Shipping Station - Best Practices

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Overview

In 2014 a team of our finest went on the road to visit CMS clients all over the country. One of the biggest things we learned is how much room there is for improved efficiency in the shipping department. The great news is that there are quick and easy solutions.

My Shipping Dept is Fine, Thank You

All of our clients have been shipping long enough to have reliable processes in place...but that doesn't mean they're efficient. Consider some of the benefits of enhancing those processes:

  • fewer shipping errors
  • reduced hours/employees needed to ship each day
  • scalability to ship higher volumes of packages with your existing staff
  • later cut-off time for same day shipping

Any of that sound interesting? Read on!

Feeding the Warehouse

Are you still printing orders one at a time as they save? That may be OK if you're processing 20 orders a day, but most of our clients are doing much more than that and would benefit from printing in selective batches. Use the Fulfillment->Batching option to either release a select number of orders to the warehouse (first-in, first-out) or create invoice filters to prioritize your fulfillment in other ways such as by shipping method, price category (retail vs. wholesale), products on the order, or most any other criteria you can imagine. These options can ensure your most important and time sensitive orders get handled first. You also may find it more efficient to have the warehouse picking certain types of orders as part of the same batch instead of scattered throughout the day.

Shipping Best Practices

There are several things you can do to improve. Based on our decades of experience, here is a list of our recommended improvements and the order in which you might consider implementing them.

Entry Level

  • Shipping station in the warehouse - First and foremost, you'll want at least one CMS workstation set up in your warehouse. If you're still printing shipping labels in the office and carrying them out to the warehouse, it's time to move that operation out to the warehouse. This workstation will be running CMS as well as your carriers' software such as UPS Worldship, FedEx Ship Manager, and/or Endicia/Dazzle. In addition, you can have connected hardware (e.g. scale and bar code scanner) to really speed up your processing. Get away from trying to collate your labels with your invoices/pick tickets.

Good

  • Get a thermal printer from UPS so you can print 4x6 thermal shipping labels. In our experience, this same printer, if converted to using the stock manufacturer's driver instead of UPS's driver, can be set up to also work with Dazzle so you'll have one label printer for both carriers.
  • Use the Manifest screen in CMS to ship with both UPS and USPS. This screen provides you with an identical shipping process for both carriers keeping the process fast and simple. Just click the Label button and CMS will trigger the appropriate label to print from UPS Worldship or Endicia's Dazzle software (USPS.)

Better

  • Scale - Connect an electronic scale to your shipping workstation so that weights don't have to be typed in, avoiding errors and saving time.
  • Bar codes - Add a package number bar code to your CMS invoice or pick ticket (e.g. InvoiceTemplate-MS-BC.rpt) to make adding a package to the Manifest a snap. Bar codes are included on many of our invoice templates but, if your form doesn't include one, give us a call and we'll explain your options.

With the scale and scanner in place, you can just place the package on the scale and scan the bar code to have the package added to the Manifest and the weight automatically brought in from the scale. Easy, fast, and accurate! See our CMS System Requirements page for information on the scales and scanners CMS supports.

We also provide a sheet of barcodes suitable for use at the shipping station. Print this and tape it to your monitor for fast and easy hands-free shipping.

Best

  • International - International shipping doesn't have to be chore! In fact it can be just as easy as a domestic shipment with the right setup. Just scan and print. CMS supports international shipping with USPS and our Endicia/Dazzle integration; and in CMS Ten, we'll support it for our UPS Worldship XML integration as well. Take the time to set up each product's custom data (weight and country of origin, at least) to facilitate this automation. If you need to set this for hundreds or thousands of products/SKUs, call us and we can help by importing data or using SQL queries to help set them for you.
  • Automated Label Printing - An option you can enable in CMS Setup is for automatic label printing on scan. This setting will use the weight from the scale (described above), or the CMS calculated weight if no scale is in place, to automatically print the appropriate shipping label as soon as the package bar code is scanned. Couldn't be faster or easier. In cases where you know you'll want to make changes to the shipment such as adding packages or changing shipping methods, you can type the package number into the Manifest instead and it will quickly bring up the package details without auto-printing the label. Short video illustrating the three settings used to facilitate full label processing automation - http://screencast.com/t/iJgDoNVfpc8y

And Don't Pay for It!

UPS and FedEx have what they refer to as a "technology allowance" allowing you to purchase the hardware and sometimes even software needed to ship more efficiently. This might be in the form of a new computer for the warehouse but is more often just scales, printers, and scanners. If and how much allowance you're entitled to depends on your volume with the carrier and very little is publicized about this. Contact your carrier's representative to explore what funding might be available to you bring your shipping technology up to the 21st century.

And Pay Less For Shipping

  • See if you do enough volume to qualify for negotiated rates with UPS or Fedex. If not, see if discounts are available by joining an industry association.
  • Consider working with a shipping auditor to track your packages and get refunds for packages delivered late. This applies to both air and ground shipments and entitles you to a full refund. Some shipping auditors will work on contingency so any money they are able to recover for you is found money.

Summary

Implementing the above best practices will allow you to maximize the efficiency and throughput of each shipping station. After implementing these solutions, we've seen companies reduce the number of shipping stations in their warehouses from four down to just one. You may still want to set up an additional shipping station so you have a backup and scalability. The solutions provided above should give you easy and bite-sized improvements that you can readily implement without much cost or disruption so you can start reaping the benefits right away.

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