Kitting and assembly is one piece of an ecommerce shipping and handling 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

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 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

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.

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. Learn more about ShipBob’s order fulfillment services.

Kitting and assembly services

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.

Distributed inventory

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.

Return management

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.

Benefits of using a 3PL

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.

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