You take care of your warehouse. You maintain your TMS. You make certain your staff is taken care of. And yet, you may be destroying your most valuable transportation asset; namely your shipping data.

Let’s think about this logically for a moment. Cost savings are derived from formulating and executing on specific, actionable strategies. Development of successful strategies requires creative thinking, but it also requires an understanding of the possible implications of strategic changes. In the logistics and supply chain space this requires analysis. Reliable analysis, by definition requires robust, valid data. We have all heard the cliché garbage in – garbage out, and nowhere is that more true than in parcel analysis.

Many shippers report that they use TMS/WMS data for their analytics. While TMS/WMS data is better than using raw assumptions, there are some inherent problems with this data. The biggest drawback, and it’s a big one, is that TMS/WMS data does not capture post-manifest adjustments. This means that items like residential/commercial adjustments, DIM weighting, additional handling surcharges, large package surcharges, et al will be missed. Take a look at one of your recent carrier invoices. If you are like most shippers you’ll be surprised by how much of a role these items play in your total parcel costs.

Much preferable to WMS/TMS data is actual carrier invoice files. These files can come in many forms. UPS can provide the data in delimited text files. The current format is known as the “Billing Data File”, but there are other legacy file formats as well. FedEx typically transmits their invoicing data only in EDI format. Both carriers can provide reporting on shipment details, surcharges, etc. Whatever the format, carrier invoice data is preferable to TMS/WMS data as it includes all factors that affect your actual cost. Therefore, if properly parsed and analyzed, carrier data can provide you with all of the information necessary to analyze various scenarios and options in the strategic planning process.

Based on our experience in the field very few shippers capture their shipping data. Of the few that do, very few have a policy in place for warehousing and protecting their data. Without such a policy you run the risk of corrupting, or worse yet losing your most valuable planning tool. Here’s the short version of what you need to know:

• If using EDI source data, assign a resource in your organization to parse and archive your EDI feed monthly.
• If using text (csv) source data, assign a resource to archive your data each week.
• Assign file names such that the time frame and carrier name are clearly referencable. This will make finding the necessary files much quicker and easier. Whether you are going to be performing analyses yourself, or you plan to outsource the analysis, having data on hand, complete and uncorrupted, will shorten the time required for any analysis.
• Store your data on a protected network drive. You can allow your transportation staff access to the drive for copying purposes (i.e. they can save a copy to a local drive), but do not allow access to delete files or to modify files that reside in the networked directory.
• Do not open the original CSV files and save them using Excel. Excel (and other spreadsheet solutions) tends to format the data and change the values. Tracking numbers or zip codes can be treated as numbers and rounded or truncated.
• Protect your data. Be very careful what data you allow to leave your organization. Remember that your parcel data contains information your customers, vendors, etc. may not want distributed to outside parties. Remember also, that much of your data is likely considered confidential based on your carrier pricing agreements and/or non-disclosure agreements. 

Be sure that you understand what you’re releasing and the possible ramifications before allowing any third parties access to your data.