The logistics sector is all about speed. In an era of unprecedented supply chain volatility, customers still expect deliveries to arrive with quasi-magical swiftness.
We’re all looking for ways to go faster.
Check out the marketing material of any company selling logistics solutions. Ours is a sector in love with pictures of trucks traveling at warp speed, of glowing maps that suggest a world filled with technologically-mediated shortcuts. Even freight managers’ clipboards are ergonomically designed to minimize wind resistance.
If supply chain management in 2023 were a superhero, he’d wear wingèd steel-toe boots. But here’s a boring truth the marketers are less fond of talking about. Sometimes — a lot of the time, truthfully — the secret to going faster is just to avoid making silly mistakes.
Strap in for a mildly interesting ride (during which all road rules will be dutifully observed) because in this blog, we’re going to talk about velocity’s less flamboyant, pocket-protector-touting, looser-trouser-wearing cousin…
Efficiency (Not exactly a warp-speed truck, but still pretty cool.)
Wow, you’re still here? OK, so we’ll keep this short, sweet, and ridiculously practical.
There are five simple, easy things you can do to avoid delays and double work as you manage your supply chain. If you want a handy one-pager to stick on your fridge, microwave, or an obliging colleague, here it is.
1. First, get the quote basics right
When filling out a form (especially one you have to complete over and over and over again), most people hit their details tolerance pretty quickly and begin to skim. You can’t really skim over any of the details when preparing a shipment quote. Every detail is crucial. Make sure your originated destination zip codes are accurate. Be sure the piece count and how it’s packaged is clearly specified. Take the time to describe the freight as accurately as you can.
Even the most basic paperwork SNAFU can derail a shipment and force a small army of freight decision-makers to jam their foot on the brakes and circle back to the beginning.
Get the quote basics right.
2. Understand freight classification — like, really understand it
If coding were a person, they’d wear spit-shined boots, have a buzz cut, and never smile. The coding you apply to classify your freight might seem a bit arbitrary, and for this reason a lot of novice shippers tend to assume near enough will be good enough. It won’t. Make no mistake, the freight classification system is exacting and unyielding. Best case, an incorrectly classified shipment will just cost you more. Worst case, the shipment will come to a screeching halt as the carrier reclasses your freight — and then it’ll cost you more.
The easiest way to classify your freight correctly is to have a trusted supply chain consultant manage your transportation services. You also need to be familiar with the NMFC codes and how they work.
Got any room left on that fridge, microwave or colleague?
Here’s a two-pager with a useful high-level overview.
3. Know how fast is fast enough
There’s this inherent opportunity cost to approaching your supply chain with the mindset that everything must ship as quickly as possible.
Of course, expedited shipping tends to put a premium price tag on your freight. But a blanket fixation on shipping speed at all costs also negatively impacts your reputation with carriers (“Does it really need to get there that fast or is that just the company being unreasonable?”), and it gives you fewer options for prioritizing those shipments that really must ship out as swiftly as possible.
Don’t get us wrong. It’s an easy thought distortion to lapse into — especially if you’ve had your fingers burned a few times with an unexpectedly late delivery. However, developing a more nuanced appreciation of exactly when each shipment needs to arrive will yield big dividends in the long run. It’s a situational awareness that’ll equip you with the reputational, financial, and organizational resources you need to accelerate right when it’s really important.
Ah, but here’s the tricky question: Do you actually have data on your ideal delivery windows at your fingertips? Put another way, do you know how fast you need to go? If you don’t, that’s a pretty firm indicator that better BI might supe up your supply chain with a high-octane blast of data-driven decision-making. See? Efficiency can be sexy.
Seriously, good logistics BI — you need it. Learn more here.
4. Schedule pickups the right way…
Which is the perfect moment to circle right back around to pocket-protectors and Mr Magoo glasses.
Remember that whole thing about being thorough with your quote information? That applies equally to when you schedule a pickup. Complete and accurate shipper and consignee addresses are a no-brainer.
5. … and think how your carrier thinks
Want a carrier to make your life easier? Make their life easier first.
For example, does the carrier need additional location-specific data about when, where and how to pick up the shipment? Neither should you neglect accurate contact deets, freight billing terms, and reference numbers. None of these data points should be rushed at the expense of accuracy.
Oh, and before we move on from scheduling and pickups, it’s worth reiterating that excellent carriers can enhance your whole supply chain.
Those out there where rubber meets road have a tough job and offer a vital service — which is why every year, we recognize those carrier partners who help IL2000 meet and exceed your supply chain expectations. Learn more about our Carrier of the Year Award.
There may be no I in team…
…but there are two I’s in efficiency.
Looking to strap a couple of pressurized tanks of high-octane efficiency to your supply chain?
We make efficiency sexy.