5 Foolproof Ways to Take on Manufacturing Shipping Challenges
01/11/2022 — Jen Deming
The manufacturing industry is vital to our economy, but producing components and materials is just the first step in the fulfillment process. Manufacturers have to make sure products are shipped efficiently, arrive on time, and don’t experience damage. In addition to rising costs and other issues we’ve seen across all industries, manufacturers face a unique set of logistics obstacles. You may be shipping large, fragile shipments that are expensive and hard to handle. Services and equipment needs can vary day-to-day, so it’s important to find the right shipping solutions that meet your specific needs. Read on to learn five foolproof ways to take on manufacturing shipping challenges.
- Prioritize the safety of your loads
Manufacturers ship a wide variety of commodities, from small parts and components, to fully-assembled heavy machinery. For any-sized load, you need to take the safety and security of your shipments into consideration in order to limit damage and other issues. Start with regularly auditing your parcel and freight carriers to ensure their service levels meet your business expectations. Spec out your shipping safety “need to haves,” such as security during transit, carrier reputation, and damage statistics. Keep track of what’s working, as well as any issues you are experiencing with current carriers. If they aren’t making the cut, do some research. Who do your customers and colleagues prefer working with and why? Try out new carrier options and look into alternate service levels that may better offset your shipping challenges. Most importantly, ensure that your preferred carriers are communicated to your shipping department and warehouse team as well as any outside parties such as suppliers who may be arranging your shipping.
Because security is of the utmost importance, ensure that your packaging is perfected, whether you are shipping small parts via parcel services or large freight orders. You should use quality materials and keep some basics in mind:
- Don’t reuse packaging to ensure structural integrity
- Limit extra space to avoid shifting and breakage during transit
- Use pallet wrap to keep loose components together
- When shipping assembled machinery, consider using custom crates rather than pallets
- Double-down on service options that encourage timely delivery
Manufacturing any type of product typically involves several different parties who tackle specific steps during fabrication, from start to finished product. If anything goes wrong logistically during that process, it can disrupt the entire supply chain and lead to more shipping challenges. It’s crucial that your business is utilizing shipping providers and services that prioritize timely, expedient delivery.
Both FedEx and UPS offer different service levels depending on the urgency of your parcel shipment. If you’re in a crunch, FedEx can help make a speedy delivery with options like FedEx Priority Overnight® or FedEx 2Day A.M®. UPS also offers expedited services, such as UPS Express Critical® and UPS Next Day Air®.
If you have a true freight emergency, take a look at estimated transit times between carriers and their services. It’s probably not the time to use low-cost or asset-light carriers, as they typically have longer transit times. Many LTL freight carriers offer time critical, expedited, and guaranteed options. Just-in-time delivery options can also ensure your shipments are delivered as soon as possible. Because these services often use dedicated trucks or air/ground solutions to maximize efficiency, they can be pricey. Be mindful of your budget, and stay on top of any emergencies when you can. If expedited services are necessary, make sure you quote with several carriers and explore all options in order to keep costs low.
Confirm your freight class before you ship
Manufacturing businesses ship diverse products or commodities to any number of delivery locations. Whether your business is in the field of precision medical equipment, mold builders, automotive engineering, or any other specialty field, a major manufacturing shipping challenge is being an expert on your products’ specific freight class and NMFC codes.
The challenge with not knowing these codes can affect everything from your total freight cost to the result of any claims filed. A common mistake many shippers make is using an outdated or blanket NMFC or class code. For example, the ‘machinery’ group NMFC code is 11400. There are over fifty major categories that specify exactly what type of machinery, and they range anywhere from class 55 to 500. That’s hundreds of dollars difference in a final bill. The class for your specific shipment is determined not only by the product itself, but also density, dimensions and weight, packaging type, whether it’s assembled or in parts, and other factors. On top of that, these designations and codes are updated regularly. If you haven’t shipped this product very recently, you need to check it again, especially if any packaging specs have changed.
In the event that you enter the incorrect class code on your BOL, your freight will likely be flagged by the carrier. This will lead to an inspection, and some additional fees that are going to both inflate your bill and delay your delivery. Because freight class can be complicated, especially for manufacturers, it’s important to have more than a basic understanding of how LTL freight rates are determined. If you have any trouble finding the most accurate class code for your shipment, and you probably will, don’t hesitate to call the carrier or work with a freight broker who can help you.
- Make sure the value of your load is covered
Damage is a huge concern, especially based on the types of products being shipped. Freight shipping involves tons of handling and frequent stops at terminals. As a result, it’s probably not a matter of if, but when, you’ll get hit with damages. We don’t want to jinx your shipment, but let’s explore the event that your load encounters some damages or loss while on the road.
Freight damage is frustrating from the start because it’s expensive, can hold up the fulfillment of an order, and potentially complicate relationships with your customers. Because many manufacturers’ shipments are extra fragile, hard to maneuver, and worth a lot of money, the problem can be compounded. It’s the shipper’s responsibility to prove the carrier is at fault if damage occurs, and frankly, a freight carrier will do everything they can to avoid responsibility. Even if you do win a claim and receive reimbursement, there are limits to carrier liability coverage and payouts. They may not meet the entire value of your load.
To avoid extra headaches, make sure that you have your own freight insurance that will fully cover the value of your load. It also does not require that you prove the carrier is at fault for damage or loss, just that the damage occurred. While there is an extra charge for the insurance, it’s usually based on the declared value of your freight, and it is extremely worthwhile should damage occur.
Use a freight provider that offers custom shipping solutions
There’s not always enough time in the day or people in your shipping department to stay on top of the many manufacturing shipping challenges. Let’s face it, a one-size-fits-all approach is not going to work for an industry that has to constantly reinvent itself and adapt to consumer needs, tech advancements, and other changes. A third-party freight provider can help identify the unique needs of your business, without cutting any corners.
Cutting costs is always at the top of the priorities list, and taking a fresh look at your shipping procedures can be a fruitful place to start. A 3PL can help leverage carrier relationships and buying power to acquire better shipping discounts for your business. PartnerShip is connected to many manufacturing and industrial trade associations, like NTMA and PMPA. As a benefit provider to members, PartnerShip helps manufacturing businesses save on shipping costs with competitive rates with carriers who prioritize safety and better shipment handling.
Working with a freight provider can take on several of your shipping challenges at once.
- Conducting carrier audits for better pricing and service.
- Managing claims and acting as your advocate, by touching base with carriers and making sure proper documentation is in order.
- Determining if and when you may need to use expedited freight services, and helping to quote and schedule your day-to-day shipments.
- Finding special equipment options that will balance cost and safety if you have an extra special load.
There are a lot of shipping obstacles to keep track of, and they can be a burden to navigate. Depending on your business size, your budget, and the time you have available, it’s not always possible to become an expert on your own. PartnerShip has the experience and proficiency to help take on your greatest shipping challenges, so you can get back to business. Download our all-encompassing guide to freight claims to learn more about how you can effectively resolve a top shipping obstacle for manufacturers.