The Importance of a Pre-production Checklist for Ecommerce Value-Added Service Projects

Brands who stand out from the other brown boxes often do so because they leverage their 3PL’s value-added services. This means their fulfillment team executes specialized projects to customize their packages and their unboxing experience. Some common examples of value-added services include branded packaging, adding free swag to each order, giving customers the opportunity to bundling products to their taste, or adding personalized messages to orders.  

Here is a list of common value-added services and why your 3PL should provide them.  

When you want to implement something like these examples, you’ll need to change your fulfillment flow. Even if it’s for a limited run or seasonal promotion, any changes to your fulfillment will require major planning. You need to source materials, test run the new packages, and forecast what it will all cost you (sometimes shipping costs will go up with these changes, for example).  

To ensure your new value-added service fulfillment project goes smoothly, here is a list of pre-production information and steps you shouldn’t miss.  

Write a Comprehensive SOP (standard operating procedure)  

The first step is to create an SOP (standard operating procedure) which will guide you through the entire project.   

An SOP is an easy-to-use worksheet that includes all the other worksheets, timelines, and checklists needed to get the project completed correctly. It should be tailored to fit the needs of your specific project as needed and list out all the details of the project timeline and scope.  

An SOP is important in the project idea and planning phases. It can be modified if the project changes but should be as complete as possible because it is the standard with which the project is measured.  

The information in your SOP should come from the brand, not your 3PL or fulfillment provider. It should outline the items that need to be considered when generating the project including materials, labeling, barcodes, BOM, work instructions, launch date, run time, and any new part number(s) being created. 

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Building a BOM (bill of materials)  

Next up you’ll need to write out a list of all the items needed to complete this project.  

A bill of materials, also called a BOM, is a planning document used to structure and identify the materials and steps that are required to build a product or assemble products together for shipping.   

Think through every part of the process from the project build, to when your packages arrive on the customer’s doorstep, and even if they decide to return the package.  

While a BOM may be used in many different industries, in fulfillment a BOM is used to list out the components that are needed for a special project like kitting products in a certain way or assembling materials to be placed in a package in a specific order.   

A BOM is not to be confused with work instructions. The bill of materials includes only the materials needed for the project. Work instructions (also called pictorials) include the step-by-step instructions on how those materials should be put together.    

Create Quality Work Instructions  

Work instructions go hand-in-hand with your bill of materials, they describe or show the exact steps that must be taken for the fulfillment project. They are often used by the warehouse floor workers who are putting products in boxes and completing the fulfillment.  

Here’s an example: If you want to add anniversary t-shirts to all orders going out in the month of June, that requires special kitting on the warehouse floor. Your work instructions need to detail exactly how the t-shirt should be placed into each other—Folded? Rolled? Stickered? With tissue? On top or below other products? Everything needs to be spelled out very specifically.  

The quality of your work instructions is hugely important to the success of your fulfillment project. The key to writing really great work instructions is getting as specific as possible. Clarity and specificity are very important as well. You can also include pictures, which is called a pictorial. You need to describe the project in detail so that anyone, even people completely unfamiliar with the brand or product, can execute. When written well, your work instructions should maximize efficiency and accuracy. 

Establish a Pre-Production Checklist 

Last, but definitely not least, create a full checklist of what needs to be accomplished, the timing, and the person in charge of each task.  

Outside of the material-specific checklists you need, a pre-production checklist is important to help coordinate the steps leading up to launching the fulfillment project.  

This checklist should be made after the idea phase, and once the SOP has been agreed upon by both the brand and the 3PL. A pre-production checklist is often based on the timeline of what needs to be accomplished before the projected launch date.  

Clarity and specificity in this document are crucial to its usefulness. Assigning an “owner” to each task on the list is a good tactic. With a comprehensive checklist there will be less downtime waiting for approvals or rectifying mistakes; everyone will know what to expect and what is expected of them.  

What are the Benefits of Pre-production Planning 

Having a solid plan for your fulfillment project is the best way to eliminate unnecessary mistakes or delays. When your fulfillment team knows exactly what is expected and what to plan for, you’ll be able to get the project up and running quickly, test it out, and launch it without any hiccups.  

Here are the main benefits of getting your fulfillment project pre-production planning right the first time:  

  • Everyone has clear definitions of the requirements and timeline. 
  • Less back-and-forth between you and your 3PL.  
  • Quicker time to execute projects.   
  • Clearer communication between departments.  
  • Allows for more projects to happen, with less downtime.  
  • Your customers will reap the benefits of a unique and smooth unboxing experience!  

Bottom Line  

Ultimately value-added services enhance the customer experience with your products and your brand. By customizing your fulfillment, you can improve customer satisfaction and customer loyalty and increase average order value (among many other things!).  

There are many ways to catch a customer’s attention without changing your products at all. By adding a bit of unique flair to your fulfillment, your brand will stand out from the competition. Quality and customizable fulfillment can be a powerful market differentiator.  


If you are looking for fulfillment support reach out to DCL Logistics for a quote. You can read about the high-growth brands we work with and the custom fulfillment solutions we provide for them.