Shipping and distribution operations have a direct impact on the bottom line for any organization. Consistently being able to select the right carrier for the right customer and delivering parcels and shipments at the right time at an appropriate price is not easy for organizations of any size. As difficult as this may be, you can leverage this challenge into an opportunity to transform your shipping operation from a cost center to a profit center that saves you money, dramatically impacting your companys bottom line and increases customer service while providing information for better proactive decisions.
In todays marketplace, there are numerous carriers with varying services to consider when shipping parcels. While each carrier has its own unique set of services offered and subsequent charges associated with those options, the task of easily comparing these carriers rates can be daunting.
Many carriers provide tools to help customers navigate through their specific array of options when shipping their parcels; they can be limited at best. These applications typically provide information on a specific carriers shipping options but do no comparison across different carriers. These tools can range from software applications that work locally off your computer to Web-based interfaces that walk through a series of steps to provide rate choices.
While these tools are helpful to the occasional or infrequent shipper, when youre shipping a wide variety of parcels and packages to different locations, the task of comparing rates across all the various carriers and their options would be extremely time consuming. In todays competitive environment, it is just not feasible. Shippers have deadlines to meet for getting the shipments out the door and time-sensitive deliveries to meet. Although carriers provide some tools for processing these various transactions for their rates, it can be difficult or impossible for customers to do on-the-fly comparisons of the various carriers and configurations available to them, and subsequently many companies tend to opt for the easiest solution for shipping their parcels. The decision to take the easiest path can often be very costly to organizations.
Aside from shipping rates, there are other factors that come into play when shipping parcels. Customers may dictate whom they would like to use. Perhaps they have special arrangements or relationships with a specific carrier. The finance department and information technology systems may have designated internal business rules that can affect shipping. Perhaps the organization has negotiated special rates with a particular carrier. There are a variety of both internal and external factors aside from rates that must also be considered, which can affect the selection of a carrier for shipping parcels.
An opportunity exists for organizations to make faster and more informed decisions around the shipping of parcels, packages and goods that can help save their company money. This is important · for anyone associated with the costs of shipping, warehousing and distributing within an organization. Additionally, the shipment of parcels can affect many other departments and people within an organi-zation including sales, marketing, customer service and finance.
Software solutions have been developed and are available that can help businesses control the flow and costs of parcels and shipments from your organization. These packages can provide a wide range of benefits to companies such as:
Rate comparison for all major carriers
Integration of internal business rules and individual customer carrier preference
Integration into existing back-end systems
Cost center management
Address correction and cleansing
Integrated tracking of delivery status and automated email and fax notifications with tracking information
Automated delivery confirmation
Rate Comparison for Major Carriers
Some software solutions are designed to equip shippers and distrib-ution departments with the tools to perform quick and easy rate comparisons from all major carriers. Some of these solutions can even be customized to add other custom and LTL carriers. Shippers can weigh parcels on a scale, input the dimensions and delivery requirements, and quickly retrieve and review rates from all major carriers that can handle the shipment and delivery requirement. Since most solutions can interface to common shipping label printers, a few more mouse clicks and labels and the appropriate paperwork is printed and the parcel is ready for shipment.
Integration of Internal Business Rules and Customer Carrier Preference
Todays solutions can be configured to incorporate conditional logic, ensuring that internal business rules and a customers carrier preference are automatically followed. Data can be transparently passed from one system to another, improving cost-center management and overall customer satisfaction. The software is able to automate a wide range of processes and deliver up-to-the-minute, real-time information to everyone in an organization.
Leading software solutions are able to pass information into an existing back-end system, ensuring data consistency and providing valuable real-time information to all areas in the organization for improved communications and reporting. This truly benefits organizations by reducing errors from data entry and eliminating the need to enter redundant data into separate systems.
Solutions are able to analyze carrier usage and costs and deliver concise, detailed reports for analysis. They have the ability to track shipments by department and cost center and can verify budget availability. These features can improve the accuracy of departmental charge-back allocations and ensure that cost centers are being managed efficiently.
Address Correction and Cleansing
Solutions are available that can provide automatic address verification and cleansing. The process of address cleansing and correction alone can save organizations money and can transfer savings directly to the bottom line. Some carriers charge address correction fees and will also charge back to shipping companies the costs of returning incorrectly addressed parcels. Besides shipping savings, address correction can have a positive impact on customer service. By improving delivery performance, fewer customer calls will be received around delivery issues, improving the overall customer relationship and satisfaction level.
Some of the solutions available have integrated tracking function-ality for monitoring delivery status. Additionally, some applications will automatically generate messages and deliver those messages to various departments and customers providing them with real-time shipment and tracking information.
Automated Delivery Confirmation
Some software solutions are able to receive automated delivery confirmation notices from carriers. This information can be dynamically updated in a companys computer system so that information in the system is always current and that those in the organization that need to know parcel status can access the information quickly and easily.
With advances in software and technology, companies have the ability to efficiently manage their information and make educated decisions regarding all aspects of their business. As with many software solutions, the benefits can far outweigh the costs of implementation. The capabilities discussed throughout this article and the various benefits provided would vary from company to company in terms of the business challenges they face.
Communications today are more seamless and integrated than ever before. Companies constantly need to make more informed business decisions faster. The ability to do this efficiently can drastically improve every companys ability to respond to its customers needs and demands while controlling costs and expenses. Computers, software, networks and the Internet are providing businesses with the infrastructure and tools necessary to make this happen.
For years, software solutions have played an integral part of organizational success. It was only a matter of time until it helped optimize the shipping and distribution environment. Software solutions today are designed with users in mind; they have become much easier to use, and they can be integrated into existing business systems to deliver powerful business results. Fortunately with the advances made in technology, you have alternatives available that can streamline processes and provide the information necessary to make fast and informed decisions. These solutions can get your packages delivered in a manner that demands efficiencies with the ability to easily rate shop major carriers; allow for integration of internal business rules; have the ability for integration to back-end systems; coordinate cost-center management; provide address corrections; and automate tracking, delivery, communication notifications and delivery confirmation. In the end, these solutions benefit your company and all of your supply chain.
Charles Rothofsky is the marketing communications manager and Steve Strohacker is the national sales director, revenue-based software, for Secap, Secap Parcel Shipping Systems, in W. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. For more information, you can contact Secap at 800-523-0320 or visit www.secap.com.