June 2008 | How-To | Ten Tips

Managing Expedited Shipments

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There are two kinds of expedited shipments: critical and time-sensitive. Knowing the difference between the two and understanding your customers' supply chains can help you make decisions that translate into cost-effective expedited shipment strategies. Here's some advice from Greg Humes, president of Detroit-based third-party logistics provider NLM.

1. Hire the right people. Employing a staff experienced in logistics management ensures that you can proficiently assess shipments to determine the most economical transportation mode. Your logistics team must be able to effortlessly evaluate a shipment and convert it to the most cost-effective - but expeditious - mode.

2. Let technology work for you. Leveraging the right technology to manage shipments and link your customers allows you to easily access and implement best practices. Your technology platform should also offer your customers ease of use and configurable options. Harnessing a single control point will help you drive quality assurance and streamline your customers' entire supply chain management processes.

3. Ensure visibility. Do your customers have true door-to-door visibility of every shipment? To successfully manage expedited shipments it is imperative that your system link shippers, suppliers, and carriers. Whether through the Web or some other platform, customers need to see where their freight is every step of the way.

4. Operate 24/7/365. Expedited shipments are often unpredictable, and they certainly don't keep bankers' hours. To provide customers with the level of visibility an expedited shipment requires, have a logistics specialist available at all times to identify and resolve any potential problems that may arise.

5. Know your customers' supply chain. Not all expedited shipments are critical shipments. Understanding your customers' supply chain enables you to provide flexible solutions. Is the freight truly time-critical or is it just time-sensitive? With a little more time for delivery, you can save customers a lot of money.

6. Use only the best carriers, not the cheapest. Lowest cost often does not translate to highest value. Use a quality of service/cost mix to choose your providers and reevaluate them often.

7. Build a comprehensive coverage network.Many expedited shipments originate outside common carrier lanes. When you get a call from a customer at 2 a.m. for a shipment originating in Smallest Town, U.S.A., be sure you have a plan of action to support that region.

8. Provide key data. Timely and accurate information is integral for long-term success with expedited customers. Arming them with the key details of all their shipment activity provides the opportunity for supply chain improvement.

9. Be creative. Routinely review the shipment data you collect in an effort to identify emerging trends. Keep your eyes open and develop solutions before your customers even realize they have a need.

10. Maintain protect times. This is an obvious tip, but an expedited shipment manager should never lose sight of how important it is. Deliver on time, every time. For those situations when it is genuinely impossible, make sure customers are informed well before the delivery time draws near and provide them with an alternative solution.

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