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3 Signs it’s Time for a Cloud Multi-Carrier Shipping System

Businesses that use a parcel shipping system don’t need to be told how important it is. After all, a parcel shipping system is the gateway to getting products into customers’ hands – managing mission-critical fulfillment processes from carrier selection to label printing.

However, because it’s so vital to a business, sometimes organizations don’t want to consider the possibility that they’ve outgrown their current parcel shipping solution.  It could be the thought of a “rip and replace” seems daunting.  Or perhaps the warehouse staff feels invested in the current solution. Or there could be uncertainty as to whether a new solution is even warranted… and who wants to go through the exercise of building a business case, fighting for IT resources, and risk upsetting the status quo when they’re not 100% sure new technology is necessary?

The truth is, it can be difficult to take a step back and objectively assess whether it’s time for a new system.  Where do you start? How do you determine the functionality your business needs?  To cloud or not to cloud? (To cloud!).

Luckily, there’s no need to panic.  There are many ways to evaluate the pros and cons of your current shipping landscape and make a decision.  But in case you need a head-start, here are three signs your organization has outgrown its current shipping system and should consider moving to a cloud multi-carrier shipping system:

1. Shipping Delays

Your business can only move at the speed of the slowest-moving piece. And in retail in particular, the slowest piece tends to be operations. If your organization has added products, and marketing is driving sales – perhaps now online – but your shipping teams are caught working overtime to keep up with the growing demand, it may very well be time to implement technology that can adapt more quickly to your business.

And because you can’t hire more humans to work through every problem — especially if you’re expecting to make a profit – scaling your business will likely mean implementing technology with an invest-to-grow mindset.  This means senior management and IT staff have to invest in technology that serves not just the business today, but the business they want to become, and the process will require stakeholders to:

  1. Painstakingly identify disconnected systems, islands of data, and the spreadsheets that inevitably flourish in fast growing companies, and
  2. Create a plan to replace them with a single multi-carrier parcel shipping solution that integrates with other systems and is designed to support high growth.

2. Reporting Headaches

As your company grows, product orders, markets, carrier services – and the data associated with each – also grow, not just in volume but in complexity as well. If your stakeholders are constantly making decisions based on an incomplete picture of your shipping operations, or they lack agility because data gathering and reporting is time consuming, then sub-par supply chain performance (complete with financial repercussions) can occur.

For example, can your shipping system quickly identify an incorrect shipping address?  And how many times do you incur the same “incorrect address” penalty from the carrier while your stakeholders wait on reports to uncover this error?

Another question to ask: do you understand how your minimum revenue per package aligns against zone-based discounting to uncover at what point your discounts apply compared with the minimum?  How many savings opportunities are you missing without this information?

get the ebook: critical capabilities of a tms for parcel shipping

And if you really want to up the ante: can your shipping system simulate your transportation spend if you implement ship from store or open a new distribution center?  What is the impact of this change?  How long do you have to wait until you have the answer?  And what are the risks of negotiating with your carriers without this data?

According to the Aberdeen Group, data accuracy and timeliness directly impact decision quality, and therefore thoughtful companies prioritize initiatives that reduce time to information, create a single source of truth, and empower business operations with high-quality data that drives toward KPIs.  Rapidly scaling small and midsize businesses can improve reporting and increase shipping visibility by replacing multiple carrier systems, spreadsheets, and data reconciliation with a cloud, integrated multi-carrier parcel shipping solution that provides real-time access to accurate data and Business Intelligence.

Specifically, a Business Intelligence platform will understand how components such as distance, speed to delivery, density, and package size affect spend within the transportation carrier landscape, visualize how and where changes are planning to (or should) occur, and retain this information as a “profile” that allows you, the shipper, to negotiate with your carriers. For instance, if you are implementing changes in fulfillment to increase ship-from-store or locate a new DC, understanding how these changes impact zone and carrier service-level downgrade options are critical. Additionally, planned shifts towards more frequent, smaller-weight shipments would naturally draw carrier negotiations towards lower weight bands and minimum revenue per package.

3. Integration Hassles

Another sign you’ve outgrown your current shipping system is that your supply chain systems are disconnected, forcing you to align data from multiple sources (see “Reporting Headaches” above). If your company is running different carrier systems in different areas of operation, you may be spending too much time troubleshooting and maintaining integration points – and not enough looking for opportunities to decrease transportation spend and improve customer service. More than one half of the small and midsize companies participating in an independent Forrester Research survey reported the “ability to integrate with other systems” as a very important criterion when evaluating technology.  Forrester also cited “improving integration between applications” as one of the top four business goals of IT departments.

The right multi-carrier shipping system will maintain hundreds, if not thousands, of global carrier service integrations as well as integrate with your business-critical applications, such as an ERP or WMS, to handle all key business activities from labeling, to track-n-trace, to invoicing, and ultimately to data analytics and reporting – eliminating complexity and expense from your shipping ecosystem.  And with fewer integration points, a company can focus on systematic reviews of shipping processes, identifying and prioritizing opportunities to optimize savings.

Cloud-Based Systems Offer Scalability

Businesses with a growth mindset need shipping technology that can support the company as shipping volumes and complexity increase, and a cloud multi-carrier shipping system enables a high-growth business to quickly seize opportunities and react to threats without navigating manual processes or extracting data from clumsy systems.

Cloud multi-carrier shipping systems offer scalability, agility, and low total cost of ownership, rescuing companies from large IT overheads and empowering them to handle growth on their own terms by leveraging flexible technology that will scale with them.

Furthermore, by implementing cloud technology that can operate globally and automate manual, time-consuming processes such as cross-border documentation or parcel delivery track-n-trace, major obstacles to international market expansion can be eliminated.

Leverage your Data for Growth

Investing in  a cloud multi-carrier shipping system and integrating it with your other business-critical applications will make a small business agile enough to compete with larger competitors and achieve continuous growth.

And for small and enterprise shippers alike, a cloud multi-carrier shipping system provides full oversight of shipping operations and delivers easy access to real-time data, allowing stakeholders to make insight-driven decisions on how and where to make changes that yield incremental increases in profits per parcel that add up to substantial bottom line savings.

For instance, robust reporting enables businesses to regularly compare transportation spend by carrier, and across different zones, to identify trends that may impact financial growth.  And aggregating and analyzing data from business-critical applications such as an ERP in conjunction with a multi-carrier shipping system can help identify actionable opportunities, such as improving inventory availability to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Obey the Signs

According to Bryn Heimbeck, cofounder and CEO of Trade Tech, “There is no other industry in the world that will be impacted as much by cloud-based technology as global transportation and distribution.” If you’re seeing one of the telltale signs that you’ve outgrown you’re current shipping system, contact us to learn what a new cloud multi-carrier shipping system can do for your business.