Manifesting software is becoming more sophisticated with each passing year. The software pinpoints the most cost-effective carrier for each package, based on the criteria that you have configured into the software. These criteria typically include the physical dimensions of the box the item will be shipped in, the weight of the package, the destination, and the approved carriers.
While shipper-provided systems are becoming faster and more flexible, there remains a clear advantage in both speed and functionality to investing in systems from third-party manifest companies. Invariably the systems provided by third-party providers are faster: The higher-end systems can produce labels in three seconds or less. Third-party systems can also pre-batch labels and print them as a batch or by sending the data to an automated print-and-apply system.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of third-party systems, however, is that they can help you track the performance of your individual shippers as well as track their freight surcharges. These systems can tell you if a residential surcharge is appropriate and can also determine which shippers do best in a particular area of the country or a particular zip code. This information can enable you to negotiate more effectively with your shipper and to selectively use a different shipper when you know that it has better on-time performance.
Third-party systems can also provide proactive information to your customer service staff, letting them know when an order left the warehouse late or when an order was delayed by a shipment exception. These systems can give real-time updates to your customers as well.
Sam Flanders is president of Durham, NH-based operations consultancy Warehouse Management Consultants.