The major package carriers began providing PCs and printers to shippers 20 years ago to help them fill out waybills (the paperwork needed for shipment) faster. These devices were designed to print shipping labels, track, store recipient addresses, and provide reports and invoices for one single carrier and were not accessible for other functions.
Today, however, traffic departments have online access to multiple major and regional carriers for shipping, tracking and reporting. But with the myriad carriers and pricing schemes available, it’s not feasible to compare and contrast solely via the Web to determine which carrier is the most efficient choice for a given delivery. Multicarrier solutions enable shippers to set protocols based on speed, weight, origin, destination, price, and customer preference to determine which carrier to use for which delivery. Regional carriers can be added into the mix for further cost savings and faster delivery for adjacent states to each distribution center.
Mike Everson, president of St. Paul, MN-based logistics solutions provider Data Trak Technologies, goes so far as to say that multicarrier software can provide a merchant with a competitive edge and help it retain customers. “Multicarrier shipping solutions let the shipper follow the request of their customer,” he says. “Sometimes the company receiving the packages has a contract giving them better rates and they insist that their vendors use that carrier. If the vendor doesn’t have a multicarrier shipping solution, they either revert to manual waybills or lose their customer.”
Jeff Collins, president of Chico, CA-based Cascade Orthopedic Supply, has his two distribution centers and headquarters location all using the same server for a multicarrier solution from San Francisco-based DigitalShipper Corp. Cascade ships an average of 700 packages a day. The company uses United Parcel Service and California Overnight, a regional carrier serving Arizona, California, and Nevada.
“Our customer service agent takes the order from a medical facility customer, and the order automatically creates a pick ticket in the warehouse,” Collins explains. “Our personnel pick the right products and scan them. A shipping label with tracking barcodes is automatically created using the carrier specified by the customer or our default carrier for that location. The data flow then goes back to the invoicing department. Business rules are set up to include the product along with shipping and handling fees, so the invoice process is faster and has improved accuracy. The solution also produces additional documentation for export and hazardous material shipments. I could add DHL, FedEx, USPS, or other regional carriers or add more distribution centers and only have to change customer data in one place.”
A multicarrier shipping solution can ease customer service as well. “When a customer calls to place an order with one of our customers,” says Sammie Galloway, national sales manager for DigitalShipper, “their customer service agent can identify the preferred carrier for that particular SKU and provide the tracking number, date of expected delivery, and price all on the initial phone call.”
Executives can make the decision, implement, and measure the process for dozens of locations on a worldwide basis all while realizing larger cost savings. As Collins says, “I don’t know why anyone who ships more than 200 packages a week wouldn’t use a multicarrier solution.”
Rob Shirley is president of Austin, TX-based consultancy ExpresShip.