What will that order cost to ship? Seems like a simple question but in today's business environment calculating an accurate shipment cost during your sales process can be very difficult. New rule changes like the new dimensional weight pricing changes being rolled out by UPS and FedEx this year, among many other changes, are introducing new data, rules, and fees that all factor into that bottom line shipping price. In years past, shippers could simply know a ship-from address, ship-to address, the weight of a product and get a reasonably accurate price --- those days are long gone.
Better Freight Quotes Part 1: Real-Time Carrier Connections
The first step in getting better freight quotes during your sales process is to switch to real-time quoting, direct connectivity with carriers, and use of your negotiated carrier contracts. Just simply being online in real-time avoids errors such as out of date contract price terms or old fuel surcharge data from immediately costing you money. So the first step is to get online and connected.
Better Freight Quotes Part 2: Get and Manage Better Data
Once your quotes are happening in real-time and using your negotiated carrier contracts, the next step is to make sure the information you use in quoting more accurately reflects the shipment you expect will be processed in fulfillment. Example specifics include easy stuff like what items will be in the shipment, when do you want to ship, what service-level and transit time are desired by the customer. The harder specifics to capture include how many boxes or pallets will be handed off to the carrier for shipping with weight and dimensions, what freight classes will be involved, and perhaps what special services like lift gate or delivery confirmation will be needed.
Better Freight Quotes Part 3: Make It Easy for Sales Channels
While switching to real-time and using better data for freight quotes are relatively straightforward problems to solve, the challenge of providing easy to use, consistent freight quoting across your multi-faceted sales channel can turn out to be the trickiest proposition of all. Your sales reps, account managers, distributors are generally not shipping experts and they don't necessarily know how a set of items will be packaged for shipping. And for e-commerce website quotes, very few B2B or B2C customers will stand still very long to make decisions about shipping options, they just want a number.
So it's key that any freight quoting solution be as "plug and play" and possible, giving better answers but minimizing the knowledge and time required of the sales channel.
Pacejet Freight Quotes: Carrier Network + Easy Access
Pacejet is a cloud-based shipping platform and carrier network, so the tools for freight quoting are already online, real-time, and carrier connected. But beyond those fundamentals, Pacejet provides standard ERP and e-commerce integration to easily retrieve order details directly from systems so Freight Quoting is automatic, error-free, and helps "non-shipping experts" simply see prices, services, and make decisions. Because Pacejet provides your "one central source" of freight quoting and it's backed by a network of carrier connections you can turn on and off, it's far easier to present a uniform, accurate, and managed freight pricing rules across your sales channel.
Pacejet Freight Quotes: Better Data and Smarter Automation
While an obvious benefit of Pacejet ERP and e-commerce integration is not having to key in data to websites or applications to get freight pricing estimates, this technology also means that a richer set of data and rules around your products, customers, expectations, and business rules are available for Pacejet to use in the freight quoting process. A simple example is marking a customer address as residential in your ERP customer file can tell Pacejet to properly add the carrier "residential surcharges" during quotes, helping you avoid expense charge-backs later on. Data in your ERP like product weight, dimensions, class, packing constraints can all be used for "smarter automation" of the freight quoting process --- all leading to more accurate prices with less effort on the part of users.
Pacejet Freight Quotes: Smart Auto Packing
Pacejet provides a special feature called "Smart Auto Packing" developed to help shippers wrestle with recent dimensional pricing changes by large carriers like UPS and FedEx. With Smart Auto Packing turned on for Freight Quotes, Pacejet automatically inspects the products and quantities in your Sales Orders, reads additional data like product weights and dimensions, and calculates an expected packaging of your shipments. While the predicted packaging is almost never 100% accurate (getting to 80% accuracy would be outstanding), it doesn't have to be to have a serious positive impact on your freight quotes. Because missing out on a dimensional weight rule or quoting for a one package shipment instead of two can hit you with a 30%-40% or more pricing difference, this is a great real-world example of the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) making a big difference. If you can improve half of your freight quotes by just 20%, you're likely saving thousands of dollars per week.
Our Consulting Team Can Help
The Pacejet Smart Auto Packing feature does provide a very standard, out of the box configuration that uses a "best fit" packaging algorithm to calculate boxes based on item dimensions. For some shippers, this configuration will work just fine. Other simple examples include situations where most of your items are "packaged on the shelf for shipping" and the data on that can simply be used in the package calculation. But beyond the simple setup, it can be worth your time to discuss your specific packaging needs with the Pacejet consulting team and determine a special "auto packing" plug-in that can be created to meet your specific needs.
Keep It Simple: It's Not About Fulfillment
The biggest mistake we see users make in auto packing solutions is to try to turn the technology into "packaging automation" in order fulfillment when it's really a tool to save money during your sales process. Once you've seen freight quotes automatically incorporating shipment packaging rules without any user intervention, it becomes tempting to try to take the human judgement or data entry out of the pick-pack-ship process. For some businesses it can make great sense to use auto-packing that way but for others, this can lead to immense over-complication of the rules, frustration, and ultimately lead you away from the primary goal in the first place: giving customers better shipping quotes so you win more sales and don't lose your shirt on shipping costs.