Career Story: Order Fulfillment Manager For A Women's Clothing Line

Order Fulfillment Manager For A Women's Clothing Line

Job Title: Order Fulfillment Manager

Type of Company: Designing, manufacturing and selling women's apparel in stores in the US and through catalogs worldwide.

Education: AS, Library Science, Bristol Community College (Fall River, MA) •• AS, Business Management, Bristol Community College •• BS, Graphic Art and Design, Indiana University •• Management Certificate, Bryant College (Smithfield, RI)

Previous Experience: I started working as a free-lance artist in collaboration with an interior designer. I painted in oils and acrylics on commission for private clients and interior designers. When I needed medical insurance I went back to school for Library Science and I worked in a reference library as a researcher. In this position I provided research assistance to the public and to educational institutions. When this job ended after a few years due to funding cut-backs I found a job working for a manufacturer and distributor of glassware. I quickly moved into management, while getting my AS. After 18 years in various management positions in manufacturing, fulfillment, quality control/inspection and returns, the company experienced financial problems and closed. I was quickly hired by a major international retailer to head the returns department of their catalog division. After two years I moved into the operations division.

Job Tasks: I am responsible for the retrieval, packaging and shipping of customers' catalog orders throughout the US and internationally to about 120 countries. I review order history and real-time customer order data to project for the entire month how many individual items and how many orders we will need to ship each day. I send that information updated daily to the entire division so each area can plan to have enough staff to complete each day's shipments.

Each customer who places an order by telephone, internet or mail pays a shipping and handling fee. I have to make sure that the amount of money generated covers the actual cost to pick, pack and ship the order, so I need to know how much each operation costs the company. The rules of computing this fee are set by the Federal Trade Commission and I have to know the laws and ensure we are in compliance with them.

I have 5 supervisors who report to me and 120 employees under them. I have to ensure that I transmit corporate goals to the employees through their supervisors. I need to make sure that all employees are treated fairly, that their performance is accurately reviewed and that their compensation meets corporate guidelines. When employee morale is low, productivity falls and payroll costs increase. This affects profits. I make a point of knowing each employee's name and something about them as individuals. I try to stop and talk to each employee at least every two weeks.

I help negotiate contracts with each of our package delivery services, including USPS, DHL International, Federal Express and UPS. I have to know each company's services and requirements so I can assign to each provider the part of the delivery business that they are strongest in. I want customer orders to be delivered as quickly as possible, at the lowest possible cost.

I spend a lot of time on training and developing my staff at all levels. When people have the opportunity to learn as much as they want or are able of they are happier and more productive, and it's good to have a group of trained people who can step in anywhere to lend a hand.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: Dealing with people is both the best and worst part of the job. Nothing is more time-consuming and frustrating than dealing with employee relations issues. It's hard to fire people but it is sometimes necessary.

Nothing is more rewarding than seeing people rise to a challenge and succeed. The best part is when they themselves are surprised to see what they are capable of achieving.

Job Tips: Read and internalize the concepts in the book "Getting to Yes." Nothing in my career helped me more than this book.

Know your own weaknesses and hire people who are strong in the areas where you are weak. Treat them well, trust them and compensate them well.

Give credit to everyone who helps you, no matter how small their contribution.

Treating people fairly isn't the same as treating people equally.

Additional Thoughts: My visual arts experience helped me tremendously in my career. It taught me attention to detail and gave me the ability to see the relationships between things in a way that differed from most of my peers. I was surprised at how often I could intuitively get from one mental place to another as a result of this training.

Most of my peers were specialists. My library research and art experience gave me a more generalist background. This was helpful because I could often contribute critical information to a project, information that people with a specialist background didn't see.

My director always told me that my ability as a generalist who knew a little about a lot of different things was key to my success.

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