One of the biggest challenges in an organization’s growth is when it becomes evident your shipping environment is no longer working… and yet you’re unsure of what to do next. After all, the processes you’ve painstakingly cobbled together over the years, piece by piece, has brought you to where you are today.
It’s Worked Fine So Far…
Your veteran team members are at ease with the shipping environment you’ve built together. The special amalgamation of spreadsheets, training documents, and carrier workstations feels comfortable. They remember when each piece was added to the puzzle and why. They’re proud of their ability to successfully navigate your shipping “labyrinth”—it’s like a badge of honor to be someone who “gets it.” Heck – it just might be job security.
But… things are starting to slip. You may notice some team members are overwhelmed and suddenly voicing worry they’re falling “behind,” despite the fact their personal productivity hasn’t changed. For the first time you might find yourself wondering whether you need to increase staff and looking for month-to-month shipment projections to support your decision – only to come up empty handed. And whenever you train a new employee on the ins and outs of your shipping environment, you’re reminded of just how complex it is.
How do you know when it’s time to abandon your formerly tried-and true shipping practices and embrace the tools of the future—and how do you tell the differences between them? Read on for three telltale signs you’ve outgrown your shipping environment and the time is right to build something new.
1. You’re Embarrassed When You Teach New Hires Your “System”
When you’re showing a new hire the ropes, do you find yourself over-explaining or justifying why you do things a certain way—and facing a perplexed reaction? Are you repeatedly answering the same questions about where to go for a piece of data or how to locate a particular shipping record? Have you ever said, “Yeah, it’s confusing now, but it will make more sense over time?” These are all signs your existing shipping environment is stuck in the past, and if you’re in a growth phase, it’s only going to get more challenging from here.
But when you implement a shipping system that’s intuitive and centralized – not cobbled together from multiple, disconnected solutions and processes – it’s much easier to not only onboard new employees but also to increase the productivity of your current team.
For example, Service Lighting and their online superstore, LightBulbs.com, realizes 80% of their sales through e-commerce. Sales are busiest during the holiday season, when order volume triples and shipping operations handle more than a 200% increase in packages a day. Originally, LightBulbs.com had six shipping workstations, all with standalone, carrier-provided shipping software. The shipping process was cumbersome because the staff had to enter orders in multiple carrier systems, type in the dimensions of every package, and then manually compare and choose the best carrier rate and service. “Shipping was our biggest bottleneck,” President Paul McLellan said, “We needed to find a way to automate our process and increase productivity.”
LightBulbs.com implemented a Transportation Management System (TMS) for parcel shipping, gaining the ability to load all carriers onto one platform and automate carrier rate shopping and shipment processing. As a result, Service Lighting streamlined and improved shipment processing speed and is now handling the same volume of work on two shipping stations instead of six. “We were able to reallocate employees to other areas in the warehouse that needed help,” McLellan said.
2. You Miss Your Shipping KPIs
Even the best shipping teams will miss a delivery deadline or select the wrong carrier service. However, if these lapses suddenly occur with greater frequency, it could be a sign your existing shipping environment lacks the bandwidth to accommodate growing order volumes.
For example, Faes Group, the leading manufacturer of custom packing solutions in Europe, employed a small team to manually plan its transportation: physically creating each transport order, calling a large number of carriers to verify pricing and schedule transport, and tracking transport movements through phone calls and email exchanges with carriers’ customer service teams. When Faes Group began to sell its products through e-commerce sites including Amazon, orders increased, delivery service faltered, and pressure mounted. Said Johan Faes, the founder and director of Faes Group, “Amazon speeds up the process, and if you do something wrong, you get hit hard. If you don’t get your house in order, you can’t sell to a customer like Amazon.”
Faes Group ultimately chose a TMS for parcel shipping to integrate with their large carrier network and automate their end-to-end shipping processes – gaining the ability to meet increasing order demands without adding staff by automating and optimizing transportation management. Immediate benefits included lower labor costs and improved customer service, and with automated carrier booking and compliance as well as track and trace functionality in the platform, the team directed their attention away from carrier communications and exception management and focused on other value-added activities in the warehouse.
Video: The Critical Capabilities of a TMS for Parcel Shipping
3. You Can’t Easily Provide Customers with Delivery Information
Think about the steps it takes to tell a customer when their package will be delivered. Do you tell the customer to call the carrier’s customer service number for an update? Provide the customer with a tracking number and send them a link to the carrier’s website? Fill out a ticket in the carrier’s system and ask the carrier to contact you with an update? If the process is at all manual or takes hours (heaven forbid days), even for a fairly standard request, then you have your first clue it may be time to consider updating your shipping environment.
For example, as one of the most highly respected and well-known healthcare brands in the world, Bausch + Lomb needs to ensure their product distribution is seamless to maintain their integrity in the industry and keep their customers happy. However, a complex in house system combined with huge growth within the organization was making this difficult to achieve. Bausch + Lomb was using 25 different carriers, each with their own different services and each with a specific type of bar code that wasn’t always compatible with Bausch + Lomb’s software. The Bausch + Lomb team had to track thousands of items every week on different carrier sites, which was time consuming, and ultimately the team couldn’t confidently inform customers of exact delivery times.
Bausch + Lomb chose a TMS for parcel shipping to support all carrier services in one complete system, eliminating the need to work on different carrier sites and in different languages. As a result, they have full visibility – saving at least half a day in labor costs every week and importantly: improving customer satisfaction by providing customers with up-to-date shipping statuses.
Ready for a Shipping System Fit for an Enterprise?
Your shipping practices have served you well. You can be grateful for them without allowing them to hold you back, and if any of these three signs felt familiar, it’s probably time to consider a TMS for parcel shipping. It will create an end-to-end shipping ecosystem – automating processes and centralizing all data so it can be analyzed, reported, and optimized. It’s an absolute must for dynamic shipping teams in the e-commerce age, and it’s just a click away.