Minute To Win It - Employee Team Building Activity

March 13, 2013 at 6:32 AMScott Frederick

Last week Thursday the PartnerShip employees at our Cleveland/Westlake, Ohio office participated in a fun, team-building activity. The event was organized by Brad Alflen, director of sales and customer service for PartnerShip. As part of the event, eight four-person teams competed in six "Minute To Win It" challenges. Each team was awarded one point for every team member that successfully completed a challenge. In the end, two teams tied with 10 points each and had to square off in a sudden-death elimination challenge.

Congratulations to Bryan, Laura, Lauren and Lexi for being the winning team in the competition!

4 Ideas to Reduce Shipping Costs

February 6, 2013 at 12:33 PMScott Frederick

Reduce Shipping CostAm I Overpaying for Shipping?

Shipping can be one of the most complicated — and costly — activities for any small business. Poor or no planning can result in overpaying, as well as losing sales if the business can't provide consistent and cost-effective delivery to its customers.

Do you negotiate competitive discounts with your shipping providers? Do your purchase invoices include shipping and handling charges? If you answered —yes' to either of these questions, then you could very well be overpaying for your shipping.

Here are four ideas for you to consider to reduce your overall shipping costs:

#1 Obtain Discounts with Carriers                 

Most carriers — whether express, parcel or freight — provide discounts to businesses that routinely ship or receive merchandise.  The old adage —everything is negotiable' is an immutable fact when it comes to shipping fees. The challenge, however, for small businesses is how to go about obtaining the same, steep discounts that are normally reserved for large businesses and heavy freight shippers.

One tactic a small business should consider is joining an industry trade association. Often times, industry trade associations are able to aggregate the buying clout of its members to negotiate and provide better shipping rates to all the businesses that participate in the program. PartnerShip LLC is an example of a third party logistics provider that specializes in working with industry trade associations across the country to create discounted shipping programs for participating members.

Another approach a small business can take is to work directly with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), or even directly with your carriers, to see if you can get better discounts then you presently have today. Often times if you simply —ask for better pricing' you will get it because 3PLs and carriers are always looking to retain and grow their business. Be prepared to share example shipping invoices or manifests with your 3PL or carrier to help them best assess your shipping patterns and provide you with the best pricing.

#2 Develop an Inbound Shipping Management Program

One of the simplest and easiest ways to immediately cut your inbound freight costs is to change your shipping terms from —prepaid and add' to —inbound collect.' Having your vendor or supplier ship collect on your recommended carrier eliminates any handling charges, thus saving you money.

When you gain more control over your inbound shipping, you can save on small package and freight shipments coming into your business every day. As the buyer and receiver of the goods, you can-and should-designate the carrier and arrange for shipping charges to be billed directly to you at your discounted rate. This is called routing shipments inbound "Collect."

In general, there are many benefits to having your inbound shipments routed collect. As the example below shows, it often saves a lot of money. But even if you don't have shipping discounts that are better than your vendor, their handling mark-up could still make the overall shipping costs higher than your own.

Inbound Shipping Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inbound shipping programs are often best managed through a third-party logistics provider. A good 3PL can help you develop routing instructions for your vendors, monitor compliance, and audit invoicing to ensure you're saving the most on your inbound shipping.

#3 Use the Correct Mode & Service Level       

A common dilemma for small businesses is deciding the appropriate shipping mode to use for their important shipments. Shipping mode choices include LTL freight, small package, ground, air, ocean, rail, intermodal, and others. When deciding whether to use a small package or LTL freight carrier, for example, shippers must take into consideration the weight and characteristics of the shipment, the shipment destination (e.g., business, residence, etc.), service needs, pricing and fees, and loss or damage concerns.

The table below illustrates an example shipment of varying sizes moving across three different shipping modes. Each mode carries with it a certain level of cost, speed, and liability protection. Choosing the right mode will help your business maximize shipping costs and customer satisfaction.

Shipping Modes Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4 Consolidate Orders When Possible            

As a general rule of thumb, one big order ships for less than three smaller orders. That means small businesses should consider consolidating multiple orders into a single shipment whenever possible, and always striving to minimize the number of packages it sends. All too often, shipments are arranged as they come in from sales or order processing. However, a little planning and visibility goes along ways towards shipping savings as the table below shows.

Consolidate Orders Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consolidating orders provides additional benefits to both shippers and receivers of small package and freight shipments, including:

  • Reduced shipping supply expenses
  • Greater fuel efficiency (better on the environment)
  • Less time needed to receive, handle, and restock orders

One strategy for shipment consolidation is to create a simple shipping guide that takes into consideration all of your business rules for carriers, weight breaks, orders, and shipping contacts. Distribute this guide to your vendors and discuss it with your customers. A little communication can often go a long way towards small business savings.

In Summary                

Shipping is an important cost factor for any small business that ships or receives materials or merchandise. It is often possible to reduce these costs with a little planning and effort.  Utilizing some or all of these four tips to control shipping costs can eliminate the strain shipping expenses put on your business. If you're not sure where to start, consider finding a reputable third-party logistics provider that specializes in working with small businesses to help you with the process. There's a good chance your shipping costs will go down and your bottom line will improve!

Outsourced Warehousing and Fulfillment for Small Businesses

January 22, 2013 at 6:23 AMScott Frederick
The following guest blog post is being published compliments of Will Schneider, the Co-Founder and CEO of WarehousingAndFullfillment.com.

Is Outsourced Warehousing and Fulfillment Right for Small Business?

At some point in time, most small businesses that sell product will be faced with the option of either keeping the warehousing and fulfillment of product in house or outsourcing it to a third party fulfillment company. This is a very difficult decision for small business owners, in large part for three main reasons. First, this is your company and your product — and despite the wonderful things that outsourced providers will tell you, no one will care about your business as much as you. Second, many small businesses face cash flow issues that make it seem easier to use internal resources. Third, change is painful, especially when you consider that you'll be moving your inventory and the logistics of establishing new processes and procedures. But be careful of letting these factors make the decision for you. Performing a full comparison may reveal that outsourcing is a better option than anticipated.

Is Too Much Control a Good Thing?

It's certainly true that no one will ever care as much about your product as you — but there are countless providers that will care about your product enough to get the job done extremely well. And on top of that, fulfillment companies specialize in the distribution process, so they will most likely be able to perform these services more efficiently and effectively than you — which can translate into cost savings and happier customers. The best fulfillment companies will have standard procedures in place for product training so that they fully understand your product and business as well as quality controls and performance metrics that can be used to hold them accountable just as you would any employee. Finally, consider the fact that warehousing and fulfillment takes a great deal of time if done right. Is this really where you want to allocate your valuable time? There may be more beneficial things for you to pursue with this most precious resource.

Does Outsourced Warehousing Really Cost Too Much?

Sometimes finances can cause small business owners to shy away from outsourced fulfillment. In fact, this is the area of the analysis that causes the greatest amount of challenge — largely because small business owners fail to account for all of the relevant costs and because they struggle with comparing —apples to apples.' When running the cost comparison, be sure to include the following in the analysis:

  • Include all —in house' costs, such as salaries, benefits, insurance, leased space, utilities, depreciation, materials, packaging, equipment, etc.
  • Don't forget to allocate any management time or support services such as customer service
  • Pay close attention to —hidden' in house costs, such as shipping supplies (scales, postage software, etc.) — these costs can add up to more than $3,000 per year and are often ignored
  • Include all opportunity costs — such as the cost of spending time on shipping when it could be spent on value producing activities
  • Ask the outsourced providers to help you determine any cost savings from using their freight account
  • Account for the value from paying a fulfillment company on monthly invoice terms rather than paying expenses, such as payroll, more frequently

The bottom line is that there may be significant cost advantages of outsourcing if all costs of in house operations are considered.

Don't Let Fear of Change Inhibit Future Freedom

Moving inventory to a third party warehouse requires a good amount of work. Think of how much fun you had moving to a new residence. No wonder many businesses refrain from outsourcing because of the fear of the logistics of moving! But keep two key points in mind when deciding if the pain of moving is enough to stop you from outsourcing. First, be aware that fulfillment companies have created processes and procedures to make a move as streamlined as possible. From integrations with shopping carts to procedures for quickly receiving product into inventory, they've mastered the art of bringing a customer on board while minimizing pain. Second, be careful to remember that the only way you can free your plate of the large amount of time spent on shipping is to overcome the hurdle of the transition. Getting over this hurdle is necessary to achieve the freedom that comes with having another provider take the heavy burden of shipping for you.

Unfortunately, there is no all inclusive answer as to whether or not outsourcing is the best option for your company. However, the only way to determine the best course of action is to take a look at all of the pros and cons. By looking at each factor, you'll be able to make the best decision for your company.

 

The 'Golden Rule' for 3PL Customer Service

January 10, 2013 at 6:22 AMScott Frederick

PartnerShip Contact Us PictureI stumbled upon an article today written a while back by John Rodeheffer of Inbound Logistics. The article is titled "Does Your 3PL Provide 'Golden Rule' Customer Service?" It caught my eye because PartnerShip, being somewhat of a 3PL ourselves, aspires to provide excellent service to our customers day in and day out. So I was curious what the author had to say.

In the article, Mr. Rodeheffer paints a picture of the ideal third-party logistics provider (3PL) that does whatever it takes to fix shipping problems, believes there is no such thing as "just a transaction," and treats every customer interaction as a chance to build a trusting relationship. To achieve such 3PL harmony, he suggests that shippers look for a 3PL that employs the 'Golden Rule' of customers service. Additionally, he offers the following tips for determining if your 3PL values and delivers Golden Rule customer service:

  • Browse the company's Web site. What kind of ethics do the owners say they embrace? Read the Mission and Values statements and check for membership in the local Better Business Bureau and service organizations. Note any local, regional, and even national service awards.

  • Get to know the provider. What kind of experience does your 3PL have? Does it strive to do the right thing in every dicey situation? Does it push to get positive results for customers and live its values in every decision? A corporate culture establishes itself in every company, no matter the size. The best corporate cultures are intentionally cultivated and reinforced by management— from the CEO to the college intern.

  • Consider the provider's communication policies. What communications channels are available when weather, mechanical problems, or road conditions delay shipments? Do you have to babysit your provider and worry about your shipment, or are you kept informed throughout the entire life of a load?

  • Talk to your peers. Ask industry colleagues who they prefer to work with, and what kind of experiences they have had. Have they pulled contracts from the logistics company you work with? Has the 3PL's employees treated others with honesty, integrity, and loyalty? Also talk to carriers. Who do they prefer to take loads from? When a small hauler likes a 3PL, you can bet the company is worth a look.

The PartnerShip Test

As I think about these four areas for Golden Rule customer service, I am comforted by the fact that PartnerShip is doing its part to pass every one of these tests. Specifically, we here is how we stack up:

  • PS Live ChatBrowse the PartnerShip.com Web site. While our current site is fairly transparent, I am excited that later this month we will be introducing a brand new PartnerShip.com website that includes a detailed company overview (mission, values, etc.), local and national recognition and affiliations (including top workplace awards Better Business Bureau membership), and a variety of prominent ways for customers to contact us (by form, email, phone, or even live chat).

  • PS Employee DirectoryGet to know PartnerShip. In addition to a detailed company overview, our forthcoming new website will include pictures and contact information for every employee of the company - now that's transparency! We'll also introduce you to our senior management team, and provide you with even more details and tips on the services we provide and how best to access them.

  • PS Contact UsConsider the PartnerShip communication policies. Unlike many 3PLs, I am proud to say that PartnerShip assigns a small, dedicated regional team with one primary contact to every new customer. This team has total accountability for customer satisfaction, including regular communication regarding service issues, weather delays, and claims resolution. And as I mentioned above, we don't bury our contact information - we display it prominently on our website.

  • PS Recommendations WebTalk to your peers about PartnerShip. I continue to be impressed by that fact that PartnerShip receives customer recommendations and business referrals on a regular basis. So if you ever have a chance to talk to one of our customers - we'd highly encourage it. Being founded as a small business subsidiary of a non-profit organization twenty years ago, we know how important the 'small stuff' can be to a small business that is trying hard to succeed. That's why no request is too small or big in our minds when it comes to helping a customer be successful.

If you took the time to read this blog post and are interested in learning more about PartnerShip, please give us a call or send us a note. I promise that you'll receive Golden Rule customer service from our team!

2013 Small Package Rate and Accessorial Increases Report

January 2, 2013 at 8:45 AMLeah Palnik

2013 Small Package Rate IncreasesNear the beginning of every New Year, the shipping experts at PartnerShip dig into the small package carriers' annual rate increase announcements. We like to read between the lines for our customers, digest the tables and charts, see what information is out there that FedEx and UPS didn't say, or maybe just hinted at. As always, how much more expensive your particular small package shipments will be in the New Year largely depends on many factors, including shipment volumes, sizes, weights, and modes.

Here are some quick facts regarding this year's small package rate increases:

  • UPS rate increases in effect December 31, 2012
    » 4.9% average rate increase for UPS Ground (5.9% average increase -1% reduction in the fuel surcharge)
    » 4.5% average rate increase for UPS Air (6.5% average increase -2% reduction in the fuel surcharge)
  • FedEx rate increases in effect January 7, 2013
    » 4.9% average rate increase for FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services (5.9% rate increase -1% reduction in the fuel surcharge)
    » 3.9% average rate increase for FedEx Express services (5.9% average increase -2% reduction in the fuel surcharge)
  • UPS will enjoy an extra week of the rate increases by beginning 12/31/12 to FedEx's 1/7/13

Interested in learning more? Our exlcusive report includes detailed tables and insights. Click the button below to read on ...

Learn More

 

 

A Holiday Gift from PartnerShip

December 18, 2012 at 7:13 AMScott Frederick

During this 2012 holiday season, we at PartnerShip continue our tradition of sharing our good fortune where it can benefit the less fortunate among us. In lieu of expensive customer gifts (other than our complimentary 2013 calendars), and as we have done in years past, we have made generous donations to five charities located near our corporate office in Cleveland, OH. Each, we feel, is worthy of our support because of the good they do in our community.

The organizations receiving these contributions are:

  • Debra: (The Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America) is committed to finding a cure for EB, while responding to the increased need to provide direct services to patients and their families.

  • American Cancer Society Hope Lodge: is a unique home away from home for people (and their families) who need temporary, comfortable, supportive accommodations offered free of charge during cancer treatments.

  • Ronald McDonald House: the family room is a brief respite for families to use while remaining merely steps away from their child's bedside; making it a bit of home within the walls of a hospital.

  • Emily's Hopeful Holiday: Emily is a 12 year old girl who was diagnosed with  Leukemia in 2007, now a cancer survivor, with her family she created EHH to raise funds to help other families at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital dealing with childhood cancer.

  • Ames Family Hospice House: this 32-bed hospice care center offers comfort care for seriously ill people and their loved ones in peaceful, comfortable surroundings. This facility is newly built and was built with patients and their families in mind with private suites and porches enhancing the home-like feeling.

PartnerShip has a long history of generously giving back to the community, through individual fund-raising events and yearly participation in our local United Way drive. Each of the selected charities has touched our employees' hearts in a personal way and holds special meaning to our company. We hope that you agree that these donations will have a great and beneficial impact - after all, these donations would not be possible without the loyalty and support of our customers.

Thank you and happy holidays!

A Charitable PartnerShip for Northeast Aid

November 12, 2012 at 3:04 PMScott Frederick

Catholic Charities and Red Hook InitiativeLast week PartnerShip was able to help support the Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland and the Red Hook Initiative to get important Hurricane Sandy relief supplies from Ohio to New York.

The shipment included canned goods, bottled water, flashlights, candles, paper towels, blankets, and coats. PartnerShip covered the full cost of the shipment and we coordinated the logistics, inlcuding the pickup at Our Lady of Angels School in Cleveland, OH and the delivery at the Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn, NY.

"PartnerShip being able to help OLA  made my month," said our contact at Catholic Charities Services in Parma, OH. "(My contact) at Our Lady of Angels just called. She was so excited and happy. She talked to someone from PartnerShip and they have arranged to pick up the donations this coming Monday at no cost. She wanted me to extend her thanks to you for the generous offer. She had called others looking for a solution with no results, and then called me (Catholic Charities). Very seldom am I able to give people who call me a solution to their numerous problems. Thank you so much for arranging this for them."

The employees here at PartnerShip really enjoy the good work we do in helping our customers with high-quality, low-cost shipping solutions; but we also take great pride in giving back to the community from time-to-time when we can. After all, that is the nature of any true partnership.

Ground Delivery Small Package Shipping Options

November 8, 2012 at 10:08 AMLeah Palnik

Ground Delivery OptionsPartnerShip helps thousands of customers save on their ground delivery small package shipments (i.e., generally those under 200 pounds). Through our unique alliance with FedEx®, we help ensure our customers get access to fast and reliable small package shipping services, while maximizing their savings.

Last week we talked about the various small package shipping options for U.S. Express and International Express services. This week, we'd like to point out the discounted ground delivery small package shipping options that are available through one of our association shipping programs:

  • FedEx Ground® Choose this service for economical ground delivery to U.S. businesses. You get day-definite delivery in 1—5 business days (3—7 business days to and from Alaska and Hawaii) based on the distance to your destination. Delivery is by the end of the business day. Available to every business address throughout all 50 states (service for remote Alaskan locations and the Hawaiian islands of Lanai and Molokai is inbound only). For more information, go to fedex.com/ground.
  • FedEx Home Delivery® Get residential day-definite delivery in 1—5 business days (3—7 business days to and from Alaska and Hawaii) based on the distance to your destination. Delivery is between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Available to every U.S. residential address, for packages up to 70 lbs. Convenient delivery
    options are available for recipients with appointment and evening requirements. For more information, go to fedex.com/homedelivery.
  • FedEx International Ground® Get economical day-definite ground delivery to Canada typically in 2—7 business days, based on the distance to your destination. Delivery is by the end of the business day. Customs clearance is included through this brokerage inclusive service (a fee applies).

Small Package Solutions

Our discounted small package shipping services are completely free to eligible businesses participating in one of our association shipping programs. If you are currently a member of a professional association or trade group, ask them if they have a discounted small package shipping program through PartnerShip. You can also give us a call at 800-599-2902, or send an email to sales@PartnerShip.com, and we'll find out for you. If not, we'd love to talk to your association leadership team to see if we can build a program for you and your fellow members.

To learn more about our other services, click the button below.

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

September 19, 2012 at 7:19 AMScott Frederick

Please join PartnerShip and the American Trucking Association (ATA) this week to honor the 3.1 million professional truck drivers that deliver America's freight safely and securely, every day. If you're not familiar with this event, read the information below as pulled from the ATA news release from earlier this week.

—Professional truck drivers deliver our nation's essential freight safely, every day,' said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. —As a result of this commitment, our nation's highways are the safest they have ever been and our grocery shelves are stocked. We as a nation, owe a great deal to the truck drivers out on our nation's roads, as well as the families of those behind the wheel.'

During this National Truck Driver Appreciation Week of Sept. 16-22, ATA, its state affiliates and America's Road Team Captains will mark the celebration by holding events across the nation.

The celebrations this week will be hosted by motor carriers, logistics companies, shippers and other trucking related industries. Ways in which said entities show their appreciation include million-mile and safety awards, cash bonuses or gifts, an extra paid day off, a cup of coffee or windshield cleaning at truck stops, goodie bags with fresh fruit and water, free health checks and numerous celebration meals. Several events will last all week, until every driver cycles through company headquarters. Office personnel at some companies are also encouraged to spend a few days out on the road to see the driver's side of their business. Many celebrations will be kicked off with a video tribute to the professional truck driver (see the ATA "Bring It" YouTub Channel).

There are over 3.1 million professional truck drivers delivering life's essentials, nationwide. These professional men and women log close to 398 billion miles each year. In 2011, trucking professionals delivered 67 percent of the U.S. freight tonnage, equivalent to 9.2 billion tons of freight. 80 percent of U.S. communities depend solely on the trucking industry for the delivery of goods. Professional truck drivers keep America moving.

ATA began celebrating National Truck Driver Appreciation Week in 1988 in an effort to honor those hard working men and women who deliver life's essentials, every day. Follow National Truck Driver Appreciation Week on Twitter and Facebook.

Once again, on behalf of PartnerShip and our 16,000+ active customers, we'd like to express our total gratitude and appreciation for the drivers who are critical to our all of our businesses - and especially for the drivers who deliver our goods every day as representatives of our core carriers: FedEx, UPS, Con-way Freight, YRC Freight, Old Dominion, ABF, Pitt Ohio, and New Penn!

Thank you!

8 Excuses for Not Working with a 3PL Provider

September 14, 2012 at 9:42 AMScott Frederick

PartnerShip LogisticsWhen a member of the PartnerShip sales team talks with a prospective customer for the first time, they occasionally are met with some resistance to the idea of working with a 3PL provider. For small and medium businesses, working with a 3PL can seem like a daunting notion. Here are some common "excuses" cited as reasons for not working with a 3PL partner:

  1. "I can't afford to switch carriers." In some instances this may be a good reason to stay the course if you are getting really good pricing that can't be matched by the 3PL. However, in most cases a 3PL can use its buying clout to negotiate better rates on your behalf. A 3PL can also audit and consolidate freight bills, and provide claims filing assistance, saving additional time that the small businesses can use to focus on more critical tasks. Additionally, some 3PLs offer additional liability protection on your shipments that you may not be receiving today (for instance, PartnerShip provides $25/pound liability coverage, whereas many carriers offer only $10/pound).
  2. "Freight costs are not a big deal because my customer pays for the freight." Unless you're product is totally indispensible, this is extremely short-sighted thinking. The total landed price if a product always influences the final sale price. Your customer may not care now, but if they find a cheaper alternative - one that can possible be sourced from a local vendor instead of you - their business will be at risk.
  3. "I buy all of my inbound materials vendor prepaid." If you are the customer, then you are probably overpaying for your inbound goods if you trust that your vendor is always giving you the lowest freight price. Wouldn't it at least make sense to explore both "inbound prepaid" and "inbound collect" options to see which yields the lower overall cost of goods? The reality is that there's no such thing as "free shipping," so don't be fooled into thinking those costs aren't hidden somewhere.
  4. "Freight costs are not of a concern since my profit margins are good." Sure, margins may be good today, but they won't be good tomorrow if your customer finds a lower-priced alternative. Even if they don't find a lower-priced alternative, what's wrong with the idea of improving upon your already good margins? You never know when those additional profits may be needed down the road.
  5. "I pay my staff good salaries, so I shouldn't need a 3PL to do their jobs for them." If you are a small or medium business, then in all likelihood transportation decisions are only a small portion of your employees' overall responsibilities. When you work with a quality 3PL, you aren't duplicating their work - you're giving them the tools and support to do their jobs more effectively. A 3PL partner will allow you and your people to focus on your core competencies which are probably marketing, merchandising, and selling your products.  
  6. "I already have great pricing with my current carrier." If your only evidence of this statement comes from your current carrier, they may be guilty of a conflict of interest. Would they really admit it if you had bad pricing? Definitely not. Additionally, some carriers can be price-competitive in some lanes, but not competitive in other lanes. When you work with a quality 3PL partner, you generally get a few options for each of your shipping lanes ensuring you enjoy the lowest possible cost on every shipment, every time.
  7. "My business is down and so I'm not shipping as much." If your business is down like so many others in today's economy, your "buying power" is probably down as well. This makes it all the more imperative that you leverage the buying clout of a 3PL. They can ensure, no matter if your business is up or down, you maintain low-priced freight rates that are consistent with the most competitive, prevailing shipping rates in the market.
  8. "My business is up and I simply don't have time to deal with a 3PL." No one can deny that entering into a new partnership with a 3PL - or any other supplier - takes a certain amount of time. However, if you do the real math, quite often the nominal time investment it will take to bring a quality 3PL on board will more than pay for it in future freight and time savings. Additionally, having this foundation in place will allow you to continue to maximize your business growth going forward, without having to get bogged down with the nitty-gritty details around shipping and carrier relations. 

The advantages of using a 3PL freight partner are clear, and it is important to choose the right one. As a dependable and reputable 3PL freight partner, PartnerShip is your shipping connection to substantial discounts and customized solutions for your business.  For more information contact us at 800-599-2902 or email select@PartnerShip.com. You can also download our short, electronic white paper below on "The Advantages of Using a 3PL Freight Partner" by clicking the button below.