How To Select Shipping Software

Shipping Software – Multi-Carrier Parcel Management Solutions

There are a lot of vendor choices for shipping software – all these systems function – after all, if they didn’t work, the companies offering them wouldn’t have reference clients. However, the critical question is how well these systems meet your specific needs. Yes specific feature functions matter and you will have your own list but here’s a few extra tips to consider on how to find the best system for you.

Examine the Carrier Network

Over the past decade shipping systems have experienced a major change, with the rise of API connectivity, a significantly larger portion of shipping logic now originates from the carrier and not from within the shipping system. Therefor you must scrutinize the vender’s network in detail. IMHO this is one of the most under looked item in vender selection. Understand the origins – how did they create the network -are any third parties involved? Does the network include all the carriers you need. If not, evaluate the cost and time required to integrate additional carriers. Get that in writing prior to signing. Does the system have an API and allow you to add your own carrier? This is important because if a carrier is not connected to your system – then you can’t ship with them.

Integration with ERP

The system should integrate seamlessly with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. It must be user-friendly, and work seamlessly. Look at the system from within your ERP – not just integrated but how well does it tie into your workflow, use your master data, and business rules.

Vendor Specialization in Your Industry

Ensure the vendor has experience in your industry, be it Consumer Goods Packaging, High-Tech, Life Sciences, Agriculture, Retail, or whatever. Get references and talk to them about their project. Review the vendor’s customer list and, if possible, independently contact additional companies. I’ve found talking to non-reference companies as a great source of information. Reference clients often just give you the good and hid the bad details.

Size Compatibility

Choose a vendor who serve clients similar in size to your business. A shipping system suited for a $5 billion enterprise will differ greatly from one designed for a $50 million one.

Integration with Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)

Consider how the system integrates with your Warehouse Management System (WMS). Effective management of shipping includes determining the weight and size of packages, selecting the appropriate box, and deciding the number of items per box or do you use scanners and scales. Talk to references that have the same WMS / Shipping system and learn of their experiences. Side note: Considerations for Smaller Businesses. Many smaller businesses implement a shipping system without a WMS. In such cases, ensure the vendor can handle the processes you need. Also expect longer implementation times/costs.

Rate Negotiation Assistance

Does the vendor assist with negotiating rates with carriers? Evaluate the tools they offer, like data reports, activity reports, on-time performance reports, and their capabilities in RFI/RFP processes. Check if the vendor can support negotiations with new carriers. What about offering discounts like on mail? If you select a vender that is weak in this area (most are) consider using a consulting service – especially when expanding into LTL.

Unique Business Processes

Your processes are unique. Even with a popular ERP and WMS, your workflow and processes are specific to your business. These might include how you manage orders, handle stock-outs and product swaps, determine inventory availability and shipping locations, and more. Ensure the shipping system can adapt to these unique aspects of your business.

Support for Your Process and Flexibility for Change

Make sure the system fully supports your current process. Start with a pilot project and include clauses for adjustments if the implementation doesn’t go as planned. Also, consider how flexible the system is for future changes in your business processes. This is my best question to ask of a reference client – “How did the system and vendor respond to change requests and upgrades? I can assure you that no matter what you are doing now – your going to change that in the future.

Don’t let your shipping system be the tool that holds you back – thus select the best system for now AND the future.

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