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Multi-Carrier Shipping Software: Streamlining Logistics Operations

The logistics industry has faced many challenges, from increased demand to ever-changing regulations and money-wasting inefficiencies. And while there isn’t a once-size-fits-all solution to the age-old difficulties, multi-carrier shipping software (otherwise dubbed MCSS) makes them preventable.

By harnessing the power of these AI-backed platforms, industry participants can benefit from boosted communication, improved overall efficiency, mitigated risks, real-time data insights, and more, ultimately giving them the leg-up they need to thrive in such a competitive field.

Traversing multi-carrier shipping software’s intricacies sheds light on this must-have addition to any logistics company or shipping business.

Understanding Multi-Carrier Shipping Software

As the name suggests, multi-carrier shipping software lets logistics companies load and manage numerous carriers in one easy-to-use platform. It centralizes all shipping processes, regardless of whether businesses deal with package delivery, postal or parcel shipping, less than truckload, national, or regional carriers, truckload, domestic, international shipments, or most of the above.

The tech boom has given rise to MCSS, which automates most related processes, such as rate-shopping, label-printing, zone-skipping, business rules, reporting, freight rate calculations, routing, pre-manifesting customer needs, and so much more. It’s the hub for all companies’ shipping operations.

Diving Into Features and Functionalities

While specific offerings depend on the specific multi-carrier shipping software, all platforms contain variations of the following features:

  • Shipping process automation — This is the primary function. Shipping profiles, rules, and pre-set package types allow businesses to automate the otherwise arduous shipping process and reduce human error.
  • Rate shopping — The software allows users to compare shipping rates from various carriers side by side. This is particularly beneficial for businesses looking to reduce costs while guaranteeing timely delivery. Alternatively, the platform can compare carriers automatically, instantly selecting the most cost-effective carrier.
  • Label generation — The label and document will be generated (and sometimes printed) automatically, guaranteeing consistency and accuracy. 
  • Real-time visibility — Multi-carrier shipping software offers real-time visibility and tracking of all shipments. Companies and their customers can track package progress with ease. Plus, businesses get a complete shipment history in one place.
  • Analytics and reporting — Robust reporting and analytics are must-haves for compliance and making value-adding decisions. MCSS has both in spades. 

Addressing Common Logistics Challenges

The above-discussed functions and features can prevent and solve a few common challenges in the logistics industry that plague both small and large businesses, such as:

  • Tracking and visibility woes — Optimal tracking is crucial yet difficult to attain, especially as consumer demands keep rising. However, multi-carrier shipping software gives businesses many visibility and tracking options to enhance transparency and increase their reputation.
  • Incorrect customs forms and duties declarations — Customs forms for international shipping can be complex, changing drastically from country to country. By adopting a fully automated multi-carrier shipping system, companies can avoid this headache-inducing task and never fail to produce the correct forms or documents. The software does the hard work for them.
  • Regulation changes — The logistics and supply chain industry undergo unpredictable regulation adaptations, causing compliance problems and increased costs for providers. Businesses can stay ahead by taking a technological approach to compliance with multi-carrier shipping platforms and making proactive decisions based on future predictions.

Benefits of Multi-Carrier Shipping Software

The competitive advantages of multi-carrier shipping platforms are innumerable. However, the most commonly noted benefits are detailed below:

Improved Operational Efficiency

Nothing screams “improved efficiency” like automation and reliability — the two significant elements multi-carrier shipping platforms provide! Whether directly comparing prices across ten carriers, transitioning to regional carriers for their dependable delivery promises, or letting software generate shipment labels, MCSS can do it all for maximum operational effectiveness.

Moreover, humans won’t have to waste time on boredom-creating tasks, increasing their motivation to work more efficiently and productively elsewhere. It’s a win-win for companies’ bottom and front lines. 

Enhanced Visibility and Tracking

Knowing exactly where shipments are is vital for the customer and businesses. Keeping a close eye on orders’ whereabouts lets professionals avoid delays and customer dissatisfaction.

With multi-carrier shipping technology, companies can abolish disparate systems and fragmented integration, turning toward a cohesive, all-in-one-place system to obtain boosted visibility and tracking. Precise locations increase the likelihood of picking up on delayed days before it’s too late.

Real-Time Data Insights

Real-time data and the benefits above go hand-in-hand.

Thanks to artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, logistics companies can process and analyze real-time data in previously impossible ways. By leveraging the advanced technology inside multi-carrier shipping platforms, providers obtain real-time visibility and an instant competitive advantage. They can optimize routes, make informed decisions, predict demand, and manage fleets.

Reduced Delivery Costs

One of the main draws of transitioning to an MCSS is the carrier cost reduction. As mentioned earlier, the software automatically compares shipping rates from multiple carriers, selecting the best on the market and saving companies significant amounts of cash. Various businesses note that switching to multi-carrier shipping software saved them 35% on shipping expenses compared to carrier-supplied platforms.

It isn’t just about the direct cost savings, however. The software reduces employees’ time on mundane tasks and increases the time spent on creative, value-adding duties, ultimately raising and saving profits for the entire business.

Streamlined Communication and Collaboration

Collaboration is essential for logistics companies, but with a centralized place for communication, everything becomes more transparent. Thankfully, multi-carrier shipping software provides a blended environment for businesses to streamline collaboration with internal employees and external partners (carriers included). 

Everyone can access the information they need regardless of the location of individuals or departments. It will be the most updated version as MCSS changes in real-time.

Mitigated Risks

Companies that rely on a single carrier are more at risk than those who deal with multiple carriers. Why? It’s similar to investors; if they put all their money into one asset class, they play a riskier game than those who diversify. Should one asset class fall, they have plenty of others to bolster them. Likewise, if one shipping company goes awry, they have others to turn to.

Even though businesses that work with significant, well-known carriers may feel safe sticking with only one preferred carrier, anything can happen. It’s best to mitigate risks with a backup plan (and one fool-proof software solution to coordinate everything flawlessly).

Multi-Carrier Shipping Software Implementation Strategies

Implementing multi-carrier shipping software takes time and many change management principles. People naturally resist change, necessitating a careful yet forthright approach to adapting working methods.

The following details practical steps for integrating MCSS and ensuring a smooth transition.

The Process for Integrating Multi-Carrier Shipping Software

  1. Invest in your preferred multi-carrier shipping software (use the tips in the following few sections to help).
  2. Once installed, set criteria for carrier selection. These shipping rules should consider factors like delivery speed, cost, and reliability.
  3. Enable other automations as per the software’s help resources.
  4. Provide training so all staff members can easily use the new system.
  5. Use the platform’s real-time data to monitor effectiveness and closely change shipping rules.

Best Practices for a Smooth Transition

There are always hurdles when transitioning to a new system. However, companies have the power to reduce (and sometimes eliminate) said hurdles by:

  • Utilizing the software’s dedicated support teams to help users before, during, and after the transition.
  • Setting up feedback sessions to deal with employee concerns and pain points.
  • Holding a live demonstration session before fully transitioning. 
  • Tell employees about the change early and communicate progress regularly.
  • Ensuring address books, ERP systems, accounts, carriers, price lists, and other aspects integrate before switching.

Choosing the Right Multi-Carrier Shipping Software

Even the best implementation strategies will be successful only if companies choose a multi-carrier shipping system that meets all their needs.

Since businesses are different, the answer will be different for every owner or manager, so they should begin by actually defining their needs. Needs include the number of shipments, specific carriers used, shipping destinations, location of distribution centers, and the types of products included. By doing this, professionals can quickly weed out the software that doesn’t fulfill this simple requirements list.

After defining specific shipping needs, companies should consider the following seven factors to guarantee that the multi-carrier shipping system is right for them.

#1 Cost-Effectiveness vs ROI

Granted, the upfront cost of multi-carrier shipping software is a vital consideration. However, it’s just as essential to assess the overall cost of ownership beyond shipping costs, which includes training, implementation, and ongoing maintenance.

Looking beyond the affordable price tag and thinking about the long-term returns helps businesses achieve the operational efficiencies more flexibility and cost savings they’re hoping for.

Most things in life abide by the “you get what you pay for” adage — and multi-carrier shipping software is no different. Companies must prepare to pay a relatively higher price for a solution that streamlines and future-proofs their operations. 

#2 Scalability

Supply chains are never static, regardless of what happens in the world. They twist. They turn. They contract. They expand. They’re constantly evolving, so the multi-carrier shipping software you choose must be able to handle these fluctuations. In other words, it needs to be scalable.

A solution barely covering a company’s shipping volume will only lead to bottlenecks when the brand expands. Any MCSS worth purchasing must seamlessly cope with boosted order volumes, new market opportunities, and extra fulfillment locations.

#3 User-Friendliness

Sometimes, steep learning curves are necessary, but that should be different with a multi-carrier shipping system. User-friendliness is the ticket to successful implementation in an organization as it flattens the learning curve and ensures all team members can leverage the technology as quickly as possible.

While the specific inclusions that make an MCSS user-friendly differ from platform to platform, they generally include (but aren’t limited to):

  • intuitive navigation
  • seamless device configuration
  • streamlined deployment
  • direct communication with other systems

Not only does this minimize training needs, but it also reduces workstation burdens for maximum efficiency.

#4 Customization

Just like every human being, every company is different. As such, they all have unique shipping needs and branding specifications. Therefore, organizations need to look for multi-carrier shipping software that lets them customize shipping labels to maintain brand cohesion. With changeable labels, businesses can keep a consistent look and feel across every shipment, working to enhance recognition and customer experience without harming compliance.

Of course, shippers must be aware of the differences between mapping label data and genuine customizations. Some need help understanding the fundamental difference, which doesn’t bode well for compliance. That said, the right MCSS can solve this all-too-common problem.

#5 Network

The size of the shipping software’s carrier network will directly impact users’ flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Companies should look for a platform with varied carriers and service options to guarantee they fulfill every need. A few of the most sought-after carriers include:

  • DHL
  • FedEx
  • TNT
  • UPS
  • USPS
  • APC Logistics
  • Canada Post
  • DoorDash
  • GLS

A diverse carrier network will allow businesses to compare carrier rates and save money by selecting the cheapest and most efficient option for every order or ensure the best one is automatically selected, depending on the platform and preferred carrier’s abilities.

#6 Customer Support

It’s easy to forget about the importance of customer support until something goes wrong. However, it’s always wise to consider the quality of the service before buying into an MCSS. Why? Because then companies have a reliable team to turn to during their hour of need, getting them back up and running in no time. There’s nothing worse than unreachable support staff when time is of the essence.

Platforms should also have various training resources for companies’ teams to understand the features and functions. 

#7 Automation Capabilities

In this fast-moving, digitally focused world, automation is the all-star player. It’s the ticket to simplifying and streamlining shipping processes. Businesses should look for multi-carrier, multi-carrier shipping solutions and software that automates:

  • printing labels
  • printing packing slips
  • sending shipping notifications to partners and customers
  • choosing the optimal carrier for every shipment
  • determining transport prices
  • updating tracking information

Although, the above only scratches the surface. Shipping processes are convoluted, involving manual processes and many moving parts. Thus, the best software offers comprehensive automation capabilities beyond the abovementioned options.

Security and Compliance Considerations

No industry is exempt from security and compliance measures, but logistics is arguably one of the most stringent. Whether it’s domestic shipping laws, cybersecurity legislation, or international customs rules, the regulations often need to be more straightforward to keep up with. So, why not let MCSS handle it?

Complying with Industry Standards and Regulations

Carriers are constantly updating their requirements to align with regulation changes, and missing these alterations can have expensive consequences. 

But MCSS demystifies this otherwise confusing (and time-consuming) process, acting as a real-time truth source and notifying shippers’ systems as carrier regulations adapt. Most systems also automate label creation to reduce the likelihood of mismatched formats and devastating typos from incurring penalties.

Naturally, compliance is an even more complex procedure for international shipments. Yet, MCSS helps calm the chaos by integrating all country-specific regulations via business rules. 

Guaranteeing Data Security

Data security isn’t negotiable; retaining positive reputations and avoiding breaches that cost thousands of dollars (if not more) to rectify is mandatory. Luckily, the best multi-carrier shipping software has measures to guarantee they adhere to industry-standard security protocols and meet various regulatory requirements, like SOC 2. 

Statistics on Multi-Carrier Shipping Software Use

The worldwide multi-carrier shipping software market is expected to rise considerably quickly from 2023 to 2030, paving the way for an automated future. But even with today’s figures, these platforms create an exceptional difference, significantly raising operational efficiency.

For instance, it’s well-documented that companies using the platforms save up to 20% on shipping costs while regaining time to focus on other aspects of the business.

Costs aren’t everything, however. Businesses can save time and triple their shipping efficiencies with the right MCSS, extensively increasing capacity and reducing costs.

The logistics world has a lot to look out for in 2024. From the continued fight to reduce carbon emissions to the increasing adoption of cloud-based tech solutions, like multi-carrier shipping software, companies must be able to adapt to remain relevant. 

Usage of MCSS is expected to peak this coming year as businesses laud services that permit extensive suite customizations.

Emerging Tech and Innovations

It isn’t just trends to be excited about. The sector is expected to welcome emerging technologies and innovations as the calendar keeps flipping in an increasingly dystopian future.

Hybrid Fleet Management Systems

Demand is one of the biggest logistics industry challenges associated with last-mile delivery. Busy days often cause considerable delays due to the need for more drivers. And on the other hand, there are some days in which drivers are on the clock, but there are no deliveries to be made. 

That’s where hybrid fleets come into play. 

Such models combine companies’ fleets with third parties (e.g., other trucking companies, independent contractors, or freelancers) for increased flexibility and reinforcement. Businesses can reduce transit time and still maintain smaller fleets having the resources available to meet high demands during busy seasons.

However, at-scale collaboration demands technology to ensure it runs smoothly. Hybrid fleet management systems do just that. Many experts predict the future will see these platforms dominate the market, thanks to their abilities to coordinate native fleets and third-party providers.

Advanced Tracking Technologies

The need for more transparency and traceability of orders is a primary concern for the modern customer. While they’re notified when their order leaves the hub, they typically need to know how long it’ll take to reach them, almost nullifying the original notification. 

Emerging tracking technologies hold the key to abolishing inappropriately long delivery windows. Today, the “norm” involves telling the customer when a delivery is coming and offering a rough time slot. However, RFID and GPS tracking technologies are set to break into the market, giving consumers the power to track their packages in real-time. The future is undoubtedly transparent. 

Robot Deliveries

Serious tech fans consider the possibility of robot deliveries to be the most exciting industry innovation. And even though it sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, it may be the reality in a few years. 

In fact, Amazon, Google, and UPS are already conducting trials of robotic deliveries, noting that self-directed vehicles could make up a massive 80% of last-mile deliveries in the next quinquennium. 

Naturally, some issues with this possibility require placating before such vehicles become commonplace, but it’s more on the cards than ever before.

Multi-Carrier Shipping Software Implementation Success Stories

Thousands of companies have succeeded with multi-carrier shipping software, but one of the most notable is Kuehne + Nagel. Founded in 1890, the company has become the globe’s leading logistics provider, boasting more than 63,000 employees and over 20 facilities in the US alone.

After an acquisition, the enterprise needed to replace its now obsolete shipping system. Thus, they turned to a highly flexible multi-carrier shipping software, giving them some unique advantages — offering customized shipping solutions is perhaps the most admirable, with more than 500 customers worldwide requiring a slightly different experience.

Joining Kuehne + Nagel is ALOM Global Supply Chain Management, who implemented a multi-carrier shipping software to reduce processing and response times. After integration, the company:

  • Tripled their productivity to 1.25 million packages in the first six months.
  • Increased their maximum number of packages shipped daily to 30,000 from 7,000.
  • Boosted their average per-day shipments to 9,000.
  • Reduced shipping time from around 20 seconds to three seconds.

The Bottom Line on Multi-Carrier Shipping Software

Improved communication, boosted efficiency, enhanced visibility, and real-time data insights await businesses implementing multi-carrier shipping software. With so many unique options available, professionals must consider scalability, cost-effectiveness, compatibility, automation capabilities, network size, and customer support to ensure they choose their perfect platform and unlock the profit-increasing benefits. 

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