Manufacturing output has been steadily increasing over the last five years. This gain is great news for businesses but is causing headaches for many warehouse managers who must ensure that each and every item ships on time.
Finding carriers for all of these goods is increasingly challenging. Small package and less than load (LTL) companies are constrained and are being squeezed by driver shortages, increased fuel costs and regulatory changes, such as limits on how long drivers can be on the road. As a result, carriers are now being pickier about which companies they work with.
To make sure their shipments are at the front of the shipping pack, warehouse managers are pursuing preferred shipper status with their carriers.
Use the following tactics to become a shipper of choice.
Put Yourself in the Carrier’s Shoes
The first step to establishing a preferred shipper status is to understand your carrier’s priorities and challenges. Only then can you be a customer that they want to prioritize.
Jack Ampuja, president of advisory firm Supply Chain Optimizers, recommends meeting with your carrier’s sales and operations team to find out how you can work best with them. “Knowing what the other party is trying to accomplish is the key to mutual benefit,” he explains.
Use the meeting with your shipping vendor to:
- Listen. Ask your carrier questions about their business, their pain points or capacity constraints and their customer expectations. Find out what helps them function more efficiently and what causes frustration.
- Show appreciation. Let your carrier know how important they are to your success. “Emphasize that they are an essential partner in delivering products to valued customers on time,” says Rob Martinez, CEO and co-founder of logistics consulting provider Shipware.
- Establish communication channels. Determine the best way to proactively alert your carriers to changes in package volume or size that might require additional trucks or personnel. Also, build a plan for how your provider can flag problems and quickly communicate with you.
Shore Up Internal Processes
A strong relationship with your carrier is important, but inefficiencies in your systems will keep you from being a shipper of choice. For example, delays and the associated costs of holding up drivers are a top carrier frustration. Freight technology provider Convoy found that 63 percent of preferred shippers strive to decrease the amount of time drivers wait at their facilities.
Protect your status and reduce delays by:
- Packing effectively. Sturdy boxes, strong tape, clearly printed labels and the right void fill ensure efficient use of your carrier’s space and time. Ampuja explains that boxes with excess void can add to the carrier’s costs by taking up room.
- Streamlining loading. Keep loading areas clear so carriers’ trucks and personnel can get in and out quickly. The right sized pallet is also crucial. Oversized pallets may not fit on the truck and undersized pallets can be unstable.
- Completing paperwork. To save time, double check that all documentation is correct before the driver arrives, and be ready to hand it off right away.
- Asking about technology. Martinez advises checking with your carrier about technologies they use, such as tracking software or scheduling platforms to improve shipping efficiency or lower costs.
Get to Know Your Driver
Your driver is on the front line of your shipping process. Getting to know them and their preferences can be beneficial for both of you.
When they arrive, make it a point to ask for recommendations on how you can make it easier for shipment pick-ups and drop-offs. A few minutes of conversation before they get back on the road can help establish a better working relationship.
Make it a point to acknowledge their good work, too. Drivers who feel appreciated are more willing to go the extra mile, whether it’s picking up shipments earlier or later or providing any additional carrier services your warehouse may need.
“Look for ways to recognize your driver,” Martinez suggests. “Compliment the driver to their boss and write letters of commendation if they have done an excellent job.”
Establishing a shipper of choice status is vital to getting your products out on time — but it’s a status that requires maintenance. Make sure your entire warehouse team is on board to sustain your preferred shipper standing. Everyone from the top down needs to know how to achieve objectives and keep the relationship running smoothly.