This article originally appeared in the September/October issue of PARCEL.
Many organizations are considering bringing in a new shipping and receiving system to deliver higher accountability, efficiency, and cost control by providing advanced shipping, receiving, and tracking capabilities. Such systems offer a unique advantage — total visibility of all shipping, mailing, and receiving activity and spend across a geographically distributed enterprise, in one place.
One large company we know is looking for a system that:
·delivers greater speed and accuracy, and increased cost control and containment;
·combines shipping and mailing into one sending solution;
·gives individual users the ability to ship and mail from the desktop, yet be managed centrally;
·provides end-to-end parcel and mail piece tracking, for both sending — from the desk to the carrier, through the mail stream, to the recipient — and receiving — from the mail stream to the mail center, to one of dozens of buildings on their campus, to the recipient’s desk.
The benefits of using such a solution start with greater speed and accuracy. In addition, some systems let you view, in one place, all mailing and shipping spend across your global organization’s diverse workforce — whether at home, on the road, at the desktop, or in the mail center. It can also show different carrier rate options next to each other, allowing users to make the best choice with little to no manual data entry. They might see that adding a day to delivery with one carrier could save two-thirds the cost of another.
Systems that show every step a package takes from the minute it leaves the desk to the minute it reaches its destination provide better customer service to a workforce that expects real-time information access.
LOOK AT THE ENTIRE ORGANIZATION
To integrate a new shipping solution into your operations, it’s important to take a user-centric approach to ensure all business areas are addressed, including:
·inside sales, for order entry, including web ordering;
·warehouse staff, for inventory management;
·accounting, for order closeout and billing data;
·customers, for shipping notifications;
·sales and customer support, for tracking and other system data;
·finance and accounting, for carrier data to rectify billing and negotiate with carriers.
·What type of information, usage reports, and other data do you want to get from a new system?
·Who needs to get it?
·What are you going to do with it?
Then work with the vendor to decide how to logically deliver the new system’s capabilities to all users.
ON TO IMPLEMENTATION
At the heart of every advanced sending solution is software that gets integrated into your networking and computing infrastructure. Therefore, be sure to include IT staff in the discussion early on. The first major decision is theirs: to choose whether a new system should be cloud-based or on-premise. On-premise means installed and operated within the data center, while cloud-based systems, also known as software-as-a-service (SaaS), are accessed on the internet and usually securely hosted and maintained by a third-party provider.
Cloud solutions can reduce costs, since there are no servers to maintain and update, and instead of a large upfront cost, you only pay for the use of the application. Cloud also enables faster, lower-cost deployment, and is readily scalable. Nonetheless, IT may prefer to have applications on-premise because they’re linked to customized solutions, or because of perceived concerns around data protection and compliance.
Connecting to your back-end systems is the last step. Back-end systems include: ERPs (such as Oracle and SAP), order entry systems, transportation management systems (TMS), and warehouse management systems (WMS). Integrated with these systems, today’s sending solutions automate data entry and improve decision making.
If you’re implementing a solution that contains custom-built components or workflows, it’s very important that your vendor document your needs in a comprehensive statement of work (SOW). This should list all deliverables and use cases, as well as what’s required from you, and it should be reviewed by your entire team to ensure a smooth and straightforward install. Depending on your project size and needs, the vendor may also provide a project manager during implementation to make sure you’re fully informed and all milestones are met. The goal is to dial up accountability, efficiency, and cost controls — seamlessly.
The last step is training and follow up. Have your vendor provide training either in a “train the trainer” format or user classes. Training is important to fully reap a new system’s benefits. Knowledge shared across the team also provides insurance against business disruption in the event someone is out sick or leaves the company. Finally, ask your vendor for follow up meetings after the install and training are complete to make certain things keep running smoothly.
AARON VIDETTO is Director, Office Shipping Solutions, Pitney Bowes. He has a proven track record of designing, building, and delivering user-friendly, enterprise-class products for mobile and SaaS applications, based on user-centered design, market research, and stakeholder analysis.