Remember the mid-1990s when you had to plan, budget and get IT and management approval for each employee to have Internet access? Think how far we have come in a short time. Today, an Internet connection is standard with all PCs and is a tool virtually every employee needs to succeed on the job.
The employees in your mail center or warehouse shipping center are no exception. And a number of industry trends are making Internet connectivity a must-have in these parts of your operation. Now more than ever before bringing email and Web access to your organizations mail center and warehouse can improve employee productivity, reduce costs and improve communication among employees and with customers.
Catch Up with Your Carriers
Over the past year, all major small-package carriers in the
The Internet offers many advantages for transmitting end-of-day files including:
Internet connections are much faster and more reliable than dial-up connections, especially for large files.
You can eliminate the need for a modem and an extra phone line in the mail center or warehouse, thus reducing both equipment costs and phone charges.
A network connection can multi-task, while a dial-up connection can only handle one transmission at a time.
An Internet connection provides a secure link to the outside through your firewall. It is much more secure than a modem and phone line.
Most third-party, multi-carrier software vendors are in the process of implementing revised specifications from carriers that include Internet file transmission. Check with your vendor to determine when Internet file transmission will be available on your system for the carriers you use.
Updates at Your Fingertips
Fast, effective file transfer is only one benefit of having Internet connections in the mail center and warehouse. When you have online connectivity, it opens the door for carriers to provide Internet-based tools and services including tracking, rate shopping and actual shipment processing via an application programmatic interface. You can also download rates or receive code updates via the Internet rather than CD or diskette.
The advantages to both you and the carriers are numerous. When you are connected with carriers via the Internet, you access the most up-to-date information upon which to base your shipping decisions including rates and delivery options. You get immediate access to shipment tracking information, too.
Keep Customers Informed
The Internet also enables you to use email to improve both customer service and enterprise-wide communication. Employees in the warehouse shipping center can send emails to internal and external customers indicating that an order has been fulfilled, that a carrier and tracking number has been assigned or that the package has actually been shipped and is on its way. The content of these emails can be as simple or complex as is necessary and can be sent to the package originator, the package recipient, a third party to the transaction or all three.
Internal notification over the intranet can improve service for all internal customers as well. Mail center employees can then send and receive internal alerts regarding package pick up or delivery and transmit messages to internal customers on the status of the package similar to those emails sent to external customers.
Maintain Your System in a Click
An Internet connection in the shipping room can also be a tool for maintaining your system. An Internet connection gives you easy access to Windows operating systems updates, virus protection as well as electronic application updates from your multi-carrier shipping vendor. This can be the most reliable, cost-effective method for keeping your system current and requires minimal effort on your part.
Your multi-carrier system vendor may also offer Web-based support or email support. This way, you can get answers to your questions on system maintenance without having to call in and sit on hold. Check with your software vendor to determine if Web-based support tools are available to you. If you are responsible for managing shipping or transportation at multiple sites, there are Web-based tools available to help you track support calls from each location including the time of the call, the problem and how it was resolved.
Get More from Your Connection
Web access also yields opportunities for additional cost savings and increased productivity related to routine tasks.
Purchasing Shipping Supplies You can check prices, availability and place orders while insuring you are receiving the best value and quality.
Training Employees You can train shipping system users via Webcast or other Internet tools. In particular, consider using Web-based training tools for employees in high turnover positions or those who need a refresher on shipping functions that are not performed regularly. With Web-based training modules, employees can train when it suits their schedules, which saves you the time and expense required to schedule training sessions and hire a trainer.
Keeping Up with the Shipping Industry The Web is an excellent source of shipping industry information. With an Internet connection, shipping employees can and should visit major carrier sites (airborne.com, dhl.com, fedex.com, ups.com, usps.com) regularly and read the news sections. Industry publication sites such as psdmag.com also provide a wealth of information and insight.
All in all, theres never been a better time to connect your mail center or warehouse to the Internet. Small package carriers are online, and the email and Web-based tools are in place. Internet connectivity is the first step; the next step is to select a shipping system vendor that has the tools to get you where you want to go online.
Johanna Boller is vice president of product line management for Pitney Bowes Distribution Solutions. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. for more information about Pitney Bowes, visit them online at www.pb.com.