For the freight world holiday shipping or for shippers in any peak season (such as those who ship plants for the spring time) it gets chaotic, everyone is trying to clear docs, empty warehouses, and get their books in order. Holidays are always difficult to work around in our industry. We lose valuable transit days with shipments when carriers aren’t moving freight. Add to that, the fact that the winter holidays are occurring during the time of year where the weather is already affecting a large portion of the country. So there are multiple obstacles to overcome this time of year. Holiday shipping time also brings customers that ship primarily for this season. They are shipping products specifically geared towards the holidays, so their shipment counts increase exponentially. The closer it gets to the actual holidays themselves, the more urgent a customer’s needs become to ship the product out so it leaves their location in enough time to get to the destination with the missing transit days accounted for. We wanted to bring you some quick strategies and tips that can help your holiday shipping woes or at any time of the year where you experience an increase in shipping volumes.
Holiday shipping prices for 2015 are pretty similar to what they were last year, only a bit lower thanks to an ease in capacity. The truckload market spiked last year about this time and the prices have gone down some. This isn’t necessarily surprising, so let’s focus on the areas of the country where you CAN look to save some money. Holiday shipping prices going INTO California and heading west are looking good. As the shipping gears begin to grind, the retail industry is filling up trucks moving out of California to the rest of the country. Though rates coming out of California are high, you can get a deal if you’re moving freight back west. It’s important at this time to gather quotes and execute with trusted partners.
Another good place to save money on your holiday shipping prices? The east. With all the retail coming out of the west, freight rates in the east are going to be a bit lower due to supply and demand forces at play. However, plan a bit more time as the weather delays that could hit your freight as winter buckles down. Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to holiday shipping for 2014 is the Christmas tree monster. If you’re shipping in Oregon, Washington, or the Carolinas then lanes are at capacity. Why? They’re full up with giant Christmas trees. Consider this if you are shipping into these areas.
The mantra for all transportation professionals is simple and holds true no matter the holidays or peak seasons: reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction levels. However, market forces such as fuel costs and decreased capacity work to undermine these goals. But that doesn’t have to be so this busy holiday shipping season. Core carrier programs and carrier negotiations that once played a fundamental role in shippers’ cost reduction strategies no longer are sufficient. Transportation professionals have begun to realize that negotiating lower rates with carriers is only a first step in an effective transportation management optimization program. To be successful at finding ways to reduce costs while maintaining customer service levels, shippers must utilize creative initiatives that will produce savings and allow them to remain competitive. The best practices presented below represent strategies to optimize freight and in turn, achieve cost savings without reducing service levels to customers. The primary best practices are (read an extended version with graphical explanation here):
Sound shipper-carrier relationships establish an understanding of what both parties want to achieve. Knowing how to effectively work with your carriers, and realizing the impact of what each of you wishes to achieve, will help deliver tangible and sustainable results for the long-term and in the case of any peak season, works wonders to make sure you have confidence carriers are working with you in your times of most need. However, if you are a shipper who does not have the time and resources to build those relationships, your 3PL can do this on your behalf through a carrier relations management program. Further, besides developing great relationships with your carriers and 3PL partner, you can also communicate your holiday shipping plans and peak season shipping, such as during the holidays, ahead of time. Then a plan using creative forms of shipping or setting the right expectations of deadlines can happen and allow you to have get things going way ahead of time.
On the inbound shipping side, you work with suppliers and vendors. On the outbound shipping side, you are working with your customers. Like with carriers and your 3PL having a solid relationship with these players in your shipping supply chain during the holidays can really pay off. You can place orders ahead of time with suppliers or let them know what your expected needs are going to be so you can arrange shipping way ahead of time. This applies to customers as well. Ask them if they expect an increased volume of orders they need to arrange transportation for. This is an easy tip, but it goes a long way. You don’t have to wait and have a surprise order come through if you reach out and ask way before hand. Further, the more you collaborate with suppliers and customers, the more benefits your realize for continuous improvement such as solving process errors or talking about how the working relationship is going.
With as many software programs and web-based systems that are out there today, relying on technology to help you process, access documents, and streamline decision making will save you hours upon hours over the long term. If you are already not using a Transportation Management System (TMS) to process shipments and get great analytics from, you should look into the full benefits of a TMS to see how it could help you not just in the holiday shipping season or peak season, but all the time.
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