Five Proactive Steps to Confront Uncertainty in the Transportation Sector
Were you going to be affected by UPS strike? Trick question!
Even though the crisis was averted this time, if your business relies on the ability to move goods, the answer is: “yes” (regardless of what carriers you currently use).
There are things you can do right now to not only prepare, but to be ready for the next unpredictable situation.
Here are five things that you can do right now to confront carrier uncertainty.
1. Distribute your parcel volume across 2-3 carriers
Be ready if you need the extra choices. While you may have consolidated around a single carrier for the purpose of improving rates, this situation is proof why it makes sense to distribute your parcel volume across 2-3 different carriers. That’s true whether or not your carrier is UPS. Other major carriers (such as FedEx and USPS) will find themselves overwhelmed if the strike materializes. And it would be a mistake assume it’s possible to turn directly to the other major carriers, as even their current customers may need to explore alternatives. There are many regional parcel carriers that will be able to help, but the question is access.
2. Get a new alternative carrier account set up
Be ready to use it, should you need it. If you’ve contacted, and contracted with, one or more of the available regional parcel carriers (or moved some volume to LTL), congratulations, you’re now ahead. But there’s another big question: When automating any aspects of shipping with software, are these alternative carriers in the associated carrier network? Existing carrier integrations – ideally direct API connections – will make it infinitely faster to begin using your new partner, with significantly more reliable connectivity.
3. Avoid carrier silos
You have new carrier accounts created. Your software connects to your carrier partners. All set, right? Maybe. Make sure that you are also set up to access, compare, and transact with all carriers from a single interface. If using different carriers requires different workflows, then any benefit to automating shipping operations with software will quickly evaporate. What’s more, without all carriers connecting via a single interface, it will be impossible to do cross-carrier rate shopping without significant manual intervention.
4. Consider niche carriers that you might not have otherwise tried
Consider “try before you buy” ahead of time to ensure they provide solid customer service. Beyond the “big three” there are several relatively obvious carrier options, but there are also many “hidden gems” you may not have tried. With a network of regional carriers, you could get the same coverage while also substantially mitigating risk. No longer will your entire operation hinge on one carrier being able to meet your end-to-end needs. Just make sure you (or, more accurately, your technology) are in a position to manage this type of network with a high degree of automation.
5. Go multi-modal
Consider freight carriers to move your goods via LTL and truckload modes. While some volumes simply don’t justify use of freight over parcel, the delays and uncertainties around parcel moves in the event of a strike may warrant their use where previously not justified. On the other hand, the more growth you’ve experienced since the last time you negotiated carrier contracts, the more likely it is that it is to your long-term benefit to use freight modes continuously. The trick is to be able to manage your shipments using existing workflows and a single interface whether or not they are going parcel or LTL. That’s a question for your carrier network and software.
Make no mistake: if the strike comes to fruition, everybody is going to feel some increased friction. However, preparing in advance with sustainable solutions means you can spend time negotiating new carrier contracts and working with customers to minimize the impact on their businesses. Because, after all, as their “source of certainty” you need the tools in place to reassure them that they will still receive their shipments, with the fewest delays and cost increases as is possible.
You may be up to the challenge, but is your shipping software? Let’s discuss whether it’s time to upgrade to 3G Transportation and Shipping Management software that takes the uncertainty out of the most volatile situations.