As companies seek to serve broader populations, they face a unique challenge. At some point, it becomes near impossible to serve a growing fanbase with the same team and order fulfillment technology. If you don’t bring in new help or identify a better business model, then you’ll quickly find yourself overwhelmed.
Shipping automation technology is making the dream of seamless fulfillment a reality for enterprises that may not have the resources needed to expand their logistical footprints. Here’s a quick overview of how it works and four clever ways to enhance its benefits.
Shipping Automation Basics
Shipping automation comes in many forms, but in general, it uses smart data systems to take the legwork out of commonplace ordering and supply-chain practices. By connecting existing business systems to reduce manual labor, it results in a more streamlined fulfillment process.
There are various ways to use automation to build an improved shipping strategy. For instance, a retailer might implement a sales system that automatically generates correct mailing labels and schedules carrier pickups based on a customer’s destination or the contents of their order.
Smart systems take such strategies a step even further by remembering prior order weights and characteristics to make life easier the next time someone completes a similar purchase. They can also facilitate returns and the last-mile tracking features that modern digital consumers crave. Because the software is more aware of order fulfillment lifecycles, it can send customers tracking emails, appropriate claim resolution instructions and other data that promotes consumer loyalty.
One of the most significant potential advantages of freight automation lies in its power to control costs. These systems not only reduce the amount of manual labor that goes into shipping but also make it easier to track spending and identify more economical strategies.
Making Automation Work Even Better
Automating your logistics workflows is a smart idea with a lot in its favor, but there’s always room for improvement. Factors like the way you use your shipping software and integrate it with other tools play critical roles in determining how much value you glean from intelligent shipping. Here are four tactics that might help you enhance your freight automation ROI:
1. Start Using Branded Shipping
Retail analysts have long stood behind the idea that product packaging matters. In addition to setting you apart from the competition, it makes your company easier to remember and helps influence future consumer purchase decisions.
Although you might not be likely to stop paying for advertising anytime soon, mixing branded packaging with shipping automation can help you capitalize on a largely untapped advertising funnel. Your packages can serve as mobile signboards that put your company’s name in front of countless individuals and imbue your brand with enhanced authority. Even better, you don’t have to vie with others for the ad space, making it the perfect medium for personalized marketing content that furthers your consumer relationship management efforts.
2. Steer Clear of Dimensional Weight Surcharges
Dimensional weight shipping rate calculations let companies like FedEx and UPS account for the size of a package as well as its mass when determining how much it will cost to send. This common practice makes it imperative that companies use smarter strategies to reduce not only shipping weights but also container volumes.
Fortunately, connected shipping tools already have most of the necessary functionality baked in. For instance, you can program your system to combine items to reduce the number of parcels you send. Or you might collect practical data on multiple packaging schemes to discover which options result in the lowest overall rates. If you connect your sales and inventory systems to your shipping applications, then you’ll probably find that you have all of the raw data you need to get started, such as specific item sizes, weights, and safe-handling requirements.
3. Cut Down on Labor Costs
Automating your shipping routine makes it far easier to leverage today’s futuristic warehousing technology. For instance, automated guided vehicles and stock-picking robots can receive commands from your ordering system to automatically know when they need to fetch stored items for packaging. This concept also applies to stock intake, where supplier management tools can notify guided vehicles of new freight arrivals that require sorting and proper storage.
It’s worth noting that these kinds of integrated automation also promote superior organization practices in warehouses and similar facilities. For instance, if your shelving system operates under a uniform application framework that tracks the position of every asset, then it becomes much easier to avoid retrieval confusion and eliminate losses. It’s also a lot more straightforward to trace logistical trips and identify the ideal storage locations for different item categories.
4. Comply With Customs and Regulations
As customs, tariff and import/export laws change, companies are increasingly being forced to step outside of their comfort zones. For instance, you might find it necessary to bring compliance consultants onboard to serve customers in some geographic regions or modify the way you label, package and send specific kinds of products.
Rethink your automation strategy to make compliance easier. Whether this entails reprogramming your shipping software to add hazardous contents labels to packages, print ship-by dates on boxes or create customs declarations without needing human intervention, the benefits are hard to refute. In addition to reducing your workload, you’ll lower the risks of getting caught on the wrong side of costly regulatory actions.
Could You Be Doing More With Shipping Automation Technology?
Automating the fundamental processes that let you ship goods to your clients and partners around the world can help you realize enhanced returns and build a more robust business model. From automatically sending your customers tracking information notifications and promoting your branding to reducing errors by emailing order specifics directly to carriers, automation stands to make logistics far more rewarding. No matter whether you’re an established player in your field or a startup, moving towards a more informed shipping strategy is an intelligent way to ensure your success.