Logistics Software Aids in Retail Vendor Compliancy

Vendor compliancy occurs when a vendor meets a set of requirements imposed on it by a buyer of its products. Vendor compliance focuses on making it easier for the buyer to receive goods, process them upon reception, and bring them to store shelves, where applicable. Unfortunately for manufacturers, the most complex compliance standards are usually handed down by companies that have the largest buying power, a fact that causes some companies to question whether the money necessary to implement the standards would be worth the profits that resulted from doing business with an entity. In the long run, adapting business standards to meet compliance standards is almost always beneficial, as nothing can replace the selling power of having large contracts with major companies and retailers. However, affording the infrastructure necessary to facilitate compliance can still be a problem in the short run.

Retail Vendor Compliancy and Logistics Software

When you look at a major buyer’s retail vendor compliancy scorecard, a rating system that ranks vendors according to their compliance to a number of requirements, it’s often difficult to ascertain how to begin meeting the requirements. However, upon closer inspection, many companies find that a majority of compliance issues, and certainly the most critical ones, are associated with the shipping process, such as product labeling, product packaging, and method of shipment, to name a few. Yet, here there emerges another roadblock for many vendors: how to gain more control over the shipping process through logistics. Most companies receive their shipping logistics from one of three sources: an in-house logistic department, a third party logistics (3PL) provider, or by implementing logistic software, which allows you to become your own logistics provider without possessing logistical expertise.

In-House Logistics

Meeting shipping needs in-house is the traditional preference of companies that can afford to hire their own logistic experts, who typically earn around $80,000 per year. This fact alone prevents many companies from going in-house with their shipping process, as well as the fact that most companies pursue in-house logistic arrangements upon purchasing their own fleet, once and for all ending their dependence on 3PL.

3PL

What you receive from 3PL depends entirely on what type of 3PL provider you contract with: standard 3PL providers, who offer basic shipping services and seldom practice shipping logistics as a core practice; service developers, who offer more specialized services but not a comprehensive approach to the shipping process; customer adapters, who manage an existing shipping process but don’t propose new solutions; and customer developers, who manage the shipping process and do propose new solutions. For vendor requirements, customer developers make the most sense. But you can receive the same level of focus through logistic software at a fraction of the cost.

Logistics Software

Also referred to as freight transportation software, logistic software is priced as a software as a service (SAAS) offering, making it less expensive than other logistic options. What this means for vendors is less money spent on meeting vendor requirements, and an annual reduction in shipping expense that can be delegated toward other compliance needs. After using freight transportation software for one year, most companies experience a 10 percent reduction in shipping expense that increases in years following.

What is Logistics Software?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines logistics as, “the handling of the details of an operation.” At the heart of the profitability and overall success of a business is an efficient logistics system. Managing production, parts, inventory, and shipments all fall under the responsibilities of the logistics, or supply chain, management department. Such a large job includes the daunting task of managing the many details associated with logistics. Employing the use of a good logistics company can greatly affect the outcome of the logistical branch of a business. However, hiring a company that specializes in logistics can prove to be very costly to carry out. Therefore, utilizing a logistics software program may be more economical for small to moderate facilities.

When a logistics company is used, it will handle the day to day management of the business. It will have its own trained personnel that can micro-manage every detail of the supply chain. For a large company with big operations, this is a necessity. Trusting such a vital factor to an untrained person could be detrimental to the business. Many manufacturing enterprises will also maintain a logistics manager as well. Large companies will recognize cost-saving benefits that will offset the expense of continued use of a logistics company.

Unlike a large manufacturer, even a small company can benefit from logistics software. Many software makes have designed an extremely easy to use, user-friendly interface. They are fully automated and can come as a suite with many optional applications or individually loaded for specific applications only. Add to the customizable features, that they often offer online and telephone tech support; this software pays for itself in very little time.

One thing that logistic software does is use a database to make and store various records necessary for keeping track of the many processes associated with a supply chain. The software can manage the distribution, warehousing, inventory, transportation details and expenses, and customer-friendly customer service options.

Some software makers also offer global visibility, bar-code scanning, billing administration and automated issue reporting to increase the value of the services that a business gives to their clients.

A business can track how many parts they have on hand and ordered, how much completed merchandise is available, current trucking routes and loads available, and log customer service interactions. Being able to input this information seamlessly and with as little effort as possible, every business that uses logistics software or a logistics company can save money. High inventory levels cost company’s money with the operating cost associated with warehouses. Being able to communicate with a client when a load will be available will increase customer satisfaction levels. And finally being able to log customer problems, a company can identify a trend before it becomes too overwhelming.

There are several services available to manage a company’s logistics department. Without selecting a method to manage a company’s logistical issues, it will loose money and potentially suffer from low customer and employee satisfaction. Using a software or company is very seldom optional. Therefore, the important thing is to find one that best suits the needs of one’s company, at a cost they can afford, and utilizing all its features to develop a business that is well run and sure to be successful.

Amateurs Study Shipping Rates, Professionals Study Logistics

Omar Bradley offered a truism, that amateurs study tactics, armchair generals study strategy, and professionals study logistics. This is just as true in the world of business as it is in the military. Logistics is the art of getting supplies where they’re needed so other functions can happen. In the modern business world, logistics means freight shipping – both internally and externally. In this field, freight rates and carrier rates are the price of doing business.

Freight shipping is one of those expenses that can be minimized, but never totally eliminated. It’s also a manpower time sink, and because of this, more and more companies are outsourcing their freight needs to third party logistics companies. These are outfits that have people who do nothing but look over the assorted rates and package deals offered by the major freight carriers and try to find the best deal possible for their client, with a nice commission on top for them.

All in all, third party logistics management makes sense for organizations that are above a certain size (too small, and they don’t generate enough volume to be worth the trouble of maintaining the account) and below a certain size (at which point the company can have an inside staff that does the same function for less).

Alternatives to third party logistics offers are in house logistics software. Much the same way that travel agencies quickly became redundant with online booking services, logistics software vendors are trying to render the third party logistics company obsolete. Building automatic data scrapers that can do the basic work of comparing logistics rates to different parts of the country or world is fairly straightforward, as is a price search algorithm.

While these systems primarily offer a way to avoid third party logistics fees, they also offer a bit more direct control over your company’s shipping needs, and some managers and executives like that hands on feel. They can also be used to significantly automate a lot of routine functions in the shipping department and the mail room. They can also be used to identify process problems – there’s a saying that every time something was sent out overnight, someone higher up in the chain didn’t do their job correctly, and when you’re looking directly at the costs of expedited shipping, it becomes easier to focus on the process issues that lead to it, than when you’re looking at a third party statement of account.

Ultimately, which one works best is a function of your business’ needs and internal culture; some businesses simply don’t want to bring that job in house. Others need to. Both are viable strategies depending on what your operation’s needs truly are.