The Importance of Pack Verification
If you’re a manufacturer, you know that delivering the right product, to the right place, at the right time is an important part of your customer promise. Whether you are shipping to retail partners or directly to end consumers, every incorrect shipment—whether it flat-out contains the wrong products or is simply headed for the wrong place—is destined to make a negative impact on your brand image.
In a competitive market, and especially in the instant-gratification world of eCommerce, customer loyalty is fickle. Consumers with so much choice can jump ship in the blink of an eye. Similarly, if you send too many incorrect shipments to retailers you can quickly sour those valuable partnerships.
The tight delivery timeframes that customers have come to expect require products to be packaged and leave your warehouse rapidly. That keeps the warehouse humming, but speed, paired with outdated, manual processes, can invite human error. And when demand for your products is high, the potential for error is high too.
Fortunately, the right unified commerce technology can help root out errors and improve shipment accuracy. But first, let’s examine why shipment accuracy is such a critical problem for manufacturers to solve in the first place.
The High Cost of Reverse Logistics
An unpleasant fact that frequently makes business news is the devastating cost of returns for retailers. This is a cost measured in hundreds of billions of dollars, and it is thought to be climbing steeply since the start of the pandemic. What is less frequently talked about, however, is the high cost of reverse logistics for manufacturers. Whether you are shipping to retailers or to end customers, having too many returns can affect your bottom line.
With profit margins being as slim as they are, the most cost-effective order fulfillment model is one in which shipments are correct 100% of the time. Ideally, the end customer should get exactly what they asked for with few exceptions. When an incorrect order is returned, either to your retail partner or directly to you, it isn’t just duplicating your effort. It at least triples the shipping cost (perhaps more if a replacement item has to be expedited) and adds exception handling and repacking time.
When retailers are involved, chargeback fees are another unfortunate result of shipment errors. These can whittle away your profit margin or end up costing you. Adding salt to the wound, it also causes inventory inaccuracy. Incorrect data about your stock can lead to shortages or overselling. So, while every manufacturer should craft an efficient reverse logistics process, they should do so in the hopes of using it as little as possible.
One pressing reason to address inaccuracies is to maintain goodwill between your company and retailers, if you have those partnerships. Retailers keep vendor scorecards so they can measure suppliers’ performance and effectiveness and decide who to keep doing business with. You want that to be you, so you don’t want to do anything that will negatively impact your score.
Cutting-Edge Technology Improves Pack & Ship Accuracy
Automating the packing and shipping process doesn’t just reduce the cost of errors, it changes the way employees spend their time and energy. There are AI/ML-driven software solutions that can automate a wide variety of tasks that would otherwise be unnecessarily labor-intensive and prone to human error, such as document insertion or re-entering shipping addresses.
Pack and ship solutions are true human-IT partnerships, helping staff ensure shipment correctness at every stage. TrueCommerce Pack & Ship, for example, has a Pack Verification feature that confirms each package contains the correct quantity and mix of products, right down to specifications like models, colors, or sizes. Visual verification (also called image-guided verification) backs that up by showing the employee images of each product that goes in the box. Barcode scanning matches the order to each packing slip for a further line of defense.
When it comes time to weight packages for shipment, packing software can automatically perform a weight audit, matching the theoretical weight a package should total—if packed with 100% accuracy—against the actual weight. You can configure audio alerts for this or any other stage in the Pack & Ship process to signal employees that something could be wrong, giving them an opportunity to catch the problem before the package is labeled for shipment. Spotting these common errors instantly saves time, money, and significant frustration.
On the “ship” end of the shipping automation equation are features that deliver the most obvious return on your technology investment. A multi-carrier shipping solution can comparison shop for the lowest shipping rates in real time, combined with the best delivery times, and quickly print the resulting labels. TrueCommerce’s Pack & Ship, for example, can survey over 60 carriers and subsequently generate both shipping labels and brand-compliant packing slips. If you have partners like Amazon and Walmart, you know that brand-compliant boxes and slips are a big deal to retailers, and that it can be difficult for warehouse staff to juggle. Shipping automation makes it all quick and easy.
What Pack & Ship Looks Like in Action
Having a solution like Pack & Ship not only saves money by reducing costly, accidental errors, but it can increase employee confidence, making the warehouse a happier and more fulfilling place to be. What’s more, the whole shipping process is simplified in such a way that it is feasible to scale rapidly in times of high demand without a lot of added stress or a need for more staff.
To give an example of what this looks like in practice, Western wear supply company AndWest used to have some very old-school, manual practices in their warehouse—such as handwriting packing slips and retyping addresses to create shipping labels. They felt the need to change their ways when they began working with higher-profile retailers such as Murdoch’s and Boot Barn and demand for their products took off.
AndWest brought their order fulfillment process into the twenty-first century with TrueCommerce’s Pack & Ship integration for QuickBooks Enterprise. In addition to eliminating the need to manually retype orders into their system—an activity ripe for human error—Pack & Ship provided them with pack verification and shipment safety nets, from image-guided and scan verification to street-level address validation. AndWest’s controller, John Kalkanian, feels the technology has transformed their warehouse, allowing staff to focus more time on providing great customer service and less on sweating the small details. “Pack & Ship is so much more efficient. It’s saved me alone 500 hours of work over the last year. For the whole company, it’s saved over 4,000 hours a year—that’s two full-time people per year in savings.”
Discover a Whole New Level of Shipment Accuracy
Adding a multi-carrier shipping solution with pack verification can help you do business in every direction while decreasing costly errors. You will recognize just how wise an investment you’ve made when you use the solution’s built-in analytics. You can generate accuracy scores to check your progress and work toward improving those scores over time. Going beyond the quantitative data, you will likely see a positive qualitative change in your relationships, better vendor scorecards and great reviews from end consumers.
Ready to Take Your Fulfillment Process to the Next Level?
With TrueCommerce Pack & Ship, Your Business Can Fulfill Faster and More Accurately for Happier Customers and Fewer Returns.
About the Author: Josh Wayne is Vice President of Commerce Products at TrueCommerce and a supply chain expert with 17 years of experience developing integrations for shipping & fulfillment, eCommerce, EDI, and more. Today, he oversees Product and Implementation teams for our eCommerce platform, storefront integrations and multi-carrier shipping software. Josh lives in Columbus, OH, and in his spare time he is an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America. When not at work or volunteering, you can find him out on his Harley or in the woods hiking and camping.