How Shippers Can Achieve Peace of Mind Through Shopping Season

Imagine it is Christmas morning. A family is just waking up and starting to open presents. It is time for the teenager to open her big gift—a new laptop. This was just what she needed, and her parents are glad all their research paid off. Immediately, the teenager takes the computer out of the box, plugs it in, and tries to fire it up, only to be greeted with a screen that’s malfunctioning. Disheartened, the family puts the laptop in the pile with other gifts they plan to return later that week. Dozens of other frustrated families are returning their gifted laptops with the same issue due to being part of a damaged shipment.

Logistics professionals grapple with these questions when this scenario plays out:

  • Who is responsible for the damage? Is it the store, storage facility, shipper, or manufacturer?
  • Will this damage hurt the brand’s recognition?
  • Will the store lose a customer?

If a proper monitoring program is not in place, then it is difficult to uncover the root cause or mitigate the effects of the damage in the above situation.

With the biggest shopping season of the year underway, retailers are putting together large purchase and shipping orders from manufacturers. In order to add clarity and reduce damage costs, monitoring programs need to be set up throughout the entire supply chain.

When this occurs, everyone—manufacturers, carriers, retailers, and consumers—benefits. The manufacturer’s brand stays intact. Carriers keep their business year-over-year. Retailers have products to sell. Consumers have products to buy.

Manufacturers, carriers, and retailers can all set up monitoring programs to ensure products get to consumers without damage. If multiple programs are already in place, using the most comprehensive plan ensures products are delivered as safely as possible. Consider these tactics when setting up a monitoring program:

1. Select the Right Monitor. Monitors give the supply chain data that can be reviewed and analyzed, often in real time, to see exactly what caused the damage—temperature, impact, vibrations, etc.—and where the damage occurred—rail, road, sea, storage, etc. Selecting the right monitor will depend on what is being shipped, the weather along the route, and the size of the shipment. Working with a provider that offers multiple types of monitors will ensure the right one is selected for each shipment.

2. Set Standards for Reviewing Data. While monitors can track packages in real time, it is difficult for humans to sit at a screen and review the data 24/7. To counteract this, there are three major ways to review data.

First, set time intervals to review the data and have someone track it throughout the supply chain. Whenever there seems to be activity that could cause damage, notify the proper person in the supply chain.

Second, analyze the data as soon as the package arrives at its next destination. This allows the reviewer to know if something happened before the package came under his or her care.

Third, use a monitor that sets up real-time alerts when packages go over a certain threshold. These thresholds can be customized based on the impact thresholds for each product. These are especially helpful when assessing hidden damage. Additionally, they allow for pin-point precision when finding out when and where the damages occurred.

3. Negotiate Damage Responsibility. What happens when a monitor indicates a product may be damaged? Where does the product go for review? If it is damaged, whose fault is it? These are all questions to answer when setting up a monitoring program. Agreements should be made between manufactures, carriers, and retailers prior to shipment. When these questions are answered, damaged products can go through the proper claims process and the situation can be corrected.

4. Communicate the Plan in Place. Everyone throughout the supply chain should know exactly what the monitoring program looks like. Monitoring, damages, and claims processes should all be in place along with ramifications for not following these processes. Packages should be clearly marked that they are being monitored, as it is proven shipments are handled with better care when people know it is being monitored.

A retailer or manufacturer who has a clear monitoring program in place will have peace of mind going through this holiday season. When everyone in the supply chain knows exactly what is going to happen if products are damaged, then the groups can work better together to ensure products arrive safely and consumers are happy.

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