Slow Season Tips for Shippers

February 19, 2018 at 3:28 PMJen Deming
Slow Shipping Season

The make-or-break peak season for shippers has passed, and the holiday rush and subsequent surge of returns is over. Months of preparation and planning have paid off and now is the time businesses get to take it easy and enjoy the lull, right? Truth is, this is the most valuable time you can use to plan and forecast for the next year, so you better make the most of it. Here's some core tips on what shippers and business owners can do during the intermission.

Review and Reflect

One of the most important things a business can do almost immediately after a peak shipping season ends is step back and review how the busy period went. By taking a high-level look at successes and opportunities, it's easier to see what adjustments need to be made for more efficient operations in every area of business for a better bottom line. Is your industry consistently cyclic? Are busy times evolving into lengthier periods? Do you need to prepare earlier than you used to? Did you have a large enough workforce to fulfill orders easily? How effective were your marketing promotions? It's also imperative to take a closer look at this year's expenses and where most of your costs, both anticipated and unforeseen, were invested. How close did you come to your projected budget for the period?  These are all variables that you need to look at in order to have successful subsequent peak seasons.

Plan Ahead

With less stress on order production, fulfillment, and replenishment, it's a great time to get organized and focus on what you can't during peak season. In order to operate more productively, it's important to make sure everything is in order from top down – office space, production facilities, and warehousing. Reviewing everything from payroll applications, updated production equipment, inventory strategy, and warehouse management technology is crucial in identifying potential roadblocks that may impede your business from operating at maximum potential. It's also a great time to reinvest in your staff, from developing additional training programs to conducting employee reviews on workplace culture and performance. With less immediate emphasis on production and meeting deadlines, a forward-looking business can also evaluate industry trends as well as evaluate peers. That way, you can better project what you need from purchasing inventory to hiring your sales force.  

Inventory Overhaul

Good inventory management procedures are important in creating a seamless peak period, specifically for order fulfillment and replenishment. Now is the time to implement proper organization and best practices, in order to maximize efficiency and save time and money on the front-side. Depending on budget and expenses, the slower period is a good time to take a look at updating tech and software. RFID (radio frequency identification) systems, wireless LAN, and bar code systems can all help with monitoring of your sell-through cycle by improving accuracy giving you real-time data. It's also a very good time to take a look at your inbound shipping procedures for your supply orders. Are your vendor-directed options making sense for your business and your customers? If you haven't already, it's a good time to take control of your inbound shipping and take advantage of available alternatives.

Shipping Analysis

To piggyback off of inventory management, it's a great idea to take a look at your shipping procedures as a whole. Was there a high amount of damages to your shipments during transit? Limiting the costs put into freight claims replacement orders is a great way to avoid unexpected expenses, and you can do this by reevaluating packaging type and procedures. Did you have difficulty hitting delivery deadlines? Oftentimes, fulfillment centers can charge for late arrivals or hold-overs in addition to sort and segregation fees. It may be smart to take a look at your available carriers or service options to see which make the most sense for your business and your customers. Different service options can save you time and offer peace of mind about the security of your shipments. With more time available to shop options, it's a great opportunity to collect shipping invoices and conduct a shipping audit with different carriers to see if you are getting the best rates available. Shipping costs add up, especially during heavier freight times, and this is another effective way to keep your expenses down.

Remaining vigilant and being proactive after peak season is crucial for businesses to prepare for upcoming peak periods. Taking a look at what can be improved going forward, and what worked for you in the past an ensure success, and less stress! A huge portion of preparing your business is making sure you have your shipping processes streamlined, and the experts at PartnerShip can help. From analyzing your freight costs, to making sure you have the proper services selected for your shipments, we find the solutions that are right for you. Call 800-599-2902, email sales@PartnerShip.com, or click below to get a free quote today!

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It's Show Time! Wrapping up at Fancy Food and Winter NAMM

January 30, 2018 at 2:42 PMJen Deming
Fancy Food Show 2018

It's winter tradeshow season here at PartnerShip, and this year two of our favorites are taking place back to back! Senior Program Manager Harry Centa attended both the Winter Fancy Food and NAMM Shows, jet-setting from San Francisco to Anaheim, California, taking in all the music and tasty snacks one could handle over the course of a week.

First up was the Winter Fancy Food Show, put on by the Specialty Food Association and created for industry leaders and innovators eager to exhibit the future of specialty food! Over 80,000 products are exhibited, with plenty of samples and take-homes to enjoy and share. Thought leaders plan sessions on buying, storefront trends and hot new flavor profiles to expect for 2018.

Fancy Food Show 2018

Harry set up shop in the lobby, helping SFA exhibitors prep their event shipments' return trips home and answer any questions about PartnerShip and the shipping services we provide members. The show is also a great opportunity to re-connect with association members and recognize industry leaders with awards honoring creativity and culinary excellence.

NAMM Show 2018After receiving his fill of tasty treats, Harry traveled to Anaheim for the Winter NAMM Show, where artists, tech experts, and music lovers unite twice a year to share industry trends, education, and of course, enjoy live music! The bi-yearly event, put on by the National Association of Music Merchants, serves as a gathering place for industry leaders who want to expand and present the newest innovations in musical development, sound recording, lighting technology and serves as a platform for educational programs promoting the importance of making music. 

Now entering its 117th year, the show features over 7,000 brands and five stages featuring live concerts from up and coming musical artists, as well as quite a few big names. One of the highlights of the show included the Breakfast of Champions with special guest Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead as well as She Rocks Awards at the House of Blues, honoring women in music with a performance by Melissa Etheridge.

NAMM 2018 Guitars

From snacks to songwriting, the Fancy Food and NAMM shows allow PartnerShip the opportunity to say hello to old friends and meet business owners and industry professionals who can benefit from their association memberships. These are two of the most anticipated events we visit during the year, and we would like to thank all of the attendees and exhibitors who helped make them such great shows!

Season of Giving: Rainey Institute

December 21, 2017 at 3:24 PMJen Deming
Rainey Institute Art

At PartnerShip, we are wrapping up our week of holiday visits with our five charitable organizations. Every organization helps to spread the theme of compassion and community not only during this season, but all year long. We've presented debra of America, Downs on the Farm, the Gathering Place, and Music on a Mission. Today, we visit the Rainey Institute on Cleveland, Ohio's east-side.

The Rainey Institute was founded on the belief that kids who participate in visual and performing arts are impacted on an interpersonal level by encouraging self-esteem and positive social interaction. By exploring dance, drama and theater, music, sewing and art, students of the Rainey Institute learn to be leaders and positive role models in both school performance and in daily life.

The organization was established in 1904 by Eleanor B. Rainey, which began by creating reading and lunchroom program for boys and young workmen in the local Eastern European community. These programs provided physical fitness, literacy studies, and industrial training in a wholesome recreational environment. In the 1960s, program focus shifted exclusively to the arts and a deeper curriculum was developed for the growing community in Cleveland, aligning with the Cleveland Music School Settlement. This cooperation extended to a modern program list that includes music theory, therapy, dance and private instrumental classes for students.

Currently, the organization has grown to include more than 2,500 children and young adults age 3 and up, where they attend Rainey after school, on Saturdays, and during summer camps. The program listing has become more sophisticated, but the essential message at Rainey remains the same: that regardless of background, socio economic levels, and skill set, a child who is influenced by the arts is a child who has an outlet for creativity and self expression. 

Check for Rainey

We are inspired by the Rainey Institute and the staff's efforts to help Cleveland's kids gain exposure to the arts and confidence in themselves. Get involved and support the Rainey Institute through fundraising, community events, and donations, and learn more about their various programs for kids.

Check out more pictures from all of our visits on our facebook and learn more about these amazing local organizations that have given so much and helped so many!

Season of Giving: Music on a Mission

December 20, 2017 at 1:22 PMJen Deming
Barnegie Hall

The holiday season is one of giving, and this year PartnerShip has once again chosen 5 charitable organizations to donate to and spread holiday cheer!  These organizations are about the people behind the scenes and the message they want to spread, and we want to spread the word on their amazing work!  We've touched on debra of America, Downs on the Farm, and the Gathering Place. Today, we would like to recognize Music on a Mission.

Music on a Mission believes in the power that music has to heal and enrich the lives of every individual. By providing access to everyone, including those with special needs through their wide variety of free programs, the organization helps develop physical and emotional health as well as create an environment that fosters positive social interaction and inspires self-confidence. Music on a Mission provides therapeutic programs for the young and elderly, veterans and nursing home residents. Through group sing-alongs, choir performances, dancing activities, and one on one sessions with artists and writers, music motivates these individuals through vocalization, socialization, and self-care.

Our PartnerShip team was invited to tour the facility in Avon Lake, Ohio, to check out the onsite music venue lovingly known as "Barnegie Hall". An exclusively volunteer team donated their time and energy over the course of 14 months to repurpose and renew an older barn standing on the property. Storing equipment and in disrepair, the building was renovated and equipped with sound equipment, band instruments, and full seating space for visiting artists and musicians. Proceeds of any performances support the programs of Music on a Mission.

Upon immediate entry, the warmth and care put into the place can be felt through the high windows, bright light streaming through. The large stage is ready and waiting for its next performance, and the seating area is surrounded with memorabilia and photos of important visitors and moments in The Barn's history. An outside deck with string lights hugs the tree-lined outdoor space and provides an additional place to gather. A good energy resides here, leftover from the hard work of kind people, dedicated to creating musical opportunities for individuals who need them most.

Check Photo

All Music on a Mission programs are offered free for individuals, and the organization is supported mostly by vital private donations. Encouraging mental and physical development, as well as essential self-confidence to individuals who may not otherwise have the support and opportunity to do so is essential, and rent and payroll expenses add up. Click here to learn more about the different ways you can support Music on Mission, from donations to booking live events at Barnegie Hall!

Take a look at our facebook page to check out more amazing pictures from our visit and don't forget to check back tomorrow when we highlight another fantastic local non-profit that embodies strength of community and warmth of heart.

2018: The Year of the Truck Driver

December 6, 2017 at 1:30 PMJen Deming
Truck Driver

Ringing in the New Year means starting fresh and anticipating big changes for future, and truck drivers may be looking forward to 2018 more than anyone. The ELD mandate, driver shortages, fuel costs, and e-commerce boom are all components that leverage trucking companies' ability to determine cost and coverage.

As we covered in our previous blog post, truckload rates are going up due to a number of different factors. That means that drivers and trucking companies are going to be behind the wheel when it comes to determining how much shipping lanes will be going for. Having this leverage pushes the shipper to the passenger seat, with the potential for less bargaining power and high shipping costs heading into the new year.

A significant factor contributing to the higher truckload rates is due to an overall shortage of willing and capable truck drivers. Trucking analyst John Larkin suggests that the slow but steady economic increase will result in stronger demand with tighter supply. "The primary driver of the supply/demand tightness is the economy-wide shortage of skilled, blue collar labor," he says. "While driver pay scales began to rise in the 2nd half of 2017, the starting point for wages was so low, that it may take multiple wage hikes before we see any alleviation of this chronic challenge." The ELD mandate, which will be fully implemented on Dec 18, 2017, may add increased tension to an already volatile scenario. Many drivers view the mandate as an invasion of privacy, and may push an already limited number of qualified and experienced drivers from the pool of available carriers.

The amount of freight being hauled by trucks is expected to increase more than 3% annually over the next five years, as reported by the American Trucking Association. The industry has already seen a 2.8% increase over the past year, and the ATA estimates it could accelerate as much as 3.4% before slowing down again slightly. A notable increase in shipping economy means that though the available trucker pool has dwindled, those who are qualified are more in demand than ever. In addition, because those drivers may have to travel outside their normal area of operations, they can charge a premium. The ATA also reports that trucking will continue to be the dominant freight mode, and in 2017 "approximately 15.18 billion tons of freight will be moved by all transportation modes." The growing economy will further push demand and stretch the pool of available carriers. The ATA estimates that the current 50,000 driver-deficit could expand to 174,000 by 2026.

With that economic push, and labor shortage, truck drivers will demand higher wages and shippers will have to pay. The third-quarter hurricanes are also said to have played a factor, with drivers understandably asking more for lanes they had run at lower rates previously. Additionally, Florida and Texas, the two states hit the hardest by the storms, are typically some of the most reliable recruiting markets for new drivers. Until the economy recovers in these states, the pool of new drivers will be limited, with many potential recruits choosing the recent wave of construction positions over trucking. A jump in driver pay may keep them interested. According to Bob Costello, the American Trucking Association's economist, observes, "We've already seen fleets raising pay and offering other incentives to attract drivers." The driver pay structure is also evolving. Where once most carriers were being paid by load, many are now moving to an hourly pay model, specifically as the ELD mandate takes effect. Either way, with the anticipated changes for the new year, it's safe to say truck drivers and carriers are going to have a huge influence on shipping rates for the near future.

So, now that truck drivers have extra leverage, what can shippers do to help keep down their shipping costs in 2018? Working with a freight broker like PartnerShip can help add value and flexibility to your current shipping options. We shop rates and put in the legwork for you, negotiating on your behalf with carriers for both your LTL and your Truckload moves. If you have questions on how PartnerShip can help manage your shipping costs, call us at 800-599-2902 or get a free quote today!

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Need It Yesterday? A Guide to Time-Critical Shipping

November 27, 2017 at 9:53 AMJen Deming
Holiday Time Critical Shipping

Holiday fulfillment and expedited freight deadlines are as much a part of the holiday season as cookies, cocoa, and hasty gift wrapping. Shipping managers are very much like the St. Nick of logistics, making sure every order is out—and delivered—on time and accurately to every customer. Between weather delays, unexpected inventory depletion, and rush order fulfillment, planning your winter shipping strategy is a crucial part of your holiday preparation. By being mindful of carrier schedules and deadlines, subsequent holiday surcharges, and familiarizing yourself with time-critical options, you will know which services best fit you and your customers’ needs.

Sometimes, despite how prepared we think we are, a deadline catches up to us and standard shipping services just are not going to cut it. It’s important to understand the differences between shipping services offered, so that you can make informed decisions that meet your needs while not stretching your budget. Let’s take a look at whether your organization may benefit from time-critical shipping services during a heavy shipping season, and which services may make the most sense for your business.

There are certain industries that may require expedited freight services more often, and on a more regular basis, not only during the holiday heavy season. Common industries using expedited services include medical, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, and particularly the automobile industry. It's crucial to understand that during the holiday season, there are going to be additional shippers using both standard and special expedited freight services due to time constraints, further congesting shipping lanes and significantly decreasing carrier capacity.

Most carriers offer tiered services based on window of delivery, transit time, and dedicated truck type. We will look at the 4 most common types of special services for your urgent holiday shipments: guaranteed, accelerated, time-critical (one-day, two-day), and dedicated truckload. Let's use a freight shipment example, a one-pallet 500 lb load moving from popular shipping hub, Chicago, IL (60638) to delivery in San Francisco, CA (94107). For the purpose of this example, we will assume standard 8am-5pm shipping hours, regular, non-oversized shipment dimensions, and non hazardous materials. Typical transit time for this standard LTL service with most carriers is 5 full business days.

Guaranteed Services
Guaranteed LTL shipping services are great for those shippers who may not necessarily need to shave a day or two off of transit time, but definitely need a pre-determined delivery within a certain window during a standard service day. This fee-based service is available on direct-point shipments and can be tailored to either guaranteed morning (before 12pm) or "end of day" (typically 5pm) for delivery. The fee for guaranteed service is minimal and very commonly used, especially during holiday times for retailers

Accelerated Services
Accelerated LTL shipping services are suited for shippers who are looking for a faster standard shipping option. Accelerated shipping options fit between standard and time-critical premium services, typically cutting one or two days off of typical transit. The average price for the faster service is about 15% higher than standard LTL services, but differ based on the distance and type of shipments.   

Time-Critical/Expedited Services
Time-critical and expedited freight options are premium services offered by national carriers, specifically created to meet stringent delivery deadlines as determined by the shipper. An expedited shipment typically travels directly from pick-up to delivery, with no loading or unloading at terminals and often with dedicated equipment. Teams of drivers often haul in shifts in order to decrease transit times. In especially urgent situations, multiple modes of transit may be used, such as a combination of truck and air freight. Common urgent delivery services include same day, next day, and cross-town deliveries and while there is no limit on distance, the more extreme the request, the higher the shipper will pay.

For a clearer picture of delivery timelines through various urgent services, we've created the table below:

 

   Expedited Freight Service

 

    Pick-Up and Delivery Timeline  

 

Guaranteed Services

 

       Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery Fri, 12/8 by noon

 

Accelerated Services

 

        Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery Thurs, 12/7

 

Time-Critical/Expedited

 

     Pick-up Mon, 12/4 = Delivery by YOUR specified deadline


Though urgent services are often viewed as "problem-solving" freight solutions in emergency scenarios, more and more shippers are using planned time-critical options as part of their holiday shipping strategy. Just-in-time manufacturers also utilize these services in order to fulfill and meet demand. Though these expedited freight services may come with a higher price tag, oftentimes the cost is offset by reducing inventory costs. An extra benefit to using these services is the added safety and security of the shipment, due to decreased reloading and an escalated level of tracking.

Even despite solid holiday planning and logistic strategies, shippers may encounter scenarios that require guaranteed or urgent shipping services. If you're not sure which time-critical LTL shipping services are right for your shipment, our shipping experts can find solutions that make the most sense for your business and your wallet. Get a free expedited freight quote today!

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5 "Scary" Shipping Mistakes

October 26, 2017 at 9:25 AMJen Deming
5 Scary Shipping Mistakes

Halloween season is here! As pumpkins are being carved and candy bowls set out, it’s also just the right time to discuss some scary mistakes made by shippers. Let’s take a look at the top 5 errors commonly made in freight shipping, so we can be sure your fall business is full of treats, not tricks!

Mistake #1: Improperly Packaging Your Shipment
The first mistake freight shippers make happens even before a pick-up is scheduled and the load is in transit! Packaging your product critically protects from damages both during the move and unloading at multiple terminals. Whether you are shipping in boxes or on a pallet, it’s important that both are sized just right, and in solid condition. In fact, a box can lose up to 50% of its structural integrity after a single shipment. Too much space can allow your product to shift, which can increase opportunity for damage. Use proper cushioning and foam inserts, as well as exterior wrapping especially if you have multiple pieces. Be smart, try to group multiple units into a single load so they do not get separated during the move.

Mistake #2: Bill of Lading (BOL) Errors
Another scary shipping mistake concerns paperwork errors. These include details such as entered weight, freight class, and shipping addresses provided on the BOL. All three are elements that help determine a freight rate for your shipment. Any errors made on these factors will most likely cause a discrepancy and an increase in rate due to re-weigh fees, adjusted classes, and re-delivery charges if an address is invalid or incorrect. Holding a shipment at a terminal for any length of time while determining the appropriate address can incur holding fees as well. Often, shippers will intentionally use a lower class than what is accurate for their shipment, hoping to slide by inspection. If flagged, the shipment will be billed at the higher actual class, and the shipper will be responsible for the difference. Guessing approximations for weight is risky too, because if the discrepancy is caught, the shipper will pay a re-weigh fee and the difference in weight. Having accurate details on your shipping paperwork is key in avoiding unplanned shipping costs.

Mistake #3: Forgoing Additional Insurance Coverage 
A third scary shipping mistake refers to insurance and liability. This becomes extremely important in the unfortunate case that your shipment should become lost or damaged. Each carrier offers limited liability on freight shipments, with the amount of coverage set at a fixed dollar amount per pound of freight determined by carrier and commodity. It is the responsibility of the shipper to prove that the shipment was in good condition and packaged correctly at pick-up. The carrier will then attempt to prove that it was not negligent or responsible for the damages incurred in transit. The final approval or denial of the claim can take some time, and you cannot always count on getting damages paid out, no matter how thorough you are. Your best line of defense is looking into supplementary insurance. Freight insurance acquired on your own or through your shipping partner provides more protection than relying on the carrier alone. Even if you do win a claim and get paid out by the carrier, liability may be limited, and you may not get the full amount of your claim. Purchasing additional insurance can help, and it’s important to understand your policy before you ship. PartnerShip understands you need peace of mind, and we offer supplementary freight insurance at a minimal additional cost as an option on all freight quotes.

Mistake #4: Choosing the Incorrect Service/Accessorials
Most carriers offer different time-sensitive service levels depending on the urgency of your freight shipment. Expedited, guaranteed, time-critical, and truckload are a few. Guaranteed services help you stick to a delivery schedule with a specified on-time delivery, by either 12 PM or 5 PM. Expedited and Time-Critical services offer faster transit times and a more urgent delivery. All of these services tend to be costly, so it is important to determine what your transit time needs are, well in advance. Delivery schedules can be delayed due to inclement weather, missed pick-ups, and a heavier shipping season. Building extra time into a delivery deadline can help avoid unnecessary expedited costs that add up, especially as we head into the holidays.

Another common error that shippers make is neglecting to add-in the cost of additional services, or accessorials, when they get their freight quotes. Be mindful of what is needed at the shipment's origin or destination. Does the shipper need a lift-gate at pick up? Do they have a dock? Is it being delivered to a residential location, or at a school or construction site? Chances are, there's a fee for that. It's important to learn everything you can about pick-up and delivery services that may be required, and inform your carrier or service provider before you get a rate for your freight.

Mistake #5: Leaving Inbound Shipping to Vendors
A final, costly error that many shippers make is leaving inbound shipping decisions completely up to their vendors. Commonly, businesses may allow the vendor shipping your order to arrange with their own carrier choice, marking the freight charges as "Prepaid," and then including those charges in your invoice. Taking control of your inbound shipping is one of the easiest ways to cut your shipping expenses, and working with a 3PL such as PartnerShip is one way to make sure you are saving on your inbound freight.

At PartnerShip, we can provide an inbound shipping analysis by looking at what you pay and whether we can save money on your shipping costs. Our team can contact your vendors on your behalf, create updated routing requests, and inform them of your specific shipping instructions. We offer consolidated invoicing and audit all of your inbound freight bills for accuracy. Think you might be able to save on your outbound shipment? We've got your back on those, too.

Keeping your shipping costs low and your freight safe may seem intimidating, but it doesn't have to be scary. When you work with PartnerShip, our shipping experts will double check shipment details, compare your pricing, and make sure you are covered from pick-up to delivery. Take your freight shipping from spooky to stress-free and contact us for a free shipping analysis!

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Cargo Theft: How to Reduce YOUR Risk

October 20, 2017 at 11:46 AMJen Deming
Cargo Theft

Cargo at rest is cargo at risk. Freight theft is an unfortunate but all too common occurrence in the shipping world, especially as we ramp up to the holiday season. CargoNet estimates that cargo theft cost businesses $114 million total in 2016 and while the frequency of reported freight theft hasn’t necessarily increased, criminals targeting freight have evolved and become more sophisticated in their theft strategy. The improved theft tactics have resulted in more expensive losses per incident for business owners. How can shippers defend themselves? PartnerShip has created a helpful white paper explaining all you need to know about cargo theft:

  • Commonly targeted commodities
    What products are targeted most often and why? 
  • Hot spots for freight theft
    Where are the most common areas with high incidence of theft? What patterns and industries do we need to look at? 
  • How cargo theft tactics are changing
    What strategies and methods are being used by criminals? 
  • What you can do to protect yourself
    How can shippers deter cargo theft in warehouses, shipping yards, and during transit?

Download the free white paper: Cargo Theft: How to Reduce Your Risk

Cargo theft is a scary reality for shippers across the United States, and statistics can be overwhelming. PartnerShip is by your side through your shipment’s journey. As your trusted logistics provider, we work with vetted and reliable carriers committed to the safety of your freight. We offer tracking and follow-up through your entire shipment transit time, to be sure everything is moving smoothly and on schedule. Visit Partnership.com/WhitePapers for more helpful shipping information or give us a call at 800-599-2902!

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PartnerShip Sends a Big “Thank You” to Truck Drivers

September 8, 2017 at 9:42 AMJen Deming

National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is nearly here and PartnerShip would like to recognize the men and women truck drivers who dedicate themselves to moving our freight where we need it to go. “Our truck drivers work safely and efficiently to deliver America’s goods and deserve this recognition all year round. We set aside this week to pay special tribute to their continued work and excellence for America,” said American Trucking Associations (ATA) COO and Executive Vice President of Industry Affairs Elisabeth Barna.