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Shipping automation: how to streamline logistics management

Shipping automationCompanies start with small shipping volumes. In today's world, they grow at a rapid pace going from dozens to thousands of shipments in a couple of years or less. To keep up with an increasing number of tasks, automation is needed.

In this article, we will show you how shipping automation can help you in reaching a competitive advantage and what it can be used for. 

Back to the basics: what is shipping automation?

Shipping automation refers to setting automatic rules to manage and speed up the shipping flow from inventory management to parcel auditing, label generation, and order fulfilment. 

It encompasses the use of software solutions and hardware technologies to optimise and streamline shipping operations. This allows businesses to handle their shipping needs more efficiently, with little to no human intervention and increased accuracy.

For example, if you need to ship all orders weighing less than 15 kg with UPS, you can create a specific automatic rule with which the carrier handles all of the orders with this characteristic. Each rule on destination area, weight and package size is applicable.

The goal of shipping automation is to eliminate repetitive tasks, increase operational efficiency, and help companies scale their logistics easily.

10 uses of shipping automation

Shipping automation is like spices, you can use them everywhere to improve your performance. So here are 10 uses of shipping automation that can simplify your business tasks

  1. Automated shipping label generation
  2. Parcel audit
  3. Update tracking information
  4. Data standardisation
  5. Carrier selection
  6. Address validation
  7. Documents generation and management
  8. Smart picking
  9. Inventory management
  10. Streamlined customer service

1. Shipping label automation

Shipping label generation can be automated no matter where you ship from, to, or with whom. By implementing automated label generation, businesses can streamline their fulfilment processes, leading to quicker dispatch times and improved customer satisfaction.

Generating shipping labels can help businesses scale order fulfilment processes, especially during peak season and Black Friday.

Additionally, automatic label generation can help you standardise label formats no matter the carriers you're shipping with. 

2. Parcel audit

parcel-audit-strategy

Parcel audit plays a key role in ensuring shipping cost accuracy and identifying discrepancies in carrier billing. Businesses can detect overcharges, incorrect service levels, and billing errors by automatically cross-referencing shipment invoices with the original order data.

Regular audits can identify issues like recurring overcharges by specific carriers, discrepancies or common errors. These insights enable businesses to renegotiate contracts or adjust their shipping strategies.

The automation of this process ensures that audits are conducted consistently and accurately, freeing up human resources for more strategic tasks and reducing human errors that could arise from manual auditing.

 

3. Update tracking information

Keep your customers informed at all times with the power of shipping automation. You can set up rules to send tracking information from the carrier to your end customers in just a few clicks. 

You can choose whether to inform your customers at every stage of the delivery journey or just in key moments like order fulfilment, out for delivery, and parcel delivered. You can even choose the communication channels to use like SMS, emails or WhatsApp notifications

4. Data standardisation

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with a multiplayer ecosystem is data standardisation.

By standardising data formats, businesses can ensure seamless communication between different systems, such as order management, warehouse management, and carrier platforms.

This harmonisation reduces the risk of errors caused by incompatible data and facilitates smoother transaction processing. Moreover, standardised data enables better analysis and reporting, providing clearer insights into shipping performance and operational bottlenecks.

5. Carrier selection

Choosing the best carrier for each order can become a time-consuming task, especially when the shipping volume increases to hundreds of parcels per day. 

Automating the carrier selection is a good way to scale the process, and save money. It's possible to set up shipping rules based on parcel weight, dimensions, and destination country. In this way, you'll be able to manage your shipments in bulk and choose the most convenient carrier for every order.  

Additionally, by leveraging data on shipping volumes and preferences, companies can identify the most frequently used carriers and negotiate bulk discounts or improved service terms. This strategic approach reduces shipping costs and ensures a higher level of service reliability. 

6. Address validation

A wrongly formatted address may cost companies money and negatively impact their customer experience.

Automated address validation ensures that shipping addresses are correct and complete before dispatch, significantly reducing the risk of delivery failures and returns. By integrating with global address databases, automated systems can verify and correct addresses in real time, flagging potential issues before they impact delivery.

7. Documents generation and management

Ten years ago, paper and digital documents co-existed. Today, the world's bureaucracy is becoming paperless. In this instance, shipping automation has become a must-have tool to ensure document compliance and timely dispatches. 

Systems can automatically produce invoices, packing lists, customs declarations, and other necessary documents, ensuring they are accurate and compliant with relevant regulations. 

In addition to generation, automated document management systems organise and store documents efficiently, making them easily accessible for future reference or audits. This improves record-keeping and compliance, as all required documents are systematically archived and can be retrieved quickly when needed.

8. Smart picking

Smart picking uses robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to optimise the warehouse picking process.

Automated systems can analyse order data and warehouse layouts to determine the most efficient picking routes, significantly reducing the time and effort required to fulfil orders. Smart picking also enhances accuracy by using barcode scanners, RFID tags, and vision systems to ensure the correct items are selected and packed.

9. Inventory management

Automated inventory management systems provide real-time visibility into stock levels, enabling businesses to avoid stockouts or overstock situations.

These systems use advanced algorithms to forecast demand, track inventory movements, and manage reordering processes, ensuring that stock levels are aligned with customer demand and business needs. Automation also reduces the risk of human error in inventory tracking, providing more accurate and reliable data.

Additionally, automated inventory management systems can integrate with other business systems such as ERP and order management platforms, creating a cohesive ecosystem that enhances overall supply chain efficiency. 

10. Streamlined customer service

When everything goes wrong, and your customers face unexpected issues, it's time to automate customer service. 

The idea is not to use machines instead of human resources to manage your requests but to introduce automation rules that support your team and help them in their daily tasks

For example, you could automate the introductory questions to describe the customer's problem and send articles from your help centre rather than letting an employee do that manually every time. 

Moreover, automated systems can integrate with customer service platforms to provide representatives with instant access to shipping information, enabling them to respond to customer inquiries more efficiently. This reduces the time customers spend waiting for answers and improves their overall experience.

Advantages of shipping automation for companies

Implementing shipping automation solutions can cost quite a lot, especially when you first kick off a new project. Make sure you have a clear view of the objective of shipping automation because it can have many uses and many advantages. 

Let's have a look at some of them. 

Improve customer experience

The level of expertise of users during the purchase experience is steadily improving: customers expect that each brand offers a perfect user experience, execution speed, and clarity in releasing important information.

Automating daunting tasks like updating shipping status and sending shipping notifications to end customers can help you improve your shopping experience. This applies to both B2B and B2C companies. 

Scale recurring tasks

Think about tasks like carrier invoice analysis or label generation. They take up a lot of time and resources and they could be easily automated. 

Automating repetitive or recurring tasks helps companies optimise their resources allocating people and time where they are truly needed. 

This not only saves time but also allows businesses to handle a higher volume of orders without compromising on accuracy or speed. With automation, employees can focus on more strategic tasks that drive business growth, rather than getting bogged down by repetitive shipping tasks.

Reduce error margins and cut costs

By automating shipping tasks, businesses can reduce labour costs and minimise errors that may lead to costly delays or customer dissatisfaction.

Moreover, automation allows businesses to leverage data analytics and reporting tools to gain insights into their shipping processes. By analysing logistics KPIs such as delivery times, shipping costs, and failed deliveries, companies can identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions to optimise their shipping operations.

How can I implement a shipping automation system?

There are several programs designed for automatic shipment management, which aim to make the process as easy as possible for online store managers.

The cloud automated shipping software that we have developed has among its key features an algorithm that lets you manually set up some rules for each shipment, or determine with automated comparison which is the best way to ship your parcels.

Thanks to shipping rules, the carrier selection can be completed in seconds, during which the order data is sent and shipping labels are generated.

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Giulia Castagna

Giulia Castagna is Sr. Content Manager at ShippyPro. She started writing at the age of 4 and hasn't stopped since. She talks about marketing, ecommerce and, on moonlit nights, even logistics.