April 25 2007 11:43 AM

Internet-based shipping services offered by parcel carriers have made it easier and faster for companies to ship parcels in many ways, including creating shipping labels and tracking parcels en route. However, many companies have recognized that these online services have not solved all of their shipping problems.


What's more, some companies report that the solutions provided by parcel carriers often create challenges when employees address
their shipping needs by using multiple providers and different service offerings. The problems include an excessive number of accounts, invoices and data that is difficult to monitor and control. The result is often, ironically, less efficiency and higher costs.


To overcome these chronic problems and leverage the maximum potential of the Internet for shipping, a growing number of progressive companies have launched their own electronic shipping solutions, either over the Internet or through their corporate intranets, e-procurement systems or ERP systems. In the process, they have gained multiple workforce efficiencies, centralized control of their shipping operations and significantly lowered shipping costs.


Gain the 7 Advantages of Web-based Shipping

Improving shipping efficiency and lowering costs requires companies to think about shipping in a new way. Rather than view it as a necessary evil or as "the cost of doing business," businesses today can follow the lead of companies that have deployed Web-based shipping solutions and gained multiple advantages including these seven highly efficient shipping capabilities.


            Select the Best Shipping Rates. Many companies today overspend between $2 and $10 on each parcel they ship. The primary reason for this overspending is that employees consistently select higher-than-necessary shipping options. However, our research shows that when given accurate shipping service options and rates, most employees will select the most cost-effective service. One major telecommunications corporation lowered its total cost of shipping by over $170,000 in a three-month period after launching its web-based shipping solution.


            Manage Shipping Centrally. While most companies would never allow their core business operations to run in a decentralized, disconnected way, many businesses haven't yet demanded this same degree of performance from their shipping operations. Allowing shipping to remain decentralized creates problems on many levels, including disgruntled employees who must repeatedly perform tedious shipping tasks, unhappy customers who don't receive shipments on time and frustrated partners whose business is compromised by shipping problems. A top-selling automotive manufacturer gained measurable improvements in employee and partner satisfaction after launching its web-based shipping solution for buying and sending parts.


            Automate Returns Management. One of the chronically troublesome areas of parcel shipping for many companies is returns management. With so many opportunities for error, companies struggle to ship replacement items promptly and to the right locations and then receive and reconcile returned items. One leading Internet equipment manufacturer achieved multiple efficiencies with its web-based returns management solution, including significantly higher customer satisfaction, lower costs and faster returned product reconciliation.


            Retrieve Addresses with One Click. Incorrect address fees can add between five percent and 10% to a company's shipping expenses. Web-based solutions eliminate these losses by automating two major components of accurate addressing: easy address retrieval from corporate databases and address verification down to the suite level using a USPS CASS-Certified database. An industrial chemical company reported an increase in address shipping accuracy from 80% to 98% after deploying its web-based shipping solution.


            Track and Allocate Shipping Costs. In the rush to ship each parcel, critical information is often left off labels the chargeback information. As a result, either shipping costs are left unresolved or accounting employees struggle to track down appropriate cost centers for each shipping cost. web-based solutions can automate this step to ensure that every shipping expense is charged to the appropriate cost center without additional documentation or extra work. A major national furniture retailer was able to eliminate unreconciled shipping costs and accountability errors, which improved its relationship between the corporate office and the stores.


            Enforce Your Shipping Rules. Often, companies attempt to solve their shipping problems by establishing corporate shipping rules. However, the rules can be difficult to enforce, especially across departments and multiple locations. Companies using a web-based shipping solution are able to enforce their rules through electronic controls: for example, restricting express shipping to only approved employees or departments. One of the nation's leading hospitals was finally able to enforce its shipping rules through its web-based shipping solution. This had a significant side effect boosting patient care and satisfaction.

            Report on Shipping Management Processes. Today, reporting on business performance is a critical function of decision-making, operational oversight and corporate accountability. With web-based shipping solutions, companies can, often for the first time, create multiple shipping reports. Accurate and up-to-date views of a company's shipping use and expenses, such as shipping budgets by department and carrier rate comparisons, will further enhance accountability, performance and savings. A global professional services firm found that by reporting on its shipping operation, it could make ongoing improvements that improved partner relationships and lowered shipping costs across the enterprise.


Are You Ready to Ship Smarter?

Shipping processes and costs are typically not the first place most companies look when they are tasked with streamlining operations and lowering costs. Yet, this is one of the areas where most companies consistently waste time and money. From these seven efficiency examples, it's easy to see how an intelligent shipping solution deployed over the Internet can transform a disconnected and high-cost mailing operation into one of the most efficient and cost-effective operations in a company. What could be smarter?


Brian W. Abbott is VP of Sales and Marketing at Neopost Loop One, a leading provider of web-based shipping solutions. Neopost Loop One is a member of the worldwide Neopost family. For more info, visit www.neopostloopone.com or email sales@loopone.com.