I know youre having a hard time keeping up with technology. You probably just sent out your first email recently, since youve resigned yourself to the fact that this Internet thing is not a fad. Oh, wait Im sorry; youre not that techno-incompetent? Then you must hate trees. Why else would you still receive paper invoices from your small parcel carriers?


UPS, FedEx and DHL handle billions of packages each year. Each package has its own little dossier, filled with an abundance of information. Who its from, where its going, its weight, the time it was delivered, service level, dimensions, insurance amount, internal reference numbers, blah, blah, blah. ALL that exhausting info is carried in each tracking number which, combined with your account information, transfers to your weekly invoices.


Lets say your company has been with FedEx for the past couple of years and ships 100 packages a day. Besides owing mother earth a small forest, youve wasted your company thousands of dollars. Not just opportunity cost (i.e. what could my employees or I have been doing rather than rifling through mounds of paperwork each week) but in overcharges as well. Electronic billing, or EDI as most carriers call it, empowers companies to hold their carriers accountable. Invoicing mistakes, usually in favor of the carrier, are rampant in this industry. Yet without questioning accuracy, the vast majority of companies remit the amount listed on the summary page of their invoices. Freight Auditing companies estimate that at least two percent of UPS, FedEx and DHL invoices are comprised of erroneous charges due to carrier error and charges that should be refunded for late delivery. EDI billing will give your company a sporting chance at recapturing this revenue through avenues such as online billing corrections.


Apathy is one thing; I wouldnt want to bean count each shipment and cross-reference it against my rates either. But overpaying and accumulating small libraries of carrier invoices because your company fears change is impractical and costly. Think how you might improve customer service in regards to shipping. Instead of putting someone on hold for five minutes, sifting through the file cabinet, scoring yourself a couple paper cuts and forgetting what youre looking for you could be accessing all info from your desktop computer in seconds.


As if there werent enough reasons to make the digital switch, here is one more thing to consider. Your employees currently handling these invoices will love you for making their lives easier. Processing mountains of paper invoices on a weekly basis is tantamount to Chinese water torture. Its not all that painful; its just absolutely mind-numbing. Electronic billing will enable your staff to remit payment efficiently and free them up for more important tasks.


Okay, lets hear the excuses:

We dont ship enough to qualify for EDI billing.

Each carrier has different forms of electronic billing. Some are more intricate than others in terms of the detail provided and how they are implemented; however, NO account is too small for online billing.


We like having the hard copy backup.

All three carriers spend millions of dollars every year on IT. The information isnt going anywhere. As long as you back up your computer files, youll have those invoices for life. If you dont currently back up your hard drive, then stop reading this and run to a computer store.


I dont want to learn a new system.

Fear change, huh? Dont worry, you wont have to read a manual or have your kid come to the office to configure any software for you as the major carriers have made this paperless transfer as painless as possible. Generally, there is just a quick registration process, and then you can begin accessing your shipping invoices electronically and remotely. DHL and FedEx have robust Internet billing platforms. UPS most popular tool functions through a Microsoft Access file. This is called UPS flat file billing, and it entails UPS emailing you an Excel spreadsheet each month with your shipping history. To make sense of that raw data, you simply need to upload that file into the Access module that they provide you with upon registering, and ta da! You are now a part of the 21st century.


My final point: there are 20 to 200 data elements on every invoice PAGE. You will never keep a perfect record of all your important shipping data manually while UPS, FedEx and DHL maintain meticulous databases. They use this information to their advantage (pricing negotiations). Dont let your carrier know more about your companys logistics than you do.


About the Author:

Michael Lassers is the Vice President of Business Development for Source Consultants, a small parcel consultancy that specializes in reducing its clients shipping expenditures with UPS, FedEx and DHL. With over 10 years of experience in the transportation industry, Michael is a highly sought after speaker and consultant. You can reach him via email at mike@source-consultants.com.