Parcels on conveyer belt

carrier management system (or CMS) can have major and immediate impact on warehouse and logistics operations – as well as the wider business offering as a whole.

To get the most out of a new system, or even an existing one, we’ve put together some tips, tricks and tests that will help transform delivery ops into your secret weapon. Our ground-breaking CMS playbook can be accessed here; it includes carrier management comparisons, market research and tons of actionable tips on how to easily transform delivery experience.

Straight from the playbook, here are some examples of how carrier management systems can be used to optimise and improve management of a multi-carrier offering; empowering the warehouse to deliver so much more.

These plays summarise some easy to implement changes that can be made with a CMS tech partner, and each section links to the technical documentation that would support an IT team, or operations team, to get stuck in.

Let’s get you growing.

Play one: Deciding how to ship

Routing to the cheapest available carrier service can shave off pence per delivery – for leaner and smarter budgets. Having multiple carriers available means flexibility and control over which traffic goes where.

Allocation is seen as black magic. But you don’t have to be a developer to manage allocation rules.

Automated rules can be configured within the user interface (UI); meaning everything is visual and intuitive, rather than hard-coded – so, no IT resource needed.

Here’s an example of how a modern carrier management solution (CMS) might choose the right carrier for your shipment:

Who can deliver?
First, the CMS compiles a list of all carrier services that could potentially take the consignment (that is, configured and enabled services that ship to the delivery address and could meet the specified delivery promise).

Who meets the allocation rules?
Next, the CMS creates a final shortlist of carrier services by eliminating any services that do not meet your retailer’s own allocation rules (your preferences on carriers able, or unable, to ship certain weights, dimensions or contents, for example).

Who is cheapest?
Finally, the CMS allocates the consignment to the cheapest service on the shortlist.

Key takeaway

Allocation rules and carrier management logistics can be intelligently managed and automated by users within a CMS, with no complex coding or configuration needed.

Play two: Customer promises the warehouse can keep

If you nail this, you’re winning.

A CMS that connects the checkout and the warehouse will mean customer delivery options are based on operational and carrier capabilities – rather than just a static delivery offering, guesswork or, worse, making unrealistic delivery promises.

For example, not all carriers deliver to all postcodes at the weekend, so don’t offer that service to customers. Or bank holiday delivery isn’t offered by many carriers, so don’t offer that service to customers either.

If your web front end knows what’s going on in the warehouse, and with your carriers, there’s more chance of a smooth pick, pack, dispatch, final mile and happy customer.

It’s everyone’s problem if the customer delivery promise isn’t kept – but when warehouse ops are stretched and order cycle time is key, customer experience can feel like ‘someone else’s problem’.

That said, if the web front end and the DC talk to each other, a customer will be given multiple delivery options and the illusion of choice – but all within the tolerance of your ops, real-time.

Key takeaway

Customer delivery offering at checkout should always reflect what the warehouse can operationally fulfil. A CMS can link the web front end and the warehouse to ensure customer promise is kept, every time.

Play three: Manifesting

Not the most exciting thing, and it should stay that way.

Manifesting is the hygiene factor that no-one wants to know about, until it goes wrong. And when it goes wrong, carriers charge, deliveries fail and customer promise isn’t met.

But it shouldn’t go wrong – and it shouldn’t be laborious. And this is a really simple, quick win for a CMS.
Collating, formatting and transmitting consignment data to carriers, in an old school model, is done on a consignment by consignment basis. Intelligent, multi-carrier teams are smarter.

For a modern operation, the process can be engineered so that consignments meeting pre-set conditions can be automatically manifested. And that can be super simple to manage within the CMS UI, so the control is totally with you.

For example, this could be done based on specific business need; such as manifesting eligible consignments to a certain carrier at a certain time, based on carrier collection times from the warehouse.

Key takeaway

Manifesting with a CMS can be as smart, or as simple, as required – and a CMS will ensure control of carrier data transfer sits within retailer ops teams.

Play four: Growth management

As the world changes, it won’t always be the case that one parcel ships to one customer from one brand from one DC by one carrier. Multiple carriers, multiple locations and multi-brand management can be messy.

Maybe the business is acquiring other brands, moving into new warehouses, shipping from store estate or serving new international markets.

Warehouse ops shouldn’t be a blocker to business growth; they should be an enabler, leading seamless roll out of business expansion plans. So that’s where a CMS comes in; supporting a multi-location operation, and seamlessly managing complex shipping.

A CMS with a type of ‘order flex’ flow would enable you to process complex orders into easily shippable segments – meaning a simple way to manage one order that potentially comprises items shipping from different locations, shipping on different dates or requiring multiple carrier services – into easily-shippable portions.

This is particularly useful if:

  • Ship from store is in your roadmap.
  • You ship multiple brands, with allocation rules specifically set for each – in a ‘parent and child’-style shipping scenario.
  • You operate multiple warehouses or fulfilment centres, or run a customer marketplace.
  • You use drop ship vendors.
  • You supply a range of products with large variations in weights and dimensions.

Play five:Delivery experience dashboard

A responsive dashboard and access to delivery experience reporting will make your life easier, and will make your team look awesome.

You can view, create and manage everything from one place, whilst keeping an eye on performance.

Managing insights and reporting from multiple carriers can be your secret weapon, or your downfall. You need one version of the truth.

It’s important to make sure you’re proactively keeping on top of how you’re doing – not just of your own operations, but of your carriers’ too.

A high-performing CMS will put easily digestible, accurate data at your fingertips.

Important things to monitor:

Shipment status
What is processed, dispatched, in transit or delivered? Is there anything in red or amber, meaning you have disruption and delays? Or is everything green and on track?

Delivery window and type
Which were the most requested service types? For example, home delivery or pick up. Which carriers delivered successfully within those windows (such as morning, afternoon or all day)?

Delivery experience
Did your carriers hit or miss the customer promise? Can you break this down by service and window?

Carrier and carrier service
How many shipments were shipped via particular carriers or services?

Shipping costs
What are your costs, drilled down by carrier and destination? How have shipping costs changed over time? Your CMS should be able to provide you with the true cost to ship your goods.

On top of delivery experience performance analysis, having all your management features packed neatly into a user-friendly dashboard should be the aim for your CMS.