire a fulfillment manager.
While they do not have as much responsibility as a Director of Fulfillment might, fulfillment managers oversee most (if not all) fulfillment-related activities in an ecommerce company — including order processing and confirmation, inventory tracking and planning, picking, packing, and shipping preparations — to ensure that all orders are received, packaged, and delivered accurately and in a timely manner.
They must also manage warehouse laborers, and work in tandem with other stakeholders such as the company’s logistics service provider. Even though the more repetitive and mundane aspects of fulfillment may be outsourced to experts like ShipBob, hiring a dedicated fulfillment manager to serve as a liaison can help further streamline operations.
In this article, we’ll cover the role and responsibilities of a fulfillment manager, offer tips and resources for both aspiring fulfillment managers and employers searching for their next hire, and share about how ShipBob can partner with your team to optimize your supply chain.
What is a fulfillment manager?
Fulfillment managers are ecommerce professionals who have end-to-end control over the order fulfillment process, from order receiving and processing all the way through delivery. They are also responsible for managing the fulfillment staff, and for collaborating with external partners such as 3PLs. Ultimately, a fulfillment manager’s goal should be to see orders fulfilled as quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively as possible.
Fulfillment manager job description
A fulfillment manager is responsible for order processing, fulfillment (including picking and packing), warehouse operations, inventory and order tracking, quality control, and shipping preparation. The role is highly collaborative in nature, as fulfillment managers work closely with customer service representatives, warehouse staff, carriers, manufacturers, suppliers, logistics directors, and other team members to ensure that service level agreements (SLAs) and customer expectations are met.
Fulfillment managers are also expected to be versed in various software systems and technologies, including inventory management systems (IMSs), warehouse management systems (WMSs), and other warehousing automations that improve supply chain efficiency.
The job of a fulfillment manager can also be rather physically taxing, and cannot typically be done remotely. Due to the nature of the job, during peak seasons, fulfillment managers may occasionally need to work weekends or after hours.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Individual postings can be tailored to a company’s needs and capabilities, and include additional or fewer responsibilities than are listed.
- Overseeing daily order fulfillment activities, including order processing, picking, packing, and shipping preparation.
- Working alongside a 3PL and utilizing their WMS software to optimize warehouse and fulfillment operations
- Tracking inventory levels to prevent stock-outs and/or deadstock
- Developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for inventory control, logistics management, and order fulfillment to meet operational goals
- Preventing inventory shrinkage, accidents, and occupational hazards
- Optimizing procurement of inventory by improving vendor relationships, performance, and lead times
- Managing a dynamic team of production supervisors, full-time and part-time warehouse staff, and other direct reports
- Maintaining positive and mutually beneficial relationships with vendors, suppliers, manufacturers, and 3PLs (if applicable)
- Reporting weekly on multiple fulfillment and performance KPIs
- Providing data-backed and actionable updates to senior management to improve order fulfillment SLAs and vendor performance
- Supporting efforts to attain certifications (such as ISO 9002 and COPC) for quality in installation, production, and customer experience
- Proven track record of analytical, interpersonal, leadership, and project management skills
- Prior experience and familiarity with warehouse operations*
- Proficient in Microsoft Office (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc.), inventory management systems, and warehouse management systems
- Multitasking capabilities
- Business-level communication skills (oral and written)
- A strong customer-oriented focus
- Bachelor’s degree*
* Individual employers will vary on the level of experience and education required.
What is the average fulfillment manager’s salary?
The average salary for a full-time fulfillment manager in the US is $73,587 per year, or $35.38 per hour. Typically, though, a fulfillment manager salary can range from $45,000 to $90,000, depending on the location and the candidate’s education, certifications, skills, and years of experience.
With the boom in ecommerce, the demand for skilled fulfillment managers is also on the rise. As a result, by 2028, an estimated 150,600 new job opportunities for this skill-set are expected to be added to the U.S. economy, which could affect salaries for fulfillment managers going forward.
What are some tips for new or aspiring fulfillment managers?
When starting on your journey as an order fulfillment manager, the best way to work your way up the ranks is by going the extra mile, and cultivating skills you’ll need to manage a supply chain. Here are a few tips, industry best practices, and initiatives to master for current or aspiring logistics directors.
1. Nurture vendor & partner relationships
Better relationships with vendors, carriers, and manufacturers improve communication, facilitate issue identification & resolution, and can sometimes help you secure discounted rates (which, in some cases, can be passed on to the end customer). In case of emergencies, being on good terms with external partners can also help you acquire inventory within shorter lead times. In short, if you are easy for partners to work with and a reliable business associate, you can secure cost- and time-savings for your brand.
2. Optimize your warehouses
Part of the fulfillment manager’s job is to make sure that fulfillment operations are running as efficiently as possible. To do this, there are several optimizing strategies fulfillment managers can employ in the warehouses or fulfillment centers they manage.
To speed up order fulfillment and minimize shipping costs, it is advisable in some cases to strategically set up fulfillment centers (in-house or outsourced) in the geographies where your company’s customers are located, and split inventory intelligently between them based on forecasted demand.
Within each warehouse, fulfillment managers should also set optimal picking routes and strategies (such as batch picking), place fast-selling items in easily accessible locations for picking, and conserve space through organization and careful inventory level management.
Fulfillment managers can also utilize technologies such as IoT sensors, barcode scanners, automated pick list generation, and retrieval systems to further streamline and optimize warehousing processes. Such technologies replace manual and time-consuming warehousing tasks while minimizing fatigue and injury, and reduce picking and packing errors to produce more accurate orders.
3. Track key supply chain metrics
Tracking important metrics is the key to fulfillment process improvement. Without gathering and analyzing data, you won’t be able to pinpoint which areas of the supply chain could benefit from optimization, or know if you are hitting your KPIs.
Fulfillment managers need access to real-time order processing metrics, including on-time shipping percentage, dock-to-stock cycle time, fill rate, average fulfillment cost, and inventory days of supply. With these metrics and real-time insights, a good fulfillment manager can prioritize optimization for the most needful areas to deliver continuous improvements in the order fulfillment workflow. Data also positions fulfillment managers to better manage future risks, and forecast demand seasonally.
Some 3PLs, like ShipBob, provide analytics tools that will track certain metrics for you automatically in real time and facilitate data analysis — so if your company considers partnering with a 3PL, be sure to ask about their merchant analytics capabilities.
“ShipBob’s analytics dashboard has a lot of valuable reports that show our top-selling states, order revenue and costs, units sold, sales by SKU, days of inventory, SKU velocity, sales vs. inventory distributions showing where our customers are and where we’re shipping from, and more.”
Andrew Hardy, COO of Nature’s Ultra
4. Learn how to manage inventory
Ensuring that orders are completed quickly and accurately requires excellent inventory management skills. As a fulfillment manager, one is responsible for tracking inventory levels, and must balance warehouse capacity with predicted levels of customer demand. The trick? To always have enough inventory on hand to meet customer demand without overstocking or understocking. Performing regular inventory audits and using an IMS that automatically updates inventory counts in real time will go a long way in sustaining an efficient fulfillment process, and help fulfillment managers restock on time to avoid costly stockouts, backorders, and deadstock.
5. Familiarize yourself with logistics software
While technology cannot necessarily replace a fulfillment manager, it certainly makes the job much easier. It is the fulfillment manager’s responsibility to learn the intricacies of whatever IMS and WMS their company uses to manage inventory and warehouse operations — but that being said, some IMSs and WMSs are easier to learn and more helpful than others.
An IMS that integrates directly with the company’s ecommerce store streamlines order confirmation and reception enormously, especially if it will automatically update stock levels to reflect each order. WMSs should also be streamlined, and incorporate automation to simplify picking, packing, and shipping wherever possible.
To keep things simple, strive to use one or two platforms that are comprehensive, rather than adopting individual softwares and technologies for every different function.
ShipBob, for example, provides merchants with a single yet multifunctional dashboard application, through which they can manage inventory, run warehouse operations, track shipping, and much more. This software also connects directly with major ecommerce platforms, and hosts plug-ins and integrations to fit seamlessly into an existing tech stack, creating an easy user experience.
“[ShipBob’s dashboard] is so seamless and intuitive that even my mom, in her 60s, has helped me. I showed her how to use ShipBob’s technology and it was so easy for her, too.”
Anastasia Allison, founder of Kula Cloth
Need a WMS for your warehouse?
ShipBob has a best-in-class warehouse management system (WMS) for brands that have their own warehouse and need help managing inventory in real time, reducing picking, packing, and shipping errors, and scaling with ease.
With Merchant Plus, brands can even leverage ShipBob’s fulfillment services in any of ShipBob’s fulfillment centers across the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia to improve cross-border shipping, reduce costs, and speed up deliveries.
Request ShipBob’s WMS pricing here.
6. Choose the right partner logistics company
Despite their many responsibilities, a fulfillment manager is still just one person — and there are certain aspects of growth and ecommerce operations that one cannot accomplish alone, or even with an internal team. In these situations, it’s best to outsource logistics to an expert 3PL.
A 3PL partner like ShipBob has the resources, expertise, and size to better execute particular functions in logistics. For example, distributing inventory is very difficult and expensive for smaller or even midsize companies to do on their own; but with ShipBob’s reach and fulfillment center network, it’s much easier and cheaper to expand your geographic footprint.
Similarly, developing a tech stack, IMS, or WMS alone is extremely expensive and time-consuming — but ShipBob, as a tech-enabled 3PL, already has state-of-the-art analytics and integrations for our customers to use.
The right 3PL’s infrastructure empowers businesses to fulfill and deliver orders faster, and to grow rapidly without compromising on customer satisfaction. Thus, it is critical to the long-term growth of the business that a fulfillment manager knows when to partner with professionals, and how to find the best 3PL for their business.
“We are growing really fast and won’t slow down anytime soon. With ShipBob, we have the option to use more of their warehouses to further reduce shipping costs.
Because ShipBob has a lot of people to handle our orders and additional warehouses we can expand into, we can scale up with ease as we continue to grow quickly. If we ran our own warehouse, it would be much harder to hire people and we’d inevitably outgrow the space.”
Oded Harth, CEO & Co-Founder of MDacne
Hear from ShipBob customers who manage fulfillment
ShipBob partners with fulfillment managers and ecommerce professionals to optimize supply chain management and fulfill customer orders on time and accurately, all while growing your client base.
Many merchants choose ShipBob because they are overwhelmed by self-fulfillment. For merchants like Leonie Lynch from Juspy, packing and shipping orders wasn’t the best use of their time, and wasn’t sustainable long term:
“50% of my time was spent packing boxes. Not only that, but it was a constant interruption. I would sit down to do an email marketing campaign, have to attend to new orders, and completely lose my train of thought and flow. I spent about 3 minutes per order on fulfillment. I almost didn’t want orders to come in.”
Leonie Lynch, Founder & CEO of Juspy
With ShipBob, DTC brands like Juspy were able to outsource fulfillment to experts, with stellar results. After handing off fulfillment to us, Craft Club Co. founder Nakisah Williams could finally start strategizing for her business’ future:
“I’ve saved so much time with ShipBob. I’m no longer spending hours packing boxes into the night, because my orders are fulfilled for me.
And since my dashboard is so intuitive, I’ve stopped wasting time on inventory counts, fiddling with software features, troubleshooting, or juggling between different softwares platforms. Now I’m free to focus on planning for the future and growing my business.”
Nakisah Williams, Founder of Craft Club Co.
For these merchants and many more, ShipBob’s integrated 3PL services transformed order fulfillment from a cost center into a revenue driver. Read more such ShipBob case studies here.
Fulfillment manager FAQs
Here are our answers to common questions about fulfillment managers, their responsibilities, and what it takes to become one.
What are the duties of a fulfillment manager?
Fulfillment managers control all order processing-related activities for an ecommerce business. A fulfillment manager’s primary duties include inventory management, overseeing the logistics of order fulfillment, and analyzing data to make the right supply chain decisions.
Ultimately, it is up to fulfillment managers to meet and beat fulfillment SLAs (such as improved order accuracy and reduced inventory shrinkage) while delivering on the merchant’s promises for shipping (be it 2-day, next-day, or even same-day).
What skills do fulfillment managers need?
Good interpersonal, multi-tasking, analytical, leadership, and project management skills are essential for candidates who wish to become fulfillment managers. To excel in such a role, it is also important to be detail-oriented and have a strong focus on customer satisfaction.
How much do fulfillment managers make?
On average, a fulfillment manager makes between $45,000 and $90,000 in the U.S., depending on the job’s location and the candidate’s education, certifications, skills, and experience.