Today’s sluggish economy and challenging business environment is putting more pressure than ever on organizations to review and justify all aspects of shipping operations and spending.  At the same time, demand for parcel shipping solutions is increasing. According to ARC Advisory Services, this growth is being driven by the worldwide Courier, Express and Parcel (CEP) market, which is approaching $200 billion, driven by shrinking order-to-delivery cycle times, e-commerce, global trade, and other factors. 
Some organizations have been lured by the enticement of a free, single carrier desktop shipping system that offers automated capabilities and web-based portals to help make it easier to manage small package carrier service options and costs.  However, these solutions can result in a passive experience for users and an abdication of cost management to the carrier.  The simple facts are that not every package needs to go out next day by 10:30 AM, and limiting shipping carrier service options can also diminish an organization’s ability to obtain the greatest cost savings.
Instead of relying on single carrier systems, organizations should consider utilizing multi-carrier shipping solutions and their own company’s portal to manage their package shipping strategy. This can provide a company’s employees with solutions they can access right from their desktops. According to ARC’s recent survey with PARCEL of over 500 companies, organizations that utilize a multi-carrier desktop shipping solution are the most effective in controlling their shipping costs. Results of the survey revealed that only 1.5% of these companies experienced cost increases of 20% or more last year, while over 19% of organizations with poor desktop shipping operations (no standardized shipping rules; everyone ships the way they want; lack of visibility to shipping spend and activities) saw their shipping costs increase by that amount.
While respondents in ARC’s survey with PARCEL cited that reducing shipping costs was their top reason for implementing — or planning to implement — a multi-carrier desktop shipping solution, only 19% said obtaining greater visibility to shipping spend was a top reason for implementing a solution. What this suggests is that a lack of knowledge exists on how possessing greater visibility to carrier spending management can have a direct correlation on reducing shipping costs. 
Employing an effective multi-carrier desktop shipping solution into your overall strategy can help an organization in the following ways:
• Improve communication and information flow of packages
Multi-carrier desktop shipping solutions can help bring the knowledge of the mail center to the desktop and provide the employee, who is initiating the shipment, with the tools and information necessary to make the best decision regarding delivery options and prices. Employees can rate shop within a carrier or across all carriers in the portal to select the most cost-effective and efficient shipping method. The information is then sent electronically to the mail center, saving time and money, and enables the initiator to complete the shipment themselves. Information can be collected and made available about who sent the accountable package or item, where it was sent, to whom it was sent, how it was sent, how much it cost to send it and where the costs are to be allocated. 
Some multi-carrier desktop shipping solutions also now support complete shipment processing, including labeling printing capabilities for major small package carriers and the U.S. Postal Service. This allows employees to print carrier and postal labels right from their desktop for added convenience.
• Centrally manage all carrier costs in one location
A lot of shipping is initiated outside the mail center using waybills, a variety of carriers systems and other methods based on the preference of the sender. Carrier bills without valid cost center accounts associated with charges present organizations with a difficult decision — spend more to try to determine where the charges should be allocated or just accept a large unallocated expense. However, multi-carrier desktop shipping solutions can help ensure that each shipment that originates at an organization includes a valid cost center account and provides visibility to whoever sent it, where they sent it and how they sent it. Organizations can monitor spending on carriers by service, department and employees and use this information in their carrier negotiations to obtain better discounts.
• Increase compliance with business rules
Some multi-carrier desktop solutions provide organizations with the flexibility to make their shipping portals strict or liberal according to the business rules that they set up. This allows organizations to determine what shipping services employees may use by package type or class of employee. It can also help provide a consistent process to make sure negotiated rates with contracted carriers are used throughout the organization and that the lowest cost option meeting the business need is selected. 
• Provide visibility into surcharges up front
Some multi-carrier desktop solutions also enable organizations to see surcharges or special fees up front before transactions are executed.  Examples of surcharges include: fuel charges; commercial delivery area surcharges; address correction fees; Saturday delivery charges; and dimensional rating charges. 
Multi-carrier desktop solutions that include address verification software can equip a company’s employees with tools to help eliminate costs of undeliverable packages by checking to make sure the recipient’s address is correct and whether an address is commercial or residential. This can help increase delivery reliability. 
• Obtain flexibility to change carriers
Using a multi-carrier desktop shipping solution instead of a single carrier system allows an organization to change or add carriers without changing its shipping technology or disrupting your operations.
The opportunities that multi-carrier desktop shipping solutions present far outweigh the upfront costs of investing in a system. By incorporating a multi-carrier desktop shipping solution into a company’s overall strategy, an organization can take advantage of opportunities to gain greater visibility into spending, boost productivity and increase compliance with the business rules that it sets up. The net-net is improved management and control of a company’s total shipping costs and increased operational efficiency.
Vincent J. DeAngelis is Director of Product Management, Pitney Bowes Inc. For more information on Pitney Bowes, please visit