Kitting and Assembly
Kitting and assembly is one piece of an ecommerce fulfillment strategy. When done correctly, it can save you time and money, and get orders shipped to customers quicker.
ShipBob can pre-kit items together to be used as part of a broader individual SKU for future fulfillment at an additional cost. We put together this guide to help you understand the kitting and assembly process.
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What is kitting and assembly?
Kitting and assembly is a fulfillment service offered by most third-party logistics (3PL) providers that involves packaging items that arrive as separate pieces into a single grouping in advance of it being ordered by customers.
The need for kitting and assembly services may come from the way a product was manufactured or shipped, or an upcoming promotion that requires an offering to be packaged a certain way in bulk.
Kitting is the assembly of separate pieces into a single offering and is most often pre-built in batches. The point of creating kits is to have a ready-to-ship set for once a customer placed an order to expedite the retail fulfillment process.
Unlike a regular order, where you can’t predict what all a customer will order before they complete a purchase, kitting is used when a certain combination is known ahead of time.
It’s important to note that it doesn’t always make sense to kit items. Consulting with a 3PL will help you understand if kitting and assembly services make sense for your business and whether what you have in mind will fit in their process. You may find that your manufacturer can perform kitting in a more cost-effective manner than a 3PL.
Assembly is the actual process of arranging the individual items that make up a kit. Once assembled, the kit is ready to be shipped, so there is less work once the order is placed. Kitting and assembly services are done at stations where fulfillment staff complete the process in bulk to increase efficiencies and streamline the process.
Then, newly created kits are put in their storage spot. Common items used for kitting include product samples, promotional literature, and other groupings of product to create a cohesive unit or set.
How does the kitting and assembly process work?
The kitting and assembly process is an inventory-related task that takes place in a warehouse or fulfillment center, though some brands have their manufacturer or supplier pre-kit items, which can save time and money.
To submit a kitting request through ShipBob, you can submit a work order in the ShipBob dashboard, under Inventory and then Work Orders. Once complete, these ready-to-ship kits then get returned to their storage locations.
A few notes on ShipBob’s kitting setup:
- Your component pieces and end kitted products must be synced and marked as active in the Inventory section of the ShipBob dashboard for you to create kitting request orders.
- All items noted in the request are in a ready-to-use state.
- We do not provide zip lock bags, clear plastic, or other materials. If you do want us to use standard dunnage materials (brown paper, Geomi, or bubble wrap), please note this in the request.
- We can provide ShipBob standard packaging materials (boxes, mailers, poster tubes, etc.).
- You must enter the quantity of kits you want ShipBob to create, select all products that are part of the kit, and enter the number of items for each product that should be part of one kit.
Kitting and assembly services
Kitting is aimed to accommodate your business’s unique needs for how items are being shipped to your customers. When your orders require fulfillment center associates to specifically arrange the items in that order, it would need to go through the kitting process.
- Multiple component pieces are separate at inventory arrival and need to be assembled or put together.
- You would like us to prepare the inventory in a particular way for your customers.
Here are ShipBob’s supported kitting actions:
- Construct my box/packaging
- Close my box/packaging
- Place an item inside my kit
- Place item in ShipBob packaging
- Affix my sticker/label/barcode to an item
- Affix a ShipBob-printed sticker
- Exact positioning requested for sticker/label/barcode
- Remove item from package
- Remove packaging or an insert
- Add my dunnage to the kit
- Add ShipBob paper dunnage to the kit
- Construct my box divider/insert
- Wrap my item
- Seal an item shut with tape/sticker
- Perform inspection of an item
- Change Item SKU to kit SKU
- And more!
What is the difference between kitting and bundling?
Kitting is done when your orders require fulfillment center associates to arrange items in a specific order (e.g., multiple component pieces that are separate at inventory arrival and need to be assembled or put together).
A bundle contains several different items (i.e., not one item with multiple pieces) that are being shipped together. A bundle has no special assembly or preparation needed to ship the order. Creating a bundle will group multiple items under one main SKU. A bundle SKU is not a real product on its own but rather a ‘container’ that includes at least two or more items.
ShipBob goes beyond kitting and assembly
ShipBob’s fulfillment services, technology, and geographic footprint across the United States help ecommerce brands meet customer expectations, stay ahead of the competition, and have a best-in-class fulfillment operation without needing to build or buy the infrastructure themselves.
While ShipBob offers a variety of kitting services across their fulfillment network for brands that outsource fulfillment, there’s a lot more than basic fulfillment services.
Kitting and assembly services (in case you missed it!)
Kitting and assembly with ShipBob is aimed to accommodate your business’s unique needs for how items are being shipped to your customers. Common examples include:
- Multiple component pieces arrive separately to ShipBob and need to be assembled or put together.
- You would like us to prepare the inventory in a particular way for your customers.
- You would like us to break down inventory from a case into single units (or vice versa).
ShipBob works with each customer to ensure their items are assembled exactly as they request before orders are shipped to customers. This aims to reduce shipping costs and prepare orders in a more scalable way. ShipBob’s software also makes it easy to bundle products, request kitting, and manage SKUs.
One warehouse isn’t always going to cut it when you need to get your products from point A to point B quicker and cheaper. Customers today expect 2-day shipping, and storing products in different regions can help you use ground shipping for more cost-effective delivery, reducing the shipping zones your packages are shipped to.
ShipBob can help distribute your inventory at the SKU level across our network of fulfillment centers to the locations that are most strategic for you based on where your customers reside. We can perform kitting and assembly in Chicago, Dallas, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles.
Technology-driven inventory management
With ShipBob’s proprietary software, you can manage SKUs and how your products are grouped, bundle your products for promotions, request kitting of your inventory in advance of orders getting shipped to customers, estimate when you should send more inventory to prevent stockouts, and use a built-in reorder point formula to calculate the quantity at which you wish to be alerted to restock.
Managing returns with ShipBob means we can help receive, assess, and process each returned item or you can have returns sent elsewhere if they need to go through a more rigorous examination or inspection process.
ShipBob can provide your customers with a portal to start the returns process and prepaid return labels, return tracking information, and even integrate with return automation software that automatically texts return and refund updates to customers.
International fulfillment & shipping
ShipBob’s global fulfillment network spans across all regions of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Australia. You can use one 3PL partner, one login, and one support network to ship to and from the entire world. Check out these links to learn more about how ShipBob’s international fulfillment services allow you to reach greater audiences, or to learn about how to save on international shipping.
Your customers demand 2-day shipping. ShipBob allows you to deliver on a fast shipping promise, while still owning your brand, your data, and your entire customer experience. With ShipBob, you have the ability to achieve 100% 2-day shipping coverage across the continental United States, whether you are fulfilling from one of our fulfillment centers or taking advantage of multiple fulfillment centers.
Logistics data & analytics
ShipBob believes data can be a competitive advantage for direct-to-consumer brands. That’s why we provide built-in charts and deep insights to help you with everything from year-end reporting, to better supply chain optimization and decision-making. As a leading fulfillment provider, we’ve aggregated many data sets to provide the information you need at a glance, the ability to download files to get more granular, and empower you to ultimately provide a better customer experience. We transparently share:
- Fulfillment performance
- Shipping insights
- Demand forecasting tools
- Logistics costs
- Inventory allocation and distribution map
- And more!
To learn more about ShipBob’s kitting capabilities, read this Help Center article.
Kitting without a 3PL? Inefficient and costly
With the extensive types of businesses and sheer volume of brands a 3PL works with, their volume and resources make growing and scaling order fulfillment very easy as compared to managing fulfillment yourself.
Kitting and assembly is time-consuming and costly
Because of the manual labor and handling involved in kitting and assembly, there are a lot of resources and logistics costs required to pull it off. ShipBob’s operations are run smoothly to ensure efficiencies and as few errors as possible. Kitting and assembly services are performed to simplify the order fulfillment process.
Managing your kitting inventory levels with ShipBob, you can even use reorder notifications so you are notified before your kitted item is out of stock. Kitting requires communication and submitting a request with your 3PL in advance to make sure they can plan for it.
Managing returns is confusing and complicated
Fulfillment logistics includes being prepared for returns. 3PLs can help receive back, assess, and process each returned item. They should also help simplify facilitating or initiating a return for your customers and provide return labels and make it as painless of an experience as possible for customers.
Then, products can be processed and put back into your available inventory as efficiently as possible. ShipBob provides a return link you can put on your online store to have customers generate a label by themselves without having to contact you. In a single click, the customer can include the reason for the return (e.g., if the item was damaged, not fit for purpose, or no longer needed).
Inventory storage is expensive
Warehousing fees can be high for an individual ecommerce business, and purchasing land or leasing a facility is a long-term commitment that is hard to get right — both finding space that you won’t immediately outgrow or never using the space you’re paying for. 3PLs provide both the facilities and fulfillment services to keep your inventory safe and managed properly.
At ShipBob, we strive to empower merchants to manage their inventory with the right tools and guidance even across multiple stores and fulfillment centers. You can always view the real-time status of your inventory, the quantity on hand, and units sold per day.
Kitting and assembly FAQs
What does kitting mean in shipping?
In the context of shipping, kitting refers to an inventory task of arranging items a certain way when they reach the end customer. It involves taking several separate components (SKUs, packaging materials, etc.) and following instructions to make them ship-ready.
What does kitting mean in manufacturing?
In the context of manufacturing, kitting is the process of arranging products and/or packaging a certain way (e.g., putting two products in a certain box together so it arrives bundled as one unit). Some companies choose to have kitting services done at the manufacturing level (as opposed to later on during the fulfillment phase) as to save time once the order is ready to be shipped to the end customer and because it can sometimes be done cheaper depending on where the manufacturer is located.
Does ShipBob charge for kitting and assembly?
Does ShipBob manage returns?
Yes, ShipBob manages returns for customers as a value-added service. You can set your preferences at the SKU level. Learn more here.