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The Logistics of Shipping

Pack & Send for Business

 

By Melissa Donovan

 

Businesses with a basis in manufacturing look to distribute products all over the world. Partnering with trusted shipping partners is essential to success. Small- to medium- sized companies look for efficiency and undamaged packaging. To satisfy their own customers, products must arrive in a timely manner and unharmed.

 

The United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS) and the United States Postal Service (USPS) offer small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) a variety of options to ensure safe, reliable logistics. Web-based tools such as tracking and label printing cater to the busy SMB, who looks to avoid long lines at the post office or shipping center.

 

Speedy Delivery

Efficient shipping is more than transporting a package from a store to a customer’s door in the promised amount of time. Speed relates to invoice creation and even tracking, to ensure an SMB is providing the customer with the best services they can offer. Shipping companies provide this in an abundance of ways.

 

To automate the shipping process, the UPS offers UPS Internet Shipping, which helps small business owners prepare, send, and pay for both ground and freight shipments. It provides instant access to customer addresses and shipping preferences of repeat customers. In addition, it schedules pickups, calculates transit time, and sends email notifications to customers. The company’s UPS Billing Center is another component that acts as a secure, online portal to view, manage, and pay UPS invoices without leaving the comfort of the office.

 

For those companies shipping on a global level, UPS Paperless Invoice manages trade data electronically. “Information for each shipment is organized and stored in one place—saving time and money. The tool helps businesses avoid the number one reason for delays—incomplete paperwork,” explains Stephanie Callaway, VP, small business and retail marketing, UPS.

 

The USPS’ flat rate boxes were introduced in 2008. The simple solutions eliminate weighing and finding zone prices. Because of their flat rates, Gary Reblin, VP domestic products, USPS, notes that they are ideal for businesses looking to budget their shipping costs at the beginning of the year. There are no hidden surcharges.

 

In 2011, the USPS launched the flat rate box’s sister program, regional rate boxes. SMBs still avoid having to weigh out a purchase, they just need to know what zone they are mailing to and they get one low price depending on the box or envelope used.

 

Reblin says the company realized the need for the regional rate boxes after speaking with customers. Most SMBs ship within 100 miles or less and like to use the flat rate box, however because of the closeness in location, ground shipping is cheaper. There is a cost savings, but a user still has to deal with weighing and picking out different boxes. The USPS’ new program eliminates the weighing, provides a cheaper cost, and packaging is supplied.

 

“The regional rate boxes are our fastest growing product. We have experienced outstanding success with them, notably shown in the growth of our customer base. 53 percent of users are new customers that had never used the flat rate box program before. Existing customers are adding on to flat rate box usage,” explains Reblin.

 

Web Tools and Handy Services

Shipping is more than just placing an object in a box, taping it up, and sending it on its way. There are countless ticks and ties that result in ensuring that a shipment gets where it needs to be. To complement their delivery options, both the UPS and the USPS offer tools that help SMBs’ shipping facilities run smoothly.

 

UPS offers UPS WorldShip to customers that ship at least 25 packages per week. The program allows businesses to process and maintain one database of customer information while printing shipping labels. It also retains a customer’s shipping history, making processing quicker for repeat customers. Quantum View Manage allows staff to schedule inbound and outbound shipments and track packages. A free service, it is available with a UPS account and reduces the number of customer service calls by sending out an online tracking number automatically to a customer’s email.

 

In response to those small businesses making residential deliveries, the UPS just launched UPS My Choice. The program allows buyers to schedule residential deliveries, to avoid a “sorry we missed you” notice. A registered member receives a phone, email, or text message the day before a package arrives providing the delivery time. If it isn’t a fit, there are options to reschedule or reroute the package for a small fee. Users also have the ability to go online and release packages requiring a signature. Callaway says this new tool helps small business provide enhanced customer service.

 

The USPS recently re-designed its Web site so that ordering packaging, software tools, and tracking is all done in one place. The company encourages businesses to order packaging online to receive discounts not available in retail stores.

 

Debuted in April 2011, the Every Door Direct Mail service is a Web-based service that helps small businesses prospect locally without using names or addresses. Mailings are dropped off at a local Post Office and consist of fliers, menus, brochures, and advertisements for less than 15 cents a piece. The Web tool is free and user friendly.

 

In addition, this April, the company launched Click-N-Ship for Business. The site is designed for SMBs that ship ten to 100 pieces of mail per day. Features available on the site include a downloadable desktop application and expanded payment options, including for international services.

 

Pack Up

Shipping success means packages are delivered on time and without any damage, so the result is a happy customer that hopefully becomes a repeat client. To ensure a package is delivered on time and intact, the packaging must be exactly right.

 

“Too little material and the package could be damaged; if too much, materials and money could be wasted,” advises Callaway.

 

The UPS Package Advisor is an online tool poised to eliminate the “what if” in package preparation. In the program, a user selects the category of goods and then enters a product’s dimensions and weight. Based on this information, the Package Advisor provides suggestions for a box, interior cushioning, how to close the box, and where to place the shipping label.

 

Specifications that come into play when deciding the final configuration include a product’s vulnerability to compression and shock and vibration effects commonly encountered during shipping.

 

For a more customized alternative, engineers at the UPS Package and Design Test Lab create shipping containers and suggest packing materials. About 600 customers a year go through the lab and simulate package and transport scenarios.

 

Anderson Seafoods of Anaheim, CA worked with the UPS Package Design and Test Lab to create a box to help keep fresh seafood frozen and cool during shipment. For over 30 years the seafood company has provided premium products to high-end restaurants, food markets, and hotels. Recently, the company looked to branch out and offer at-home cooks a chance to shop and order Alaskan Halibut, Copper River King Salmon, West Australian Lobster Tails, and more from its Web site.

 

Before enacting the program, they needed to develop a process to keep products fresh in shipment. Working with its UPS account representative, Steven Tick, Anderson Seafoods created a custom foil cooler with dry ice and gel packs. When the cooler opens, it expands to the size of the box, creates a tight seal, and keeps seafood at or below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. The packaging was tested for almost a year in a variety of extreme conditions until the team got it right.

 

“UPS worked tirelessly with our packaging engineers to develop the optimum shipping solution,” says Alberto Andrade, CFO, Anderson Seafoods.

 

The company offers seafood that is three to eight days fresher than what is available at a local grocery store, and they wanted to partner with a logistics company that could honor its quality and freshness standards. For products to be delivered on time, Anderson Seafoods relies on UPS Next Day Air. If a customer orders by one p.m. Pacific time, in most scenarios, the package arrives on their doorstep by 10:30 a.m. the next morning.

 

Andrade says this allows customers to have peace of mind that shipments will arrive on time and in pristine condition. “Shipping is one of the most critical factors when operating an e-commerce business. Since we deal with perishable items, UPS keeps to our highest standards every time they ship an order,” he continues.

 

The company also utilizes Quantum View to report potential weather that could delay orders and status updates so customers can track shipments. With UPS WorldShip Anderson Seafood processes and maintains one sole database of customer information for shipping labels. Also, the program allows them to continue its sustainability efforts by offering UPS carbon neutral. Seafood buyers can select to offset the carbon dioxide impact of their shipment by adding 20 cents to each order. UPS collects the fees and uses them to support certified environmentally responsible projects.

 

AAC Enterprises INC of Metairie, LA also utilizes the UPS to ship its automotive parts. The company relies on UPS’ Quantum View to track packages. “It helps keep us efficient. We are able to tell if there is a problem with a package immediately, with enough time to contact the customer and solve the problem,” explains Tiffanie Hartenstein, AAC.

 

Working closely with a UPS representative is key to improving the shipping process. AAC moved to a new location and when they did, they consulted with their representative to figure out the best way to avoid damages in transit. After the meeting, boxes were changed to double wall quality and instead of using packing peanuts they now use a foam-in-place machine. Hartenstein says  its damage rate dropped in half and shipping time became much quicker after the change.

 

“We know that the UPS will work to help us in any situation we come across. As a fast growing e-commerce company, having UPS representatives come in and look for cost-efficient ways to improve is extremely beneficial to us. Their experts give us new ideas and improve in areas we have not thought of.

 

Government Priority

On-time service is what keeps commerce booming. According to Reblin, the USPS’ Priority Mail program is ideal because delivery and returns go hand in hand. People constantly have buyer’s remorse and companies need to get their products into a buyer’s hand right away to avoid a return.

“The USPS is ideally suited for e-commerce because businesses want to save money. Small products need small shipping costs. Additionally, if it’s a small product, it’s easy for the Postal Service to drop it off and fit it in a mailbox, versus getting delivered separately in a freight truck,” he adds.

 

In regards to the flat rate shipping and regional zone boxes, Reblin finds that these are especially important to small business e-commerce. Many companies may be shipping products that only cost eight dollars and a buyer does not want to pay as much or even more for shipping. All SMBs need shipping solutions that save them and the customer money, especially as free shipping options have almost become the norm.

 

More Than a Package

SMBs have a lot of options when it comes to shipping products far and wide. What’s important is recognizing the importance the right shipping partnership can bring. Today’s logistics companies offer a host of Web-based tools and brick-and-mortar locations—for those who need a trip out of the office—to accompany their packaging components. This ranges from traditional tracking solutions all the way to newer ideas such as working close to develop a package that fits your product, like the UPS, or offering collateral to boost business prospects, like the USPS. Quick, fast, reliable service goes beyond placing a box on the truck and watching it ride away to the customer.

 

May2012, Business TechEdge

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