The distributor’s guide to overcoming shipping pain points
When it comes to managing your shipping strategies as a growing distribution company, things can get complicated fast. It may just be one piece of your order-to-cash cycle, but it has a large influence on your operations across the board. The efficiency and accuracy of your shipping strategy can also be a key determinant of your company’s reputation. If customers often experience delayed deliveries, are constantly waiting on backorders, or receive the wrong order altogether, it won’t take long for them to find a new place to do business.
That said, we’re here to help. Here are the most common shipping pain points distribution professionals face, along with our advice on how to conquer them.
Pain Point #1: Shipping visibility
Do you know where your shipments are at all times? Visibility is especially important in regards to shipping because it affects the distributor and the customer in equal measure. The distributor needs to be able to track their own shipments from point A to point B in order to ensure they stay on track and on schedule. The customer needs frequently updated tracking information just as urgently. Their own business and operations depend on receiving their orders in the amount of time they were anticipating. A fragmented shipping strategy will not only leave you in the dark, but puts your customers in a less-than-ideal position to run their own businesses.
The Solution: Mobile Tracking
When keeping an eye on your shipments while they’re on the road, leveraging mobile tracking devices is the best option. Many things can change or go wrong while on the road. Because you’re not there, you need a sophisticated way to communicate with your drivers. Mobile software that monitors your shipping gives a clear view of any order’s location. And since drivers can update their status from the road, it’s a win-win scenario. It allows you to maintain that all-important visibility over your orders even when they’re no longer in your sight. It’s also a great benefit to your customers, giving them a hyper-detailed timeline of their order so they know when to expect its arrival.
You’ll get a level of detail in your mobile tracking that can also be useful in learning about your own shipping processes. If something goes awry during a shipment, mobile tracking makes it much easier to identify when and where things went wrong. Your team can further scrutinize these areas and determine how to avoid this same issue in the future.
Pain Point #2: Money
Of course, saving money and preventing unnecessary waste will be a pain point across any part of your order-to-cash operations. However, we’re encouraging you to take a different look at your shipping sector — this can be a real hotbed of financial waste, and likewise, a great place to look to when you’re wanting to cut back on spending. But wasted money doesn’t just take the form of big expenditures. You can lose money just as quickly by simply missing out on opportunities.
The Solution: Shipping carrier comparison
Your carrier rates can be a huge silo of waste, and one that’s often overlooked. Depending on the weight and size of each order, the ideal carrier for each shipment may vary on a case-by-case basis. This means that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” carrier for your company, and you’ll need to make assessing carrier prices a regular part of your shipping strategy.
Sound tedious? Time-consuming? Without the right solution on your side, it is. There are plenty of shipping automation solutions that can help with this process — our favorite comes from Pacejet. Their platform automatically compares compatible carrier rates and regularly saves their users up to 30% on shipping-related costs. You get the best price for your shipment every time, without all the manual research.
Pain Point#3: Limited ability to handle more complex orders
As your company continues to expand, your shipping operations will feel some significant growing pains. Maybe you’re beginning to see some international orders roll in, and you’re not quite sure how to fulfill them without paying a fortune. Maybe you have more orders to fulfill than you have room in your warehouse.
It’s possible that because of your business’ size, you don’t really have the resources on hand to be able to fulfill certain more specialty orders in a timely or accurate way. In these cases, it’s helpful to offload the shipment process to more expert hands.
The Solution: Third-Party Logistics
For more complicated orders, it can be helpful to bring in an expert’s hand to help manage your shipments. We’ve defined third-party logistics before, but for those who need a quick refresher, we’ll break it down. Third-party logistics consists of offloading certain shipments to be handled by a, wait for it, third party. These are specific service providers who can oversee the entire fulfillment process of your shipment.
It’s much faster than having to research how your company could pull off an out-of-the-ordinary or overcomplicated order. That way, your customers get their orders sooner, and you don’t have to worry about the complications behind the shipment. Calling on a third-party is an important decision, so make sure that you carefully vet your options before putting your inventory and your trust in the hands of someone else.
Pain Point #4: Inaccessible inventory
Not having access to the inventory you need is one of the most dramatic stumbling blocks your shipping operations can face. Usually, something like this would happen when inventory is backordered. This will send your whole shipping process into chaos. You’ll be forced to put the process on pause until the inventory gets back in stock. This will lead to delayed shipment times and potentially disgruntled customers. While this pain point obviously has a big effect on your shipping processes, the root of this problem can be traced back even further in the order-to-cash process.
Solution: Better order-to-cash management solution
The bottom line: you need a better inventory management system. This issue originates much earlier in the order-to-cash process. By that logic, the solution must be implemented earlier in your order fulfillment workflow.
The process of ensuring shipment success begins the moment the customer places an order. You need an order-to-cash solution that can instantly collect all relevant order information and assign a tracking number at this first stage. If you’re missing this step, every action will be a reactive one.
You also need to be able to consistently tell when you’ll have the items you need, and be able to make easily repeatable replenishment strategies that never leave you in the cold, or out of stock.
SalesPad’s software solution is designed to improve every part of your order-to-cash cycle. That means from selling and ordering, to picking and packing orders, to shipping them out, to collecting invoices — we’ve got you covered. Before we can dive right in to transforming your distribution operations, you need to know which areas you’re hurting in. Take 10 minutes and try out our diagnostic. It’ll ask you to identify some key areas where your distribution operations could use a pick-me-up, and you’ll receive an expert’s guide to tackling those hurdles, curated by distribution industry professionals.