A Few Thoughts on Managing Customer Requirements in Shipping

Customer data are a concern not only in marketing but also in shipping. And companies should be no less vigilant in protecting and processing customer data in the shipping process.

Customer data may include product data, such as pricing, packaging, part marking, and carton marking; shipping information, such as pallet labels, packing specifications, and pallet types; and carrier data, such as automatic shipment notification (ASN) requirements, carrier selection, and shipping/delivery windows. Customer data need to be stored in your WMS/ERP system, and they need to be available, in the form of business rules, to drive the output of customer-specified documentation and instructions to shipping personnel. Business rules should be flexible enough that they can change with revisions to customer requirements.

Stored customer data and information have no value unless the system can apply them to warehouse processes and rules-based document output. Best-practice companies use system-generated documents and shipping instructions. Customer requirements are used by transportation management software to select carriers and routings. If RFID tags are required, data should be provided by the system. An investment in customer compliance management will pay dividends in driving correct order documentation and shipment compliance. Best-practice companies have processes in place to manage chargebacks and to perform corrective action and root-cause analysis.

All internal processes that rely on customer data, such as shipping, invoicing, customer service, and marketing, should use the same data source and update in real time. Using a single data source for customer information will reduce errors and data management time. Best-practice companies have a systematic process in place to monitor customers for changes in requirements, make updates to the system, and communicate changes to shipping operators. Some WMS programs have added this capability to newer software releases.

Kate Vitasek is founder of Bellevue, WA-based consultancy Supply Chain Visions (www.scvisions.com).