In the past, shopping managers had one primary task: Get the packages shipped out. Although that’s still a key aspect of their jobs, today’s shipping and logistics managers need to do more than simply get the day’s orders out of the warehouse. Customers want their items quickly, company leadership wants to know how you are controlling costs, and you’re responsible for knowing where everything is at any given moment. Throw in some new safety protocols brought on by a global pandemic, and it’s easy to see that managing logistics means a lot more than just making sure there are plenty of boxes available.
Achieving excellence as a shipping manager today requires balancing the twin goals of increasing efficiency and decreasing costs. With that in mind, there are several things one can do to better reach these goals. Being more strategic in your approach to shipping can quickly become a competitive advantage and a valuable tool in today’s competitive and challenging economic landscape.
Best Practices for Efficient Shipping and Logistics
Technology in the realm of warehousing, shipping, and logistics is constantly evolving, and staying ahead of the curve is vital to an efficient operation. A modern warehouse management system (WMS) that has the ability to collect and analyze data from throughout the warehouse ensures that workflows are streamlined as much as possible and that you have exceptional inventory visibility. For example, the WMS should be fully integrated with inventory RFID tags. Scanning tags during picking automatically updates inventory, both limiting the likelihood of human error and preventing supply chain disruptions.
It’s not just data from inside the warehouse that can be useful for improving operations. Data collected from shipping tools like impact recorders, for example, allows managers to evaluate shipping partner performance using objective information. Technology also allows for more proactive management of shipping disruptions and better define expectations within your own company, your customers, and shipping partners. Learning how to collect data and make use of it to mine business intelligence that can significantly improve operations.
Within the realm of technology, shipping and logistics managers are also well-served to implement as many automated processes as possible. Automating tasks like managing incoming goods, dispatch processes, item retrieval, and packaging can make your operation more efficient and allow you to divert other resources to more complex tasks. Automation technology also helps provide the data that’s so important to maintaining an efficient operation, in addition to lowering costs and reducing errors.
If there is one constant in today’s business environment, it is change. In order to be successful, you need to accept change, not challenge change. Focusing on the future, and constantly improving and innovating to address the challenges ahead will position you well for meeting future challenges. Taking time to reevaluate your approach to shipping and logistics, anticipate challenges ahead, and embrace new technologies, ideas, and operations can mean the difference between moving ahead and being left behind. Be willing to admit when you need a new strategy and don’t fear innovation. That’s not to say you need to change simply for change’s sake, but rather be open to new ideas that can help you reach your goals.
If you were to identify a third priority for shipping management, sustainability is the most likely candidate. Continuously seeking ways to reduce your operation’s carbon footprint and be more sustainable and environmentally responsible in everything from packaging to transportation is not only the right thing to do, but it’s vital to improving customer affinity. Millennials in particular are drawn to those companies that “walk the walk” when it comes to sustainability, and by looking for ways to maintain efficiency while reducing your carbon footprint you can rise above the competition both now and in the future.
Create Physical Efficiency
Finally, effective logistics and shipping leaders create a physical environment that supports efficiency. This includes simple things like arranging the warehouse so the most popular and fastest-moving items are placed closest to the packing and shipping area, establishing standards for organizing workstations, and clearly marking and tracking the locations for all items in the warehouse. Creating a safe and well-functioning environment is the foundation to all other initiatives for warehouse management, so consistently evaluate the workflows and efficiency of the space, and make changes as needed.
With time and experience, you can become a successful, highly functioning manager. When you keep an open mind and an eye toward efficiency, the rest of the pieces will fall into place and your company will remain competitive.