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5 Ways to Make Your Shipping Department More Efficient and Reduce Errors

Gone are the days of hand airway bills and preprinted tracking number labels. Whether you are using shipping software provided by the carrier or from a 3rd party vendor, is your company doing everything to run your shipping department efficiently and error-free?

We have taken over 20 years of industry experience across a wide range of business sectors including top Fortune 500 companies to put together 5 valuable tips. Find out how you can easily incorporate these 5 tips and more.

The shipping department should not be a bottleneck in your operations and adding more personnel is not necessarily the right approach to gain throughput and efficiency. By doing a few simple steps will improve your overall performance: 1.) assess the current shipping processes 2.) fix errors where they are occurring and 3.) automate manual steps. Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is to spend a “day in the life of shipping”.

There is a trickle down affect that occurs in most companies where problems and avoidances are passed along until they end up in shipping – which is now “the point of no return” because once the product is shipped and out the door, you know longer have control of the order.

Many companies aren’t aware of the measures taken by the shipping operators to get the order out the door. These manual steps can be automated and with the right business rules in place, the operator can simply “Click and Ship” without any intervention.

Outlined are five important tips that can help your company overcome manual tasks with just some simple automation.

Exchanging Data between the shipping software and the host system where orders reside may seem basic, but it is invaluable to the accuracy of shipping your customers’ orders. More data means more automation which ultimately means fewer mistakes. If certain data can be captured at order entry it will save time and reduce errors in shipping.

This can be something as simple as flagging the ship to address as Residential Delivery or marking the order as “Free Freight”. Some automation can even be built into the order’s ship via/method by creating a code that represents an add-on. For example: UPSGR can be used for UPS Ground + Residential Delivery or FDX1S can be used for FedEx Priority Overnight + Saturday Delivery.

Capturing Package Dimensions can take extra time because if you are using a wide array of box sizes the shipper either has to measure each box or look up the dimensions then enter them for each package. Of course your company could invest in a dimensioning device that connects to the shipping software to capture the dimensions at the same time it reads the scale. A less expensive solution is to add an input field to the shipping screen and have the shipper scan a barcode that represents the package dimensions. With a little customization to the shipping software, the package dimensions can be parsed to populate the package length, width and height. Some shipping software includes a drop down list where you can add your box sizes and even add a business rule to require the package dimensions.

Carrier and Service Selection should be all about maximizing your company’s savings on freight. Unless a customer requests a specific carrier (i.e. UPS) and/or service (i.e. Next Day Air) then you should do everything possible to save not only your company money but also your customer. If you are using more than one carrier to ship your orders then you should be using a multi-carrier shipping solution so you can encompass all your outbound shipping in a single software application. This is important because it now allows your company to rate shop. Not only should you rate shop against all the carriers you use but also consider rate shopping the different service levels (3 Day vs. Ground) and transit times. Also by rate shopping using your negotiated rates will yield larger profits if your company is invoicing customers the published rates.

Billing the Customer Account can often create manual steps in shipping and is easily overlooked if the shipper has to rely on handwritten notes that accompany the paperwork. When the customer requests that you ship their orders using their preferred carrier and having the freight billed directly to their account number, it is because they want to control the freight costs and may even have better rates than what your company has negotiated.

So how can you automate this process? One way is to have the account number captured at order entry and pass the data to the shipping software. Another way is to simply add a flag on the order and then using stored information in the shipping software automatically add the Billing Options. Most shipping software applications have a built-in table to store the account number and billing address based on the Customer Number – this can then be matched to the Customer Number on the order being processed.

Invoicing the Right Freight Charges will save your accounting department the headache of re-billing or adjusting freight amounts once the order has shipped and invoiced. If your company has special rules in place then take the time to automate how the freight is passed from the shipping software back to the host system. Whether the shipping software needs to zero the freight charge or pass back published rates or negotiated rates or a calculated rate (i.e. negotiated rate + 10%) this is one key area worth investing in automation.

Here are some additional shipping processes worth automating:

• Batch shipping for orders with the same characteristics
• Calculating the COD or Insurance amount
• Inputting Hazardous Materials information
• Processing international shipments
• Shipping LTL orders and generating BOLs (Bills of Lading)

The bottom line is shipping processes driven by “quality” data ultimately result in efficiency and less errors.