Manual Parcel Handling Invites Errors as Global Shipping Expands

Globalization is exposing the need for more discrete, end-to-end supply chain visibility and mastery of global trade management issues.

The increased complexity that comes along with doing business with new trading partners in new regions is driving best-in-class supply chain operations toward the increased use of technology, according to a new white paper from Kewill Inc. titled “Parcel/LTL Best Practices | Industry Survey: 2012.” However many shippers are still relying on manual processes.

The survey upon which this report was based garnered 730 responses from Kewill clients. The goal is to gain insights into the state of the shipping market and the challenges and opportunities these respondents face.

More than 92% of the respondents ship small parcels, but they account for a wide range of parcel volume, with 27% shipping more than 1,000 parcels a day, 34% shipping less than 100, and the balance evenly mapped between those two levels. The white paper notes an increase in regional and niche players in the parcel shipping space. Use of these carriers was up 8% over last year’s survey, Kewill notes.

The analysis also indicates that many respondents’ parcel shipping processes still require some level of manual intervention. 44% manually enter data for all of their shipments, and another 22% must do so for complex shipments such as hazardous or international. In contrast, only11% have 100% hands-free shipping in their DC operations, although the number of shippers operating hands-free increased 3% from the 2011 survey. Manual parcel shipping persists in nearly a quarter of respondents’ DCs.

Most often this manually entered data includes item details, such as description, value, hazardous, international details, and somewhat less frequently, carrier information such as shipment options, billing, signature required or insurance information.

“Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this scenario is that for 36% of respondents, the required data resides in another system within their company, such as an ERP or order management system,” the authors state. “Lack of integration means it’s unavailable to the shipping department.”

The paper cites a Gartner observation that in 2012 “most SCM organizations struggle with functional and application silos that make orchestrating and synchronizing business processes across their organizations nearly impossible.”

The authors conclude that by developing interfaces with applications that store data needed to complete documentation, shippers could enhance the productivity and accuracy of their shipment processes.

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